This chapter has been modified from it's original version in order to not be as terrible. I'm sorry if you liked the terrible version better...but it was terrible. The events are the same, the quality of writing is different. Enjoy!
The street that I live on tends to give most people the creeps. It's aptly named. Who names a street Shadow Avenue anyway? That's pretty much asking for serial killers to move in.
Luckily I haven't run into any serial killers yet. Actually, I've never run into anyone on this street. At all. Ever. Not a soul. Mom bought the place without seeing it, she was just itching to sell the old place after Dad died. She held off for almost a decade, but finally she'd had enough, she said the place was creeping her out with all the bad memories and everything.
So then she goes and buys this place, out of ALL the houses she could have chosen. She has me move in, without her, while she jets off on a new career as an air hostess and then she just decides not to come home. This is a woman who leaves her fourteen-year-old at home and tells him to just 'take care of himself'. It's been four years since then and honestly I don't even know what country she's in half the time, I just get phone calls a few times a year and money gets transferred into an account for my needs, and that's the extent of our relationship. Not exactly Mom-of-the-year material.
And as for the street itself, when I say that there's no one else on Shadow Avenue, I don't mean that the houses are abandoned. To the average joe, it honestly looks like a decent neighborhood. Basic houses, plenty of big old trees, nothing boarded up or anything. The lawns are a bit overgrown, but the mail seems to vanish and you sometimes see movement through the windows, like people peering through the curtains and pulling them shut quickly. But when you step onto the street it's like…you get this feeling. All your senses kind of go backwards.
It always seems darker than usual on this street, for starters. It could be the brightest summer day you've ever seen, but when you round the corner past the signpost, it's like the world dims to a mild grey. You never see any cars go by either, or even hear the sounds of sirens or the distant hum of the highway. You hear the sounds of the city again the moment you step off the curb onto the next street, but on Shadow Avenue, it's like walking into a soundproof room. The wind still blows, the mourning doves still coo on the power lines, but everything outside the street just dies off.
I've been living on this paved equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle for four years now. A lot of people at my school tell me that my street scares them and that they avoid it on their way home. It bothered me at first, but it's not as lonely as it sounds. I actually like my privacy. It was weird the first year, but Mom was already traveling a lot then too, so I got used to it pretty fast. I know how to cook and everything, and I get good marks so the teachers leave me alone, and that makes life a whole lot easier.
I guess you could say that my life is pretty boring. There's nothing wrong with me as far as I can tell. I have friends at school and some days I hang out with them at the mall and stuff, but nothing really exciting. I would consider myself a pretty dull kind of guy. My idea of a good time usually revolves around listening to other people talk and observing. I spend a lot of time over-thinking everything, and by the time I have something interesting to say the conversation has moved elsewhere. It's annoying and most of the time I just throw up my hands and keep my trap shut.
I get frustrated sometimes, and I've never really had a close friend or even a sibling to relate things to. Nothing really bothers me one way or the other though. I just kind of feel…empty. Like I'm not really anything at all. Like I'm full of holes and I need to find things to fill them.
God. I need a hobby. Maybe I should just get a dog or something.
I think it was past eleven when I first caught a glimpse of him. The strange person from the house across from me, that is. I remember it was almost pitch black that night, as usual. Our streetlamps are always out, only the one if front of my house works, but it always flickers like something out of a horror movie.
I'd gotten home late because our school had a fall concert. Hell if I knew what it was about, I'm just in charge of the tech team. I tell all the new kids what to do, have them set up the mikes and the music, and then I head up the ladder on the side of the stage into my little control panel hiding place and do the lighting myself. This extracurricular was just one of many responsibilities that I took on to try and keep myself busy. It didn't work. My only comfort was that I was graduating at the end of the year.
So here I was in my black T-shirt that had "Tech" written in big white letters on the back, my black sweats, and no jacket in the middle of October, almost back at my house, and I just happened to look over right at that moment.
He was across the street from me, just beyond the short gate that surrounded his old, towering house. Thirteen Shadow Avenue. My house was Fourteen. He was standing there as if lost in thought, but he looked up abruptly when I stopped walking.
He wasn't especially strange looking, at least for someone who seemed to have spawned right out of thin air. He looked to be about the same age as me too. He really caught me off guard though, since I'd never seen another actual living person on my street before. He seemed just as surprised to see me.
"Hi!" I called over, raising a hand and waggling my fingers. It just happened before I had time to think about it. Socializing! What a novelty!
The guy blinked at me at first, and then he looked me over as if he wasn't sure he was seeing straight. I just kind of stood in the middle of the road like an idiot, waiting for a response.
His most striking feature was probably the fact that he was very pale. Incredibly pale. The kind of pale you see in the terminal wards at the hospital. I might have thought he was an albino, except for his long jet black hair tied in a low ponytail that was tossed over his left shoulder. He was dressed completely in black, but it was hard to see him with the stupid streetlamp flickering the way it was. Squinting, I noticed that he even had some sort of cloak hanging over his shoulders.
Then I looked back at his face. His expression was blank, but intense. I felt like I was being studied. And there was something wrong with his eyes…they made the hairs on my arms stand up even more than the cold. Every time the light flickered out, they reflected in the dark…like a cat's.
"…Hello." He said finally in a surprisingly natural voice, hesitant but friendly, "…I've, well, never seen you around here before…"
"Yeah, same here. I'm Lionel," I replied, offering him a small smile, "I think we're neighbors. I've lived here for the past four years."
The streetlamp stopped flickering. It did that sometimes. Only the almighty lamp could decide if you were worthy to get into the house without tripping on that stupid first step all the time. I could now distinctly see my neighbor raise his eyebrows in surprise.
"Really? Four years you say?" he said as he approached the gate and pushed it open a bit. I walked over to him.
At this proximity I could clearly make out his face, and I was surprised to discover that his eyes actually were a bright purple color. Contacts maybe? He was taller than I was, by an inch or so. His face was slim and refined, despite his sickly skin tone.
"Yep, it's almost been five years actually, and I've never seen anyone else on this street." I reported, still smiling, trying to ease the weird atmosphere, "Man, I was starting to think I might be the only one here."
"Oh, it must be because you're not out after dark very often." My neighbor told me, offering a small smile of his own, "I don't go out during the day."
"Oh?" I raised a single eyebrow, one of my many useless talents, "Why is that?"
"Oh… well," he hesitated, shifting his feet, "I...I have a skin condition, you see…the sun's rays burn my eyes and it make my skin blister. So…I only come out after dark."
I whistled. I couldn't imagine a life without sunlight. I'd heard of those kinds of diseases before though. Readers Digest. Very useful.
"That's tough." I said in awe, "I bet you get called a vampire all the time!" I laughed, "It must be pretty hard to make friends."
He looked alarmed for a moment, like he hadn't caught my joke, then chuckled nervously.
"Yes…eheh…" he smiled quietly, "Friends…That would be quite a feat."
He looked away and then snapped his attention back to me as he suddenly thought of something.
"Oh I'm sorry!" he said quickly, "My name is Morden, and I'm glad to meet you."
He was looking at me for a reaction, so I just nodded and smiled awkwardly. He seemed like a nice enough person, but his speech and actions were a bit off. Quirky, not timed right. Then again, it's not like he got to talk to the general populace very often. Maybe he was imitating the kind of vocabulary he'd seen in movies or read in books?
"It's nice to meet you Morden," I replied pleasantly, offering him my hand, "I'm glad to have finally met you."
Morden looked at my hand for a moment, as if he wasn't quite sure what I was doing.
Then, slowly, he brought his ghostly white hand forward, a few long slender fingers extended. It looked like he was going to try to poke me.
Instead of waiting, I grabbed his hesitant hand in mine and shook it fiercely, just to show him how. I seem to have surprised him at first, but his face soon broke out into a wide and sincere smile. He even laughed a little and he shook back just as hard, as if it were a game. He was really delighted just by experiencing a little handshake.
He's like a big, creepy kid, I thought.
It surprised me even more that I was actually enjoying myself. I had just met a very strange person, and now things were more interesting. I felt motivated. I wanted to know things about him.
"So, how was your…day?" Morden inquired as he tucked his hands behind him, genuinely interested. And for the first time, I opened my mouth and I just talked. About anything and everything that popped into my head. And he actually listened.
The following evening I met up with him again after the sun went down. It was Saturday, so all I had to do was cross the street. He was waiting at the gate in front of his house, staring up at the sky.
"Hey there," I smiled as I walked up to him. He tore his eyes away from the sky and waved at me.
"I wasn't sure that you were going to come over," he said, fiddling with his hands and looking aside, "I was worried that I'd made a strange first impression on you…eheh…"
His laugh was forced, a weak attempt to mask his anxiety.
"Nah, I think you're an interesting guy."
It wasn't exactly a compliment, but Morden looked like he'd taken it that way. He smiled sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders.
"You're interesting too," he said as we walked over to his porch and sat down on the steps, "I don't really talk to anyone other than my Mama, so this is really nice."
"Your 'Mama'?" I asked, grinning. I couldn't help myself; I'd never heard a guy openly refer to his mother as 'Mama' before.
"Mama keeps me safe." He explained, "She's very protective of me, since Father's long gone." He didn't seem very upset, more like he was being reminded of something pleasant. I wasn't sure how to react, so I just smiled and nodded.
"My Dad's gone too," I said, "He died a while ago. Cancer. My Mom did the opposite of your 'Mama' though. It's like…like she was suddenly afraid to care about anyone anymore, so she just decided to leave. Now she lives overseas…I don't get to talk to her much."
Morden looked genuinely upset about this.
"Your Mama left you all alone? In this neighborhood, too? What if something happens to you?"
"I guess she just figured I would take care of myself," I said, shrugging.
"That…that's not right," Morden looked down at his knees, wearing a serious expression, "A Mama's job is to keep you safe, to love you. To just leave…it's just…not right…"
"Yeah well," I chuckled, "You can tell her that if she ever visits. I'm okay though, don't worry."
But as I said it, I realized that I wasn't okay with it. I wasn't okay with her being so far away, and not acting like a mother. I mean, would it kill her to visit me? Call more often? Hell, I'd take a postcard over nothing at all! I clenched my teeth a bit.
A hand squeezed my shoulder. I glanced over to see Morden give me a small smile.
It was strange how quickly I opened up to him. I didn't feel like I was being boring, or like he was judging me. I'd never really talked about my family crap with anyone. Maybe Morden could understand me?
"It's nice being able to talk to someone about this stuff," I said, "Maybe I'll drop by more often?"
"I'd like that," Morden said, but then something seemed to occur to him, and he leaned forward briskly, "Don't come tomorrow, though."
"You're busy tomorrow?"
"Every third day," he said, his tone strangely grave, "You definitely can't come every third day, okay?"
"Yeah, I get it, you're busy every three days!"
He smiled and perked up again.
"But the rest of the time is good, so definitely come visit me, alright?"
At the time I hadn't really thought about asking what he'd be up to during that time, but hours later after I'd gone home, the unanswered questions circled around in my head.
I visited Morden almost every night for the next week, skipping the third day every time. We never seemed to run out of things to talk about. I'd tell him about the most mundane things in the world, about school and homework, and listen intently. Then he'd talk to me about constellations that he'd found and books he'd read recently that his Mama had brought home for him.
It wasn't until the following Saturday night that I began to notice strange things happening on Shadow Avenue.
I guess it was because I used to always go to bed early when I had nothing better to do, and I never used to open the blinds. But since I started visiting Morden, I was noticing all of the peculiar behavior on my street.
The first thing I'd noticed that evening was a man passing by my house around midnight. He was wearing a brown trench coat and a hat. My lights were out, so I stared freely. He stopped to get a pebble out of his shoe, and that's when I noticed that he had no legs. And as I squinted, it was clear that he had no face either.
There was an invisible man in a trench coat and a hat passing by my house. And he was wearing bowling shoes.
The next thing I saw around twelve-thirty was a boy playing with a red ball. He was dressed in white and even had snow-white hair. He was just bouncing the brightly colored ball in the street alone. Then he looked up at my dark window, and I was shocked to realize that he had no eyes. Just big, empty sockets. I ducked and hid for a few seconds, and when I peeked out the window he had vanished.
But the thing that made my hair stand on end was around one in the morning… when a thin, dark-haired woman emerged from behind Morden's house. She had to be his mother, but it wasn't her that scared me. It was the fact that she was hauling a large humanoid form out of the house and into the backyard. Then she bent down to pick up a shovel, and she started digging. At one point she stopped and abruptly looked up at my window. I jumped backwards, closed the blinds and ducked. My heart pounding, I didn't have the guts to look back for another twenty minutes, but when I did, Morden's mother was gone, and so was what she'd dragged out of the house. All that was left was a freshly filled hole on her lawn.
The next morning I snuck into their yard to check. The ground had been disturbed in multiple places. Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed what was clearly a rotting human finger poking out of an older patch of overturned soil.
There were bodies buried beneath Thirteen Shadow Avenue.