Evan Cross has been here before, and many, many times. There is nothing new to this situation, though everything suggests that it is new. His shakiness, for example. He's never been scared to sit in the tree across from Neal Brennan's house and stare though his living room, kitchen, and bedroom windows until one of them fall asleep. His lunchbox, a rusty metal one from his grandfather, isn't rusty. The food inside, however, would have been better petrified.
The numbers, the brass numbers on Neal's house, are even there still.
Inside his house, Neal stands at his kitchen counter, staring into his sink. The walls, Evan isn't surprised to see, aren't actually brown at all, instead a rather ugly red that clashes with his appliances. He's standing over the sink. Evan can't see his face very well, but he's reaching to the windowsill, picking up a bottle that Evan thinks looks suspiciously like a prescription pill bottle. Without turning away, he pops one into his mouth.
Evan jumps from the tree. He lands with a soft squish. Looking down at his feet, he sees that it's only a patch of mud. It's still hard to see in the dark.
The other houses aren't lit up, which means it's late. Evan wonders if Neal had another nightmare. Maybe a hallucination. Maybe both. It's one of the things that drew Evan in, honestly. His mental illness. The entire thought of having thoughts, feelings, desires that came from something so deeply embedded within you… The thought shakes Evan to the core.
As Evan starts to walk from the spot under the tree, his feet squish-squishing with every step, Neal looks through the window.
Evan stops dead, watching for any sign of movement from Neal. He's oddly still, just watching through his window, watching, watching, watching. Evan feels like the ground below him is sucking him down. It probably is; he may end up losing his shoe in the mud.
Finally, Neal turns away. Evan breathes a sigh of relief and tracks across the street after clearing his foot to stand just outside the living room window.
Inside Neal's living room, which is hard to see because of the blinds, stands Neal. He's pacing back and forth, now, pointing madly around the room and covering his ears at random intervals. He's obviously fighting with someone, but Evan only sees Neal in the room. There's no way he can be fighting with someone that isn't in the room; his body language suggests that they're right in front of each other.
His hallucinations, maybe? He must be fighting with a hallucination.
Evan watches as Neal's fight escalates and escalates, his actions becoming more and more erratic and angry, and he watches more still when Neal drops to his knees, turning a deep red, the color of radishes, and falls into a pile on the floor.
After a moment, Evan feels cold slime down his spine. The blinds in front of him close and the lights go off. He's still not sure what just happened. He figures that the humming in his ears is just from his surprise, from the thump-thump of the beat of his heart. He sure as hell hopes that it is.
He trumps down the street back to his own home. He keeps hearing footsteps, but every time he turns around, nothing's there. Even a quick glance with his flashlight finds nothing. His eyes say no, but his ears say yes, absolutely yes. There's no doubt as to what it is; the noise is definitely footsteps coming from someone or –thing that doesn't give a damn if it is found out or not.
Talk about terrified. If Evan was before, he's not sure what the hell he is now.
He's a block from home when he hears the growling. Houses on his block still have their lights on, including Evan's own home. There are a few streetlights that flicker and crackle, but not one of them, under any circumstances, would make the noise Evan's hearing now.
After swallowing, Evan calls out, "Who's there?"
The growling stops. The footsteps don't. Again, Evan says, "Who's there?" and again, he gets no answer. Instead, he gets more footsteps, and the growling sounds louder and louder until it sounds like it's coming from right behind him, against his neck, tickling the hair.
He spins around, breaks into a sprint for the last dash towards his home.
He doesn't make it. The lights on his street stay on, but a loud, menacing shadow consumes Evan Cross to the core.