Nightmare Fuel: Day 2

I’m not sure how long he had been watching me.He was on my walk home; there was a path that cut through one corner of the park, usually not often used because it was so shady and secluded, but I took it one day when I was a hurry and found where it twisted back toward the brick wall that ringed the park and in doing so dipped right into the sun, then back into the shade to exit past the corner. I loved taking that cutoff because it meant I didn’t have to go past the newsstand, and if I wasn’t going past the newsstand than I wasn’t tempted to buy a packet of cigarettes and I didn’t have to pretend I didn’t see that increasingly elderly bum with the cardboard sign.

One day I rounded a stand of trees, and it was just… there. Maybe I’d never noticed it before, but it was a figure of a boy pressed up against the brick, but not ONLY pressed against the brick. He was made of brick, and wasn’t moving. Just standing there, for all the world like a regular boy leaning against the wall. It was well lit by the sun, and half hidden by some of the low-growing scrub bushes, and I thought (once I got over an initial rush of HOLYCRAP over there being a human figure where I wasn’t expecting one) that was why I hadn’t seen it before.

It was a pretty well-carved piece, I thought; there was a lot of attention into getting a realistic cast to the hair carved into the brick, but it was a pity the curve of the mouth was so sad. I didn’t think much more about the statue once I rounded through the sun and continued into the shade. It was just a new part of the walk.

The next day I wasn’t surprised by it, still leaning there against the wall; if anything I was looking for it, and it was easier to see. Not as much of it was hidden by the bushes, and I wondered if someone had come through and trimmed them down.

The next day, though, it had definitely moved.

It wasn’t just that the figure of the boy was more visible – it was several yards down the uneven wall, and in a wholly different pose. Rather than leaning back against the wall, it was turned somewhat, shoulder touching the wall and back bent in a bit of a crouch. Its head was still turned my direction, though, the shadowed orbs of the eyes with their somewhat dugout pupils (very greek, that, I’d thought) trained on where I emerged from under the trees. My stomach flipped queasily and settled quickly. Someone must have installed several of them around the park and still be playing with their placements, I decided.

The next day it was further along the wall, bent down nearly in a crouched, the unhappy cast of its mouth further deepened, and my own mouth curved into a frown in return. Still its eyes were pointed right at the path, as if it were watching for me, and I scowled. It was really a rather unfriendly bit of art, if you ask me, and I moved more quickly on my way.

The next day I was watching for it as I rounded the trees, and this time it wasn’t against the wall – this time the brickboy was freestanding, close to the side of the path where it bent nearest the wall, feet planted apart and both arms outstretched. The meticulously carved hands were outstretched palms-first, as if urging whoever came down the path – urging ME – to stop, to go back.

I actually found myself moving off the other side of the path to avoid it before I caught myself, and stepped closer to look at the statue. It was motionless of course, but the expression was changed on this one. The eyebrows were lifted, and the mouth had been carved slightly open, as if it were speaking. The empty eyes were looking straight toward where I always came around the trees, and I turned to look there. From where I was not standing, next to the sunwarmed brick, the shadows under the trees were startlingly dark, and without further ado I turned my back on boy and path and hurried for home.

The whole weekend I was away from the park, my travels through the city taking me elsewhere entirely, and I didn’t spare much of a thought for the brickboy. Not until I was getting ready to leave on Monday morning, thinking about what the day ahead of me would hold. I guess the thought of the creepy brickboy and my gut-deep anger at being so unnerved by an unknown artist was what prompted me to grab the small hammer out of the junk drawer and stick it in my bag.

At the end of the day I found myself walking slower and slower as I entered the park and hooked off the main path to follow my smaller shortcut through the trees, until I was just shy of the sharp curve into the sunny patch, and I stopped. My heart was pounding, wondering where I was going to find the brickboy, and I felt suddenly, startlingly cold – and then my cheeks flamed, very angry. Some goddamn street artist was fucking with me and not even bothering to explain? Fuck that! I fumbled in my bag for the hammer, gripping the handle tightly under the canvas as I marched around the stand of trees.

I didn’t see him at first, and for a joyful moment I thought that perhaps he was gone completely. Then I spotted him. He was back against the wall again, not just against it but almost entirely hidden by a curve in it, most of his body behind and only his head, a shoulder, and one hand planted against the wall in view. Still, or again, he was looking my way, and my stomach lurched.

A god. Damn. STATUE. Snarling somewhere in my mind, I yanked out the hammer and all but ran toward the brickboy, raising my woefully feeble weapon to dash down against it, first the arm, and then the shoulder, and then that meticulously carved hair. It was just after I shattered off the nose and was raising the hammer again that I noticed that the eyes weren’t looking at me, at where I had come downy he path. They were looking above me and behind, toward the trees from which I had emerged.

A shadow fell over us both.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture by David Swan:

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.

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