Strangers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Whats more chilling than a child disappearance? One boy who knows everything, and yet nothing at all.

Submitted: December 16, 2014

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Submitted: December 16, 2014

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Jonathan Little disappeared from my neighbourhood when I was six.

He had a furious mop of fiery red hair and a nose that protruded out at a curiously odd angle to his face, his appearance was not similar to mine in the slightest but he was six years old and so was I, and that was enough of a reason for my mother. By the time the sun rose on the second day Jonathan failed to return home to his loving parents, my own darling mother and father had already proceeded planning the rest of my summer safely locked away in the confines of our own home.

It had been that exact moment when the hopelessness of my predicament had dawned upon me, and the overwhelming sense of misery that followed shortly afterwards almost forced me to regurgitate the remains of the previous evening’s meal.

 My days spent frolicking amongst the patchwork of colours that made up my mother’s flowerbed were over. There was to be no more riding my bicycle to the corner store with Rosie Brown, no more licking the condensation off the Cola cans as I laid sprawled across the green cushion of my front lawn, and certainly no going anywhere outdoors without an adult chaperone. Not even to the mailbox. When the boy from the cottage on the corner vanished, my freedom went with it.

So you must be able to understand my reasons for hating Jonathan Little.

Maybe if we had been friends prior to him no longer being around it would have been different. Maybe if Jonathan had enjoyed cavorting in flower beds and riding bicycles with Rosie Brown and licking Cola cans and lying on cushions of grass, perhaps then I would have been more distraught with the absence of his company rather than simply annoyed. But the fact of the matter was that we were not friends, not before he disappeared and certainly not now. Even when my newly named arch nemesis did finally return to the quiet sleepiness of the street that had once brought me so much happiness, I could not on an honest heart swear to you that I would welcome him back with open arms. A boy who so selfishly chose to go missing right at the pinnacle of my summer fun was not a boy I would appreciate having around.

Nope, Jonathan had done his dash, spoiled his chances of friendship with me and that was a right shame for him. I was an excellent friend and everybody told me so- even Thomas Becker who was a full year older than I and never said anything nice to nobody.

 However it seemed that my mother and father approached this situation rather differently than I, encouraging me to behave in a similar manner also, deeming it as more ‘appropriate’. At the time I did not fully understand what those words meant, only that they couldn’t possibly have any pleasant connotations, as what was so good about baking casseroles into the wee hours of the morning and jumping at any gust of wind that dared to rattle the windows of our quiet home? Nothing, I tell you.

Absolutely nothing.

So I thought it quite appropriate myself not to behave in such a subdued manner as the two adults who had raised me. If casseroles and kind words of solace were what Mr and Mrs Little needed during this very difficult time, then I concluded that they would receive plenty of this from my parents, and therefore would not require any from myself.

Our entire neighbourhood had not been the same since Jonathan had gone.

Fathers went out to patrol the streets after returning home from their evening commute, sombre expressions permanently moulded onto their faces as if someone had gone around with a hammer and chisel and sculpted them that way. Through my window I often watched them as they strolled along together in dark suited packs, eyes alert and postures tense with what can only be described as anticipation. I could never decipher what exactly it was that they were waiting for, who they were waiting for, if they were waiting for anything at all.  

I could not understand why Mr Beaumont never smiled or said good afternoon to me as I waved excitedly from my window, why Mrs Wilkinson insisted on frantically ushering her children inside every afternoon at 2 o’clock like a farmer herding a group of sheep into their pen. I could not understand why my mother hovered outside my bedroom door every night until she was sure that I had given in to the pull of sleep, why even then I felt her hesitation to return to her own room as it boiled and churned up inside of her like a cocktail of paranoia.

Ever since Jonathan had left I had failed to understand more than my fair share of things, but I did know this.

Letting him go in the first place had been a mistake.

He was too small, too scrawny and shrill and scared. He wasn’t brave like I was, wouldn’t be able to handle the journey he had embarked on like I would have. That was probably why it was taking so long.

I wondered if they knew what a mess their absence had made.

If they had been faster, perhaps the adults would have understood. But now it was too late. Now, people were saying things.

They told us that we had to be careful. They told us that there were people out there who placed on masks of kindness, who possessed special powers, abilities to lure children away from safety with false promises of adventure and candy and fun. We were to never trust these people, these strangers, because behind those masks of friendliness and honesty lay the most frightening most horrible creatures ever to haunt the earth. Strangers were mean, were liars that wanted to trick us and scare us and maybe even hurt us.

But they were wrong.

Strangers weren’t like that at all. Especially Him.

The Man used to visit the children on the street all the time, before he took Jonathan away. Rolling up alongside the pavement in his shiny black car, waving at Rosie Brown and me as we rode our bikes towards the corner store. If we were lucky he would bring Cola cans to help us combat the heat, and there were more presents, he would always say, if we came with him.

 But I never had the time to go. He never visited when our mothers were around, so I was never presented with the opportunity to ask permission to leave. I did not imagine she would have liked it if I had gone without her approval.

Jonathan’s mother certainly didn’t.

The Man had always understood though, always smiled and nodded as if he agreed with my reasoning wholeheartedly, making me feel less guilty about frequently rejecting his proposal. His mother was the same, he once told me. When he was younger he was never allowed to go anywhere without asking her for permission.

Sometimes I wondered what his mother was like now. 

I was caught up in drawing a swirling masterpiece of chalk on the pavement when Jonathan agreed to go with him. The memory of The Man’s face was still fresh in my mind, the way it glimmered like a thousand brilliant stars when he heard the news, the way his voice oozed with pride as he had opened the passenger door for Jonathan, beckoning him inside like a King being escorted into his chariot.

Good boy, he had said.

That had been the final straw.

Once I had realized my chance of adventure was rapidly fading I had called after them. Chased after the black car at lightning speed. Begged The Man to take me with them.

He didn’t like that very much.

The answer had been a final and resounding no. I had to be quiet, he told me. He was taking Jonathan on a top secret mission, one that nobody could know about it until it was finished. I wasn’t to say a word. 

Two weeks after I had watched the car disappear into the distance as I tried not to dwell on the crushing weight of my missed opportunity… the police came.  

In a swirl of blue and red light they arrived at the front of our home, their faces indistinguishable under the darkness of night. My father answered the door, nodding along immediately in answer to their spoken request. Then they came inside.

 I suppose I could have told them the truth.

But The Man was my friend, and I didn’t want to disappoint him. Jonathan would be back soon. It had been a while since they had gone, but I just had to be patient. It was Jonathan’s turn to go now, but I held on fast to the knowledge that soon it would be mine. He had promised he would come back for me. I just had to do as I was told.

So when my parents came knocking on my door, I did not utter a single sound. Even when my mother clutched my hand tightly as she led me down the stairs, even when my bare feet shuffled across the prickly carpet and came to a rest in front of the thickly soled shoes of a police officer, I said nothing.

Not a word.

Jonathan might not have believed me when I had said it, maybe even The Man had doubted me too- but I would prove them wrong. They might not know it yet, but I was smart. I was quick-thinking. I was brave.

And I knew how to keep a secret.


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