Aphelion Issue 244, Volume 23
October 2019
 
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The Corner Lot

by Shawn D. Brink




Amos was seven years old. He strolled down the sidewalk holding a tattered baseball in his hand. That ball was the last thing his father had given him before leaving to fight in the war. He held it continuously.

He walked along the large corner lot that existed about a block from his home. He had heard that this was haunted land.

He looked it over as he walked by. The old house that sat on the property was dilapidated. The grounds presumably matched the house in its level of dilapidation. Of course, he had no way of knowing because of the tall privacy fence that surrounded the property.

It was this fence that Amos now walked along. He was a bit uneasy, but not overly scared. The fence, in his mind, was the boundary that any evil within could not easily cross. He was on its outer side and therefore relatively safe.

He took three more strides before realizing that he was not safe after all. Not ten feet away, casually leaning against the fence, stood the Sullivan brothers. All three of them were there, the youngest being a full year older than Amos. They were bullies.

Amos turned around, hoping to escape before being spotted. In his haste, he tripped over his own two feet. He went down hard. His escape attempt had failed. The Sullivans quickly surrounded him.

"Well lookie here," the biggest one sneered. "I do believe we've found a lost little baby!"

"I-I-I-I'm not a b-b-b-baby." Amos always stuttered when frightened.

"Babies shouldn't have grown-up toys," the biggest bellowed as he wrenched the ball away.

"No! That's my dad's!" Amos blurted.

"Really," the biggest chuckled. "Well, it looks crappy. Don't your dad take care of his stuff?"

Amos felt very small. He wanted to tell them that the ball had been new when his dad had given it to him. He wanted to tell them how important that ball was to him. He wanted to tell them to go to Hell! In the end, he said nothing.

"I bet you want this back don't you," the ball hog said through a grin.

Amos nodded vigorously.

"Here you go." He presented the ball to Amos. "Take it."

Amos suspected trickery. Still, he had to try.

Quickly, he lunged for it, but the bully yanked it away even quicker. Amos wasn't surprised, just disappointed.

"Say bye-bye to your crappy toy," the Sullivan said as he tossed the ball over the fence. "Oops. You had better go after it."

They picked him up. They tossed him over the fence. He landed on the far side.

He stood up. The grass that surrounded him rose taller than his head, as did the fence to his back.

Terror cemented him. Something hit his foot. He looked down. It was his ball. He looked back up. Who had tossed it? He saw no one.

"If it's your ball, then take it."

Amos did nothing of the sort. "W-w-who's there?"

"My gosh boy, you sound more like an owl than a child. You are a child, aren't you?"

Amos nodded.

"What's your name?"

"A-A-Amos," he stammered.

The grass parted. A figure appeared. "Well Amos, it's nice to meet you."

The man was short and thin. His eyes were dark like polished onyx. The rest of his face was a mystery, hidden by an overgrown beard and mustache. The hair on top of his head was equally overgrown.

"How did you get in here?" the man asked.

Amos shrugged but said nothing. He was ashamed to admit that he had been the object of bully violence.

"Are the Sullivans picking on you?" he asked as if he could sense the boy's thoughts.

This man made Amos nervous. There was something about him, something vague, dark, and powerful.

"I'm not going to hurt ya," the man spoke, his overgrown mustache hairs fluttering with every syllable.

Amos nodded.

"You never answered my question."

"Yes, sir, the Sullivans are picking on me," he managed to say. "They threw me over this here fence."

"Sullivans!" the man scoffed. "They're all rotten. Why, when I was a boy, their daddy and his brothers did the same to me. I guess they don't change much from generation to generation do they?"

Amos wasn't sure if he was expected to answer that question or if it was what adults referred to as rhetorical. In the end, he remained silent which must have been okay because the stranger continued his speech.

"The house was newer back when they threw me over. The fence was stronger too, not a single loose board anywhere."

The stranger shook his head and appeared to come back into the present. "Those Sullivans don't give a flying fart what happens to you on this side of the fence. They think it's all just one big joke leaving you here."

Amos didn't want to ask, but the man's speech begged the question. "Have you been here all of this time?"

The man nodded.

"You've been here all alone?" He had a hard time believing this. How could a kid survive here all the way into adulthood?

The man grinned. "Alone? No. I was never alone. The magic kept me company."

"T-t-t-the mag-g-g-gic?" The all-famous Amos stutter had returned.

"Yes," he answered. "The magic in this lot feeds you. It keeps you company when you are feeling lonely. It consoles you and tells you that you are fine even when you know that things are not fine at all."

Amos began backing away, back towards the fence and closer to the security of the outside world. For every step back, the man took one forward, and all the while he continued talking louder and louder until his speech qualified as a full-blown rant.

"The magic hardens you. It makes you strong. It provides for you and takes care of you as if you were its own kin!"

Amos felt the fence press up against his spine and knew that he could go back no further. The stranger drew nearer.

They were eye to eye. "You still haven't picked up your ball."

Amos slid down the fence. He grabbed the ball. He slid back up.

"You don't belong here," the man blurted. "You are waiting for someone."

Amos gripped the ball harder, but said nothing.

"How long has your dad been gone?"

"About a year." Amos knew that he had never mentioned his dad to this stranger.

"I hate the Sullivans. Thirty years ago, they threw me over the fence and left me here alone with the magic. A boy needs more than magic. A boy needs flesh and bone parents and the Sullivans took that away from me!"

The grass and trees around them suddenly began to sway as if caught in a breeze. Amos detected no breeze.

"Most of all, a boy needs his freedom."

The foliage stopped mid-sway as the man finished talking. Everything was still as stone.

"These two fence boards are loose. When I pull them off, I want you to stay put until all the commotion is over. Then wait for my command."

Amos stood there dumbfounded. He tried to guess the man's intentions. He could not.

"Do you understand me son? It's crucial that you understand. Most importantly, you must not come out until I say, if you do--well, I'll just say your safety will be in jeopardy."

Amos nodded.

With a pop, one of the boards came loose and fell to the ground. A second closely followed.

The Sullivan boys were still on the far side of the fence. "Lookie," Amos heard one of them say. "The baby is trying to get out of his playpen."

The man stood in the entrance, bathed in the afternoon light that so brilliantly glared through from the fence's far side. His silhouette was sharp and dark against that brilliance. He turned his head back toward Amos for just a moment and spoke. "Those Sullivans won't be bothering you no more."

Terror hit Amos. His mouth was open. His scream was silent.

Those black eyes now glowed red, and the stranger's beard hair bristled. Retracted lips revealed sharp, inhuman teeth.

The creature blinked those awful eyes once. Then quick as a cobra, it vanished through the opening.

The sounds that followed were horrific. Then, after a time, everything grew silent, like the calm after a storm.

The hush was absolute, lifeless, and two-dimensional until it broke with a thud. Something had landed on Amos' side of the fence.

It was the youngest Sullivan. He landed in a fetal position and in that position he stayed.

Wary, Amos approached him. He waved his hand back and forth in front of the boy's eyes. No response.

There was still no breeze, yet the grass around the fallen Sullivan began to sway once more. It brushed against the fetal-positioned boy, caressing his shivering body.

Amos took a step back and at the same time heard a voice from the far side of the fence. "One can leave the corner lot when replaced by another. That's the magic's rule." The voice was different and yet recognizable as that of the stranger's.

Amos peeked out from the opening in the fence. The sun was setting.

He stepped through to the other side. Nothing seemed out of place. He was alone.

He inhaled. The air felt fresher on this side. That was when the guilt hit him. The Sullivans were rotten, but rotten or not, nobody deserved to be left within the confines of that lot.

He turned back, but found that the opening in the fence had vanished. Puzzled, he walked the perimeter of the lot and for the first time realized that no gate existed.


THE END


2016 Shawn D. Brink

Bio: Mr. Brink published two books so far, The Space Between and The Devil's Revenge, through Martin Sisters Publishing. One of his tales placed third in a horror/ghost story contest sponsored by Writer's Journal. In addition, he has numerous stories in publications such as Specklit, Flashes in the Dark, and Theme of Absence. His website is www.shawnbrinkauthor.wordpress.com

E-mail: Shawn D. Brink

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