She yelled so awfully loud... like she was right in my face, you know?
My friend Ryan and I were about twelve and we had been to see Batman at the cinema. Jack Nicholson was awesome as the Joker and as we walked home we kept trying to laugh like that, swapping lines from the movie.
It was late and my stepfather was supposed to pick us up, but he never arrived, more than likely too drunk to drive. We waited around for him, but when the town clock tolled at midnight it was obvious he wasn't coming. Ryan offered to call his parents, but being so young, and out so late, it seemed more adventurous to walk home.
The main street was well lit, so we agreed to stick to it. Ryan's concern was walking past the park. Street lights were few and far between from there and most people stayed clear of the park at night, especially since the MacKenzie baby drowned in the pond, and they said the child could be heard crying sometimes. I told the kids at school I'd heard it myself.
We crossed the street to avoid the park. I stopped to tie my shoelace.
A slight breeze whipped through the tree tops, branches creaked, and one of the park lights began flickering.
Ryan said, “ Hey, Joey... Notice there's no traffic? “
I did notice and it was really quiet, too, but then again it was after midnight.
He said, “ If I hear a kid cryin' in that park, I swear I'll shit my pants. “
“ Can you hear that? “ I asked.
“ Hear what? “
“ Your imagination playin' tricks on you. “
“ But you said you heard that kid's ghost. “
“ Yeah, I did, but I didn't see anythin', and no-one believed me anyway, except you. “
We kept walking and made it to the corner. My house was half a block away, but Ryan still had two blocks to go, past the high school.
He looked back at the park and gasped. I saw it, too. More lights were flickering.
“ I don't want to walk home alone, “ he said. “ I'll give you five bucks to walk with me. “
“ Yeah, okay, “ I said, “ but I'm not holdin' your hand. “
At the high school, Ryan looked back at the park again. He looked frightened now. Every light in the park was off and it was pitch black.
“ It's nothin', “ I told him. “ Happens all the time. I see it from my bedroom window. The council needs to clean that place up. It's a dump. “
“ A dump where babies drown and their ghosts cry in the night. “
We kept walking and turned the corner. Ryan was relieved to be so close to home. He gave me the five bucks. Easy money.
Not far from his house was a little white chipped paint cottage, with a wire fence and rusty gate, and no curtains in the windows. All the lights were off and as we walked past an old lady started yelling, “ I see you there! Don't you knock and run! Don't you dare! “
“ That's freaky, “ I said. “ She sounds really angry. Old people should be asleep at this hour. Lets go have a look. “
I started towards the gate, only joking, and Ryan grabbed my arm, saying, “ Don't, man. That's too much. She might call the cops. “
“ Don't you knock and run! “ she yelled.
“ She really hates kids, “ Ryan said. “ I've heard her before, but never seen her. “
His mother and father were still up when we arrived. They were disappointed that we had to walk. We should have called them. They offered to let me stay, but I declined, and just wanted to go home.
“ See you tomorrow, “ Ryan said, closing the door.
As I walked home, I had to pass the cottage again, and sure enough, she was still yelling, but then she stopped, as I stood at the gate.
I heard her say, “ I'm cold and can't get up. “
Now I was worried. What if she was injured? She might die and I could have helped.
I opened the gate and left it open, approaching the house. She sounded like she was crying now. At the front door, I knocked lightly, saying, “ Hello? Do you need me to get you an ambulance? “
“ I'm so very cold, “ she said.
“ I can get you help. “
I went to the window and peered inside. As my eyes adjusted, I became aware of something, and every bone in my body wanted to run.
“ I see you there! “ she yelled, but I couldn't see her. “ Don't you knock and run! “
The window boomed and cracked. I fell backward, gathered my feet, and didn't stop running until I got home.
My mother was in the kitchen as I came through the back door.
She said, “ You're as white as a sheet. How was the movie? “
I ignored her and went directly to my room and sat on my bed, grabbing my knees to stop them from shaking.
That house was empty.
BIO: I live in Orange, NSW, Australia. I have one child -a daughter. I was born in 1977. My poetry has appeared in anthologies worlwide and my short stories have been featured in men's magazines. I cite James Herbert, Tales from the Crypt, vintage Penny Dreadfuls, and Ripley's Belueve It, or Not, as an influence.