Chapter 3. (continued)
The pond was not a proper pond, really, but rather a low point where rainwater had collected. The depression in the land had been the site of an old industrial building, a structure that had once been a slaughterhouse (so the rumors went), or maybe just a warehouse. In any event, the building had been very old, and had been vacant for a long time when it was finally demolished two years earlier.
Now all that was left here was a barren crater filled with miscellaneous debris, and a shallow pool of water. The scene looked vaguely like something from a war zone. A bomb might have landed on the now nonexistent building, rather than a crew of demolition workers and a backhoe.
The crater was inaccessible for all practical purposes: It was hemmed in by two steep, slippery-looking hillsides behind it, and a sharp drop-off at the edge of Shayton Road on the near side. We had never played in the depression, never seriously thought about exploring the banks of the sludgy pond. This place was foul and muddy; and venturing down there would have meant a twisted ankle, if not a broken leg.
The crater had never attracted our notice much at all—until the ghost boy had begun appearing there.
He was wearing what he always wore: an old army fatigue jacket, jeans, and beat-up sneakers. The ghost boy might have been fourteen or fifteen years old—a few years older than us. He was smoking a cigarette and watching us approach. Doing, once again, what he always did.
I tried to look for his reflection in the pond and couldn't see it, though a skeptic could have easily claimed this was a result of the position of the boy, the pond, and the angle at which we approached him.
What was more difficult to explain was the way the kid seemed to blend into the hillside behind him—a craggy, muddy incline of dirt boulders and scrub pines. We had all noticed this: it was as if he were alternately there and not there.
“Maybe we should just ignore him,” Leah said. We were drawing close now, though still just beyond earshot. “Maybe if we ignore him, then he’ll ignore us.”
Bobby snorted. “Fat chance. He doesn't want to be ignored. We’ve tried ignoring him before, haven’t we? But he always calls out to us.”
Leah nodded. “That’s true. But you know—I was thinking: He could be a dropout from Youngman. Or—maybe he’s already graduated. We’ve been scaring ourselves—telling ourselves that he’s some kind of a vampire or a ghost or something. But maybe he’s nothing more than an ordinary smartass, and we’re psyching ourselves out.”
“No,” I said. “There’s something about him that—isn’t right. I don’t know exactly what it is; but there’s something strange.”
“Don’t look at me, Leah,” Bobby said. “I think I’m with Schaeffer on this one.”
* * *
Serial be continued....
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