The movie ended later than I had anticipated. My plan was to drop Abigail off at her house, but she insisted on walking back alone.
"How come?" I asked.
"I'm not even going home tonight. I'm spending the night at a friend's house."
She shrugged. "Whoever will let me stay."
I was confused, and certain that it showed on my face. "You don't know where? You're just gonna walk until someone invites you in?"
"More or less." She smiled. "But don't you worry. I do it alot."
I wasn't sure what to say, so I nodded. "I guess I'll just trust you."
"Oh, and one other thing."
"Yeah?" I asked. What now?
"Take a different route home."
"What do you mean?"
She smiled, but I could tell it was a serious subject. "Don't go past my house. And don't go down that area, either. Take a different way."
She didn't answer. Abigail just walked off mysteriously, directly towards the busy street where cars flew past.
"I don't know any other routes!" I called.
"Find one," she yelled.
I watched in horror as she calmly crossed the bustling traffic, going at the same, steady pace and somehow not being hit. It made me shiver, just watching. All the cars zoomed by, not stopping, almost as if they couldn't see her. Finally, she reached the other side and carried on down the road.
As she carried on, I expected her to turn onto the street where she lived, since I assumed most of her friends lived there. Instead, she kept walking, passing it by. Never looking back, never waving. Never going faster or slower.
"Creepy," I said, trying not to linger on it. "Now... how am I gonna get home?"
I thought about ignoring what she'd said and taking my normal route. But the way she had said it -and acted afterwards- got me pretty freaked out. I turned and walked in the opposite direction. Anything to get away.
It was nearly dark, and my uncle would be furious at me when I got home late. He would probably think we were having sex somewhere. But at least I wouldn't face whatever consequences lay on her street.
I wish she would have told me.
When I finally planned another way to get home, it was pitch black. The scene I'd witnessed in front of the theatre still bothered me, and I found myself cringing or shivering every time I heard a sound. The houses and alleys as passed were not quiet, but not loud either. They were night.
The sounds I heard were terrifying. There were no friendly voices. There were whispers, and skin-crawling nails; the taps of a funeral and silent laughs, where all you can hear is the strained breaths.
I was walking through nice neighborhoods, but there were no ordinary sounds. No television lights flickered from windows; no runners went for late-night jogs; no couples were on romantic, moonlit strolls. Instead, it was me. Alone. Shivering.
Footsteps echoed behind me.
"Who's there?" I said, whipping around.
There was a loose sheet from a newspaper blowing across the street. It got stuck on a red bench and couldn't break free.
I faced around and continued my solitary walk. A cat meowed from some dark corner of the world. I thought I heard breathing behind me. Something hot blew on the back of my neck.
I spun around and swung with a fist, but nobody was there. All I contacted was the heavy air surrounding me.
The sheet of paper finally found its way around the bench and disappeared down a separate alleyway. All was still.
"Screw this," I muttered. "Should've gone the other way. Stupid f-ing advice."
"Bad words make bad people."
I twisted around at the voice.
"Get away!" I shouted, stumbling as I tried to back up. I hit the ground roughly.
His nose had been touching mine when I spun around, and I could smell something foul on his breath. A wide, Joker-esque smile painted the bottom of his face as he cackled wickedly. Even his brown eyes looked menacing in the moonlight, which painted his face as pale and haggard. I guessed he was about my age, but his appearance was like a demon.
"Bad words make bad people," he interrupted. That smile seemed to be permanently etched on his face.
"What are you?"
He put a crooked, unnatural finger to his lips. "I must ask you to be quiet. The people here" -he waved his arms around at the houses- "don't really like me. But they don't understand. They don't know me like you do."
"I don't know you!" I stood up shakily. "I've never seen you before!"
"Ah, but you do. You see me almost everyday. You just don't see it. Quite ironic, don't you think?"
"Leave me alone! I'm just going home."
That smile spread, showing teeth. Surprisingly, his teeth were pearly and perfect. Most of his features were in good shape, actually. The pale moonlight and black, shoulder-length hair made him look a bit like Michael Jackson. With a Joker smile.
"Aren't sentences that begin with Q just fascinating?" he asked. "Let's think of some together."
Ignoring me, he continued, "Quick deaths. Quiet pain. Quit smiling. Question nothing." He stepped closer to me so that our noses were touching again. "Don't you like this? My touch? It is -as the Q would say- quite enticing."
"Get away!" I screamed. "You freak!"
That smile turned to a frown on his face. It only looked more terrifying. Anger seemed to erupt in his eyes for a flash, but then it was gone.
"Fine. I tried to play nice. I know something you don't. Something you want to know. About a girl."
"A girl?" I asked. I knew he was serious. His expression had gone from playful to sober.
"Her name is Abigail, I believe."
He smiled again. "There's that recognition we deserve. Now, yes. About her. You are wondering why she acted like she did, are you not?"
"How did you... Are you stalking me?" I took a step back.
He took a step forward and reached for my hand. "Of course not."
"Get back," I said! "Or I'm leaving."
"I'll follow." He winked.
"Just tell me what you want to say. So I can leave." I looked at my wrist, pretending I had a watch. "I need to be getting home."
"I'm sure that watch you don't have can tell you lots about time. Just like I can tell you lots about Abigail."
"Tell me, then."
He shook his head. "I'd rather you find out yourself. When you see her next, ask her about her childhood. Really" -he made a clawing motion with his hand- "dig into her." He cackled again. "And do it to that nerd Xavier, too. Oh, boy, has he got secrets."
The monster began to walk off into the night, but I called after him, "Wait! What secrets? And what's your name?"
He smiled at me from over his shoulder, giving me an image that would haunt my dreams for years.
"Lots of secrets. Everyone has them. Dirty secrets. Rotten secrets. As for my name, you don't need to know it yet. You know my face." He winked at me one last time. "You know my touch."