What the Old Man Did 3

March 23, 2012

A gibbous moon hung in the sky when I awoke. Sleeping quarters were cramped in the crows nest. Sitting in the top of a man-made tree at this very early hour brought those ancient memories flooding back. I had climbed this “tree” — the nearest faux-wood stairway was twenty feet down. Only a human being would know to come here, could see that it was a possible lair, a hiding place from things that never look up.

. . . When my prison door slid back, all was dark and quiet. No movement. We — I — had flashlights in the safe room. I flipped on the light. I’m glad there were no witnesses. I started whimpering, backing up slowly into the dark little room. Our small basement floor was covered with human bodies. Only they barely looked human. Some seemed to have been eaten. My memory is fuzzy. To a 10 year-old, it was incomprehensible. Parts seemed to be missing from most of them. I couldn’t stand staying in here with them. Without thinking about it, I ran to the stairs, stepping on things, my boots sinking into them. I ran up the stairs immersed in fear and confusion . . .

The sunrise was near when I woke again. I began scanning the ground. Would anyone show? Two hours later I was ready to abandon my perch. Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement. Surprising how old instincts returned. Three figures emerged from a dark opening under one of the stilt-supported structures. One woman and two men. They stayed in the shadows of the building and I couldn’t identify them. Their movements were slow and stiff. Perhaps they were strangers? But a feeling in the pit of my stomach told me otherwise. As they moved out of sight I took the knife from my belt and looked at it. Could I use this if I had to? I remembered when the old man gave it to me. It belonged to one of the invaders that disrupted our little group those years ago. He paid with his life.

. . . at the top of the basement steps I stopped. Frozen. My mother was sitting at the table, she seemed to be staring at me. I wanted to call out to her but I did not. Tears started. I sobbed and sobbed . . .

On the ground I started looking for the three I had seen from my perch in the tree. Just then the sun was obscured. Clouds were moving in from the east. Unusual since they generally came from the west or north. I suddenly realized that it was like twilight. The clouds were thick enough that dusk seemed to settle on my little corner of the earth. If my guests were what I now suspicioned, I was in a vulnerable spot. I decided to head back to the heights but as I turned I felt something behind me. I heard nothing but I knew someone was there. I ran. Getting out of the narrow area between the tree house system and concessions I headed for the animal cages. A small zoo had existed in the park and I knew where I wanted to be now. The old cat cages. Turning a glanced behind and saw what I feared, the three were following.

Inside the cage I locked the door and sat down on one of the large crates. No cats were here now. They were moved I presumed when the trouble started fifteen years back. I waited for what seemed hours. Nothing. Ready to leave I took the cage key from my pocket and walked toward the door when they attacked. They are slow, just like Mr. Johnson had been, but vicious for all that. I could see them closely now. K was with them. Since that time fifteen years ago, I had never cried. Now tears came again. But quietly. I had loved K, but never told her. She was beautiful and kind and smart. But now something else altogether. The three of them prowled around the cage looking for a way in. I saw bite marks on K’s arm. Others must have come the night before. But why was I left alone?

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