Nicholas wandered aimlessly down the main street, cruising on his board. He enjoyed the cool night air on his face as he wandered from club to club, laughing at the drunks and chatting with the bouncers outside. Rolling down the main thoroughfare late at night, he often found himself dodging stray legs, stumbling drunks, and avoiding piles of vomit and piss. Although it was never an environment that Nicholas considered to be nice, he always enjoyed his Friday night skates. He made sure to keep his headphones on, with the music up loud, so he never had to worry about what others would yell at him. But none of that mattered to Nicholas because tonight was a special night, not for him, but for the city. A huge celebration was happening, a festival where people would dress up and get painted while still getting up to the same drunk shenanigans. Except this time, there was also street food and a much wider range of people to watch and listen to.
Nicholas weaved through the crowds, marveling at their colorful dress and intricate face paint. The decorations illuminated the street with strong reds, greens, and blues. While people carried around balloons and other thematic cosmetics from the various stalls. Nicholas couldn’t help but love the tacky plastic lightbulb cups that had an led light in them to make the drinks glow. It was at the forefront of his mind to find where they were coming from, as everyone seemed to have one. The closer he got to the center of the festival, the more packed the sidewalks became, so he quickly moved onto the road; looking around, he made sure he was safe from traffic when a strange individual caught his eye. Nicholas stood stiff-legged, jaw slacks as he stared at this man standing in the back of a crowd.
He was nearly two heads taller than anyone else, bald, as pale as chalk, with violet eyes and the most vibrant red gums which outlined his perfect smile. The man’s dark robes added to the strangeness that was him.
All of a sudden, Nicholas was snapped out of his trance by the sound of a car horn. He turned to see a car barrelling towards him. Nicholas narrowly swerved out of the way, and the guy ,driving threw a finger out the window.
“Eat shit cunt; this is a festival; slow the fuck down.” Nicholas yelled as he corrected himself.
Turning back to where the strange man stood, he saw nothing but crowds and buildings. Nicholas scanned the crowds and scrunched his face in frustration when he was incapable of spotting him.
“Fucking weird, goddamn eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his skull; I need to follow him.” Nicholas said as he shuddered.
Despite the fact the man-made Nicholas feel uncomfortable, he wanted to find him again, so he could use his visage and self to inspire his writing to be written better when it came to writing characters with a creepy disposition. But that would have to wait, for he found the fake lightbulb drinks.
“Oh, thank fuck, I need one of these.” He said as he hopped off his board and ran to the stall. Catching a server’s attention, he called out with a wallet in hand. “He can I get a lightbulb drink?”
The server laughed and then pointed to a long line of customers; the few at the front that heard him shook their heads and pointed to the back of the line. Nicholas frowned and let loose a long-winded sigh.
“Yup, that checks out. Looks like I don’t really want one if I think about it.”
He turned around to look at the other stalls that were nearby just to realize that they were all the same. Each one had a queue that seemed to stretch for a mile and grew every second he did not enter one. Nicholas rolled his eyes and hopped back on his board. Heading away from the main section of the festival, he scouted the outskirts for less popular stalls. But despite his searching, everywhere seemed to be as busy as the last, and as a rule, Nicholas hated to be stationary on his late-night skates, doing whatever it would take to make sure he was moving in one way or another. But he had to stop when he spotted the tall man again. This time he was staring off in another direction, and Nicholas caught the shining white beacon that was the back of his head. The man seemed almost perfectly motionless, and for the briefest of moments, Nicholas assumed that he must be looking at a mannequin set up for a stall, but then he moved. Nicholas stopped his idle march completely when he noticed the slow pan of the man’s head. His eyes were bulging from his skull and nearly stuck out as much as his nose. The wide grin made sure to instill the most amount of fear possible into Nicholas’ system.
Nicholas felt as if he was staring at a robot. The way his head seemed to rotate without affecting the rest of his body. Even when it stopped, it seemed like it his the end of a run and stopped so fast that his head wobbled side to side slightly for the briefest moment before remaining still. Nicholas then had to lean in when he saw the man’s lips moving as if he was in conversation, despite the fact that the two of them were dozens of meters apart, and there was music playing that made the masses sound quiet.
“What on Earth is this….” Nicholas cut himself short and spun his head a hundred and eighty degrees to look behind himself.
A feeling of relief crossed him when there was nothing weird behind him. He was worried that the man might have been staring at something sneaking up on him and was waiting for the chaos to ensue. After sating his fears, he turned back to see the bald man walking off, intrigued. Nicholas followed the man. Although when he started, his feet felt heavy as he struggled to step closer to the man.
“Come on, Nic, it is just a guy. Probably has some kind of disease that makes him look weird; no need to be scared. Just follow him and see what we can find out.”
He talked himself up, but still, his footsteps felt weighted like everything in his body was trying to put on the brakes. But he pushed forward, moving through the park. He slowly built up speed but felt like he was walking weirdly, which caused him to overthink and actually walk weirdly. Most people ignored him, though, as a lot of people were drunk enough that he still seemed more sober than most.
Nicholas made sure not to lose the man but also made sure that he was not seen, keeping him at the furthest distance possible; he wasn’t hard to follow, so he made sure to take his time. Usually, he would attempt to intercept his movements by moving ahead of the person and sitting down somewhere where he would get to see them move or even catch them talking with someone. But Nicholas was afraid to be in the eye line of this man; there had already been two instances of this man looking at him while he was in a crowd, and he was not going to risk it happening in proximity. Furthermore, the man moved in ways that Nicholas found hard to predict; even with his slow trudge Nicholas did not have enough time to calculate his route. But once he saw him turn down an alley, he thought that it was going to be the end of his chase because he knew never to follow anyone into an alley, no matter how curious he was. Skating past the entrance to the alley, he stopped by planting a single foot down heavy onto the pavement.
He was shocked to see someone holding a knife to the man, a decision Nicholas thought was bold because of how much larger that weird man was. He was not only tall, but with the side profile put into perspective, he saw how much mass this man had, and it was intimidating.
“Hand over the wallet, now freak.” The robber yelled as Nicholas approached slowly.
“I don’t have a wallet, I need no money, I simply need to be. Something that you won’t have the burden of being soon.”
The mugger spat at the weird man and went to insult him again, but with surprising speed, the man grabbed the knife with one hand, and the robber through with his other. Nicholas watched as the weird man snapped the mugger’s neck like it was a chicken bone; he then carefully carried him over to a bin and placed him among the trash. Nicholas couldn’t speak; his body knew something was off, and yet he still pushed, and now he was a witness to murder. He went running, but his legs had frozen; worse still, he had wandered deep into the alley without realizing it and now feared the moment that the weird man might turn around. A fear that soon became reality; the weird man turned and smiled that same awful smile and stared with those same bulging eyes. He started to walk towards Nicholas, but this time, he did not shuffle like he did through the streets, he almost looked like he was running, but the way his upper body was hunched and seemed to fill the space of the alley, he almost seemed as if he was just getting larger instead of moving closer. His hands rose and showed off his gnarled fingernails that were thick and pointed, not that he got to look at them for long because they soon found purchase on his shoulders and neck. Nicholas assumed he was about to die as he looked at the man with fear in his eyes. His breathing was somehow less labored than the weird man in front of him. But instead of raising him off the ground, he gripped his shoulders as if he was giving him a massage. Nicholas finally got time to examine his face; it looked as if it was melting from his very skull. It wasn’t until he felt himself being jostled that he realized that the weird man had been talking to him.
“What?” Nicholas said, unable to hide his fear.
“The cookie woman, have you seen her?”
“The coo, the cookie woman?”
“The cookie woman.” He said, shaking Nicholas again. “She lives in a house on the wharf; her home is filled with lights.”
Nicholas started to blubber as he struggled to deal with the situation.
“Don’t cry here; come to the big water, add your salt to theirs. We can go together, you can meet her. Her eyes are sapphires, and her hair is made of sand and powdered glass, and most importantly, she looks to me as if I were normal, but she does not know what I am. Because if she did, she would have screamed and ran.”
Nicholas started to shake, and his legs gave out, but the weird man held him up with no effort at all.
“You have seen what I like to do; I like to harm.” The weird man pulled Nicholas closer, Nicholas’ eyeliner brought to the same height as the weird man’s mouth. Nicholas watched the red of his gums come in and out of view as he spoke. “Do you want to be harmed like the other? He resides in that dumpster now; I gave him a home. I can give you a home too.”
Nicholas felt the air being squeezed from his body, his eyes started to tear up almost as soon as the burning in his chest started to flair up. His ears popped, and audio started to sound muffled as his vision blurred from the tears. The weird man’s face eventually blurred and swirled over itself as the tears occupied his entire eye. Soon he could hear his bones and tendons creaking in the depths of his ears, then nothing.
Nicholas awoke in the alley dazed. His throat felt flat and swollen at the same time, and his mouth opened and closed slowly as he sucked air. He croaked slightly as his vision slowly returned. The feeling in his arms and legs rushed back with a wave of pins and needles that were so intense it hurt to move his limbs. By the time his vision came back, he realized that there were people standing in front of him, asking if he was okay. Although it was not until his hearing returned that he knew that is what they were asking him.
It took Nicholas nearly an entire week before he could talk again and longer still before his neck felt normal.
It has been several months, and Nicholas has not been on any late-night rides again, and just as he was feeling safe, he awoke to a whisper coming from the window in his room.
“Come with me to the house on the wharf, filled with lights.”