I'd actually seen him on our way home from school. He looked dirty and disturbed, and stared straight at us as our bus went by. We even made jokes about him, probably as our way of pretending we weren't afraid. He was incredibly out of place in our middle class suburb, so his mere presence felt threatening... thus our panic when the three of us got off at our stop and saw him at the corner, about to look in our direction.
He was between us and our houses, and the bus had already pulled away, so we bolted for the bushes of a nearby yard. We weren't sure if he had seen us, but we peered through the leaves and saw him stalking our way, muttering randomly. Tim, my neighbor, insisted that he'd seen a large knife in the man's ragged clothing. Danny, a kid I hardly knew who had just moved into the neighborhood, insisted that he was imagining it - that Tim's glasses must have reflected the sun wrong or something. Still, we were terrified, and the sidewalk was going to bring him right by us.
It was Tim that broke and ran first, keeping low. I followed, my heart pounding, as we dove into the darkness underneath the porch of the unfamiliar house we'd been hiding near. As we squeezed our bodies against the dirt, the grimy wood pressed into our backs, barely giving us enough room to breathe. From our hiding place, we could see the disturbed man turn into the yard in front of us and begin searching around, hitting the bushes and muttering angrily.
I realized then that Danny wasn't with us, but I hadn't seen where he'd gone. Tim had lost his glasses back at the bushes, and he just huddled in the shadows next to me in near-blind terror. We stayed there in silence, waiting. Every so often, whenever I almost thought it was safe to come out, footsteps would creep across the wooden porch above us. Tim almost sneezed, once, but I covered his mouth and nose in stark fear.
We waited there so long that the tone of the sunlight began to change. We hadn't heard the man searching about in awhile, and I was just getting ready to peek out, when footsteps clattered and a thud hit the wood directly above us. A split second later, Danny's face appeared in front of us upside down, and he looked at us through the lattice. A look of shock and surprise crossed his features at finally finding us. He whispered something, but I couldn't hear anything. He seemed to be saying "come closer," so I figured the horrible man was still around and we had to be quiet, and I inched forward.
Danny's features grew fearful, and he kept indicating something above us. Strangely, I still couldn't hear him... his eyes seemed to dim then, and I inched forward a little bit more. I froze for a moment in horror, then backed up. Tim mouthed to me: "What did he say?" and I just shook my head, completely in shock. Danny hadn't conveyed "come closer," he had mimed "he's up there." The drifter was unknowingly sitting right above us, waiting, because he knew we had to be somewhere in that yard.
There was nothing to do but wait in silence, trying not to scream. I was glad Tim had lost his glasses. I lay there as darkness descended, waiting in unwavering terror and trying not to feel the glassy stare of Danny's severed head as it rested in the grass a foot away.
Written by Matt Dymerski
Originally Appeared: No Sleep
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