Peter Grange walked past the fake marble pillars that flanked the sides of the large wrought iron gate. He took a moment to appreciate the ornate flourishes of the metal flowers. If you couldn’t bring flowers, these would never wilt.
Peter turned to walk to the street and back home, brushing off some dirt from his jeans. As he looked up towards the road he saw a figure leaning against a street lamp, standing just between the two cones of light from the lamps bulbs. A faint cloud of cigarette smoke wafted away from the figure and into the leftward patch of light.
The figure spoke up, “You don’t see many people here this late.”
Peter smiled. “Guess I could say the same.” He stopped halfway between the gate and the street lamp.
“So what are you doing here then? Paying your respects?”
Peter wanted to laugh but instead came out with, “Not exactly. More like, I was just doing some cleaning up.”
The figure shifted its weight, still resting entirely within the shadows. “Oh? You make a lot of messes.” The figure vaguely gestured towards the dirt stains on Peter’s workman jeans.
Peter’s laugh got caught in his throat, then he choked it down before rasping out, “I guess you could say that.”
The figure stepped closer to Peter, never seeming to step out of the shadows. “No. You misunderstand. Not could, am. I am saying that. There is no question. There is no doubt. You. Make. A. Lot. Of. Messes.”
Peter tensed up, furrowed his brow. He began to sweat in the cool crisp air. “What are you trying to say?”
The figure stepped even closer, the shadow extending past it, where it began to land across Peter’s steel toed boots. “Once again. I am not trying to do anything. I am saying I know what you do. I know why you are here. I know what happened tonight.” Its voice sounded distant, like a radio in an adjacent room.
“You don’t know shit.” Peter tried to snarl, but it came out meek and raspy as he struggled to get his voice to cooperate.
The figure began to speak, like static, even closer, as if directly in his ear. “Did he remind you of your brother too? Or was this one more reminiscent of your father?”
“How? No, just shut up.” Peter took a step back and pulled out an expandable baton, red and slick, not yet properly cleaned. “Shut the fuck up. You don’t know anything. You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“Your dad’s not going to love you more. You know that right? Especially not after tonight. How do you think that conversation would go?”
Peter took a step forward, and then another. Looking at the figure in the shadows hurt his head, but he tried to focus, stand tall, and raise his baton.
“What are you even trying to do? Is this your solution to everything?”
“SHUT UP!” White-knuckling the baton, Peter could feel the coarse handle dig into his skin.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Don’t care, it doesn’t matter. Going to beat you bloody and red anyway.”
The figure laughed mirthlessly, as if the echo of a hollow rock. “No. Literally, do you know anything about me? Anything at all?”
Peter took another laborious step forward, as if stepping through thick mud. “Don’t…don’t need to.”
“What color are my eyes? Am I smiling, come on, can you hear the joy in my voice? What does my face look like? What am I even wearing? Here, an easy one, am I tall? Am I short? Can you say one single, solitary thing about me?”
Peter looked towards the figure again, trying to focus this time on its shape, the details of its being. He tried to focus on the hair, the height, the clothes, the eyes, anything he could notice, but every time he tried to look at the figure, his eyes just slipped off, like water gliding around a sizzling pan. It hurt to try to focus, like an itch in the back of his head telling him to run, to hide, to get away, to not be near this thing, but refusing to let him grasp anything about the figure’s nature, as if the very idea of it would break him down, worse than whatever the figure was actually planning.
Peter shouted, “No, no, no!”
He swung his baton wildly, trying to move closer and closer while looking away. His baton swung through seemingly empty air, finding nothing to hit. He kept swinging and swinging in the hopes that something, anything would stop this figure.
“No! No! No!”
And then he went limp, yet fully aware of every nerve in his body, screaming at him to make it stop. The baton fell from his hand as he was taken by the figure, never able to try and fail to reconcile with a brother he hadn’t seen in years. Never to hurt again.
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