When we Sleep we go to Heaven

By: J.J. Cheesman

 

My little brother Levi, has said for as long as he could form words, that when we sleep, we go to heaven. Back when we were younger and shared the same room, he would often wake me up in the early hours of the morning and tell me all about what he saw while he was asleep. He said that he met our grandmother, whom neither of us had met because she died before we were born. He said that she wanted him to tell me that she was watching over us. Now of course, I always thought it was crap. I always thought he was obviously just too young to understand what a dream was. But as the older brother I indulged his fantasy, and always pretended to listen intently.

Then one day, when I was twelve, and Levi was ten, something peculiar happened. My mother and I were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast, when Levi came bouncing into the room. He gave mom a great big hug, and kissed her on the cheek.

“What did I do to deserve all this affection?” My mother asked through laughter.

“I’m just sorry Mom.” Levi said flatly, expression serious.

“Sorry for what dear?”

“I’m sorry about Aunt Holly.” Levi said in a matter-of-fact manner. He then turned around, and headed out of the kitchen and into the living room without another word. Mom turned to me and said,

“Well, that was strange.” I just shrugged and said,

“That’s Levi,” And we thought nothing more of it.

That day continued as normal. Levi and I went to school, and when we came home Mom made us do our homework like always, and she started dinner. Levi and I finished our assignments and then ran off into the living room to play video games. We weren’t far into our game, before we heard the phone ring in the kitchen and subsequently, our mother answer it. I distinctly remember Levi suddenly putting down his controller, and staring down at the floor. I asked him what was the matter, but he just kept his gaze down and his mouth shut. Then the wailing painful sobs of my mother filled the house. I jumped up and ran into the kitchen, leaving Levi where he sat on the floor.

My mom is the strongest woman I have ever known. She raised two boys on her own, thanks to an absent father, and we never wanted for anything. Her strength was unmatched as far as I was concerned and until that night, I had never once seen her shed a tear. But when I entered that kitchen, I found her on her knees, sobbing uncontrollably and clutching the phone to her chest. My twelve-year-old self had no idea what to do or how to help, so I just stood there gawking like an idiot, unable to console her.

Once she composed herself, she made us boys get into the car and she took us to the neighbor’s house. I was confused, and I didn’t find out what happened until much later. Aunt Holly; my mother’s sister, had been driving home from work that night, when a semi-driver lost control of his rig. The brakes went out, and he hit Holly’s Prius, crushing it, and killing Holly instantly.

Levi never spoke about his dreams again after that night. Even so, Mom treated him a little differently from then on. She wasn’t mean to him or anything, I don’t think she thought he was to blame. She just treated him with a kind of, apprehension. I must admit, I was a little weary of Levi myself for a while. But like I said, we never heard hide nor hair of the stories about visiting heaven ever again. If he did have any more dreams, Levi kept them to himself.

Well, time marched on, days turned into weeks, and so forth. I moved out of the house when I was eighteen, and started living on campus at the college I attend now. It was strange being away from Levi and my mom. Although I was constantly busy with school work, I always made time to call home and check in on them. Before I knew it, spring break was right around the corner, and I called the week before to let them know I was going to visit. It was Levi who answered.

“Hey bud, how’s it going?” I said.

“Alright, I guess.” Levi’s voice sounded distant and solemn.

“Are you okay?” I asked him.

“Yeah, just not sleeping well man.”

“Oh yeah? What’s wrong?” Levi sighed heavily.

“I don’t know really; I’ve just been having strange ass dreams.” When he said that, I envisioned Mom kneeling down in our kitchen and crying, and I shuddered. I wanted to ask him about it, but I was just too afraid of what he might say.

“Have you mentioned anything about it to Mom?”

“No, she’s working third shift now, so when she’s home she is usually asleep.” He paused for a moment and then added.

“Besides…” but then his voice trailed off.

“I know…” I said, and we were on the phone in silence for about a minute, then finally I said,

“Listen, spring break is next week, and I’m going to come down there.”

“Well, Mom will be ecstatic to have the good son in the house.” He said dully. I laughed it off. “When I get there we’re going fishing in the morning, and then every morning until I have to leave, got it?” I said, defiantly. There was a pause from the other end, and then Levi said,

“I’d love that.”

When Monday came, I began my long journey home. I ended up leaving late though, because some friends of mine on campus wanted to hang out and have beers before we all left. I may have had one too many, and had to sober up before I left for home that day, so I didn’t make it there until a little after midnight. I got out of my car and walked up the porch steps, and begin to fumble with my key chain, searching for a key I hadn’t used in months. That’s when I heard a peculiar noise. It was a loud cracking sound, that called to my mind the sound of splintering wood. It seemed to have come from the back yard, so I stopped what I was doing, and walked around the side of the house and made my way with some trepidation, to the back.

 In the yard was a large oak tree that stood roughly twenty feet tall, with several sprawling and far-reaching branches. On one of the strong-looking branches, near the very top of the oak, was Levi. He stood perfectly still in the bright moonlight, wearing his pajamas, and staring straight out across the yard.

“Jesus Christ! Levi, come down from there! You’ll fall!” I yelled. Levi’s expression was calm and stoic. He muttered something that I couldn’t understand. Then, without warning, he dove head first from the branch he was standing on. I screamed, and I could only watch on helplessly as my little brother’s head smacked into the ground, his neck snapping under the weight of his own body, which in turn crumpled to the ground. It all seemed to happen in slow motion, and too fast at the same time. I was in a daze of disbelief, and slowly, aimlessly, I walked over to the still and unmoving body. Oh god, his neck was twisted so oddly, and there was a bone jutting out oddly from within the skin, threatening to poke out of his flesh. I would have become sick, but I was too far out of my mind. My mouth was slack and frozen in the expression I had when I screamed.

Sadness over took me then, and tears began to form and fall freely from my eyes as I knelt down beside my brother’s form. I couldn’t accept it; it was too surreal. After a long while of doing nothing, my frozen state of shock began to ebb, and I searched in my pocket for my phone to call 911.

 Then, the most terrifying thing that I’ve ever witnessed happened in those next few moments. As I was pulling out my phone from my pocket, there was movement on the ground next to me.

Levi somehow, impossibly, began to hoist himself on his knees, and then slowly rise to his feet. His head swayed on his broken neck, the bone and flesh that made it up acted as if it were jelly. Then, there was that splintering sound from before, and I watched in terror as his head and neck began to jerk violently back and forth, until his head righted itself and once again stood normally on his shoulders, as if nothing ever happened. Levi’s head then turned to look at me, dead on. His eyes were awful to look at, there was no reflection of light within them, there wasn’t anything at all. He opened his mouth to speak, and what he said to me will be burned into my mind until the day I am six feet underground. Then, he turned his gaze back to his house and began walking until he reached the porch, which he ascended before going inside.

It took a long time for me to pick myself up off of the grass, and when I did, I didn’t follow Levi. Hell no.

I walked to my car, got in, and drove it to the first twenty-four-hour diner I could find. For hours I just sat and drank coffee, thinking about what I should do, until it occurred to me to get my laptop from my car, and record these events here.

I’ve been thinking over Levi’s words to me, and what they mean for us. When I do, my blood runs cold and I begin shaking uncontrollably. I can still see his cold, dead eyes when he told me in not just his voice, but many.

“Heaven has fallen, and so too, shall we.”

When we Sleep we go to Heaven

My Walk Home From School

no-eyes-finalBy: J.J. Cheesman

 

My walk home from my high school is always a relatively uneventful one. I cut across the park that is right next to the school, and from the park, it’s just a couple blocks to my house. I’ve never had any trouble walking home by myself, it’s something I’ve always done, ever since I was thirteen. Well, I can tell you now, it is NOT something I’ll be doing any longer.

Last autumn, I had stayed late at school, working on a stupid group project for history class where we had to build a castle out of cardboard and crap like that. It was pretty easy work, but none of us in the group felt like going to each other’s houses to do it, so we opted to stay after school. Since I didn’t really know the other two kids that well, the project was silent and rather awkward to do, and I ended up doing most of the work. When we finally finished our castle, it was nearly 5:30 p.m., and we all gladly got out of that situation as quickly as possible.

Once I was out of the school I began making my way to the park. Now, if you have never been to Illinois in the later months of the year, dusk comes quickly in the fall. Street lamps buzzed and slowly grew bright as the sun began its climb below behind the horizon. In the park, I made my way passed the swing sets, my strides were long and quick as I was anxious to get home. Though, however determined I was to make it home, it only took one, small sound, to stop me dead in my tracks.

It was a soft, gasping sound, as if someone was short of breath. When I turned my head to look at the slides; the area I thought it was coming from, I saw a little girl with long black hair. She was kneeling down by the slide that was nearest where I was standing, with her back facing me. At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. Calling the police crossed my mind, and my hand reached down to feel the shape of my phone on the outside of my jeans, just to make sure it was still there. When I did, the girl’s sobbing became louder, and I felt the urge to help. I approached her with mild trepidation, take my footsteps slow toward her. “Hey, are you okay?” I asked her.

“GO AWAY!” She yelled back without moving.

I stopped moving for a moment, actually considering heeding her words, but then I saw that she didn’t have a jacket. In fact, her shoulders were bare, she was wearing a white tank top. When I looked down, I saw that her legs too were bare, she was wearing dirty white basketball shorts. It was not a warm autumn night. Actually, the wind was picking up, and it was turning the cool autumn air chilly as the sun sank deeper over the horizon. Her skin; which I could now clearly see was naturally dark, had become pale in the cold. A deep sadness fell on me for the girl in that moment. She must have been homeless, some tragic story forced her in the situation she was in, no doubt. The girl only looked to be a few years younger than I was for god’s sake. I walked toward her with new determination, unzipping my jacket to give to her. I decided that I would give her my jacket now, and call the police a little later, so I wouldn’t embarrass her. I didn’t want to, but this girl clearly needed more help than I could give.

I took off my red and blue Cubs jacket, and I outstretched it toward her.

“Here, take my coat at least.” Her sobs ceased, but for a moment she didn’t move. I waited patiently for her to accept my offer, I didn’t want to nag her any more than that, If I was in her situation, I would probably too proud to take it. Then, finally, the girl began to turn her head slowly, to look at me. I dropped my coat and stumbled backwards, falling on my back when I saw the girl’s face.

“I told you to go away.” The girl said, almost sorrowful as I scrambled to pick myself up off of the dirt. As I stood up the girl began screaming a loud howl that rang out and echoed all around the playground. I clapped my hands around my ears, and I looked at her face one final time in… I don’t know, disbelief, or morbid curiosity maybe. I just needed to confirm that what I saw was true. And it was. The girl’s eye sockets, were completely devoid of anything at all.

All at once, her screaming stopped, and she raised her head, sniffing the air like an animal.

“You’re still here, boy, I smell you.” She said, and her blue lips curled into a ghastly smile. Well, that was enough for me. I turned and I hauled ass, all the way home. I didn’t look back, but as far as I know, the eyeless girl didn’t follow me. Once I got to my house I rested for a moment on my porch, looking around to see if she was near, but she was nowhere in sight.

Now, believe it or not, after those crazy moments of all in that park, life was pretty normal for me after that. I didn’t cut across the park to go to school anymore, in fact, I began to make sure I left when one of my friends did so that I could walk to school with them. Nothing similar to that experience ever happened again, and I never saw the girl again.

Then, a couple months ago, I began to wake up in the middle of the night to a sound outside. It sounded as if some animal was sniffing around, just outside my room. Whenever I got up to check outside my window though, I wouldn’t see anything, and the sound would be gone. This happened for a long time, up until last night in fact.

I woke up to the same sound outside my room, by then I assumed it to be some raccoons sniffing around the trash cans that were near my bedroom window. When I checked the window this time, though, I found it to be opened up about nine inches. My heart skipped a beat, and I shut the window quickly. I grabbed the baseball bat from under my bed, and searched the entire room, looking under my bed and in my closet, and even out in the hallway. But I found nothing. Eventually I calmed down, and became tired again. So I went out to the kitchen to get a drink of water, and came back to bed.

When I got into bed, and under the covers, I felt something under them with me. It was fabric of some sort, and felt like another blanket. I grabbed it and pulled it out of the covers to examine it.

It was a red and blue Cubs jacket.

My Walk Home From School

My Last Talk With Brody

By: J.J. Cheesman

 

The last chat I ever Brody was the strangest, most wondrous, and beautifully terrifying conversation I ever had, and it changed my life forever. Are you familiar with the writing of Edgar Allen Poe? If not, don’t worry, I wasn’t either. But Brody was, he was obsessed with him. Brody was an English Literature major, and of all the works he liked to talk about, ‘THE RAVEN’ was his favorite. He knew it by heart, and he made sure that I, and all our other friends knew it too.

Brody was also a writer, he spent a lot of time when we were younger inside, typing up a storm on his computer. He was very secretive about it, never showing any of his writing to anyone, no matter how much he was asked to show his work. You might think, then, that because of his behavior and interests that Brody was a sad individual. Well, Brody actually happened to be the life of any party. Everyone loved him.

Whenever Brody came home from Chicago; where he went to college, everyone was made aware. Facebook notifications, and texts of all sorts from friends would blow up my phone, letting me know that Brody was back in town. The nights were always long, and mornings were always late for the time he was home. I would be out with Brody and the rest of our crew, going from bar to bar, partying it up until two or three in the morning. Because, well, that’s just what we all did. It was boring when Brody was gone, and when he was around everyone was drawn to him, so I ALWAYS knew when he was in town. That’s why it was so strange, that at 12:00 A.M. on Monday last week, I was awoken by a knock at my door.

Now to be quite honest, I was never as smart as Brody. I never went to college, but I DID have a job at a factory in town. It had been a long shift at work that day, so imagine my anger when I was startled out of my sleep at such a late hour. I got out of bed and grumbled while I was half asleep, all the way to the door and swung it open, ready to shout at whoever was behind it. To my surprise, Brody stood there on my porch. He smelled of booze, and he had tears in his eyes.

“Brody…? What the hell is going on? Are you okay?” I asked, and when I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I added, “and when the hell did you get back?” Brody wavered a moment, but steadied himself by placing a hand on the door frame. “Hey Luke… I got here just a little while ago, I didn’t know if you had time to talk or not.” Brody sniffed loudly, and it seemed that he might start bawling right there on the porch.

“Dude, of course, come in!” I moved aside and out of the doorway to let him through, but Brody didn’t move.

“Actually, can we talk outside? I really need the fresh air…” I nodded and stepped outside with him, and we sat down on the two chairs that I have out on my porch. I waited for Brody to speak, but his red puffy eyes stared out into the darkness of my front yard, and he remained silent for a long time. So I decided to break the ice.

“Brody, what’s going on, are you in trouble or something? Is it your parents?” I asked, and when I did, Brody smiled and chuckled in a genuine manner as a couple tears freely fell from his face. He was breaking my heart, and I was at a loss for words. Brody wiped his face with the back of his hand.

“No, I’m not in trouble, I just have a lot on my mind. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen after tonight. I sent you an email, did you get it?” He asked. I shook my head and pulled out my phone to check. I hadn’t looked at my email in weeks.

“No” Brody put up a hand, and I stopped.

“Don’t read it now in front of me, I’d be too embarrassed.” I did as he asked, and put the phone back in my pocket. He breathed in heavily, and exhaled his breath in one long, breathy discharge.

“I’m going to tell you something Luke, something I’ve kept from everyone here for a long time, because I didn’t know how to say it. But I want to tell you, because you’ve been my closest friend since grade school, and you have always been there for me.” I grew worried, what could it possibly be? Was Brody actually in trouble? Was he sick? I waited, impatient and scared of what he was about to say.

Brody didn’t look at me, he kept his gaze fixed somewhere out in the distance, and finally he spoke.

“Luke, I’m gay.” Brody said sadly, as if he told me he murdered someone. I was stunned for a moment, and then I couldn’t help but laugh loudly. Brody turned to me then, with a solemn and serious look, he was about to say something, but I cut him off.

“That’s IT?” I asked. He looked a little surprised.

“Look man, I’m sorry I laughed, I don’t mean to take it lightly, it means a lot that you told me. But you don’t have to be so sad about it, it’s who you are! You’re my friend man, I don’t care what your interests are, you should know that!”

It was true too, I didn’t care what Brody did with his life, and to be honest I wasn’t TOO surprised. Brody did have one or two girlfriends in high school, but he was never serious with any of them, and as far as I knew he hadn’t been with a girl since then. Brody smiled, and then he too, laughed. He seemed happier then, and lighter too. Even the strong smell of booze started to ebb.

After that, we began to talk normally again. We started reminiscing about old times, and talking about which one of our friends was the most annoying. I asked him about school and how that was going, but he didn’t have much to say about that. Brody and I were talking so intently that I had lost track of the time, and the first few beams of daylight began to creep over the horizon.

“Looks like I should get going.” Brody said, and I nodded.

“Yeah, I can’t believe we were out here this long, do you want a ride?” Brody’s parents’ house; where he stayed when he came back to town, was just down the street. He usually walked whenever he visited, and when I looked in the driveway, I saw his car wasn’t there.

“Nah, man I can walk, you get yourself some sleep.” I stood, and Brody extended his hand as he did the same. I grabbed it, and pulled him into a tight embrace.

“I love you like a brother, you know that right?” I said.

“Yeah…” He said, choking up just a bit.

“And you won’t forget it?” I asked him.

“Nevermore.” He said.

 When we came apart, he asked.

“Can you do me a quick favor, and get me a glass of water?” He asked. I nodded and went inside to get it. When I came back out, Brody was gone. I thought that most likely he’d just been exhausted and wanted to get home. I went inside and drank the water myself, then I went to bed and crashed. Several hours later, I was startled awake once again, this time to the sound of my cell phone ringing. I groaned and slapped my hand around the nightstand in search of the cell. When my hand found it, I answered it with an irritated,

“Hello?”

It was Jenny, a mutual friend of Brody and I. She was hysterical and in tears.

“Luke… oh god Luke… Brody’s dead!” I bolted up in my bed. “What!?”, I shouted, “How, what the hell happened!?”

“It’s terrible Luke, his parents got the call this morning! He hung himself, Luke!” Jenny then broke into a fit of uncontrollable sobbing. What the hell did she mean? It didn’t make sense. I felt a little better then, she must have been mistaken.

“Jenny, why would the police have called his parents, I just talked to him, he’s home.” I said, a little more calmly. From her end of the phone, it didn’t seem as though Jenny heard me over her own crying.

“Jenny!”, I yelled, “Calm down a second, okay?” Jenny’s sobs quieted down a bit and she seemed to gain some composure. After a minute, her voice came back.

“I’m sorry Luke, it’s just so sad, his roommate found him yesterday when he came home, he got drunk and hung himself with his own belt. Why the hell would he do that Luke?” I was going to tell her that it was impossible. Brody couldn’t be dead in Chicago; I just spoke to him. But something made me stop. Something Brody said just before he asked for a drink of water, ‘Nevermore’.

“Listen Jenny, I have to go.” I hung up the phone, and I dove under my bed to grab my laptop. I booted it up, and went to my email. I had thirty-one new emails. They were all from Brody, and all but one had official looking subject titles. The last one sent however, had a simple title, ‘I’m sorry Luke’. Within it, was a letter fraught with drunken spelling errors and mistakes. It was the last thing Brody ever wrote, and it was his suicide note.

 Within it, he spoke of how he had always felt alienated. He suffered from depression, depression that was worsened by his thoughts of feeling like he was weak for feeling sad. He wrote about how he didn’t know how to make himself feel better, and that he refused to see a therapist, because in his mind he would be a freak. Then, lastly, he told me about how he finally got the courage to admit to his parents that he was gay, and they disowned him for it. His father called him worthless.

 He said that he had always known his son to be a faggot, and that he was never to come back home again. In his words, ‘Nevermore’.

I didn’t call his parents to confirm his death, it was all over Facebook soon enough. Besides, I refuse to even see the pieces of shit who, in my mind at least, had a hand in killing my best friend. You deserved better, Brody, God dammit, you deserved so much better. I should have helped you, I should have paid more attention, I should have been the friend you thought I was.

Somehow, from beyond the grave, you came to ME for a closure that was never given to you in life, and that’s an honor that has been given to me, that will never, EVER, be matched.

I’ve read all of your stories by the way, another honor that I’m not worth having. I read them over and over again, hoping that one day, I will be able to mutter to myself.

‘’T is some visitor, entreating entrance at my chamber door.’

 

My Last Talk With Brody

Why I Had To Stop Running

By: J.J. Cheesman

 

Every morning for about six months now, I have been getting up at six in the morning, and heading out for a run. I started doing it as sort of a ‘new year’s resolution’ to stay in shape after gaining a couple unwanted pounds last December. When I first began, I started like anyone would, just going out the first couple of mornings to see how far I could go without killing myself. I quickly found out that I could do a mile pretty easily, (which I was very proud of by the way) so I pushed myself to go further after the first week. Two miles is what I decided on being happy with eventually. My morning routine never wavered as far as ‘where’ I ran however; I would always run to the end of my street, head right down another called ‘Walnut’, then I would go a short distance to turn left down a street called ‘Florence’, and take that street all the way down to its dead end and turn around. Once I make it home, the running app on my phone reads 2.2 miles.

I suppose as anyone would, I came to know the routines of the houses I passed if they were up that early. Months after running the same route day after day, you tend to notice things about your fellow townspeople. For example, Mrs. Carter; my neighbor, is always letting her dog out just as I pass her house. There is also Jerrod, a guy I know from work who lives on Walnut Street, he can always be found smoking on his front porch around 6:20 a.m. Now, it’s not like I am a creeper or anything. Like I said, you just can’t help but notice consistencies when you pass by the same places every day. That’s why it was inevitable that I noticed the old man at the end of Florence Street.

 At 6:30 a.m., I would reach the very last house on Florence before I turned around to run back. The house was a quaint little yellow building, with huge bay windows in what I presumed to be the living room. To be honest, I cannot really be certain if he was there for the first week or so, but it wasn’t long before the old man became known to me. There in that bay window he would watch me. He stood there, unmoving and ever vigilant. Day after day he would be in the same spot, without fail. He had a cold and angry stare that followed me until I got to the end of the street and doubled back. Then, when I passed the yellow home the second time he would still be standing there.

 He was a stoic-looking old geezer, with a balding head, and horn-rimmed glasses. He wore a yellow cardigan that comically matched the color of his home and brown slacks. The wrinkles on his head and face suggested he was in his late 70s, but I couldn’t be sure. What I AM sure of, is that his angry scowl never once wavered from his face. At first, of course, I tried my best to ignore it. I kept my head forward and my gaze fixed at nothing but the sidewalk every time I ran by, but I could still feel his eyes burning on me.

 This went on for months, and I had no idea what the old man’s problem was. Not once had I ever met him before, so I didn’t understand why he seemed to be so angry with me. The logical explanation at the time was that he was simply just an angry old man with nothing better to do than just be angry at the world and scowl at passersby. So, I thought to myself, I would simply change my route. Which I did, for about a week. I simply just started running the opposite direction down my street, and turning down a street called ‘Maple’. About three days, I found out exactly where I needed to turn around to get my two miles in. So, problem solved. Except, for me, the problem wasn’t solved.

I was angry, it bothered me that just because of some grouchy old man, I acted like a chicken and let him scare me into changing my routine. With new determination, I decided I wasn’t letting anyone dictate where I was going to preform my morning workout. By Monday morning, I was back to my regular regimen. The old geezer was waiting for me though, as I had expected he would be. Running by the yellow house that morning, I smiled in pure passive-aggressive defiance at the old man. He just stood there, scowling and angry as ever, as I ran by. That’s when I started to feel kind of silly for having this silent battle with some old man I didn’t know. In the back of my mind, I had known it wasn’t just me, ‘he likely stood there every morning, scowling at any would-be hooligan’ I thought to myself.

Well, things returned to normal for a long while after that, the old man actually became something I was accustomed to. Just part of the routine. Then on Tuesday, last week, he wasn’t there. As I was running by the bay windows he usually guarded, I glanced over, and saw no one standing there. Instead, I saw an elderly woman walking out of the yellow home with a rather heavy-looking trash bag that she seemed to be having trouble with. Of course, I ran over to help her.

“Let me take that for you, ma’am.” I said. The lady jumped slightly and looked up in surprise, but her expression quickly softened into a smile.

“Thank you dear, that’s very nice of you, you really don’t need to.” She said.

“Oh, I’m happy to do it, it’s no big deal.” I told her, taking the bag from her hands. I walked the short distance down the driveway and chucked the bag into the trash can. I then turned and waved to the woman, and told her I should be going.

“You look awful tired, why don’t you come in for some tea, I ought to pay you back for your kindness.” She said. I thought about it for a moment, a glass of tea would have hit the spot right then, but I thought of the old man and shook my head.

“No, I better not stop; I have to keep to the schedule.” I told her.

“Oh won’t you reconsider?” She asked, now seeming was a little distraught. Something in her voice made me feel bad for declining her offer. How could I say no? I pretended as if I was thinking hard about my decision, then I nodded.

“I guess I can come in for just a minute.”

The woman led me inside her home and into the kitchen where she insisted I sit down at the table while she fetched some glasses and the pitcher. From my spot at the table, I could see into the living room and at the bay window. I thought of the old man, and I shuddered. I really was hoping I didn’t meet him.

The old woman sat down at the table with two full glasses of iced tea and the pitcher. She sat and talked awhile, I sat and listened, taking occasional sips from my tea and looking toward the living room every couple of minutes. The woman, who told me her name was Eliza, noticed this and asked me,

“Are you worried about my husband?” I didn’t know what to say, but she chuckled.

“Yes, he told me about you, he said he was worried you might be some vagrant.” Eliza’s expression then became solemn.

“His mind comes and goes sometimes I’m afraid, he just gets crazy ideas in his head.” After saying this, Eliza looked up suddenly, as if remembering something.

“I’m sorry dear, thank you for coming in to talk, but I have some things I need to take care of.” Eliza rose from her seat, and walked through the living room entrance and out of sight before I could even say a word. I didn’t plan on staying long at all but Eliza’s sudden departure stunned me for a moment, but a moment was all it took. Eliza’s husband walked into the kitchen just as I was standing from the table. His expression went from stunned surprise, to hot anger.

“What in the hell are you doing in my house?! Come to take what you can from me huh? I’m calling the police, you’re in big trouble boy!” I fumbled over words, trying to explain to him that his wife invited me in but it only made him angrier.

“GET THE HELL OUT!” He snarled, starting towards me with angry determination. And I did.

 I ran out of that house like a bat out of hell, all the way home in fact. When I got into my house, I took a hot shower, thinking about that embarrassing encounter. Leave it to me to piss off a poor, angry old man with Alzheimer’s. That wasn’t the reason I stopped my workout regimen though, THAT came about five minutes later, pounding at my door.

I answered the door, still drying my hair with a towel, to find a policeman at on my porch. It was someone I knew, of course, his name was Billy Denton. It is a small town.

 Billy stood there with an unimpressed look on his face, and my own face immediately went red with embarrassment.

“Hey Jeff”, Billy said, “Look, Mr. Ankenbrand called and reported that a man that matched your description broke into his house this morning, you wouldn’t know anything about that would you?” I felt like such an idiot.

“Billy I’m sorry, his wife invited me in for tea, she’s a real nice lady and I couldn’t refuse. She told me about his Alzheimer’s though, I didn’t know I would bother him that bad.” Billy raised his eyebrows at my words in a look that said, ‘oh, is that so?’.

“What Bill, you don’t believe me?” I asked him. Billy breathed in hard through his nose and then exhaled before saying anything.

“Uh, no Jeff, I suppose I believe you just fine. It’s just that it’s impressive that Eliza was able to invite you in.” He paused for just a moment before continuing.

“Considering she was murdered by an intruder last year.”

 

Why I Had To Stop Running

Happy Father’s Day

By: J.J. Cheesman

 

This letter is for you, the father of my child. It was only nine short months ago that you came into my life and changed it forever. I hardly even knew you. It seemed that you came and left in a flash, leaving no trace of yourself behind. Meanwhile, I had to care for the burden you left me with all by myself. That’s a horrible thing to say isn’t it? A mother calling her child a burden is certainly no fit mother at all, but it’s true.

It’s not like I didn’t TRY to make the best of it, but given the circumstances, I am sure you can see how that was difficult to do. For nine grueling months I carried your seed in my belly. I went to doctor visits alone, I went through the back pain alone, and I went through all the cravings, all alone. Oh, and the morning sickness was something really special too. Wouldn’t you know I went through several mornings puking up blood? Hell, the first time I vomited like that I thought the baby was done for, but no. Like my contempt for you, your child endured.

It’s been far too long since I’ve spoken to my own family, what in the hell would they think I wonder? Having a child like this, out of wedlock? Jesus, I would never hear the end of it. The world has been cruel enough to me, I don’t relish the thought of my own mother calling me a whore. I wonder if you even have a family, what sort of mother would love someone like you?

The loneliness was the real nightmare, to be honest. Late at night I would wonder if all of the pain and misery was worth it, if I shouldn’t just grab a bottle of pills and end it all. But, when those thoughts came, I would place my hand on my stomach and feel my child move and thrash as if in a defiant protest to live. That alone was enough to keep me going, to see through the darkness and the misery, to maybe see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, the time to see the light came, and it came quick.

When the baby was ready to come out, the pain was crippling. I tried to get out of bed and make my way to the front door, but I was floored by the blinding, burning pain in my stomach. God it felt like I was being ripped apart by the inside out. But I pushed, and I heaved, and before I knew it, the baby had been born. Strangely, after the child came, all of the pain I had felt from birth had gone away. It was a relief I must admit, but I took one look at the writhing and fleshy infant on the floor and all of my hate and animosity toward you flooded into my might at the sight of it. I stood and raised my foot to crush its head, but I couldn’t. God help me I couldn’t.

I sit here now in the living room, while that beast is wailing and crying in… what? Fear maybe? Perhaps hunger? Maybe both. It doesn’t matter, the pills I’ve taken will make sure that I go soon enough, and that bastard child will most likely die of hunger. That is, unless you come back for it, but you haven’t been here in nine months, why would you come now?

My conciseness is fading, I can tell, because I barely hear the crying anymore. There was a bright flash of light, and the crying ceased. A hallucination, no doubt.

 I wonder, do you know what you’ve done to me and your child? Do you even care? No probably not. Oh my, I’ve just realized the irony of today. Believe it or not, it made me laugh.

Happy Father’s Day, you worthless alien bastard.

Happy Father’s Day

There is Something in Forest Glen National Park

By J.J. Cheesman

When I was in my teens, my friend Robert and I would often visit Forest Glen National Park, it’s a National Forest Preserve that’s located just about fifteen miles from my home town. It offers camping, fishing, and most importantly for our purposes back then, many winding trails to hike on. Robert and I didn’t have a whole lot to do back in the day, so Forest Glen is where we would go to spend a lot of our time. Both of us enjoyed the outdoors and we would go hiking on one of the many trails nearly every day, sometimes we’d do two or three depending on our mood. It wasn’t long, of course, before we knew them all by heart and we both had our favorites. That didn’t matter though, we would still go on any of them on any given day.

Eventually, time went on and Robert and I grew up. Robert and I are still good friends, but we hadn’t been out to Forest Glen in a long time. It was recently that I had been reminiscing about those old trails, and I decided that I wanted to go back out there and visit some of my favorite spots. So two weeks ago I called Robert, and asked if he wanted to go back out there with me that weekend and to my surprise, he was overjoyed at my proposal. He said he’d been thinking about going out there himself, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. So it was decided, on Saturday morning we would head out to Forest Glen and meet up at one of Robert’s favorite trails.

I made it out to Forest Glen about ten after six in the morning. When I drove out to the preserve, I parked my car in the spot closest to the trail but I didn’t see Robert’s car. There’s more than one entrance into the park, so I thought that Robert hadn’t arrived yet, or he was parked at one of the spots that was near one of the other entrances. I thought I might call him, but when I looked at my phone I saw that I only had one bar, and figured that it wouldn’t go through. I should have known the reception would be bad out there. Stashing the phone in the glove box, I got out and made my way to entrance of path.

 I started to do some stretches in front of the entrance while I waited for Robert to arrive. After waiting for what felt like about ten minutes, I began to wonder if Robert was going to show up late. When we made the plans to meet up, we agreed on 6:30 A.M. I thought about jogging back to my car to grab my phone and call him after all, but I decided to instead venture into the trail a little way and then return after a moment to see if he had shown up.

I started my walk at a brisk pace into the forest, the clear patch of the trail’s entrance quickly gave way to a narrow cleared path, surrounded on both sides by a thick growth of brush and tall trees. The trail seemed a bit more overgrown than I remembered, but I supposed that was a good thing, it meant that the preserve was thriving. I did notice, however, that it was strangely quiet. That isn’t to say I there was NO sound at all, I could hear the occasional caw of a bird and the rustling of leaves, but the sounds seemed somehow muted. It was if the entire area had its volume button turned way down low.

About three minutes into my stroll, I stopped just before a small stream. The path stretched out a few hundred feet beyond the stream and looked like it forked off in two different directions as far as I could tell. This is when I decided to turn back and wait for Robert at the entrance, I never knew this trail like Robert used to, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember how far it went. Before I turned to leave I knelt down to tie my sneaker. When I finished, I stood up and had to stifle a scream.

Robert was standing right in front of me, grinning like an idiot, and when he saw the look on my face he howled with laughter. My face went hot and I gritted my teeth.

“What the hell man!?” I yelled, “You nearly gave me a freakin’ heart attack”

Robert had to stifle his laughter to be able to reply,

“Sorry bud, I couldn’t help myself, I was up farther when I decided to turn back and wait for you, when I saw you kneeling here I just couldn’t resist.”

I couldn’t help but smile after that, and the red hot feeling in my face start to drain away.

“It’s okay, but you did scare the living hell out of me, I didn’t even hear you.”

Robert said nothing, he only smiled a wide toothy grin. I gestured down toward the part of the trail Robert came from.

“I was wondering if you had gotten here yet, you can lead.”

Robert nodded in reply before he turned around and bounded over the stream that divided the trail. When his feet hit the other side of the small bank he just kept on running

“Hey, wait up!” I called after him. He acted as if he didn’t hear me, and carried on deeper into the wood. I really wasn’t prepared to jog yet, I wanted to walk a little more first and stretch out my legs. However, it seemed I didn’t have a choice, and I bounded after Robert, hopping over the stream and pushing myself to catch up with him. Robert was jogging at an even pace, but not a quick one, and soon I was just behind him.

“Can you wait just a second?” I asked.

“Why, what are you afraid of?” He asked, turning to me with a wide toothy-grin that seemed to have not left his face. That question caught me off guard. What did he mean by that?

“Nothing, just need to stretch a little more before I pull something is all.” Robert didn’t stop or slow down, he just kept on smiling as he turned his head back around to face forward.

“You’ll be fine, there’s a nice place to rest just after the fork in the trail.”

We kept on jogging until we hit the fork, and I followed just behind Robert every step of the way as we veered off onto the right path. Shortly after the fork, the trees of the forest grew denser and numerous, their leaves blotting out light from the sky above. Even the path itself started to become more overgrown, as weeds and brush seemed to reach out toward the center of the path attempting to catch what sunlight they could. Where before it seemed that the sounds of the forest were on low volume, here they seemed to be on mute as not even a buzzing of an insect could be heard. Though I could attribute the muted sounds of the forest to not being able to hear them over my heavy breath and stomping feet, the dense growth could not be ignored.

“This trail doesn’t seem very well maintained… are you sure you know where you’re going?” I asked Robert, still keeping close pace behind him, though my right leg was starting to burn. Robert didn’t answer, but ignored me instead without slowing down. I stopped and knelt to rub my leg. I looked up to see Robert stop and turn around to walk back to where I was kneeling.

“Sorry man, I told you though, I needed to stretch more, I think I already hurt myself.”

Robert just smiled as he leaned on a tree next to me.

“Sorry, I thought you’d be able to make it, we’re not far from a really cool spot. I just got excited to be out here with you again.”

At Roberts words I couldn’t help but laugh and return a beaming grin back to him. I had no idea he missed being out here so much. On top of that, it had been a couple weeks since we had done anything together, so maybe Robert also just missed hanging out. I couldn’t blame him, I did too, but growing up gets in the way.

“Don’t sweat it”, I said, “I really missed this too, what’s the really cool spot you wanted to show me?”

Robert’s grin seemed to somehow get even bigger.

“Okay, do you remember that wooden bridge we found one of the last times we were out here? It has that really deep stream running under it.”

The memory came back to me in a rush, it was vague, but I DID remember finding a bridge the last time we came out here, I had completely forgotten which trail we found it on though. I remember the water under that bridge was so clear you could easily see the fish swimming about within it.

“It’s on this path?!” I asked excitedly.

“It sure is, and I can’t wait to take you there, I’ve been down there already, it is absolutely beautiful.” Robert said.

I stood up quickly, and brushed some dirt off my knee.

“Well, let’s go!” I exclaimed, walking forward on the trail.

“Okay, but we can walk, I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” Robert said.

I was going to tell him I would be fine if we jogged again, but I thought better of it. Though the excitement that came with the prospect of seeing that bridge again abated some of the pain in my sore leg, it was still there. So we walked on, talking about the memories of being out here on the trails as we walked side by side. Robert was recounting things I hardly remembered. He said he remembered a time when I scraped up my knees really bad after a nasty fall on one of the trails, but I only vaguely recalled that. For the most part, though I could recall every memory Robert had and I realized how much time we REALLY had spent out there. We spent nearly all our time out here as teenagers, staying in shape to try to impress the girls in school.

We had been walking for nearly five minutes, when Robert said,

“Hey, do you remember when you fell down that slope and hit the bottom? I thought you died!” Robert belted out a loud booming laugh. I stopped walking, because something about what he said about when I hurt my knees didn’t make sense. I remembered falling down that slope like it was yesterday, it was terrifying.

“Robert, you fell down that slope too, remember?” Robert, who hadn’t stopped walking until then, froze just ahead of me. He turned slowly, to me and slapped a hand to his forehead.

“Oh duh, yeah, well I didn’t fall as hard as you.” Robert laughed again dropping his head and gesturing back down the trail.

“Come on, we’re almost there.”

I began to breathe heavily, and I took a step back. Something was wrong, I didn’t know what it was, but I had to get out of those woods and away from Robert. I had to get away because a memory had finally resurfaced to the shore of my recollection. A memory of me falling, and scraping my knees. Robert’s grin for the first time since he snuck up on me, faded from his face.

“What’s wrong bud?” He asked, a little shaky.

“I need to go back.” I said, a little shaky myself. Robert took a step toward me and a look of concern spread on his face.

“Come on man, we’re so close, why do you want to leave?” He pleaded.

“Because you were home sick the day I scraped my knees.”

Robert’s eyes widened in realization as I turned tail, and began sprinting in the other direction as fast as my legs would carry me. Green leaves and brown bark flashed by in my peripheral vision as a blur, the sound of wind swished around in my ear lobes as I ran. I couldn’t hear footsteps behind me, and I was thankful for that. My right leg throbbed and begged for me to stop, but I wouldn’t, fear is one hell of a motivator and it pushed me passed the fork in the path and over the small stream that divided the trail. I never looked back to see if Robert; or whatever wore Robert’s skin, was following me, not even once. I kept my eyes on the path in front of me and focused on not tripping over anything the whole way back out of the trail.

I didn’t stop running till I got into my car. Once inside I grabbed the keys that I’d left sitting in the passenger seat and quickly turned them in the ignition. I paid no attention to the speed limit as I raced all the way home. Once at my house, I grabbed my phone out of the glove box and ran into the house, latched the dead bolt behind me. I turned my phone off when I stored it in my car at the preserve, so once I got inside I turned it on and sat on my couch while I waited for it to boot up. My plan was to call Robert immediately, but when the display on the screen flicked on I saw I had a text message from Robert. I opened it, but I was shaking so bad from the adrenaline it was a little hard to read.

‘Hey man, so it looks like we can’t go out to Forest Glen. I was talking to my neighbor this morning and he said they closed it down. He told me at least four hikers have been found dead by drowning out there. I hope this gets to you before you leave, maybe we can just catch a movie or something?’

When I read the last word of the text message, there was a loud knock at my door. I jumped, and stood from my spot on the couch. The knock came again, even louder, and I crept over to the door as quietly as I could look through the peep hole. It was Robert. Robert stood on my front stoop with a wide toothy grin. I saw him raise up his hand to knock once more, and as the sound thundered from the wood of the door I backed away.

On my phone, I searched my contacts for Robert’s name and dialed. After two rings, Robert picked up.

“Hey man, what’s up?” Robert asked.

“Robert, where are you right now?” I asked.

“Well, I’m at the store right now, do you want….” His voice cut out as I hung up, and immediately began dialing the police. I explained to the dispatcher that there was an intruder trying to break into my house and I did not feel safe. The woman on the other end told me to remain calm, and she would be sending help to my address. When I hung up with 911, I went to the door once again to look through the peep hole. The Robert imposter was gone.

When the police arrived, I just told them someone tried to break into my house and I came home to find them messing around with my door before they ran off. I didn’t know what else to say. They said they would file a report and send a squad car by every couple of hours that day to make sure everything was fine. That was two weeks ago.

Ever since that day, late at night, that ‘thing’ comes back and knocks on my door. In a warped mockery of Robert’s voice, it calls to me.

“Let me in” It wails, “Let me in, I am just so lonely, come be with me.”

The first time, I obviously called the police, and the time after that. The third time, they stopped coming. That creature is always gone when they get here, but he always comes back. He’s back tonight, and I can hear him as I sit on my couch with a bottle of brandy and a tight grip on the large butcher knife I own.

“Oh please, let me in!” It pleads in a gargled wail that sounds nothing like Robert anymore. “I need more friends.”

I don’t know what the hell is in Forest Glen National Park, but it followed me home.

There is Something in Forest Glen National Park

God, I need help

By: J.J. Cheesman

I’m going to keep this relatively short as I’m not sure how long I have. My name is Mitchell, and this story I suppose is about my dog. I moved out here in the country about two months ago. I’m getting older, and since my wife Elan died last year it’s just been me and my dog Skip. Moving out here to this house was my final act of retiring. You see, I’ve always liked country life, but Elan preferred the city, so for our thirty years of marriage, I put up with the bustling sound of urban life. When Elan died, I realized there was nothing keeping me in New York, so I made my way back to my home town in Illinois to live out the rest of my days. I got in touch with a realtor, and she found this place for me out in the boonies. I must say, the fresh air and quiet, almost made me cry the first night I stayed here. I was finally home, finally happy in a way that I hadn’t been after Elan died, but you know what they say about good things.

It was some weeks into stayin’ out here, but one night something happened. I woke up sometime past midnight to the sound of Skip walking around my bed and whimperin’ something fierce. Of course I just figured he had to go out, he always lets me know when he has to go. Well, I got out of bed and headed to the back door to let Skip out, but he just stood a few feet from the open door way making that whimperin’ sound. I urged and yelled, and even tried down right tuggin’ on his collar to get him out. Skip never budged from his spot though, and when a Great Dane the size of Skip doesn’t want to move it’s hard to make em’. Ol’ Skip just sat still as a statue, watching out that door into the tall field beyond as if he was watching for somethin’. I looked out but I didn’t see a thing, but when I think about it, I realize now that I didn’t HEAR anything either. No chirping of crickets, no hoots of owls in the night, not one thing from nature was makin’ a sound that night. I looked out into the still field behind the house for a moment or two, then finally shut the door and went back to bed with Skip following close behind.

 

There was never an incident similar to that again, but eventually I came to notice that Skip wasn’t eating much, if at all. Not only that, but he seemed to never go to the bathroom, not as far as I could ever tell anyway. The strangest thing is Skip never wanted to go outside, not even when I went out to sit on the porch and enjoy the weather. He just stayed inside, lyin’ down on the mat that I kept just inside the front door. It was a little after I noticed Skip’s strange behavior that the footsteps started.

I lay in bed one night, just nearly about to drift off to sleep, when I heard the sound of footsteps walking across the grass just outside my bedroom window. My eyes flew open and I jumped outta’ bed as fast as my aging bones would allow and went to the window. The moon was high that night, and I could see clearly all the way out into the field beyond the house. I didn’t see a thing, but I waited there for a couple moments just to be sure. I turned my head to look at Skip lying peacefully in his bed, which would have calmed me down if he hadn’t been acting so strange, I turned my attention back to the window and waited. When a minute or two went by, I decided I must have imagined it. As I got into bed, I made a mental note to schedule Skip an appointment with the vet in the morning.

 

That next day, was the second saddest day of my life. I awoke to find out that Skip had passed away in the night. When I was done crying on my knees in front of Skips bed, I picked myself up and found a shovel in the shed on the side of the house. It was difficult for me in my age, but I picked Skip up with both arms and managed to make it out to the field. It took all morning, but eventually Skip buried just a few feet into the field, not far from my bedroom window. When I came inside, I had a long chat with an old friend of mine, Jack Daniels.

When I finally got to bed it was pretty late, and I found it hard to sleep even with the alcohol in my system. At last, I became drowsy, and my eyelids were just nearly shut when it happened again. I heard the unmistakable sound of feet on grass just outside my house. So once again, I sprung up and went to the window, surveying the outside like some wide-eyed tipsy maniac. Once again, nothing moved outside. Even though the moon wasn’t out that night there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I could see tall grass in the field outside being tickled around by a light breeze. I don’t know how long I stood up watching that time, but it couldn’t have been long before I passed out on my bed.

When I awoke the next day, well, I guess I should be sayin’ when I awoke yesterday, I found it hard to find the motivation to do much of anything. Though I did have a nasty hangover, it wasn’t entirely due to that. I missed my dog, he was the last friend I ever had in this world, and he was gone. Most of that day I spent in front of the television, absent-mindedly watching whatever was on with the volume turned off. I didn’t eat or go outside, hell I couldn’t even find the gumption to take a shower. Before I knew it though, I had fallen asleep on the couch.

Then sometime later that night, I was awoken for the last time by the sound of footsteps. They were unusually loud and numerous, and they were coming from the back door. That was the final straw, I got up and grabbed my twelve-gauge from the closet by the front door and made sure it was loaded. I cocked my gun and marched straight for the back door, shoving it open hard and letting it bang on the siding. Shouldering my weapon, I looked to the right, then to the left of the house, yelling out threats to whoever was outside. Only silence answered me back, and nothing out of the ordinary greeted my vision. Then I turned my attention to the field, watching the breeze play with the high grass. Then the figurative light bulb clicked on above my head, and shattered into a thousand pieces, there WAS no breeze. Pulling my weapon tight to my shoulder for re-assurance I called out into the field.

 

“Whoever is out there, show yourself, I’m armed and I won’t be playin’ any damn games!”, I barked out as confidently as I could muster. A moment or two went by, and then something began to emerge low within the grass. My finger went to the trigger, ready at any moment to squeeze. Then the thing in the field came fully into view.

It was Skip.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, Skip was there in front of the tall grass, plain as day. Slowly I lowered my weapon as the friend I buried just yesterday wagged his tail and began trotting toward me. For a moment, I was in a dream like euphoria. Somehow, my dog Skip, had come back to me. This was surely a miracle. But, my euphoria was broken with one simple sound.

A loud whistle, like one of a master calling its dog, erupted from the direction of the field and tore through the night. Skip; who was nearly halfway to the house by now stopped, and his head turned behind him to the field. The whistle came once more, a little different in pitch, it sounded much deeper the second time. At the sound of the second whistle Skips head crookedly and unnaturally snapped in my direction and he began to bare his teeth and growl at me. Before I had much time to process what was going on, Skip ran toward me at full sprint, barking and howling like a ravenous and wild animal. My instincts kicked in and I raised my shotgun, carefully aiming and squeezing the trigger. A thundering *Boom* rang out into the night, and Skip fell in a head in front of me. I was shaking, and my breaths were labored and heavy. Tears began to form in my eyes, but movement caught my attention that was just barely in my line of sight. I looked up into the field, and my labored breathing became still.

From just beyond the grass, the shapes of human-like forms began shambling into view. I could only stare in horror as more and more things came out of that field. The moon was bright that night, and I could clearly see the decaying flesh of the men and women who shambled along toward where I stood. There seemed to be no end to them, when one emerged, it seemed that another one would come from the exact same spot in the grass that the first did. A silly thought came to me in that moment, one so ludicrous that it brought me out of my stupor. They were zombies.

 

I shook my head and brought my gun back up to my shoulders, preparing to shoot the nearest stumbling ghoul. My finger went to the trigger, but the loud, deep whistle from the field stopped me in my tracks. When whistle came, a cracking sound on the ground in front of me followed, as Skip’s body began to move and shake. When growls could be heard from Skip, I turned and I ran into the house, shutting and locking the dead bolt in place. I then ran to the cellar door, ripping it open and rushing inside. I then went to work immediately, using the tool box I had stored down here and nailing the door shut. I then found every bit of furniture I could and shoved it under the door.

I don’t have a phone down here, but I did have my old laptop down here that I never bothered to unpack. The Wi-Fi isn’t working, either those things somehow shut down the power upstairs or the signal is just too weak. I hope it’s the latter and this gets out to someone. I’ve been down here for about two hours now, but it was about an hour ago that the banging stopped, and the worst of this nightmare began. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but minutes after all, went quiet, Elan’s voice called down those first words to me from upstairs.

 

“Mitchell honey, please come out, I have so much I need to talk to you about.”

God, I need help