Jeremy wasn’t a bad boy. Lonely and sad maybe, but not bad. He didn’t mean for bad things to happen. But they did happen. They happened whenever he was around. He couldn’t even rightly say they were accidents, just that whenever things got too fun, when the playtime games got too exciting, he started to feel the feelings. He snapped his eyes shut, and took a deep breath. No, he wouldn’t think about that right now. Right now he had to get home. It was past dinnertime and his mother would be angry with him.
Jeremy shoved his tiny fists in to his jean’s pockets and braced his body walking as fast as he could into the gusty evening twilight. He liked walking alone. He also liked this new town. It was so full of life and energy. Not like the place they had lived before. Jeremy thought back to the last town they lived in, the one in which he was born. The desiccated husk of a berg. Even the grass was dead. The people looked like worms, pale and soft, casting furtive glances over their shoulders all hallow eyes and sunken cheeks. The house they lived in was old too. The rickety beams of the staircase presented a constant hazard. One his mother warned him about regularly. Never run up and down the stairs! she’d yell. “You’ll impale yourself and then where will I be? Impaling sounded like the worst way to die, to Jeremy. A wooden stake plunged deeply into your chest, gasping for air as your life-force slipped into the darkness. He shuddered against the cold and against his thoughts.
This town was not like that, this town was alive, the people-well most of the people, looked happy and cheerful. Rosy and fat they laughed easily and played lustily. Only a few had started to look too pale, haggard. Like they stayed up past their bedtimes. Jeremy felt bad for those people. He wasn’t sure what was wrong with them, but they seemed really sad and scared. Maybe they didn’t have mothers like he did. Someone to care for them and feed them and tuck them in at night. Something scratched at the back of Jeremy’s mind. Some memory from long ago. A life that wasn’t his life. The blurred face of another mother, eyes sunken and sad, a brother, missing-presumed dead. Jeremy shook away the thoughts. His mother said that sometimes little kids remembered past lives and surely that must be what those memories were. That blurry sad woman couldn’t be his mother. He had a mother. The most beautiful loving mother in the world, who tucked him in at night and kissed his forehead.
A Ball came whizzing out of nowhere hitting Jeremy in the shins. It shook him from his revelry. It was a soccer ball, Its black and white surface gleamed wetly with the early evening dew. He looked around, where had this come from? Jeremy prepared to kick the ball out of his way when against the wind he heard it.
‘Hey !” shouted a small voice
He turned around
‘Hey, Kid! A little help? Can I get the ball back?”
Jeremy felt heat rise in his face, he was getting flushed and warm with excitement. A new Playmate? He smiled broadly and walked kicked the soccer ball back over to its young owner. The kid looked about his age, he was dirty, sweaty from play. Jeremy could smell the heat and the salt of him, even from a few yards away. He was so hungry now. He licked his lips slowly, tamping down on his appetite. Food would have to wait if a soccer game could be had!
“Can I play?” He asked Quietly
“Eh…I don’t know,” the kid replied. He looked around nervously. The soccer field was at the farthest corner of the rapidly emptying park. “I gotta get inside soon, it’s time for supper, my ma is gonna kill me”
“Just a few minutes?” Jeremy asked. His voice had a near hysterical edge to it he didn’t like. It sounded like scraping metal to his own ears. He wondered if the kid could hear it too.
‘Yeah Okay,” the kid replied gamely. “ I’m Clint.”
“Jeremy” Jeremy held out his hand to shake. Clint just laughed good-naturedly and slapped his open palm.
The touch was electric. Jeremy felt it down to the pit of his stomach. He should go home, now. He knew he should go home. Something bad was coming, something bad was on the wind.
Jeremy felt the old familiar pop and crackle of his joints, the twisting and crunching as his neck elongated and his jaws unhinged from his skull, and always, always the familiar snaking crawling sliding inside his mouth. The razored teeth slid through his gums with such fierce stinging pain, that he lost consciousness, as he’d done a million, million times before.
Jeremy awoke suddenly with a start. He was lying on the grass, the wet freshness of the new dew seeped into the thin cotton t-shirt, chilling and invigorating him. He sat up. He was unsure what had happened. Jeremy looked down at his hands and his shirt, both stained a deep crimson, the air around him smelled sweetly of salt and life and he sucked in a deep cleansing breath. He looked around a shredded piece of black and white leather lay at his feet, It was spattered and smeared with pink and yellow goop. Jeremy picked up the remains of the soccer ball.
He licked the scrap of leather clean and shoved it in his pocket. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been outside but his mother was going to kill him, The moon was already starting to rise and he had spoiled his dinner.
He sighed sadly. He really wanted to play soccer this time. He really did.
Jeremy wasn’t a bad boy. He was just so hungry.