My Internet Service Provider used to have offices in a shopping center before they moved to their lush accommodations elsewhere. There was a drop box at that original location. The monthly bill was due, and thus, there but for the Grace of the Net I went.
It was about 9:30 p.m. when I left. From my relatively isolated apartments, it’s about 10-15 minutes or so to downtown.
Right next to my ISP's old location is a $1.50 movie theater. At the time, the place was featuring that masterwork of modern film, Mortal Kombat. I drove by the theater on the way into the center proper and pulled into an empty parking space.
Using the glow of the marquee to write out my check, I was startled to hear a knock on the driver’s-side window of my car.
I looked over and saw two children staring at me from street. Both appeared to be in that semi-mystical stage of life children get into where you can’t exactly tell their age. Both were boys, and my initial impression is that they were somewhere between 10-14.
The first boy was slightly taller than his companion, wearing a pull-over, hooded shirt with a sort of gray checked pattern and jeans. I couldn’t see his shoes. His skin was olive-colored and had curly, medium-length brown hair. He exuded an air of quiet confidence.
The second had pale skin with a trace of freckles. His primary characteristic seemed to be looking around nervously. He was dressed in a similar manner to his companion, but his pull-over was a light green color. His hair was a sort of pale orange.
They didn’t appear to be related, at least directly.
“Oh, great,” I thought. “They’re gonna hit me up for money.”
And then the air changed.
So, there I was, filling out a check in my car and in a sudden panic over the appearance of two little boys. I was confused, but an overwhelming sense of fear and unearthliness rushed in nonetheless.
The first boy smiled, and the sight for some inexplicable reason chilled my blood. Something, I knew instinctually, was not right, but I didn’t know what it could possibly be.
I rolled down the window very, very slightly and asked “Yes?”
He smiled again, broader this time. His teeth were very, very white.
“Hey, mister, what’s up? We have a problem,” he said. His voice was that of a young man, but his diction, quiet calm and … something I still couldn’t put my finger on made my desire to flee even greater. “You see, my friend and I want to see the films, but we forgot our money,” he continued. “We need to go to our house to get it. Want to help us out?”
Okay. Journalists are required to talk to lots of people, and that includes children. I’ve seen and spoken to lots of them. Here’s how that usually goes:
Now when children speak they’re usually apologetic. People generally teach children that when they talk to adults, they’re more than likely bothering them for one reason or another and they should at least be polite.
This kid was in no way fitting the mold. His command of language was incredible and he showed no signs of fear. He spoke as if my help was a foregone conclusion. When he grinned, it was as if he was trying to say, “I know something … and you’re NOT gonna like it. But the only way you’re going to find out what it is will be to do what I say …”
“Uh, well …” was the best reply I could offer.
Now here’s where it starts to get strange.
The second boy looked at the first with a mixture of confusion and guilt on his face. He seemed in some ways shocked, not with his friend’s brusque manner but that I didn’t just immediately open the door.
He eyed me nervously.
The spokesman seemed a bit perturbed, too. I still was registering something wrong with both.
“C’mon, mister,” the spokesman said again, smooth as silk. Car salesmen could learn something from this kid. “Now, we just want to go to our house. And we’re just two little boys.”
That really scared me. Something in the tone and diction again sent off alarm bells. My mind was frantically trying to process what it was perceiving about the two figures that was “wrong.”
“Eh. Um ….” was all I could manage. I felt myself digging my fingernails into the steering wheel.
“What movie were you going to see?” I asked finally.
“Mortal Kombat, of course,” the spokesman said. The silent one nodded in affirmation, standing a few paces behind.
“Oh,” I said. I stole a quick glance at the marquee and at the clock in my car. Mortal Kombat had been playing for an hour, the last showing of the evening.
The silent one looked increasingly nervous. I think he saw my glances and suspected that I might be detecting something was not above-board.
“C’mon, mister. Let us in. We can’t get in your car until you do, you know,” he said soothingly. “Just let us in, and we’ll be gone before you know it. We’ll go to our mother’s house.”
We locked eyes.
To my horror, I realized my hand had strayed toward the door lock and was in the process of opening it. I pulled it away, probably a bit too violently. But it did force me to look away from the children.
I turned back. “Er … Um …,” I offered weakly and then my mind snapped into sharp focus.
For the first time, I noticed their eyes.
They were coal black. No pupil. No iris. Just two staring orbs reflecting the red and white light of the marquee.
At that point, I know my expression betrayed me. The silent one had a look of horror on his face in a combination that seemed to indicate: A) The impossible had just happened and B) “We’ve been found out!”
The first boy, on the other hand, wore a mask of anger. His eyes glittered brightly in the half-light.
“Cmon, mister,” he said. “We won’t hurt you. You have to LET US IN. We don’t have a gun …”
That last statement scared the living hell out of me, because at that point by his tone he was plainly saying, “We don’t NEED a gun.”
He noticed my hand shooting down toward the gear shift. His final words contained an anger that was complete and whole, and yet contained in some respects a tone of panic:
“WE CAN’T COME IN UNLESS YOU TELL US IT’S OKAY. LET … US … IN!”
I ripped the car into reverse and tore out of the parking lot. I noticed the boys in my peripheral vision, and I stole a quick glance back.
They were gone. The sidewalk by the theater was deserted.
I drove home in a heightened state of panic. Had anyone attempted to stop me, I would have run on through and faced the consequences later.
I bolted into my house.
What did I see? Maybe nothing more than some kids looking for a ride.
And some really funky contacts. Yeah, right.