by Chris Deal
His uncle was a decade older, obsessed with those films to the point he did not think anything wrong about showing one of those movies to a boy of eight. Having just bought a VCR, there was one particular film the uncle wanted to see first. It was about those things: people, but not. They were different, wrong.
This kid, he watches this movie and later that night, when he’s laying in bed and looking out the open window of the trailer his parents made home, this kid, he’s afraid to close his eyes. He knows that when he does, he’ll open them up again and peering in the window will be one of those things. Face like a man but half gone, gums and muscles exposed, teeth bared and broken, eyes dead to everything except the hunger, and what could fulfill it, the boy there in bed. It was thinking about that image that made the boy notice his bed was damp.
The boy got up, changed his clothes, and took a blanket from the hall closet. He went to the empty living room, his parents long since retired to their own bed. He laid the blanket on the couch, but he couldn’t make himself lie down and fall into those fitful dreams. The boy had to make sure he was safe. It was silly, of course, such a thing only happens in those movies that the boy’s mother would never allow him to watch.
There was an old cemetery down the road, though, barely a ten-minute walk. The bodies there had been dead since the Civil War, and would be far too along on the path to dust to come for him, but he needed to know that the world outside the trailer was safe. A week to Halloween and the wooden porch was cold to his feet, the wind soft through the dying leaves, the moon like a hangman’s noose up in the dome of the sky. The world was dark and calm and in that moment, breathing in the night’s peace and exhaling those fears, he was fine, a boy in a world where things don’t happen like they in movies.
Give it a few years, when he would be the age his uncle had been that night, and he thinks back on that old movie. The blood had been a shade of gray like the sky just above the horizon, like the pregnant clouds he kept watching as he tried to think of anything, be anywhere besides right there. On his back, surrounded by people but not people, faces like men but not, teeth broken and ripping into what can’t be him, he’s not this man, he’s just a boy, and that boy is safe, in those last moments he would always be safe.