Everything seemed unusually dark as I entered the park. Perhaps some of the streetlights were momentarily out or maybe it was a moonless night; too difficult to tell as I gazed upon the slivers of washed out city sky between the buildings.
Carter had called me thirty minutes ago asking me to meet him. We’d been friends since university and it had remained platonic, but then last weekend I’d made a huge drunken mistake. After way too many tequila shots, we made out on the dance floor. Though we didn’t actually go home together, just that was enough to fuck up our friendship.
So I made my way down the gravel path through the small city park, listening to my crunching footsteps and focusing on the prospect of meeting a Carter that wanted to start a romantic relationship. My stomach churned at the thought of breaking his heart. I did not want to have to tell him that I didn’t have feelings for him and that what happened was just a stupid lapse in judgement.
Coming to rest on a bench, I noticed how quiet it was. It was only eight o’clock but it felt like the middle of the night all of a sudden. The usual cacophony from the local pubs and restaurants couldn’t be heard, and as I glanced around the park no one could be seen. Peering out to the road on all sides of the park, I didn’t detect anyone either. Nor any buses or cars honking and exuding fumes.
While trying to tune out the eerie nothingness surrounding me, I distracted myself with my phone, waiting anxiously for Carter. Seriously, this was getting creepy. Couldn’t he just get here already?
A low shuffling noise came from behind the shrubbery across the path to my right. I continued staring down at my phone, convincing myself it was just a little animal of some sort. The noise got louder as it sounded like something emerged from the bushes and then it stopped.
I looked up to catch a glimpse of a bum staring straight into my eyes. He was about five meters away directly in front of me next to a tree. As soon as I saw him he turned away and began talking to himself as he ambled down the path toward the north exit of the park. I didn’t make a sound or jump, but my heart was definitely racing at this point. A momentary fright but it was a usual sight, so I wouldn’t have thought much of it except…
Latin? Was he mumbling something in Latin? Not that I would have been able to translate it if I’d heard it clearly, but I strained my ears to listen as he slowly made his way out of the park.
Before I could finish processing this, I sensed someone behind me. The disturbing sensation of being silently watched washed over me. I gripped my phone with my sweaty palms, nervous that I was about to be mugged, and hesitantly twisted around to peek behind the bench.
“Carter!” I said leaping out of my seat and spinning around. “You scared the shit out of me, what the hell are you doing?”
“Calm down, I was about to say hello,” Carter said placidly as he walked around to my side of the bench.
“OK,” I said turning to face him, “So, what’s up?”
“Nothing.” He appeared normal but there was something still about his air, almost as if no one was home in there. No typical smile and embrace. I suppose that could have been because of our current awkward situation but it felt off.
“You wanted to meet in this park to discuss nothing?” I said incredulously.
“Yeah, I just felt like seeing you,” he said.
There it was, the part I was dreading.
“Is this about last weekend?” I asked, “You know, I really don’t want to make much of it, we had too many shots, it was just …”
“This is about your soul,” he said and immediately clutched my forearm in his frigid, strong hands.
“Stop!” I said as I tried to pull myself out of his grip. I desperately looked into his eyes, which were now glowing red and boring into mine. “Carter let go! What is wrong with you?”
These words barely left my mouth when my flesh began to sear with pain as his fingers burned deeply into my arm. I screamed but I couldn’t hear it. No one could hear it. Carter stood by rigidly clasping me in silence as I struggled. Then his grip tightened, my back arched and my head jerked to the sky.
Scenes of gore and death flashed through my mind; broken bones jutting out of muscle and skin, bashed in heads spurting brains and bleeding down faces, deep cuts by rusty knives along thighs and throats with arteries gushing blood. People hanging, people burning, disembowelled, drawn and quartered. The screaming was the only consistent element as these images darted past my mind’s eye. Seconds later all faded to black and I collapsed to the ground…
Now I’m with Carter.