The bizarre scene made me what to laugh at first, but in an instant, I regretted the urge and swallowed it back. It was like some old silent movie was playing out before me, so much so I could even hear the triumphant organ music in my head.
The gentleman was strolling down the path before me, just like any other would have done on a fine Sunday morning over a century ago. He looked the epitome of class, with a crisp stark dress suit, a shining silk top hat and highly polished shoes that clicked with each deliberate step. His face had the cold haughtiness that gentry often wore when out amongst the hoi polloi, his eyes set on the middle distance along an unwavering line dictated by the blade of his nose.
He passed me without acknowledgment or altering of stride. It was as if either I or he wasn’t truly there. The aroma of mothballs and something sweeter caught in my throat. The smell remained in his wake and it took a moment for me to place it. Then I remembered, my innocent childhood disgust at the rank odour that came from the rotting bloated foot of my Grandfather in the last few months of his life.
I rubbed my nose and looked back in revulsion. The gentleman continued upon the path without pause, his frame ramrod straight, the well pressed tails of his suit refusing to move despite his purposeful stride.
Then they stirred and I blinked.
The jacket tails moved again, as if something was worming away beneath. One of the tails lifted and a pale misshapen child sized head appeared. Lank hair parted neatly either side of a waxy face bereft of eyebrows and hollowed eye sockets from which a pair of violet orbs shone with an unholy light. A pale tongue darted out, licking fervently around lips far fuller than they should have been.
Our eyes met, gazes locked for an infinite second.
The face leered, such an out of place act in such a child sized face. It sent a shiver dancing down my spine and back, raising the hackles on my neck and goosebumps down my arms.
That look promised things, things that yanked at my primal core. My mind demanded that I run, that I run till my feet failed me and not to stop but to crawl on, till my blooded knees forced me to drag myself with raw, broken fingernails. Yet even then, I knew that would never be far enough.
The head slipped back beneath the coat tails with a grotesque wink. The gentleman, his stride uninterrupted, continued on his way as I stood chilled to the bone beneath the warmth of the summer sun.
There’d been a promise in that look. Whatever the thing was, it had given me its word, a word that I knew would never be broken, not in this short life or the next.