The Odd Boy was a story written in serial form on my blog. It was my first foray into a darker world and character. Although a bit on the dark side, the story remains fanciful and manages to stay accessible. Currently, The Odd Boy is awaiting completion as a sequel is in the works.
I was encouraged to continue the story after receiving a piece of unsolicited fan art inspired by an installment of the story. The piece is included at the bottom.
A great many decades ago, there was a small child sitting on a wooden chair. The child was staring with great interest and anticipation out the window at the world as it casually went about its business. Animals stood lazily around waiting for their humans. The humans were making purchases inside shops and business transactions on sidewalks. The child continued his vigilant watch.
Passersby did not take much notice of the unmoving boy. However, occasionally, a squirrel, bird, or small insect would venture close and stare back in his direction. As he paid them no mind, they felt they could examine him for a longer than average period of time, but eventually something or someone else would make a noise, and they would leave their viewing point on the opposite side of the glass from the boy and scurry off.
The boy scanned the street, rarely allowing himself to blink. He was waiting for the right feeling, the right person, the right instant to make his move.
Soon, a young lady stopped at a bench under a lamppost. That was it. That was what he was waiting for. He blinked twice and the girl’s head tilted to the side, her arms relaxed, and she seemed to fall asleep.
A small grin appeared at the corner of the boy’s mouth. The right ones always picked him. They always sat on his bench. It made it much easier, he didn’t have to go in search. Slowly, he arose from his seat and shuffled outdoors. His appearance was unassuming, no one ever paid him much mind. Taking a seat next to the girl, he breathed deeply and stretched out his hand toward hers.
His hand crept toward the young woman’s and he hesitated for a moment. Then, with a final flinch, his fingers encircled hers. A small arc of electricity appeared where their skin touched. Sighing, he looked around at the world again. The two of them were invisible now. They could sit like this for a while and nobody would pay them mind. It was not that they had truly vanished, but, rather, that there was something about the boy that caused people to look all around him without allowing their gazes to rest on him.
The girl’s hand changed in the gentle cradle where it rested. It became cold and textured like she had just emerged from a long soak in the water. The boy gazed at her for a minute, noticing how remarkably different she looked from when he first joined her. Then, she had been vibrant, full of youth and possibility, but now she looked tired and haggard. Her eyes were deeper set and little purple shadows rested below them. Under her wide brimmed hat, her hair had gone from a brilliant chestnut, to the dingy, hoary color of the aged. Letting go of her hand before she withered away all together, he picked a daisy that had been growing behind the bench and laid it on her lap. He knew she would wake up the minute he returned indoors, and he knew she would be dazed. As she went on with her day, she would see her reflection in a store window or a puddle from the previous day’s rain and go mad with lack of understanding. That was what always happened.
Returning to his stool, he felt refreshed. Soon he would need to move on from this place, soon the owners of this house would return and he must be gone by the time they did. For today, however, he relished in the energy and life flowing through his body like an electric current. He picked up a book from his bag and opened it; inside the front cover, and inscription was written in elegant script.
“To my Leopold,
You will eternally be in my heart, my dearest friend.
I will miss you dreadfully,
He smiled. Emmeline had been his favorite. In another town, she had shown up on his bench. Her head did not lull to the side, and she did not relax like usual, for some reason, he did not want her to that day. Sitting next to her, he had told her his name was Leopold, and they had spent hours talking there. Although he was beginning to tire, he did not try to hold her hand, not that day. She came back for months and he became slowly weaker until he could barely stand. The second to last time he saw her, he told her he was going far away. Begging to join him, she confessed that she was terribly sad where she was. The boy told her no and that he would be leaving that night. The next day, he sadly watched as she walked to their bench and sat down. Gazing at her, he waited until her body relaxed and she slumped slightly to one side. He struggled outside and fell to the ground at her feet. Pulling himself up to his knees and resting his arms on the bench, the boy reached out his hand. He said her name in one long jagged sigh and watched her waste away. The book had been sitting open on her lap, he’d taken it to remember her by
After Emmeline, he had carried the book with him everywhere. He kept notes about his travels, and a tally of the people that he had all but consumed. There was a single, lonely picture in the pages. He had gone to Emmeline’s house and found one of her in a small frame and snatched it. Whenever he opened the book, he first saw her beautiful handwriting, then he saw her beautiful face. It made him smile.
Once he had read about guilt. He had been bored and roaming through a library. The pieces of knowledge all gathered together in one place had been fascinating. A long time ago, he had overheard someone drone on about the need to confess sin and be relieved of the guilt weighing down the soul, the boy had been curious. So, that day in the library, he examined the concept. It made no sense. He was who he was. Everything he did, he did because it was a part of him, and there was no need to feel such trifling emotions about something essential to his being. Guilt seemed like a useless emotion. He scoffed at it and put it from his mind.
There was nothing but a feeling of satisfaction after his meetings with his friends. He gathered them and collected them. They became part of him and he was grateful. He missed Emmeline’s youthful smile, but he never felt regret for what he had done. She would be with him always, trapped like he was, and so would the next and the next.
It was a new bench outside a new window. The city was different, the feeling was the same. Today he sat outside watching the people of the town. An old lady with a blank stare walked toward him muttering to herself, he squinted his eyes and tried to tell if she was his or if she was naturally aged. When she passed in front of him, she stopped and stared in his direction, she mumbled something barely audible about the bench and how it needed new paint. Reaching out, she peeled a strip of flaking paint from right beside his head. He smiled, unnoticed. She was his, but he couldn’t remember from how long ago or what she had looked like when they met. Rarely did he speak to them, every now and then he would whisper a good day. He found it was better to let them move on, they did not know how to love him properly, not the way he loved them. It was always disappointing.
Once, before they stopped noticing him, someone called him a pariah. He had been off-putting as a very young boy. People always kept there distance, not touching him even in passing. He walked through life as if a bubble existed around him. They did not realize they were doing it, but he could tell. One day, an old man came right up to him and touched his forehead directly in the center. The man cackled and said several strange words. The boy reached out and grabbed the man’s hand away from his head, the old one dropped to his knees, smiled at the boy, and died.
From that moment on, the people of the town no longer called him anything, they did not even notice he was standing among them. There was nothing truly different, he felt the same. He craved the same things and despised the same things. The old man had unlocked something in his soul, however, he had given him a purpose.
Moist, the air around him was moist. It was always gloomy where he went, but not always damp. The rain seemed to follow his mood. When he was particularly down, it would pour. That had never made sense to him. People were out less when the weather was bad, and when he felt sad, that is when he needed them most. Occasionally, when the rain would fall for days or weeks, he would venture into stores and churches. If he was desperate, he would go to the prisons and homeless shelters, but he did not like the way they made him feel. When his friends were bad or sick or lonely, he felt bad and sick and lonely too. It was better when they were young, vibrant, full of hope.
Today he wandered through a market. There were peaches, and he loved peaches. The man at the stall selling the fruit looked up when he thought he heard footsteps stopping in front of him, but as he gazed around, he decided he must be hearing things and went back to reading the news from the paper in his lap. The boy reached out and felt the fruit, it was soft and heavy. He grabbed a few pieces, and began eating them as he walked. The juice from the peach trickled down his chin and he wiped it off on his sleeve.
In the corner of the market, he saw a man sitting on a stool playing music. He went to sit next to him and listen. A crowd was gathering. The chords from the guitar thrummed in his veins. He could feel the music building and growing, it gave him energy and made him want to dance. Looking around for a partner, he noticed a girl in her early teens swaying in the back of the group. Her flowered skirt swished at her ankles to the rhythm of the music. He stood and moved toward her. People shifted out of his way as if compelled, but never took their eyes of the musician. His eyes were glued to her form as he moved slowly closer.
One hand stretched out, he cupped her waist and pulled her close, the other hand held her gloved fingers. He seemed older just now. Somehow, his small impish face did not betray his youth. The two of them danced as if they were secluded from the world around them. This moment was theirs, private, beautiful. He was overjoyed as the ground moved beneath his feet, and the girl’s body swayed beneath his touch.
At first, she was uneasy. There was something about the boy that made her feel as if she should turn and run, before it was too late. However, the longer she stayed, the less she felt the desire to flee. Something in his eyes made her long to stay dancing with him forever. He held her as if he needed her to be there, as if he had to have her in his arms, as though she was too important to ever let go.
The boy pinched the fingers of her glove and gave a small tug. The glove came off and he dropped it on the floor. Slowly, he moved to grasp her hand in his again. Their skin touched. A look of shock appeared for a moment in the girl’s eyes. The boy danced faster as the girl flowed through him. Moving in circles that no longer matched the canter of the music floating through the air, they continued to gain momentum in their dance. Feeling energized, the boy dropped the girl and moved on to someone else. The girl’s body lay in a heap. The boy and his new dance partner swirled past her. The dance continued like this until the boy realized he was out of partners. Continuing to waft through the air, the music had changed pace. It sounded sad, like a dirge. Looking around him, the boy saw bodies strewn about. This had happened before.
Usually he did not let himself become carried away like this. He tried to hold himself in the utmost of control. However, there were times, times like today, when something would take over and he would get carried away. Looking around at the corpses scattered at his feet, he felt a sudden wave of sadness. Too far, this always happened when he let it go too far. They would grow too old too quickly and that would be the end.
In the middle of the devastation, he heard a noise, a whimper. He stepped gingerly over the bodies until he found its source. It was the girl he had danced with first. Her old, wrinkled face looked confused; a single tear was falling down her cheek. The boy dropped down to his knees next to her and gingerly helped her sit up, being careful to only touch the parts of her that were covered by her clothing. He flashed a brilliant smile in her direction and felt a sense of satisfaction run over him. This had not failed completely. There were a few casualties, but he had kept her alive! Leaning down, he kissed the top of her head. The confusion did not fade.
“Do not worry, my little one. You will live forever, with me. I must go for awhile, I know you will understand, but you will not have to miss me, you are one of my friends now!” He scampered off then, over the bodies, happier than he had been for quite some time.