EDITED – This story was missing parts when first published.   **something fell from the drawers behind me as I wrote this and I nearly died of fright. I hope you enjoy. Feel fee to share.**   I met him in the park.   I sat by the swings picking at the daisies peeking through the grass. I noticed him as he looked like he didn’t belong.   His clothes looked torn and dirty. The summer sun beat down on the play park, yet he was wearing a coat that was more suited to winter.   He was staring at me.   I smiled at him and he stood up and walked towards me. He stared straight ahead and his shoulders were hunched up around his ears. He looked as if he was walking along a dark alley at night – scared of the shadows behind him.   “Hi,” he said, his shadow casting itself over me. The daisies seemed to shirk away from this strange boy. But I didn’t care.   “Hello,” I said formally, trying to act like a lady. Just as my mother taught me. She sat not far away on a bench chatting to the other mums, her grown up book by her side.   “What’s your name?” he asked.   “Mara, my name is Mara Shawl,” I smiled again.   “Pleasure to meet you Miss Shaw,” he said, his grubby face finally smiling back. His shoulders didn’t move an inch though.   “Why are you wearing a heavy coat in this weather?” I asked.   “It’s all I have,” his smile faded.   “Can you not leave it with you mum?”   “She’s, um, she’s not here anymore,” I listened as his voice nearly cracked. My young girls mind finding it uncomfortable that he was at a park on his own.   “Who are you here with then?”   “My Uncle Beezle,” he said, comforting me as he did. Children weren’t allowed at the park on their own – my mum had told me so. You never knew who was lurking behind your back.   “Do you want to play?” I asked.   We spent the afternoon playing on the swings and sliding down the chute. He knew a game called ‘Cowboys and Indians’ (which he pronounced “Injuns”) that he seemed to go cagey over when I asked where that was from. No one around here played that. It was similar to ‘Cops and Robbers’ but if it was the same then why not call it so?   Eventually the sun began to set and as the sky turned a shade of orange I saw my mum pack up her things and I knew it was time to go.   “I have to go home now,” I said panting. I had never run so much in my life.   “Do you- I mean do you have too? Can we not just stay and play all night?” he asked, his eyes looked sad – almost scared.   “Don’t be silly,” I laughed, “it’s scary out here at night. Don’t you get scared?”   “I’m scared all the time,” he said. He turned and ran away, his heavy coat seemingly not weighing him down at all, along a path leading into the woods.   I saw him drop a small wooden soldier from his pocket. I reached over and picked it up from the grass.   I could still shout him back, I thought but decided not too.   Stealing was bad but finder’s keepers, I tried to convince myself as I walked to my mum.   “Who were you playing with?” my mum asked as she gave me a capri sun to drink.   “I didn’t ask his name,” I said realizing that he hadn’t offered it either.   “An imaginary friend without a name? You’re an odd one Mara,” she said chuckling.   Imaginary?   ***   I woke in the night with the moon streaming through a crack in the curtains. I didn’t know what time it was as I couldn’t tell time yet but I knew it was very late.   Very, very late actually.   I didn’t know what had disturbed me as I lay under my duvet trying to collect my thoughts. It must have been next door’s dog Rossco, I comforted myself with.   I looked at my Polly Pocket nightlight and felt a sense of comfort wash through me. Dad said that Polly Pocket was a powerful Hero, designed to protect little girl from scary thoughts. THUD.  I heard coming from the staircase just beyond my bedroom door. I didn’t let my dad shut the door completely but it wasn’t open wide enough to see out. I sat paralyzed beneath the sheets as my heart began to race.   I imagined it, I must have. I tried to convince myself. THUD.  It sounded again. This time ever so slightly closer.   It was then a blind panic ran through me and stifled the scream that was building in my throat.   Whatever it was that was making that dull noise was climbing up the stairs.   Mrs Murvin six doors down was burgled in the night a few months ago. We were being robbed, I knew it, my small hands shook as I tried to think what to do. THUD. I heard it again and it was definitely getting closer.   “Mara,” someone whispered three stairs from the bottom.   “Maraaa,” whoever it was seemed to linger on the last syllable. “Mara are you home?”   “Maraaa, its me! From the park,” I heard the boy in the heavy coat say.   “Mara I’m coming up the stairs!” he said, happy than he had been that afternoon.   “And I’m bringing my uncle Beezle,” he said maliciously.   “One step, two step, three step, four,” he sang, “creeping closer to Mara’s door.”   THUD, THUD, THUD, THUD.   “Five step, six step, seven step more,” his small voice rang throughout the silent house.   THUD, THUD, THUD.   “It’s time for Mara and Beezle to play. Singing, dancing, hiding all day,” his voice sounded so sure now, nothing like it had that afternoon.   “Mara likes to play with boys, Mara likes to steal boys toys,” that line sent a shiver of ice down my spine as I snatched a glimpse at the wooden soldier I had stolen that now sat on my chest of drawers.   “Mara, Mara, stealings baaaadd,” he said not far from my door now.   “So now we’ll kill your mum and dad,” he said as a rush of footsteps ran past my door and a shadow passed through the light that spilled in from the hall.   I whimpered as tears began to fall from my eyes. I couldn’t hear anything as I strained my ears to listen to what would happen.   Shout out, I said to myself.   Do SOMETHING warn them!   SHOUT FOR GOODNESS SAKE.   The house sat silent as I lay in my bed. I could hear the wind whip past the window and the TV from next door playing. Canned laughter came from the TV show and I wondered how something so scary could be happening to me without them even knowing.   “Mara,” I heard the voice whisper outside my door. I hadn’t heard them come close and I didn’t believe I had heard it until the shadow reappeared, blocking out all light apart from my Polly Pocket nightlight and the moon beyond my curtains.   “Mara, you stole, your bad Mara. You’re a very bad girl,” the boys voice said.   “Uncle Beezle likes bad girls Mara. Uncle Beezle wants to come in and say hello. Shall I open the door Mara? Shall I?”   “No,” I whispered, “I don’t want to meet Uncle Bee-“   “DON’T!” he shouted, startling me.   “Don’t make Uncle Beezle angry, he’s already taken your mum and dad. Don’t make him take you too.”   “Please don’t hurt my mum and dad,” I said, crying as I spoke.   “You should have said something before,” the boys voice said, “you kept quiet, we thought it was ok.”   “Please God, please, please don’t-“   “Turn out the nightlight, Mara,” his sinister voice seemed to sting my ears as the words wound their way into my head.   “Turn out the lights and we’ll play a game. Turn out the light and you wont be to blame,” it sang at me.   “You’ll make sure my mum and dad are ok if I turn out the light?” I begged.   “Of course Mara, Uncle Beezle can do anything. He’ll fix them right up. He’ll sow their bellies back up and put their teeth back in. Just turn out the light, I’ll come in and take back my soldier and we can all play a game until morning.”   I reached out from beneath the covers, terrified that a monster would snatch my wrist from under the bed. My fingers were slick with sweat and it slipped from the button a few times before the click took away my last wall of protection.   I snapped my hand back under the covers as the door slowly began to let the light back in.   “Good girl Mara, we just want to play,” the little boys shadow said as it crept across the carpet.   The door banged against the chest of drawers as I slowly opened my eyes. I hadn’t even realized I had shut them until I realized how tightly I was clamping them together.   “It’s me Mara,” the boy in the heavy coat said to me. I sat up from my pillow and turned towards the door to get a better look at him but something was off. His skin looked a lot paler this time. His eyes seemed less alive, as if the light had been taken from them. I scanned down his body and snapped my mouth shut so quickly I bit my tongue.   Blood engulfed my mouth as I saw that he was torn open. The flaps that had once been his belly hung loosely apart and the grey muck that was once his guts stared back at me.   I swallowed the blood and tasted its copper horribleness fall down into my own, intact, belly.   “What’s wrong with your stomach?” I asked, praying he would tell me that there was nothing wrong, that I was imagining it.   “I made Uncle Beezle angry,” he said solemnly, “He likes to tear apart things that make him angry.” He smiled and I saw that most of his teeth were missing. His gums were black and puss dripped from several fresh wounds.   “He doesn’t like back chat or crying either,” he said closing his lips.   “Is your Uncle Beezle here?” I nearly choked as I spat the blood out.   “Of course he is here. He followed you home.”   I said nothing. I couldn’t say anything. Every hair on my body was on edge as the fear romped its way through my body unchecked.   “Meet Uncle Beezle,” the boy said as he vanished before my eyes. I had no time to wonder how he had done it.   From behind me I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. It closed its fingers into my soft flesh as a shadow, cast by the moon, spread itself towards my bedroom door.


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