"Are you going next door, sweetheart?" My mom called from the kitchen.
I fumbled with my backpack, it was now filled with an assortment of random items, a Game Boy Advance, a coloring book, one of my blank notebooks, blank paper, brightly colored items I found around the house, and my house key, "Ya. When did they want me over?"
"Gale said you could come any time. Just remember what she said about Zachary, okay? If anything happens-"
"I know, Mom," I said, waving a hand to show I understood, "Call you and then his mom. I highly doubt a twelve-year-old boy will be able to overpower me."
I pulled the backpack onto my back, heading for the green door that led outside. One looking in could see the obvious effort my mom put into keeping the house clean, the floors were spotless and you wouldn't be able to find dirt or dust in that house if you walked around with a magnifying glass.
Mom rushed out of the kitchen dressed in an apron that boasted the classic phrase "kiss the cook" and brown capris, her chestnut brown hair pulled back in a bun like she always did when she cooked. She leaned down and pecked my cheek, repeating the words, "Goodbye, dear, be careful, please," before ushering me out the door and onto our lawn.
I glanced back at our house, a pretty tan one-story with an aged oak standing in the front, gently swaying with an autumn breeze. I waved goodbye to my mother one more time before starting over to the house to the right of ours.
If my house was small, charming, and appealing to look at, the Barker's home was the opposite. It was a large two story house, slate-gray in color with high arching windows and a jet black door. It matched the description of an old Victorian house, giving off an aura of daunting secretism, as though those on the outside can only guess what horrors have gone on within.
I licked my lips rather nervously. What a house to raise a child in. No wonder the Zachary kid had issues, growing up in an old Gothic house like that. I shook my head minutely, I'd be getting nowhere by just standing here, watching the house.
Squaring my shoulders, I walked up the cracked driveway and across a small winding path until I reached the front door. The black paint was peeling with age, and as I reached out and knocked slowly, several pieces of paint fluttered to the ground before the door was opened by an older woman.
Her eyes were bright green, her hair short and blond, grayer than my mothers was, but she gave off a warm aura with her smile lines and gentle demeanor.
"You must be Brian," she said, her voice very perfectly matched her appearance, that of a caring but careful mother.
I nodded slowly, "I sure am. Is this an okay time?"
"Oh, of course dear!" She said, opening the door all the way and shaking my hand with a smooth one of her own before letting me in, "I'll be leaving in about five minutes, if you want to go introduce yourself to Zack, he's in his play room, first door on the right."
Gale pointed down the hallway before shuffling over to the stairs and climbing them. The hallway was wide and arched, just like the majority of the rest of the house, dark paint on the walls casting darker shadows over the many vases full of dark flowers and paintings of sinister-looking older folks, glaring down at me as I passed like I was vermin invading their house.
I reached the door Gale had directed me to, knocking on it gently. Hey, the rest of the house was fancy, I guess it would feel weird to just walk in. A soft male voice said, "Enter."
I blinked and turned the handle slowly, pushing it in to reveal a small room with fading green walls with shelves of toys and games pushed against them on every side. In the center of the room was a young, black haired boy who was carefully fitting pieces of a puzzle together to form a picture of a kitten.
He turned as I walked in, revealing to me two wide green eyes that swam with emotion. The boy, Zack, had full lips and a rather chubby face, he was still a little kid after all, a pale complexion further accentuated by his dark clothing, and a nearly invisible spat of freckles across the bridge of his nose. He spoke in a quiet but knowing voice.
"Hello. Are you Brian?" He asked.
I nodded, "I am, are you Zachary?"
A smile smile graced his lips, "Call me Zacky, please. Do you want to help me finish this?" he gestured towards the puzzle.
"Sure." I walked over to where he was building the puzzle and sat down on the carpet. It was incredibly soft, so I stretched out on it, sighing softly and pushing a piece of the cat's nose into place.
We sat in silence for a moment before Zacky's mom peeked her head into the room, "Everything okay, boys?"
Zacky nodded, not breaking eye contact with the puzzle, "Everything is fine Mother, but if you don't leave soon, you'll miss the wedding."
"Of course. Brian, help yourself to anything in the fridge, there's a list of emergency numbers on counter in the kitchen, and Zachary, please don't bring Brian to your room. I think that's it. Call me if there's trouble." She hustled into the room, bending down to kiss Zacky on the head, and straightened up again, reminding me one more time about the numbers and Each about not bringing me to his room before she disappeared through the light green door.
Zacky stretched, reaching his arms up over his head and yawning, his nose wrinkling before he laid back on the soft carpet, "Thank god she's gone. I love her and everything, but the woman treats me like a five year old. I'm sure she told you I have 'issues' as she calls them. Don't worry, Brian, I won't kill you or anything, I'm not like that."
"I didn't think you would kill me, Zacky. But let's change the subject... What do you like to do? What are your interests?" I asked, abandoning the puzzle to lay down next to him.
He brought one hand to his jawline, rubbing lightly. I noticed the black nail polish on his nails, spiking curiosity in me, but I pushed away to see his green eyes studying my face, "Well, I like to draw... a lot... but I only ever draw what I dream... and, uh, I play guitar..."
"Really? I do too. What model do you have?" I asked.
"Gibson. Trying to save up for a Schecter, though."
I smiled, "I have a Schecter. If you ever want to play for me, you can use it. Speaking of which, want to let me hear? I bet you're good."
Zacky's eyes returned to watching the ceiling, a light blush coloring his face, "W-Well, I'm really not that good... I'm sure you're better than I am. I don't really like to play for people..."
"That's okay," I said, "You didn't have to. What else are you interested in?"
He thought a moment, his hand moving back to his jaw. That must be something he did when he was thinking, "Well, sometimes I just sit and think. But sometimes, I think too much, and...it can get me into trouble. Sometimes I think about things I shouldn't."
I stared at him, what could he possibly mean? Sure, kids around his age thought pervy stuff all the time, but something told me he didn't mean sexual thoughts, "What kind of thoughts, Zacky?"
He stayed silent a moment, rubbing his jaw with a worried expression crossing his face, "If... if I show you, will you... will you promise not to hate me?"
"Why would I hate you? Wait, did you say 'show me'?"
He nodded grimly, standing up and walking over to the door, looking back and gesturing with his head for me to follow him. Still confused , I followed him out into the dim hallway again. He led me farther down the hallway, turning left so we faced an enormous staircase, dark carpeting covered each step, and the floor above was too dark to make out.
"Where are we going, Zacky?" I asked as he climbed the stairs.
He was silent again until we reached the second story, "My room. Come on."
"I thought we weren't suppos-"
"I said, come on." He turned right and led me down a hallway similar to the one downstairs, except it felt oddly eerie, no pictures and no vases, just a dark, arching hallway. It seemed like a likely inhabitance of a ghost.
He turned again, this time facing a solitary purple-ish black door. I could see the confusion in his eyes again, fear and several other emotions flicking through them. He opened his mouth several times before reaching back and grabbing my hand, entwining our fingers. My eyes widened, but I said nothing, he was shaking lightly.
"P-Promise you won't hate me?" He whispered, turning to face me.
I nodded, giving his small hand a squeeze, "I promise."
A smile flickered across his face, but the fear never left his emerald eyes. He turned back towards the door, placing one hand on the knob and turning slowly.
Zacky tightened his grip on my hand, squeezing his eyes shut. I looked around his room. It was smaller than the play room, purple-ish black walls that matched the door. A bunk bed was pushed against the left wall, across from it a door I supposed led to a walk-in closet. A white dresser was next to the bed, and a high, arched window had black drapes pulled over it to block out the light. It seemed like a normal room to me. Well, it fit the house at least.
That's when I saw them. All over the walls, at least twenty of them. My jaw dropped as I made out exactly what was going on in the hand-draw pictures.
A short gasp escaped me, disgust, fear and nausea filling me. The words escaped my lips before I could sensor myself, not that I needed to sensor myself with a boy who's mind worked like this.