I quickly crouched to the floor as I heard a noise in the silent graveyard. I could hear someone running, the crunch of the autumn leaves under his feet as he puts space between himself and the graveyard entrance, breathing heavily.
I peeked over the top of the big tombstone I was hiding behind with the hope of catching a look of the intruder. I saw a person dressed entirely in black, pale as a ghost with a shocking contrast of black hair hanging slightly over his round face. I could see his face and hair shine under the moonlight; he was sweating.
I looked towards the gate, where a group of 4 men were standing. Although it was open and they could easily walk in just as the solitary man had done, they stood there as if blocked by an invisible barrier. I studied them carefully because although they were obviously just agroup of men, there was something strange about them; something that sent ashiver down my spine.
As the man slowed his pace a bit, looking back at the entrance every few steps, I saw the expression of terror on his face. I instantly knew what the problem was, as I had lived it almost every day. Someone was after him, someone that he was afraid of. Probably some dumbass bully picking on him because of his black clothes and pale skin. It was obvious he wasn't part of the "in" crowd, which I was perfectly happy with.
As I continued to silently watch the dark man and think about whether or not I should say something to him, he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. Surprised by his sudden lack of movement, I almost fell over, but held myself in place, waiting for him to move again. He then started to look slowly around him. His eyes raked the tombstones in the area, stopping on the one that provided my hiding spot. I was shocked as he squinted in my direction, but I was also convinced that he couldn't see me; it was really dark and I hadn't made any noise whatsoever. I heard a crack towards my right, which caught my attention, causing me to look in that direction trying to find the source of the noise. Not seeing anything unusual, I turned back to where the strange guy was, only to find that he was gone. Surprised and worried, I looked around trying to locate him, when I suddenly turned to my left and saw him standing right next to me.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" I yelled, falling on my back from the scare. "How did you move so fast?"
I got up, deciding it was best to stand up now that I had been discovered, and brushed the crushed leaves off of my back and arms. The intruder continued to look at me, squinting and studying my face without saying a word, making me feel uncomfortable and say, "Are you...okay?"
Still, not a word. I felt like an insect under a microscope. A newly discovered species. A rare plant that lives only in the deepest part of the Amazon forest.
"Were those guys after you?"
That finally got a reaction; startled, he looked towards the big black gate that was the entrance of the graveyard.
I nodded knowingly. "I know how you feel, man. I get chased after sometimes too. That's why I like coming here, it's nice and quiet and nobody here ever insults me or treats me like a piece of shit because of how I dress."
He looked at me very interested as I continued to babble on. I had no idea why I decided to convert this unknown stranger into my psychologist, but there I was, telling him about my problems and fears. "I try to ignore them, but it's hard when they throw sandwiches in your face," I told him, smiling grimly. He slowly smiled back at me. He hadn't said a word but I already liked him.
"What's your name?"
He looked at me for a second longer, as if deciding whether he was going to tell me or not, and then said in a soft and smooth voice, "Gerard..."
I smiled at him, happy to finally hear him say a word, and said, "I'm Frank."
"Frank..." he repeated. I liked how he said it much more than I how I did. He said my name with much more care, as if trying not to break it, while I always just spat it out.
His breathing was back to normal now, and he wasn't sweating. I noticed he looked older than my almost-17 years, but decided not to ask his age. Not yet anyways.
"Are you new in town?" It was hard trying to make conversation with him, but that fact didn't make me feel nervous.
He slowly nodded his head. "Yes, I've come with some friends, but they are all in hiding now..."
Pleased to have gotten him to say full sentences, I asked him, "Who were those guys? The ones outside of the gate."
His expression hardened and he looked at the floor. "Ruins."
I looked at him confused, not sure I had heard him correctly. "Ruins?"
He nodded. "That's what they call themselves. It's what they do."
"They... ruin things?"
"But those guys... they're older, right? I mean, I don't know how old you are, but you don't look -"
"I'm 21," he said, smiling for some reason.
"Oh - right. Well, there you have it. They looked almost 30 years old, all of them. Why would guys that age bully someone like you?"
I was like a child, asking every question that popped into my head. Like a child asking his mother questions about Santa Claus - where he really lived, how he could really deliver toys to every child in the world in one night, how his reindeers, however magical, could fly - and not getting any answers that calmed my curiosity.
"It's what they do."
"Ruin..." I said frowning, giving the topic up as Gerard nodded at my answer. He didn't want to talk about it, and I thought that was just fine. I was sure he would tell me when he was ready.
I asked him where he lived and he simply said, "Below..."
We had started walking around the graveyard, under the willow trees and crushing dead leaves under our feet, but that simple answer made me stop in my tracks and look at him questioningly.
"Below," I stated, disbelief pouring from my voice.
He nodded and stopped to look back at me. His face was expressionless, it was impossible to tell what he was thinking.
"Right. Look, if you don't want to talk to me, you don't have to. I'll just go my own way..." and with that I turned around and starting taking quick steps in the opposite direction, a bit disappointed.
"Wait," he called after me. "Don't leave me here, Frank."
The use of my name surprised me and made me stop. I slowly turned back to him and saw that his expression had changed; he looked worried, awkward and afraid. Like an unprotected puppy. I couldn't leave him, so I walked back over to him with my hands stuffed deep into my pockets.
He sighed and said, "Come with me. I'll show you what I've been calling home for the last few weeks."
He turned and started taking long strides in the direction we were headed before. I was frozen in place for a few seconds as a million thoughts raced through my head and I thought about what to do. Don't follow him, he's crazy. He'll probably kidnap me or something, or take me to some weird devil-worshiping group of maniacs...
He doesn't look crazy/, said another voice inside of me, just scared./
Taking a deep breath of air, I ran after him.
Without realizing it, I had made a decision that would change the rest of my life and the world as I knew it.
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