Zach dropped the book in his hand and felt like he’d snapped awake all of the sudden. He swore that he heard the sound of the book hitting the floor echo around him but the noise didn’t seem to bring anyone out. He picked it up again and held it close to him, feeling sheepish. He looked out the window of the library only to see that there was no one standing there. It was still approaching dusk and unfortunately, it was still quite early in the afternoon. His father wouldn’t be off work for a few hours yet and he still had to kill time in a building that he was getting increasingly less comfortable in. He knew that he could start to make his way downstairs and maybe that would be best. Still, he couldn’t help thinking of the way that figure was standing out there in the snow. The way that it looked at him. How it said his name. He tried to tell himself that he imagined it. That he just hated this place so much that he was trying to find an excuse to move.
Yeah, that would go over well. He already knew that no one would listen to him if he told them that this place was haunted. He didn’t really even believe it. What was he supposed to say? That his house was haunted by a woman that might have gone insane with grief back over a hundred years ago? Sure, his father would be all kinds of understanding about that. All he had to do was say the word and they would be packed back up and head on back to where they came from. And what word did he have to say? Oh, only that he saw a whole bunch of long white strands of hair in the house. They were long and silver and clearly belonged to an old woman who died a long time before either of them were born. And he would take it seriously because he’d seen them in the attic and on his father’s back. And now on the back of his hand.
Zach froze when he saw the strands draped over the back of his hand, coming out of the book. Unlike when he was in his house where it was only a strand here or there, this was a small handful. It still had that silvery sheen just like the others he’d seen in the house. Zach wanted to pretend that this was just an oversight. He wanted to believe that he’d missed it but he knew better. He knew for certain that he hadn’t seen them before. They weren’t there before. He would have seen it. He wouldn’t have touched this book if he had seen this before. He didn’t want to be touching it now but he felt frozen to the spot. He was scared but he noticed that the strands were marking a part in the book. He didn’t even want to but he felt as though his body were being used as a puppet as he opened the cover and flipped to the page marked for him. He looked at the image on the page and saw the title but it hardly mattered what it said. He knew he was looking at something important. It was in a park but he knew that it was more than just a small statue. It was something meant to be remembered. He knew he would find something there.
“The lights are fading. We are waiting for you at home,” a voice said next to his ear.
Zach quickly made his way down to the first floor and out of the building. He clutched to the old book in his arms like it would keep him warm but the sharpness of the winter air cut into his clothes immediately. He didn’t know if he was running away from the voice he heard or if he was running to the place he’d seen but he knew he had to go. He didn’t care where he ended up, as long as it was away from here.
Trudging out into the deepening twilight of the afternoon, the cold was biting but Zach was soon feeling spellbound by the way the light seemed to hang on the clouds above. They were vibrant with color as the daylight began to fade and he walked slower, allowing himself to feel something other than lost for once. He didn’t know where his feet were taking him, nor did he care. He wanted to be in this world of blue, green, purple and brilliant orange yellow light. The lights that used to be on the tree at Christmas back home. He wanted nothing more than to just go home now. He hated this place and nothing would make it right again. He didn’t care about getting anything at all anymore. All he truly wanted was to be where this light was. Where it was still wrapped in the branches of his old tree and he knew his mother would be coming home to greet him soon. Where everything was warm and safe and normal.
Zach’s thoughts were dashed when he realized that in his daze, he nearly walked straight into the back of someone before him. In his surprise, he dropped his book in the snow. He quickly tried to pick it up and muttered an apology when he realized that the book should have hit the man in the heels, he was so close. Instead, it lay perfectly flat on the ground. Grabbing the book and clutching to it again, he looked and saw that the man paid him no mind. He looked like someone in a costume, his clothing was so old fashioned. He carried a stop watch with him and looked down the road as though he were waiting for something. Zach looked at him funny and the man finally looked to him, his face the picture of annoyance.
“This is an outrage, it is,” he blustered. “The trolley is meant to run on the dot and the bloody thing is always late. I’ll catch my death out here, waiting like this.”
Zach looked at the ground and saw a pair of old tracks that were buried in concrete at his feet. The cables for the trolley cars were long gone and there was no platform there to speak of. He looked back and the man was gone. He was standing alone in the street and well aware that it was getting darker now. He shivered and held tighter to his book.
“Well now, have you come to collect the bottles at last, boy?” an unfamiliar voice said behind him.
Startled, Zach looked behind him to see a woman in a large wool coat carrying a small crate full of old bottles to him. He staggered back.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“Who am I? Bless you, boy, don’t you remember Old Pearl? There’s at least a penny or two in it for you, lad,” the woman said, holding the crate up, gesturing for him to take it. “Ain’t your mother never told you that us old ladies need a hand?”
“Mothers are sometimes in short supply,” a scratchy, feral sounding voice barked behind him.
Zach clutched to the book and watched Old Pearl shrink and fade way into the darkness. There was a look of fear in her eyes as she disappeared before his eyes. Zach slowly turned to see a figure dressed in rags, staggering towards him. Its eyes were bloodshot and vicious. He stepped back as the figure came into the light. As it stepped into the beam of the streetlamp, it seemed to fade from view but it soon emerged back into the shadows, closer to him and looking livid. It was moving faster towards him.
“Come to the Mother, boy!” the figure snarled as it closed the gap between them.