She Called it The Wanderer
By: Dane Pecha
I played her game, and let her tell me who The Wanderer was. As we walked on that foggy October night, she told me the legend that she supposedly heard from classmate Tommy Hines. Frankly, I wasn’t too impressed. The gist of the tale concerns a man or a figure as she called it, wandering around our neighborhood, inviting himself in random houses and leaving without saying a word. That’s it. I was disappointed, I expected so much more from her.
We stopped at the light pole. It represented the halfway point between our two houses and would be the last place I’d see her until tomorrow morning. To avoid one of us walking home alone, we’d stop here and make mad dashes for our houses. Once we got home, we’d rush upstairs and turn our bedroom light on to let the other know we made it home safely.
My light ALWAYS went on first. I was fast. I’d even beat some of the boys at recess. My light went on again first that night. As we dashed off into the night I heard her yell something about The Wanderer. Good for her I thought, she was really trying to sell this. My mother worked nights at the hospital so I was home alone. I didn’t mind being alone at night, I was mature for my age and I loved the responsibility.
Moments after I got home and made my lunch for the next day, I was in bed reading. I was deep in some Steinbeck when I heard some footsteps downstairs. I took pause and sat up in my bed.
“Mom? Are you home?” The footsteps stopped for a moment and I waited to hear her voice. Not a sound. It was a pretty old house, and I was getting tired, surely I was just hearing things. Taking the hint, I shut it down for the night.
I was just on the verge of sleep when the footsteps came back. At first it sounded like someone was stumbling around downstairs. I called for my mother again and still heard nothing. Again I yelled, I just wanted to hear a familiar voice, instead I continued to hear footsteps. They grew louder. And now, they were coming upstairs. Since I had the only room on the top story, the stairs led right into my bedroom. I threw the covers over my head. Each footstep was deliberate; whoever was coming up those stairs wanted me to hear every step. My heart was racing; it’s the first time in my life that I can remember feeling my heart beat. I thought for sure I was going to die, surely whoever or whatever was walking up those stairs was going to kill me, just as long as my heart didn’t give out first. There was nothing I could do as the sounds reached the top of the stairs. Wrapped tightly under the sheets, my blood started to boil, anger took over for fear and now I just wanted to see the creep that was doing this. I was going to go out with a fight; the last thing I wanted was for my mother to find my lifeless body hiding under the covers. I was going to go out swinging. The first footstep reached my bedroom and I threw my covers off my body. My eyes darted around the room, and there it was staring back at me, nothing, absolutely nothing.
Adrenaline was jetting through my veins. I jumped out of bed and looked down the stairs, no one there. Rushing over to the window I now hoped to see Jeanie sprinting home after successfully scaring the snot out of me. Out of habit my eyes went to her bedroom window. Her bedroom lights the only sign of life in the neighborhood, neither confirming nor denying my theory that she was my night stalker. I rested my forehead against the window, replaying the events in the last minute when something catches my eye down below. There was a man walking away from my house, in no particular hurry. From the back I could only see a long black trench coat and an impressive looking black fedora with a bright purple feather tucked in the band of the hat.
My eyes were fixated on him as he strolled down the street. Of everything that happened that evening, I will never forget what happened next. It was as if he knew my eyes were transfixed on him because in one fluid motion he turned to face my window. He didn’t miss a step as he walked backwards looking up at me. At least I assume he was looking, I couldn’t be sure since the figure had no facial features. No mouth, eyes or nose, just a bright white head that shined brighter than the stars that night. He turned away and continued his confident stroll down the sidewalk. I couldn’t tell you where he went; he just wandered off into the nothing.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night. I must have peaked out the window at least 100 times that night. My mom didn’t believe a word I said, chalking it up to my vivid imagination and all those books I read. I didn’t expect her to believe me anyways. If anyone was going to believe me it would be Jeanie.
She was waiting in her usual spot as I came running down the street. As I got closer I started to say something when I froze.
“What’s wrong, Carol Ann?” she said, noticing what my eyes were stuck on. “Oh, do you like it? I found it this morning. Its looks cute, don’t it?”
She turned to the side to give me a better look of the bright purple feather she stuck horizontally into her hair bun.