Let’s turn back the clock a little bit. Back to 1998, when I was a 13-year-old, wily boy. My short blonde hair, usually spiked up paired with thin aluminum-rimmed glasses, and my lopsided grin that seemed to be permanently on my face.
It was a really muggy day in Atlanta. I remember, because my uncle told me to stop staring at the sun because my eyes “would melt into the back of my head.” We were walking home from getting ice cream from Bruster’s. We decided to take a shortcut — our ice creams were melting, and the sun and the humidity was getting to be too much for my aging uncle. My uncle’s house was located about half a mile away from the store, so it was about a 10 minute walk if we walked on the main road. This shortcut — cutting through an abandoned lot — cut the walk down by about three minutes.
When we entered the lot, I immediately felt a sense of dread and paranoia. I got the sense that something — or someone — was watching me. I told my uncle how I felt, but he didn’t respond, as if he hadn’t heard me. He was focused on a wall to the right of us, about 30 or 40 feet away. Dense brush had grown near it and it was rustling.
“I’m scared,” I repeated to my uncle.
I heard a low mumbling voice coming from the brush repeated what I said.
My uncle and I looked at each other and slowly walked back out of the lot.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
The low voice repeated what I said, except there was a gargling sound at the end.
My uncle, trying to be brave, grabbed my shoulders.
“Don’t worry, it’s just some stupid teenagers,” he said.
The voice repeated, “Stupid teenagers,” again and again.
Feeling braver, I shouted, “I’m a dummyhead!”
The voice repeated, at similar decibels, “I’m a dummyhead!”
Finally finding humor in the situation, my uncle and I walked across the lot without feeling scared. As we passed by the brush, we both smelled something metallic in the air. I remember tasting something like iron in my mouth, as if I had swallowed blood. We heard the voice right behind us.
“I’m a dummyhead!”
My uncle and I ran, but my uncle, being about two feet taller than I was, sprinted far ahead of me. I remember running after him as fast as I could, but I soon lost him in the streets. Out of breath, I ran into a building and hid. I remember trying not to cry, but couldn’t hold it in. I was scared that I was alone, scared that my uncle left me behind, scared of whatever it was that chased us. I hid for what I thought to be a long time — my uncle said he looked for me about five minutes — and when I came out, I saw my uncle standing next to a car.
“I’m scared,” he said.
He walked closer to me. I remember his movement was stiff, like he hardly bent his knee when he took a step.
“I’m scared. What’s going on?”
“I – I don’t know,” I said.
As my uncle approached me, someone shouted my name from across the street.
“GET AWAY FROM THAT THING!”
It was my uncle.
I glanced at the being limping towards me and I realized I hadn’t seen it blink since our first interaction.
“What’s going on?” it asked. “I’m scared. I’m a dummyhead!”
“GET THE FUCK OVER HERE NOW!”
I turned and ran. I ran as fast as I could. I felt someone pick me up. It was my uncle. I quickly looked behind us to see the being limping towards us. It looked like it realized we wouldn’t stop and it stopped to watch us turn a corner and disappear from its sight.
I’ve asked my uncle about it for years after this, but he would never say a word. He passed away three years ago, and his explanation died with him.