The window of Kevin’s room was covered with a sleeping bag tthat blocked the sun in the afternoon and the streetlights at night. Kevin’s room was still hot.
Kevin opened the door, came in, and lay down on his unmade bed, shoes still on. He turned on his reading lamp. He was down to the last big fight in the last Ned Griffin book. It took place on an underground lake with a whirlpool, and Ned had finally figured out how to work the fire blade. Kevin closed the book, stared at the back cover without looking at it. It would be nice if life were more like a Ned Griffin book. Ned lived in a magic world, but Kevin knew the real world was magical too. That was what church was all about.
No, it was something else. Ned was important. People needed him to do stuff. Nobody needed Kevin. People liked him and everything, but what was he for? If Ned Griffin disappeared, the whole world fell apart. If Kevin disappeared? The lines at school would be shorter.
Kevin picked up another book. This one was about goblins and so on. It had fairy tales, scraps of olden day stuff people used to really believe, and even poetry. All of it was scary, and for some reason the poetry really got to Kevin. Silly little words that made him scared.
Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting,
For fear of little men
Kevin closed his eyes and pictured the mountainside, light through branches and the dancing glass sound of a stream, dark leaves and something hiding between them, looking out. He could feel the inside of his stomach rub against itself; the thing in the leaves saw him. It was about to step out where he could see it.
Too much. Kevin opened his eyes.
There was a little man on his bedside table. He was about an inch and a half tall, dressed in the kind of Robin Hood outfit you get at a party store, cheap and nasty-looking. He was tanned and skinny, and his hair was thick and dark and wavy like a TV guy; it looked like solid plastic with grooves cut in it. He sat on Ned Griffin And The Maze Mutants, kicked his legs, and set his pointed green hat on the book next to him. His feet didn’t touch the tabletop. Kevin’s chest froze. He couldn’t breathe.
“Kevin, we got a job for you,” the little man said. His voice was squeaky but loud.
Kevin groaned and pressed against the wall.
“Oh, brother.” The little man pushed off Maze Mutants and walked to a used-up piece of gum wrapped in its foil. He picked it up with both hands, lifted it overhead, and threw it at Kevin. “Cut it out. This is what it’s like now. You got stuff you need to do for us.”
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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories