Fear Me Not
It's Halloween time. Harold Grayson's last shift was coming to an end. He worked as a security guard for many years than he could remember. Sure, he can remember this and that. But he had some recollections dealing with masked outsiders in the past. They tried to trespass the hospital several times. God knows why would they do such a thing like that. Probably to scare the patients off.
Harold is 65 years old, and this age, he certainly has the balls to end his frustrating career. It had been frustrating enough last week, when some madman, raving about some shadowy thing with the red eyes, attacked several nurses, and doctors, who even tried to help him. He had been restrained since then. But Harold knew better to handle these guys. Oh yes, he dealt with them all right, and he was very tired.
It wouldn't do any good for the old man like Harold Grayson, just to sit here and wait for his shift to end. Besides, he was waiting for his retirement. He was lonely, and wanted to get laid. It's been what? 20 years since his wife, Susie died of lung cancer? Yeah, he remembered that one all right. He sure did.
He came to the guest area, where all the guests had been waiting for their sick or injured, loved ones. He thought he could sit right here, enjoy the silent company of ghosts long past. He remembered that he had waited on this very spot to see his wife. Yes, it was that bad. But he couldn't help it. His mind kept wandering around in circles, and wanted them to stop. But he couldn't.
Life's not fair. Grey wrinkles and old skin. That's what it counts. And he still hadn't got laid. Oh well, that's life. Harold just have to deal with it. He took his cap off, and slowly rubbed his bald head. He was sort of sweating. He looked around to see the hallway. It was too darn quiet. A man like Harold wished had some real company here. Of course, there were two other security guards working around the clock. But they had been outside, taking a break, and smoking off. Come to think of it, Harold had been smoking since Susie died.
He figured that this would be the right time to smoke his last joint. Yeah, he wanted to quit a long time ago. But the urge to smoke was still there. Susie warned him not to smoke, otherwise he would end up like her. Harold never wanted that. Oh no. There is still life ahead of him. Even if he had kids, he would still have to stop smoking.
But he smoked, no matter what. Drag in, drag out. Calm and patience. That's what he said to his therapist one day after quitting the sessions. He never went back because he knew that his therapist once said, "Harold, I think you're killing yourself." Then Harold said, "How am I killing myself?" The therapist said, "Well...a lot of people are smoking these days, and they're killing themselves. They just don't know it."
Sure, Harold knew it. Even Susie knew that someday, she might get lung cancer too. It came true, all right. She was on her deathbed, and again, she warned Harold not to smoke. But he smoked anyway, just to ease his stress.
He took out his last cigarette and smoked. Drag in, drag out. Yeah, that's the spirit. And now it's time to break the habit. Harold threw his last cigarette in the trash bin. Then, he picked up a National Geographic magazine.
He skimmed through the pages. He noticed an article about naturism, when suddenly the lights dimmed, and then came back. It looks like the power was going off in any second now. Then again, who knows? These days the power goes off and comes back on. It didn't matter. He continued reading the article. He thought he could go to that nude resort that he always wanted to. But Susie never liked the idea.
He stopped reading the article. He heard something. But it wasn't likely the sound of footsteps coming in this direction. Or was it? If it were a sound, then he would know that some masked intruder would scare the living daylights out of the patients. Or it could be those security guards coming back from their breaks. Or it could be those nurses taking care of the patients. Or...
But it wasn't any of them. Instead, it was a shadowy figure twisting, and turning around the hallway. Harold stared at it. He couldn't make it out the details. A chill came right to his spine. He froze.
The black thing came slowly to him, again twisting and turning like a strip dancer. It stopped. The red eyes appeared.
Jesus Christ. What...What... Harold stammered hysterically. He couldn't get the hold of himself. Ever since the Vietnam War, he was never afraid of the Vietnamese soldiers back then. But this... this was different.
"Fear me not, Harold Grayson," the black thing said.
It knew his name. Stunned, Harold wanted to get up, but he still froze. He started to shake rapidly. "What...What are you?"
The thing looked at the old man for a moment, then said, "It doesn't matter. I'm just passing through."
Harold was about to take the gun from the holster, but his hands were still shaking. This time, he wanted to smoke badly. Dear God, he just quit smoking a couple minutes ago, and now he wanted to continue his bad habit!
The thing looked at the weapon that Harold was about to take. It said, "It won't do any good. Even if you tried, I would still be here."
"What... What do you want?” Again, Harold stammered. He felt like the world is about to crush his shoulders. He wanted to get out of here.
"I want you to fear me not," the thing said. "There were others who were afraid of me, even the strong ones like you, Harold Grayson. The fear is stronger from my appearance. If you beat this fear, I shall be gone forever.
What was the thing talking about? Gone forever? To where? Harold wanted to ask these questions, but he was too afraid. He wanted to smoke.
"Please... Please leave me alone... Just..."
"I'll leave you, Harold Grayson," the thing said. "But the fear is too great for you. If you can fight it, I'll be gone forever. Otherwise, I'll still be here."
The thing left the old man, twisting and turning, and then disappeared into thin air. Harold got up.
I want to smoke. I must have a cigarette. I... He looked around the hallway. He looked through the patient rooms. Then the front desk. He even checked his pockets to see if he had any extra pack left behind. None. He just remembered that was the last pack he smoked. One cigarette that recently got thrown in the trash bin.
Sweat dripped from his forehead. He was shaking badly, so badly that he couldn't control himself. He ran and screamed.
“I want to smoke! I want to smoke! I want to...” He stopped. A nurse just came out of the patient room, startled by his raving madness. He took out his gun.
The police were baffled about the crime scene. The lunatic, who was once Harold Grayson shot the nurse, and then shot himself. Right through the mouth.
A detective shook his head. He knew the old man before. He was the person, who helped Harold get the security job in the first place. What a world we live in, the detective thought, and sighed. He covered his dear friend's face with the white blanket.
"You can take him now." The paramedics took the old man away. The detective sat on the bench, drawing out his cigarette. Drag in, drag out. He stared at it for a while, and thought, I think I should quit. He threw the cigarette away in the trash bin. He got up, and saw something coming towards his direction.
It was twisting and turning...
Next story- Let It Rot