Who was going to save Samuel Lee?
That was where he was in the current story.
Things had grown so strange, he honestly didn’t know if he could take it anymore. The stack of library books piled on the floor wasn’t helping. Neither was his favorite playlist.
All he could do was return to the story inside his head. The one he’d been making up since he was seven and a half and the strange man had moved in next door. Samuel was ten now.
The man seriously creeped Samuel out. Samuel started crossing the street rather than cross in front of the cottage next door, certain the man would leap out and snatch him away one day.
“Just don’t pay attention to him, Samuel,” his mother said. “He’s just a sad, angry man, and it has nothing to do with you.”
She didn’t know. The library books taught Samuel that parents were often oblivious to what was truly going on. Adults tended to see what was on the surface and miss the sideways places.
The sideways places were the most important things, Samuel knew.
They glimmered and beckoned and called. Things entered and did not return. Other things emerged.
Like the man.
The rain fell in steady, drenching sheets, the way it had been for twenty-five days, nonstop. It grew a little lighter at times and whipped up wind and trees in the middle of the night, but mostly, it was the same, straight down, a monochrome fall of wet.
Samuel didn’t mind, except it made it harder to keep his books dry. And it obscured his view of the sideways places. He figured he should feel relieved by that, but he knew that not being able to see or hear whatever was there was worse than seeing and hearing. He could still feel something. He just had no idea what was there.
The man next door really had stepped out of the sideways places one day. That was the thing his mother didn’t understand.
“Oh, he just moved his things in when we were gone that Saturday. Don’t you remember? We went to see Spiderman, and out for ice cream after.”
But Samuel had seen him. He had seen him slide through the shimmering air in his hunched black coat and slope-crowned, broad-brimmed black hat, with his skin as white as moonlight on birch bark, and his chin and cheekbones sharp as knives. The man didn’t have much nose to speak of, and it was hard to see his eyes.
Samuel felt the man stare at him that day. It was the last sunny day before the rains hunkered down in earnest that year. The last day of autumn before the winter came.
The man paused, the top of his face shaded into darkness by the hat, white lower half of his face gleaming, and looked—Samuel was sure of it!—straight into Samuel’s eyes. Then the man scuttled around the back side of the house next door.
There was no moving truck. No car full of boxes. Just a man who stepped out from a narrow slit in the shadows, into the sun. [Read more…] about The Stars of Neverwhere: Free Fiction