BLACK EYED CHILDREN
Fiction by M Teresa Clayton
I had never heard of them. Black eyed children. I certainly had never met one. Well, until that night; that unforgettable and terrifying night that still haunts my dreams, both night and day.
Yes, I had a few drinks. Yes, it was after the bar closed and the streets had become eerily abandoned and quiet.
I knew I had to shut my eyes and sleep some of it off before heading home. An encounter with a police officer while under the "influence" was the thing I feared most.
At that time.
I rolled down the window to let the cool evening air in, hoping it would help sober me up faster. I moved my seat back away from the steering wheel and leaned it back for a bit of comfort. I could still see reflections in the rear-view mirror should an officer of the law, or someone looking to steel the tires out from under me, approach without any warning.
I crossed my arms over my chest and let my head roll back. I shut my eyes and could hear a faint snore bubbling to the surface as I blissfully dozed off.
I awoke with a jerk and looked immediately into the rear-view mirror that reflected nothing more than an empty street and one lone street lamp about a half a block away. I had a sense of intense discomfort; as if all my senses were awakened and ready for fight or flight. Yet, as I sat up and looked around, I could not see anything threatening anywhere in my immediate proximity.
The hair on the back of my neck was standing on end. I had goose-bumps crawling up my arms. My heart was racing and sweat was soaking my shirt.
I straightened up the back of my seat and pulled the seat forward toward the steering wheel. Something was definitely amiss and all my instincts were on high alert, though still slightly intoxicated.
I had to ask myself if I was dreaming or sensing something that was alcohol induced. I shook the sleep off and still the goose-flesh and hair standing on end sensation continued. What could this mean? I had a bad feeling.
I dug in the pocket of my pants for the keys and dropped them onto the floorboard near my feet. Damn, I thought to myself. I quickly and nervously began my search. The street lamp gave no assistance there in the front seat of my car where the shadows obscured any hint of light.
I looked down between my legs and there on the floor I caught the glint of reflective light on a key. I set my seat back again so I could reach them and quickly snatched them up. I rushed to find the right key and, once found, began the struggle of getting it into the ignition. I had to bend forward to get a look at the slot before I could actually get the damned thing in.
Swish. There!, I thought to myself. I heard something outside of the car, behind me, down by the street lamp. I heard a swishing sound as if someone were dragging something with each step. Swish. Silence. Swish.
I looked in the mirror on the windshield and didn't see any movement from behind the car. Again, I checked the rear view mirror on my side of the car... nothing. I looked at the passenger's door mirror... nothing... and then, wait! I thought to myself. Did I see something small standing beneath that tree just to the right of the street lamp? I couldn't be sure. The light was dancing through the leaves of the tree. There were shadows of varying degrees beneath its dense canopy. I wasn't sure. Maybe it was a large dog...
There! There it is again! What the hell is that? I thought, I had to be imagining this.
Coming out of the shadows were three children. They took a few steps forward and stood under the light which somehow was projecting an odd greenish glow. I could actually see the shape the light made as it descended to the ground below, a triangular shape, or was it more like a cone.
They moved! Not like you would think a child moves; one foot in front of the other. No. They were standing together under the light and then, as if I looked away too long and then looked back, they were standing about two feet from where they were previously. I hadn't taken my eyes off of them that long. I did not see them step forward. The alcohol had definitely affected my vision, or so I thought.
Again! Closer. And, without taking a step. I saw no child, not any of the three, raise a foot and take a step forward. I rubbed my eyes hard and looked out the front window of the car to focus on something of equal distance to see if my sight was indeed impaired. I could clearly make out everything on the street in front of me and I watched as leaves rolled off the curb and made their way to the other side. There was no gap in perception.
Then, what is this? They were getting closer and I could make out their faces. One little boy in a nice shirt and pants and two little girls in dresses and black shoes that shone from the light that was bending to follow them like a spotlight.
I heard a buzz and the lamp flickered on and off for a moment and then stopped and continued to light the three children. I couldn't make any sense of this at all. If this were the alcohol playing with my eyesight and my mind, then I surely did not want to risk being pulled over and subjected to a sobriety test. I also did not want to stick around there.
Again, they jumped forward with no movement that suggested they were walking. They seemed frozen yet they moved. Their faces didn't change either. They were fixed in a look of absence. They appeared mechanical in a way; emotionless, vacant, stunned.
I turned the key in the ignition. There was no sound. Dead. The battery was dead. Did I leave a light on or the radio playing as I drifted off? No, I didn't think I had. As a matter of fact, I know I didn't because I had to dig the keys out of my pocket when I first awoke.
"Sir, do you have any food? We are hungry." It was that boy speaking and he was standing parallel to the car about two feet away from my door. The two girls just looked off into the void that seemed to have them hypnotized or possessed.
These kids couldn't have been older than eleven or twelve. They were clean and well dressed; polished. The boy appeared to be looking past me yet he was addressing me. Food? What time is it? Who were these kids and why were they roaming the street at this time of night?
Again, "Sir, do you have any food? We are hungry."
I couldn't speak. I looked at his face and noticed his eyes were off. They were different. They were black, totally black. None of the white area around the pupil showed. Actually, nothing showed. I'm pretty certain that there were no eyes where eyes should have been. But, there was something in those orbs where eyes would normally sit and they were black as tar.
The two girls moved forward and now I knew they were moving as if on conveyor belts; not one foot was lifted. I tried the key again and the car choked and sputtered.
"We are hungry." They all said in unison. "We are hungry." Their voices monotone and repeating as they swished closer each time.
I reached down with my left hand and rolled the window up quickly, my hand slipping off the knob with every rotation.
"We are hungry."
Don't talk to them, I was thinking to myself, don't look at them and don't talk to them.
The face of the boy was inches away from the glass and staring directly through me. The horn! I thought. I pressed as hard as I could on the horn and the car registered a loud long blaring honk that would have woke the dead.
The dead. That is what they are. They were dead children come to claim me. I did not release the pressure on the horn, closing my eyes and praying someone would hear and come to my assistance.
No. I won't look at them, I won't!
Tap, tap, tap. I heard the knocking on the window. Don't look! Tap, tap. "Sir, please roll down your window and place your hands on the dash where I can see them." It was a man's voice, a deep authoritative voice.
I opened my eyes and shifted them to my left. Standing there in my peripheral line of sight was an officer; a police officer.
I rolled my window down and put my hands on the dash as ordered.
"License and registration, please."
I opened the glove compartment and took out the requested documents, handing them to the officer.
"Have you been drinking tonight?"
I couldn't speak. I didn't know what to say.
The officer spoke again, "Joe, have you been drinking again?"
I looked up into the officer's face and recognized Officer Williams, who seemed to always catch me behind the wheel in such a state.
I told him that I had been drinking but I had decided to take a nap and sleep it off. I had not driven anywhere under the influence.
"Your keys are in the ignition, Joe." he observed out loud.
"Yes, but... I haven't driven anywhere, I swear. The car won't even start. I'll show you." I turned the key and the car hummed into action without incident.
"Turn the car off, Joe, and step out of the vehicle. We are going to take a ride. You know the routine."
I turned the key off and stepped out. I was promptly read my rights and hand-cuffed. Another D.U.I.
"Willie (a name more familiar that was used between us), I can explain."
"Okay, we'll talk on the way down to the station."
"I woke up and saw three kids..." I stopped right there. Where were the kids? What happened to those three kids with the black eyes?
Once we were at the station, I gave my statement and realized how crazy the story sounded. I thought that, perhaps, I should have just remained silent. This was not helping me out at all.
I was placed in the holding cell with another man in the same condition, including a look of complete disbelief. He watched for the officer to walk far enough away so he wouldn't hear us speaking.
"I saw them too." He said.
"You did? What the fuck where they?" I asked.
"Listen to me," He said, "If you ever come across those kids again, get the hell away from them as fast as you can and whatever you do, don't speak to them or let them touch you. You hear?"
"A good buddy of mine saw them same kids over a month ago and not just once either. He saw them a couple of times. They would ask for food or money or a ride somewhere." He said. "Funny thing is, my buddy went missing shortly after that and no one has heard hide nor hair from him. Just gone. I think them kids had somethin' to do with it."
I didn't say another word about it to anyone until now. I heard that another man had gone missing and I had to come in and tell you what we saw. He said his friend had seen them and gone missing and now he is gone. Something is wrong here and it has something to do with those three kids.
Officer Williams looked at me like I was crazy. "So you think a couple of black eyed kids kidnapped both these guys?"
"I'm telling you I don't know what the hell happened. But this is what I saw and experienced that night and now there are two men from town missing and one of those men told me he knew about those kids."
"Okay, Joe. I have your statement, you can go and if we need any more information, I'll contact you."
I hesitated a moment. I wanted to make him see that this was not a joke or some hallucination. I got up to go but before I walked away, something compelled me to look back at Officer Williams one more time.
He looked up at me and, I swear, for a second there, I didn't see his eyes. Where were his eyes? All I could see was black. He blinked and there they were, blue as a summer sky.
I said nothing and walked home... 'haven't touched a drop of liquor since and I don't go out at night. Never saw those kids again.
And, as for those two men who were missing? Never found.
-M Teresa Clayton