Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Doctor Foster"

The man runs in the rain, hoping against hope that he can make it home without getting soaking wet. But no: the torrent of rain manages to drench him after only a minute. If he had a ride home, this wouldn't have happened, but he had never been able to make friends well and certainly not at the workplace.

The man stops at a red light and waits, wishing he had not forgotten his umbrella, when he hears the sound. It sounds like laughter. He turns, but there's nobody around, nobody near that could be laughing. The light turns green and he starts on his walk again.

At the next light, he hears a giggle. The hairs on the back of his neck rise. The light after that, he hears footsteps skipping behind him, but again there is nobody, just the rain. He starts ignoring the red lights, rushing past them in an attempt to get back to his apartment.

Finally, he reaches his building and punches in the code, opening the door. He fumbles with his keys, but manages to get into his apartment. But his apartment, which should be warm and toasty, is instead achingly cold. He hears another giggle and then a voice, soft, like wind through a broken bottle, starts to sing: "Doctor Foster went to Gloster, in a shower of rain. He stepped in a puddle, right up to his middle, and never came out again."

The man turns back to the door, but the doorknob is so cold it hurts to touch it. The man backs away from the door, then hears another laugh that makes his blood run cold. He turns and sees: there is a boy standing in the middle of the room. The boy looks no older than nine or ten, but when the man tries to focus on his face, it looks strange, distorted, like an overexposed image. "Doctor Foster went to Gloster to try and escape the rain." The boy smiled and his teeth looked like icicles.

The man can feel his heart beating in his chest, the beats slowing down. He can feel the cold climbing in his veins. The last thing he hears before the cold overtakes him is the boy singing, "He tried to be bold, but he caught a cold, and was never seen again."

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