Corey and his new family settled into the house. The first few weeks seemed a rollercoaster of emotions, as they sorted through the outbuildings. In one, he found his father’s old bike. Though rusted and with flat tyres, they restored it, so Corey had a means of transport. Even since he was old enough to work, he took whatever jobs he could find. The latest was an evening job in a burger joint. This, on top of Tom’s pension, kept the house running. Corey had been saving for years and most of his wages went into the bank. The savings book was under an insole in his runners, and it was this money he used to buy the things they needed. The electricity was back on, and he now had a power point for the second-hand computer he had managed to buy. Most of the homeless kept in contact this way, as the internet cafés gave them the much-needed shelter from the cold and provided them with a means of communications. Corey had hundreds of friends, and though the lives of most of those who lived rough could be transient, he managed to keep in touch with most of them. Life was good for him, though he was exhausted from the long bike ride to and from the town. The hours on his feet serving customers were hard, but he would not swap what he had for the world. Annie let him sleep in most days, as he sometimes did not get home until the early hours of the morning. Today was no exception and the house was quiet when he woke. The others were outside enjoying the good weather. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Corey swung his legs on to the floor. His night was restless and filled with the familiar dream about knights and castles. I am getting too old for fairy tales, he thought, as he walked down the corridor to the bathroom. This room was freezing, and goose pimples rose on his skin, as he turned on the hot tap. Calling it hot was a bit of an exaggeration. He was dozy from sleep, and he leant against the sink and watched as it began to fill. Lights danced on the water, bright gold, purple and red merged and started to take shape. He looked around him, wondering what caused such colours, but there was nothing in the stark, black, and white bathroom to account for it. Corey stared into the water and watched open-mouthed as a figure appeared. It was crazy, like watching TV under water. He leaned closer as the figure became clearer. It was a girl, red hair floated about a pale face and her huge eyes were filled with a silent pleading. Her lips moved and a word echoed from far away, “Culdoplin.”
Then she was gone, the colours faded, and the water lay still. Corey’s heart pounded so much it hurt. That was his word, the word whispered in his dreams. What did it mean? Too frightened to wash, he sprayed deodorant under his arms and ran from the room.
The alley smelt of stale beer, vomit, and rotten food. Corey wrinkled his nose in disgust, as he hauled two black sacks of rubbish over to the dumpsters. The bulb in the streetlamp beside the dumpsters had blown, so they were deep in shadow. A bottle clattered across the yard and the sound sent his heart racing. As he threw the bags in among the other rubbish, it came again.
“Is someone there?” He asked, imagining it to be some homeless person in search of food.
There was a dry, shuffling sound, as though something was unfolding itself after hours in one, prone position. It moved out of the shadows and started to walk towards him. Corey’s legs filled with lead and he could not get them to move. It kept advancing until the Thing was right in front of him. What he saw made his heart spasm. It towered above him, so he had to put his head back to look at it. Its face was ashen, its lips bloodless and drawn back over sharp vicious-looking teeth. The only colour, for want of a better word, was the blackness of the eyes. Like fathomless pools of darkness, they scanned his face, and he saw in them his own reflection. A hand reached out, more claw than hand, with long, pointed nails.
“You are the one,” it rasped, the sound tearing at the boy’s ears.
Oh god, Corey thought this is how I am going to die, alone in a filthy alley and murdered by some freak. As the claw moved closer, he closed his eyes. When nothing happened, he peeped under the lids to find the Thing was distracted by something. He heard the deep growl before he saw the beast. It was a huge, black dog, the size of a small cow and it was advancing on the Thing. Its red eyes blazed as the Thing covered its face with the sleeve of its black cloak. Corey did not wait to see anymore, but turned and ran back into the burger bar, slamming and bolting the door behind him.