I watched in horror as Owd Hob lowered a single finger down, and touched my uncle on the forehead. My uncle’s eyes lolled back in his head, and he collapsed in a heap on the ground. Behind them both, on the porch, my mother fainted, and fell as well. Owd Hob bent down, and prodded my uncle with a finger.
As I watched, I knew that Owd Hob would not stop, and intended on doing something awful to my uncle and mother, probably would eat them too. I wondered where on earth Ms. Cleary was, and why she wasn’t already there, and helping to keep them safe.
My uncle’s eyes flickered open, and he tried to scramble back when he saw the monster in front of him. He didn’t get the chance. Owd Hob took one long-nailed finger, and stabbed him through the heart.
Blood spurted out from my uncle’s chest, and he grimaced, and squirmed on the ground. Owd Hob took his finger out, and chuckled, lifting his hand to lick the blood off. He was kneeling down, and his other hand crept toward my uncle, spider-like, on the ground. My Uncle Martin was clutching his chest, trying to keep the blood in, and backing away as well as he could, scooting himself across the grass. Owd Hob was playing with him, enjoying the frightful look in his eyes, and chuckling to himself the whole time.
I knew that I could not just sit there and watch. Owd Hob would only kill my uncle, and then turn to my mother and kill her too. Then he would find me, and kill me as well, and probably Ms. Cleary too. There was little that I could do to help, and I was not sure that I could get there in time to save my uncle, even if I could. But I did know that I at least had to try. If I didn’t, I was for sure going to die, or lose my only family, or both.
I set the mirror down, and laid back on the cool, soft grass, and closed my eyes. I found the little fire in me, the essence of me that was entirely separate from my physical body. I plunged myself into it, and felt my body stiffening, and fading to the edges of my consciousness. It was even easier to grasp this time, for I knew that I had to act, and act quickly, if I wanted to have any chance at all of saving anybody.
I lost all sense of my body, lying there on the grass, and willed myself to rise above the ground. When I opened my eyes again, I was floating there, above my body, an ethereal being in space. Light streamed from my fingers, and spilled out around me.
Wasting no time at all, I immediately rose above the treetops, and flew towards my home. The sky above me was dark. A summer storm was coming on, and lightning flashed in the distance; a spark that lit up the sky for a single instant, and then plunged it back into gray and darkness once again. I kept going, moving as fast as I could, and hoping against hope that Ms. Cleary would get there before I did.
I flew past the graveyard and over the fields, past the hill, and over the fence I had once had to climb up and over, with a lame hand. I saw my house just a couple hundred yards ahead, but no silver Buick, and no Ms. Cleary. What could be taking her so long?
Then I arrived, a hundred feet above my house. My uncle was there, still trying to gain distance between himself and Owd Hob, who followed him with two walking fingers, and giggled to himself. There was no one else who could do anything, except me. I allowed myself a moment to gather my courage, and then flew down, over the ring of salt, to my uncle, and Owd Hob.
I put myself between the my uncle and Owd Hob. It was fairly obvious that my uncle could not see me; he made no indication that a flying boy made up of light had just landed in front of him, seemingly out of nowhere. His eyes were still fixed on Owd Hob, and they were wide and staring, and filled with fear.
Owd Hob could see me though, and he stopped walking his fingers toward my uncle, and blinked at me, surprised. I tried my best to strike a heroic pose, hands on my hips, and legs spread apart, as much like Superman as I could appear. Which wasn’t much at all, really. I imagine I only looked like exactly what I was: a little kid, trying to seem brave, when in reality he was so incredibly close to wetting himself, that if he was still in his body, he would have done so already.
It was as if Owd Hob could sense this, sense all of my false bravado, and saw right through me, with his piercing yellow eyes, and knew all of my fear. He paused, staring at me like this for several seconds, so long that I actually thought that he was a bit hesitant. Then he let out a great guffaw of laughter.
“Hee hee, hoo, hah!” He giggled and crooned, clutching his hairy stomach. “Ah foolish boy, foolish boy. Did you have a plan to stop me, or is this as far as your little mind could think ahead?”
I blanked, didn’t know what to say. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought it through at all, had only known that I had to try and help, in any way that I could. I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to stop this giant monster, when I couldn’t even stop the boggart from coming in, and making my world a living misery. At the very least all I could hope to do was buy some time for Ms. Cleary to get there.
Owd Hob leaned way down, until he was laying flat on his stomach, with his head propped up on his elbows. “Do you know what I’m going to do?” he asked.
Speechless, powerless, all I could think to do was shake my head at him, dumbly.
“I’m going to pick you up, put you in my mouth, and swallow you whole, until you’re nothing but memory and shadow. You won’t die, no. You’ll still be alive, a part of you, at least, but you’ll also become a part of me, and everything else I am.” He smiled wolfishly, sticking his head out, so close to me now. “He’s in there too, you know. The one I just took. And I’ll let him out a bit, so that he can play with you, and have his fun. And when I take the rest of the ones you love and care for, they’ll all be there, and nothing will have changed.”
I was paralyzed with fear. Things had all seemed like they would work out just a few hours ago, and now everything was wrong. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. If I had only listened to Ms. Cleary, done what she said, and stayed behind, I would be safe. But no, I had to go and play the hero, trying to act like the ones I had read about and played in games. But I knew then that real heroes didn’t exist, not really. There was only the strong and the weak, and everyone everywhere only strove to protect and care for themselves.
There was still time, I thought. I could try and get away then, and fly so fast back to my body and then run, and keep on running, until I left everything I knew behind: my uncle, my mother, this home, everything.
I almost left then. Almost obeyed that sudden, fearful impulse. But I looked into Owd Hob’s eyes, just before, and knew that it would be useless. His eyes were glued to me, and the fingers of his hand inching closer, twitching in anticipation. He would catch me as soon as I tried to leave. My fate would be the same, whether or not I tried to play the hero. And as soon as I realized that, I decided that I would rather go out, swinging and defiant; would rather my last act in this world be one of bravery, that emulated the heroes I loved, rather than one of cowards and children.
So I raised my fists, and stepped forward, and glared at Owd Hob with all the hatred and courage I could muster. I thought of what Spider-man would say to one of his enemies, when he was afraid.
“Come on, fuzz-face,” I said. “The worst you can do is give me fleas.” My voice wavered at first, but grew stronger as I spoke. Owd Hob wasn’t anything really, but a big hairy dog, trying to be the alpha. There wasn’t anything to be afraid of.
Owd Hob blinked, and recoiled, shaking his head in confusion. I doubt that anyone had ever spoken to him in such a way. Without waiting for a better chance, I launched myself into the air at him, aiming to punch him straight in the jaw.
Then I was plucked out of the air, and he was holding me in between his long, hairy fingers. I wiggled and thrashed, trying to free myself, but it was no use.
“Quite spunky for such a little guy,” he said, and opened his mouth wide.
The last thing I saw, as he shoved me into his gullet, was a blackness darker than space, and a chilling cold that seized me with icy claws, and dragged me down.