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CURVED: Paper Boy

Alexander Field, Curved

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There’s an estranged local boy in my town, and today I to followed him. James is his name. His mind flutters with pain. Day-to-day he dances to match the sparks and flashes within his eyes. The public knew little of what James did besides delivering the local paper every other morning – spinning and singing his way down black after block until about noon. His songs were scat; yelling ‘boop-bop-do-wop’ in a different order verse after verse. What they didn’t see was when James escaped into the woods. I think I’m the only one who’s seen him go in, and I need to find out why.

 

Wednesday:

I skipped school like the ‘good daughter’ I am, playing sick until mom and dad went to work. James passed my house about 11:30. He is quick – papers hitting front doors second after second, each toss to the beat of his tune, “What a strange man,” I thought. Seeing him closer for the first time, I realized he was older than I, but not an adult yet. He must live with parents somewhere, but my friend’s dad only mentioned James. I tucked behind fences and the corners of houses, stalking this creature until the end of my street where the woods began. We’re a comfortably suburban area, so no one really goes into the forest.

Before entering, James made one last spin, forcing me into quick cover behind a garbage can.

“Boop-bobbity-wop-wop-whoop…. wop!” He sneezed, turned, and hopped into the woods.

“He’s so odd.” I sighed, and followed him in. Almost immediately, the air thickened. “I can see why no one goes in here.” The air began to stink like rotten onions, and felt like slime in my lungs. What a horrible place for such a giddy man! Somehow James seemed less strange than it.

I trudged on with one hand over my mouth and the other carrying the skirt of my dress above the dirt. I could only catch glimpses of James between trees and brush. Each instance he danced less and moved faster. I picked up more and more speed, grabbing at my dress with both hands, freeing my knees to run. My stride was great, though James still gained, and I was panting – choking, really – pumping that gross, sticky air into me. Branches swept my face as I darted through thickening foliage, scratching against my cheeks. I’m not the prettiest girl in class, anyways, and I can’t lose James.

His speed was unreal. I began to think I had completely lost him, but kept running, and much to my success when the tress parted. I stopped just inside this clearing, where James stood before a thick fog collected like a blanket over furniture in an abandoned home.

“What are you doing out here,” I whispered to myself. Apparently, not quietly enough because the young man snapped his ear towards me and I fell back into the brush. The ground was even stickier than the air. Thick, clear slime collected in puddles. It was all over my shoes and my dress from the chase.

“Okay, now my parents are gonna kill me!”

Captivated by the mess I had become, I nearly forgot about James. He moved further into the fog, but from my low angle I could still see him – see him enough to watch his head fall off! It jumped right off of his shoulders, and disappeared into the fog. THEN his body fell off his legs! If my parents heard what I said when I saw that, they’d forget about my ruined dress and kill me twice over! So, I sat, staring at a pair of legs until they walked one-at-a-time into the fog.

“What now? …well, Mary, you’ve come this far.”

I unglued myself from the forest floor and cautiously entered the fog, wearing enough sticks and leaves to cover the tears in my dress. I ripped off a swinging piece of my dress to cover my mouth, because the air went from bad to worse – stinging my nose so much my eyes would tear up without it.

The fog was certainly a blanket, for what I discovered I should have never found, and what James told me, I was better not knowing. Within that nasty cloud was a round, silver house on three legs with a door that opened on the bottom. I kid you not, James lived in a metal house! Though, it was not just James inside. I met five different James that day. One looked just like him, but had tiny arms and legs on a body only the size of his head. Another was more… square… with normal James arms that dragged over his little legs, and a face which barely rose above its shoulders. The other two were twins – thin with long legs and otherwise, more normal proportions.

Those four opened the door when I approached, and surrounded me. I leaped and squealed, and they did the same, running to the safety of their door. Again, I fell onto the gross earth, adding a new layer of slime to my clothing. The square James used his tiny arms to beckon me towards the door, and I giggled, because they were as scared as I was, and well, they were kind of cute. I accepted his invitation. The other James’ scurried into the metal box, and square James followed behind me.

What I stepped into was a computer laboratory of some sort. Panels with flashing lights and switches and dials ran the walls and covered a table against the window. One of the James twins pulled a lever and the door closed. Quickly, the air sweetened, and I felt much more at ease. The James with the big head rummaged through a cupboard as big as he was, throwing a mess of junk across the floor. Square James ran over just in time to get knocked over by a piece of metal, and I let out a giggle.

“You guys are James?”

The four gathered in front of me and began singing like the strange paper boy, “boo-wop-bop-bop-do-dop-doobity-schwop-bop-boo-dop!”

Continuing the awful song (my father listens to blues and jazz), square James climbed atop the James twins, and the James with the big head climbed to the top, and suddenly I was looking up at James himself! He continued singing as he handed me the piece that hit square James, which turned out to be the handlebars from my bike.

“Gee, I would’ve appreciated this when I was following you!”

I squeezed the horn on it, and the honk knocked James into discord, and they all toppled on top of each other, squirming and squeaking. Head James hopped onto the table and ripped the horn off the handle bars. He began chasing the others around the room, honking it, and laughing as they fell over and over. I toppled over in laughter. It was like watching toddlers fight over a new toy!

A much louder horn broke our enjoyment. With it, a red light flashed from the ceiling, and a blue button rose out of the table of switches under the window. It was a very enticing button, glowing with electricity. Square James climbed up my back and peered over my shoulder. I looked at him, and he stared down at the button, so… I pressed it!

As soon as I did, the Earth shook, and all of the lights went out.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!”

The James’ ran circles around the room, hitting switches and lights, turning them on one-by-one and the room shook harder. I curled onto the floor, staring into the dim fog past the window. I felt heavier, and the fog began thinning. The sky cut through it, shining bright and blue over the forest.

“Over the forest?!”

The James’ hopped onto the table and gazed out the window with as much amazement as me. We rose higher and higher over the woods, my town, the neighboring city, and…..

 

“EARTH?!”

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CURVED: Paper Boy