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Barry strode purposelessly down the empty, dark, brick walkway. It was yet another sleepless night, and he decided to actually do something this night, and visit his local park. He knew that it wasn’t the best of ideas, there was much crime occurring late night in the park, but it was much better than letting his thoughts be his entertainment. Barry worked a desk job at the local police station; had worked there for nearly twenty years. In his time working there he had seen some very gruesome and terrible things…men who brutally mutilated each other with chainsaws, women serial killers who would carve symbols and initials on the bodies of their victims, and even a sociopath who would murder a priest every Sunday at seven o’ clock in the evening. He had always had a strong stomach for such things, but in the past three months, strangely enough there had been a deficit of crime, the visceral kind in particular, he had not slept. It wasn’t that his mind plagued him with restless thoughts, at least not at first; he had simply not been able to fall asleep. After a week, fatigue set in, and he was excused from work because of an accident. He went to see his doctor, who had been his doctor for many years. The old friend of his prescribed him some sleeping medication, which didn’t work. The clerk tried everything to get himself to sleep; pills, alcohol, hypnotism, physical exercise, nothing worked. The fatigue grew worse, and as it worsened, his mind began to betray him. It began simply as odd thoughts that had never occurred to him before.
Every Wednesday he would walk three blocks south to the corner grocery store to buy groceries. His next door neighbor had a lovely young daughter who was of age eighteen. The two had known each other, but only because of their close living proximity. One Wednesday when he made his trip to the grocery store, he saw her in her front lawn, lying in a hammock reading a book. As soon as he saw her, his brain went into a whir of lustful thoughts and desire for her. His mind would speak to him, in a voice he didn’t recognize, and tell him to do things to her that he never believed physically possible. The thoughts astounded and embarrassed him. He sped up his pace and pretended to study something that interested him across the street. Other thoughts began to trouble him as time went on. Sudden violent, malicious thoughts and outbursts would explode in his conscious over small inconveniences like a dropped coin or new person at the checkout counter. Barry would sit in his house and try to fall asleep at any time of the day he wasn’t occupying himself, and when he failed depressions stronger than any he ever felt before would suffocate him. He knew that he was losing his mind, and he felt helpless. He feared for his safety and the safety of those around him. Thus, he adopted a nightly lifestyle. Now, the troubled man walked easily down the park walkway, alone, just how he wanted it. He was away from any influence to his mind, and was glad to have it that way. The night was cool. When he blew a stiff breath he could just make out the beginnings of a breath cloud. His black leather bomber jacket kept him warm
though, and he needed no hat for his thick black hair had been growing thicker lately rather than longer. Barry looked lackadaisically at his surroundings, studying the trees, the bricks, the occasional park bench. Suddenly a man appeared under a light post. He wore a green long sleeve shirt, which was too long in the waist for him, trailing down to nearly the knees of his blue jeans. His long, messy blonde hair corresponded well to the forcefully pushed up sleeves. When Barry drew near, the man looked up at him, eyes wide, smiling madly. The pit of Barry’s stomach twisted. “Hey sir, are you alright?” Barry began, the man’s hunch made it look as if he were injured. The man grinned. “Me? Oh I’m fine, but I’d worry about you if I were you,” the man squeaked. Barry felt uncomfortable. “Y-yes, there i-is a lot of crime reported around here this time of the night-” The man cackled. “Oh, but that is the problem.” Barry drew himself back a few steps and held his hands up by his elbows, holding himself slightly. The man stepped toward him, looking up at him with maddening interest. “What’s the matter? Afraid of being alone?” He threw his head back and laughed loudly. “You’ll wish you were.” The strange man immediately drew away from Barry and walked off into the darkness where Barry had just come; still hunched over, his arms not moving as he walked. Deeply disturbed, Barry moved on. What disturbed Barry the most was that even though he had never met the man before, he felt as if he had known him.
Knowing that following that odd man back the way he came may tempt him to attack Barry, the clerk maintained a brisk pace on the walkway. As he marched on through the intermittent darkness, the silence began to wane, sobbing, substituting itself in its stead. Under the light of a park lantern, a man sat on a bench, his head buried in his hands, crying furiously. His sobs were heavy and soaked; the very edge of his light blonde hair was darkened with moisture; so absorbed was he in his lamentation that as Barry walked by, the man made no recognition of his presence. Barry looked on forlornly, feeling deep sympathy for the man, but knowing that ultimately he could do nothing to help him. He wished to reach out, and touch him, reassure him, letting him know that he felt the same sometimes, but Barry’s instinct advised otherwise. The man could be suicidal…or homicidal. Barry just kept walking. His pace slackened by melancholy, Barry pressed on in his journey. The silence once again returned, and his routine of dark, pierced by light, cloaked in dark, bathed in light returned to him. The sense of the darkness, disturbed by the occasional park lantern helped to comfort Barry, like an old friend phoning him on a boring day to reminisce. Barry came to yet another occupied bench, only this time it was not a single person there to disturb his peace, but rather a couple. A man sat relaxed on the bench, a young girl sat in his lap. Her attire, bright and gay, contrasted the man’s own, which was worn, dark, and suggested a rough lifestyle. She sat, facing him, her legs wrapped around his body, her feet sticking out through the
back gap of the bench. They were kissing deeply. Such deep kissing would normally make noise, but it was completely silent. Now and then the girl would moan softly. As Barry drew close to them, the man opened his eyes and watched him pass, but otherwise made no movement aside from his hands stroking the girl’s back. The man’s stare made his intentions clear. Whether the girl knew how intensely this man was to fulfill his intentions was unclear to Barry. The contempt in the man’s eyes scorched Barry; he knew that he had infuriated him by walking past the couple, delaying their activity by painful seconds. Barry snapped his attention forward and shrugged his shoulders to hide his face. He felt ashamed that at one point in his life he thought on the same level as this man. Head aching, and heart weary, Barry wished to bring his excursion to a swift conclusion. He walked on, through the darkness and the light. He knew the exit was close, he recognized the sudden bend to the right in the pathway. At the inside of the walkway’s curve, sat a man, hunched over on a bench. His elbows were on his knees, and his jet black hair hung in scraggly curtains around his head. This man frightened him, although his appearance was standard of any streetwalking citizen, his gaze terrified the clerk. The man’s head was not lifted to Barry, and the clerk could not see the man’s eyes through his hair, but he felt the intensity of his stare. His stare carried malice greater than any Barry had ever experienced. Not knowing why, his common sense, his instinct, his free will all screaming against it, Barry stopped before the man.
The man was still. So still it seemed as if he weren’t even breathing. “The exit is just around the corner,” the man’s voice was deep and shook Barry at his core like a skyscraper during an earthquake. “But you knew that, didn’t you?” The man lifted his head to look Barry in the eye. As his hair parted before his face like the slow curtain at the beginning of a play, Barry’s soul grew cold. The man’s eyes were light blue to the point of being nearly white. After a moment or two of a staring contest, the man shifted forward to lift himself from the bench. Barry shook, his breathing now erratic to the point of death rattling. The beast that stood before him looked Barry in the eye with enough contempt to burn all but the strongest of souls. “You’re not going to reach the exit Barry.” “How do you know…” Barry began but stopped when the man grabbed his throat. The motion was so quick that there was not point between the man’s hand hanging at his side and gripping Barry’s throat. The force on his windpipe was terrible, as much as he gasped only tiny wisps of oxygen reached Barry’s lungs. “How could I not know.” Though the man’s sentence had the structure of a question, his tone gave no indication of a question. His was a statement of fact. Suddenly emerging from the darkness were the other mysterious strangers that Barry had met that night. The mentally unstable man, the depressed man, and the man who had been with the young woman, they all came out of the darkness from all directions. They all looked at Barry, their faces
trademark to their personalities. There gazes concentrated on Barry, never moving from Barry’s face. Barry’s fear transmuted into sheer terror, when the three other strangers seemingly melded into the form of his aggressor. His body began to shape, and change. His face contorting and his clothing changed, until.... Barry dropped to one knee, dumbfounded and terror stricken as he gaped at himself. Grinning, the other Barry closed his free hand into a fist and raised it into the air. “Good bye, Barry.” Barry was found dead the next morning by a pair of joggers on the walkway in the park, twenty feet from the nearest exits. Autopsies were inconclusive.
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