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A peculiar old man sat on a creaky, wooden bench in the middle of Neckter Park, letting the cloudy day soak into his soul. Cool wind brushed across his dry, wrinkled face, and he imagined his sadness, if one could truly imagine their own sadness outside themselves, dancing in the wind and moving on to someone else far from where he sat. Imagination was the old mans true best friend, but it also served, if one were to really know him, to be his fiercest enemy that drove him to the brink of madness. He let his imagination tear away at his mind like a furious monster devouring its poor, feeble prey. No one knew about his evil imagination. Some secrets were meant to be buried into the ground because they were too deadly to hear.
As he sat on the bench, he watched the children a few yards away play carelessly. They would jump on the monkey bars and slide down the long slides without a simple trace of hesitation. If anything, it seemed as if they were trying to race each other to see who was going to be the first person to get hurt. Watching the kids made him smile, but then a frown crawled from the darkness beneath him and sank itself onto his face. He had no children. His friends would always joke around with him and say that he was the last of his kind. They would laugh and pat each other on the back, but the words that they spoke would always have an effect on the peculiar old man, though he never told anyone about it. On the nights when his friends came over, he would stay up after they left, dreaming about how much his life would have been different with kids. Mostly, he would dream about how much happier he would have been with them. To the old man, it would have been nice to have something in the world to love, because it was easier to find things to hate. Kids were the only beautiful things in his ugly world.
It was not that it had been that the old man could not find a woman. Finding a woman was the easy thing, keeping her proved to be the hard part. They would go on dates with him and they would have a good time, but it was never truly love, at least not the type that they were willing to spend the rest of their lives with each other. The type of love that the old man and his dates would have were nothing but mere, quick-flared flings that were not meant to last more than a couple of get-togethers. There was, of course, a time or two that the old man had garnered up the strength to ask them what they felt like about having children. Every time he did, his dates would answer awkwardly, “Well, I just don’t think I’m ready for that yet,” and other useless words. He would let them waste their breath, knowing that it probably made them feel better about themselves giving pitiful, meaningless excuses. The next day the old man would get a call from his date and they would tell him that they were done. Sometimes there was a fight, but most of the time the old man understood. He tried not to fight with them because he had gotten so used to the routine of things. He had realized that it was not the fact that they did not want children, but it was just that they did not want to have children with him. For some reason or another, they did not want him as the father of their children. Because of that, sadness crept inside his heart and made his imagination even stronger. At times, his imagination got so real that he would force himself out of the train of thought because of where it led. The evil things that were in his mind were there, scouring in the darkness, waiting for the opportune moment to make their impact.
Upon realizing that he had been deemed a person who could not be a father, he decided to give up on women. He decided that life was enough of a ride itself and that there would just be too much to handle with others on board. As he continued to watch the young children play, though, he began to realize that he had made a mistake in thinking that life was too complicated for love. He considered that life was easier, in fact, with love than without. Life was a giant monster constantly looking for an individual to devour and mall, but this monster known as Life would not cross a couple but every so often, for they were stronger than any single person. In order to defeat the monster, you needed someone by your side, someone to hold you, to comfort you, to tell you that, in the midst of complete darkness, everything was going to be okay, whether it looked that way or not. Love was the cure to the hardship of life, and children were the special ingredient to happiness.
Wood creaked next the old man. The old man turned his head and saw that a man that looked in his mid-thirties had sat down next to him. He wore a white t-shirt and faint-colored blue jeans that had small holes scattered throughout. His broad shoulders made him intimidating at a quick first glance. A newspaper was inside the man’s hand. As the old man turned back to the children, the young man looked at the latter with a faint, yet friendly smile. The old man pretended to ignore him; he was in really no mood to talk to anyone. The only desire he had was to think quietly about how wrong his life had gone. He wanted to think about the darkness inside him and how there was no light in his life to take it out.
“Nice day, isn’t it?” The young man said rather loudly with a forced jolliness.
“It was anyways,” the old man muttered back. The young man froze, obviously taken aback by the old mans rude behavior. He began to get up until the old man said, “Wait. I’m sorry. Forgive me for my rudeness. It comes natural with my age I suppose.”
He pondered for awhile, but then sat back down, a curious glance edged across his handsome, young face. “It’s all good. I’ve just always had a way with people.”
The old man’s attention now set on the younger man, “What do you mean?”
Smiling, the young man said, “Well, I either make people angry or I make them happy. They either become a good friend or a bad enemy. No matter what though, I have something to do with the people around me.”
“So, what you’re saying is that everywhere you go, you have to talk with people and annoy them or please them?”
“Nope. Just old men in the park.”
They both laughed. The young man held out his hand, “Harley Pickerdale.”
The old man shook Harley’s hand, “Dave Vander. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Well I can say the same.”
They waited in awkward silence while they stared at the children playing on the playground. “So what brings you to this old park, Mr. Vander?
“I sit here a lot and think. This place is just a getaway of mine.”
“Ah, I understand. Sometimes the old family is a little much to handle.”
“I don’t have a family,” Dave said blankly.
Harley’s head jerked quickly and said sympathetically, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s not like it’s your fault or anything.” Dave sighed deeply. “I just never had the heart to do it. Some people just aren’t meant to have families. Unfortunately, I’m one of those unlucky people.”
“Maybe it’s just that life has a different plan for you.”
Dave nodded and crossed his arms. The sun escaped from the clouds trap and shined brightly down on the park, bringing a sort of new life. Within a second, the dim park turned into a colorful area. Warmth came onto the old mans body, which made the darkness inside him shudder and hide, bringing some sort of happiness inside of him.
“Anything new?” Dave asked.
Harley looked at him with a questioning expression. Dave pointed at the newspaper. Harley shrugged. “No, not really.”
“There never really is,” Dave said. The children were still playing, but their parents started to call for them. Dave kept his eye on one in particular. She was a sunlight-blonde with a young, pretty face and a curvy, well-fit body. Of all the other mothers that had been sitting across from the playground, she had been the one that Dave felt attached to. She interested him beyond any other.
“Do you want it?” Dave looked to Harley, who held out the rolled up newspaper.
“You sure?” Dave asked hesitantly as his hand grasped the paper.
Harley shrugged again. “It’s nothing that I haven’t read before. Yeah, I’m sure. Go ahead.”
Dave took the paper and, without unfolding it, placed it in his lap.
“Well, I’ve got to go. My wife and kids are somewhere over there and it’s about time to get home.” Harley stood and held out his hand, “I hope to see you again, Dave.”
Dave shook Harley’s hand, “As do I, Harley.” Harley then walked across the field of grass to the blonde woman that had grabbed the old man’s attention. When Harley embraced the woman with a kiss, a boiling rage struck inside Dave. The little shroud of happiness that had miraculously made its way to him had now ceased to exist.
Dave spat to his side in anger and unfolded the paper until the headlines were clear to see. “MASS MURDERER STILL AT LARGE.” The captions next to a picture of a dead woman read: Valery Ann Louise was found dead by a gun shot wound to the head. Police have said that there are no current leads so far and suspect that this murder was done by the “Gunslinger” murderer, a man, or possible woman, who has been on a killing spree since early 2007. Within a short time, the “Gunslinger” murderer has killed over twenty people, and it seems like police can not find a simple trace of evidence. Further down it read: Louise was a witness and was going to give a brief description of the “Gunslinger” murderer, something that the police have not been able to do. Only one other witness remains and the police have refused to publicly announce the identity of the witness.”
Dave placed the paper down and looked back at the blonde woman. She embraced her kid with a hug and a gentle kiss on the cheek. Harley, the woman, and the kid held each other’s hands as they started their way to the parking lot, each with a bright Smile on their face, showing true happiness, something Dave had truly never known. Dave stood and a dark, menacing look took over his face. He checked to see if his gun was still tucked behind him. The paper, as Harley had said, had nothing new in it. Out of the entire world, she, the blonde woman, was the only one that truly knew who the peculiar old man was. And because of that, she was going to have to die. Very soon, Harley would realize the pain of being alone in the world. Maybe he would then be stuck with the imagination, if one were to call it that, like the peculiar old man.