A Hero

“You seem like a perfect fit! You’ve got the job” exclaimed the branch manager.

It was rather peculiar to Leonardo that he received the job quite easily. However, he knew he deserved it. He had worked hard for months, and after the old night manager frantically quit, he desired that job. The doubled salary, overtime pay and little required work (since anyone rarely came in) supplied all the incentive he needed – even if he still feared the dark. It had been a childish fear that accompanied him through his adult life, and for some reason, never decided to depart. It didn’t bother him too much to work at night; he just had his one rule: keep the lights on. As long as this rule was followed, you could not suspect Leonardo’s deepest fear, and that was exactly what he wanted.

“Thank you, sir. I will be the best night manager this store has ever has,” responded the new manger, gratifyingly, to his superior.

His boss was man of abnormal idiosyncrasies. Some minor in rank, yet others, if known, would cause panic among those surrounding him. His physical nature was never one desired as he did not quite have a hunch yet, but he was well on his way. His attitude towards children was filled of pure disgust, one that drove any compassionate and possible wife away. He lived alone sulking in his own awesomeness, as if being a branch manager of some lowlife gave him godly powers.

“I just hope you do better than the last,” he carefully murmured in a low voice barely audible to the naked ear.

Leonardo left in a brief moment of swiftness. He didn’t hear what he said, and nor did he care. His boss was idiotic and not to mention the definition of ugly, the “lucky sperm” of the store’s owner his co-workers would say. His conversation with his boss was not the nearest bit sincere - he just played to his boss’ liking. Nor was it ever. His boss was never the kind of man Leonardo could picture spending time out of work with. Leonardo valued a good friendship, but the pure sight of his boss was never one he could stand.
The adrenaline was pumping fast now. He wanted to get to work now, to clock in as fast as he possibly could; the dreams of money floated in his mind. He got there at nine, just enough time for him to quickly restock the shelves in time to start his shift at ten. He was always known for being an overachiever, but he did not mind. He played always to his superiors’ likings, a smart move to secure his position now; come in early and work hard until his boss left at ten – then it was playtime. Leonardo knew where the fun was and that place was his favorite: aisle sixteen, the toy aisle. He had a soft spot for children’s’ toys and loved seeing the new, innovative products he routinely desired. It was here he saw it, a little boy, seemingly so real, that he didn’t suspect a thing.

“What the…” whispered Leonardo, doubting what he saw before him.

He stood there in a sort of shock where his body was in full motion, slowly walking, down the aisle, but his mind drew a blank on what had just occurred. He swiftly scanned the aisle, then the section and finally the entire store for the body he swore he saw. He simply felt like he needed to help the boy with the face of desperation. However, after a half an hour, he knew his search was helpless. He continued his zombifying routine of pretending to do his duties when he saw it again, the plump face of the boy he saw no more than forty-five minutes ago. There was no way he could’ve randomly pictured this figure twice without finding him. His curiosity brewed to new heights as he quickly stampeded the aisles angrier and angrier at the idea that some discourteous boy was playing practical jokes on him. This was his store now, and he was not to be taken advantage of.
Appliances began to plummet to the floor like a violent earthquake striking; Leonardo was not looking forward to picking it all up. Still though, he frantically sprinted down the aisle in a fit of fury, longing to end the stress building up within him. And then, suddenly, the commotion ended, the aisle stood still and the boy stood there without motion.

“You’re in big trouble, kid,” said Leonardo, panting heavily.

The boy did not move, nor did he show any sense that he had even heard Leonardo’s distressed voice. His sole movement was a blink, as if that stood for some sort of a reply. Leonardo began to languidly walk toward him, cautiously as if the little boy knew some dark, powerful secret that he should not – something of imminent danger. The boy rose up from his crouched position freezing Leonardo in his tracks. He began to sprint, not run but sprint, towards the new manager. He leapt into his arms like some romantic scene any girl would ball her eyes at yet, there was something irrational about the matter. It was not at the boy’s sudden change of heart; it was that he flew right through Leonardo.

Leonardo’s blood turned to ice as he immediately turned pale. He turned his head back as fast as humanely possible causing him whiplash he knew he would feel the next morning when trying to get himself out of his thin, unsupportive mattress. He attempted to face the boy again, yet he only caught the boy looking as confused as he was. The boy ran away, tears swelling up in his eyes. The man emotionally ached to follow him. However, he was paralyzed and forced to sadly watch.

Leonardo stood looking in the mirror, sweat running down his face, trying to console himself as if water splashed on his face would cause him to forget this torment. He knew he saw it. He couldn’t prove it and it went against all things rational, but he saw it. He was ready now; he stalked out of the bathroom in fear of whatever it was, but the fear transformed into curiosity – a feeling Leonardo could never repress.

He began to trail the boy again, the same scene, like some dream replaying over and over again. Leonardo knew he was getting sick and tired of these silly games, but just giving up never occurred to him. He stalked the aisles like a predator searching for its meal when he sensed movement. His instinctual side kicked in as he slowly tried to reach closer without alarming the boy.
“Come here…” whispered the boy, in a seductive-like manner
Leonardo didn’t know what else to do so he simply walked toward him, more out of pure amazement than shock now. The scene of the boy passing right through him replayed in his mind. He came to the conclusion that whatever was happening, he did not believe it to be dangerous. The boy slowly reached his arm toward Leonardo, pleading inside for him to just touch it and grab hold. Leonardo received the sign and took a leap of faith, and he entered the boy.

What happened here exactly is not out of the norm from our society’s past supernatural stories. Simply put, he saw the boy’s life, a flashback if you will. It became as clear as day to him what he had been encountering; a dead boy turned dwelling spirit. As he entered the dream he noticed something uncanny, a shadow of a man drooping over him as he walked in the form of the boy. This shadow did not take the form of just any man; it was one of a giant, a large fellow whose stature reeked of deformity. Simply stated, this was not the kind of man one ideally socialized with. Before he could begin to wrap his head around where he was or what this shadow was doing, he was struck in the back – a blade piercing through his vertebrae. He awoke in the hospital, paralyzed, barely clinging to life. Whether this was part of the boy’s past or not he did not care – he just didn’t want to die. It all felt so real when he heard the final sound of the heart monitor ending on that prolonged beep one hopes he only hears on television.

Leonardo awoke back in his store to the sound of electricity buzzing above him – the lights were flickering. Sweat covered his body as he moved back into the steady stream of light, what had just happened became so real; he had literally relived and seen the boy’s past. But ‘why is he still here?’ was the question ringing in Leonardo’s ear. The boy came back to him in a look of dire need, one where your heart cannot bear the pain the little boy’s look impresses on you. He went to hug the boy but knew his efforts would be futile; the shadow of the man kept replaying in his mind. The more he tried to recall it, the more he felt as if the shadow was one he had seen before, often even. That is when it hit him. He suddenly realized why the boy had reached out to him, why he haunted this store; the shadow was the one of his boss.

The more he thought of his boss, the more it clicked. It was the reason he could never stand him, the reason why the old manager mysteriously “left.” He put two and two together and knew the only reason the boy still resided in the store was to reach out to someone, someone like Leonardo who could step up to his boss, someone that had enough sensibility to realize he was the only one who could stop him. Time stood still as Leonardo quickly formulated a plan to execute his boss; it had to be untraceable, yet passionate enough so that he knew he deserved every bit of it. He grabbed a set of kitchen knives that fell from one of the aisles and scavenged through it until he found the 18” butcher’s knife he was looking for.

He stormed like a mad man running on pure impulse into the apartment complex across the road, apartment number six; he knew exactly where his boss would be. The door stood no defense for the pure rage flowing through Leonardo as the entrance caved in beneath his might. The boss simply sat still in pure horror at the sight of seeing Leonardo forcing his way into his apartment with a knife. Just as simply as when he walked in, he sat there motionless as Leonardo pierced his stomach numerous times until his inners splattered on the floor. Leonardo looked around – no one. He wiped down the knife and quickly leaped down the building making his way back to the store, back to see the boy, back to say his good bye.

He sprinted his way through the automatic doors into aisle sixteen, praying the boy was still there, praying that’d he would have his moment of triumph where he could look into the boy’s eyes and see admiration and gratitude. The potential moment was ruined by the sound of a patrol car in the distance, slowly increasing in decibels coming toward the store. Leonardo knew his time was up, but that would all be just fine if he could just find the boy! That’s all he wanted. He knew his boss deserved it, but just the face of the boy would end his inner misery. Just one final glimpse to know he would make it on to…whatever there was to move on to; there had to be some form of closure.

The team of men quickly found their way into the store wreaking havoc among Leonardo’s aisles. They quickly cleared each aisle in search of the murderer. They found him in aisle sixteen, pleading out loud, calling out to some boy no one saw initially. Leonardo was dragged out the back entrance like an animal, like somebody who deserved punishment, but he knew better. And as he was dragged out he scanned the store. He knew the boy was gone, was in a safer place. He was a hero. His blood stained the store. What a pain it would be to clean out of the floor.
Epilogue

“Hello, ma’am? We believed we have found your son…erm, a Joey Carter?”

“What….how can this be?”

“Don’t worry, he is safe and in our hands. Claims he was stalked by a deranged man. A Mr. Leonardo Costello, do you know the man?”

“But…Why yes I believe I have seen him before…he works at the store down on Maple right?”

“Yes, that is the one. Normally I wouldn’t disclose this kind of information, but considering your boy may have been caught up in the middle of this, I must tell you that Mr. Costello went on a rampage tonight leaving the store to kill his boss, a Mr. Philip. Your boy successfully escaped Mr. Costello. From what your boy has told us, it seems as though Mr. Costello was a very mentally disturbed man. He lived in a delusion where your boy played a spirit stuck here in his store and whose only way to pass into the afterlife was to kill his murderer, Mr. Philip. We know this may come to a shock to you, but if what your son tells us is true, then your son has been through some pretty traumatizing events and I think what would be best is the comfort of his mother.”

“Captain please stop…just stop…”

“Are you okay ma’am? I can give you the number of some very good counselors, ones who will treat both you and your son very well”

“Captain…my…my son has been dead for two years.”

The captain turned his head around to peer into his police car. The boy had just played him foolishly; it was time for him to figure out what had really been going on.

“Hey kid, get out of th…”

But nobody was there.





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