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He is slumped sleepily, in his boxer shorts, tressed in the tousled covers of his bedding. As he falls wearily from its mahogany side, he hears a knock at the door. With the plodding trod of a gravedigger, he squeaks open the door, adjacent to the kitchenette with its humming mini-fridge.
In the threshold, there trembles a thin youngling, just eighteen, her hair a frizzy tumble of harvest red. Her eyes are bright green and terrified-they compose half of her girlish Irish face. The ajar door casts the moonlight, long and lanky and lingering in the corridor, into the dark apartment, the green outlines of his tattoos faintly visible.
“Cleo?” he mumbles, rubbing his eyes.
“Sam. I’m scared. Can I sleep in your room?” She takes a trembling step onto the floor with her thin bare feet.
Yawning, he closes the door behind her, notching up the lights a tad.
“Okay. What are you scared of?”
Her delicate white teeth nestle her slender lower lip nervously. “Slenderman.”
He pretends to be irritated. “Ah, God, Cleo. - How many times do I have to tell you that Slenderman isn’t real?”
“I know! But I’m still scared.”
“Okay, whatever. Come in.”
“Do you mind if I turn up the lights a little?”
“Nope.” The room is all of a sudden a speck of bright day in the sea-dark night.
She trembles like a leaf. “Thanks.”
“Anytime. So……so did you see Slenderman?”
“No…..but I’m still scared. I’m scared that I might see him.”
He chuckles, which surprises him because he is not often prone to chuckling.
“Everything’s reminding me of him now. Why,” she observes, narrowing her green eyes, which are already blessed with a bit of a jeweler’s squint,”you even look like him a bit.”
He blushes. “Shut up. I do not look like Slenderman.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t. How do I look like Slenderman?”
She narrows her eyes again, her pale forehead untouched. “Well, you’re really skinny and kind of tall.”
“Yet, notice how I lack four arms.” She is silent, smiling a little. “Also,” he adds, for good measure, “I have a face.”
She laughs, beaming through her shroud of fear. “Yeah, but it’s not a pretty face.”
He smiles. “Still scared?”
“Want me to bring out the chocolate cake?”
He shuffles over to the mini-fridge, kneels down and carries a tan bakery box to the bed where they sit, drawing two plastic spoons from his cupboard in the process. Gingerly, as if he has his fingers on a lover’s high cheekbones, he tilts back the box’s cardboard top where the cake, glazed over with faint frost from the fridge, gazes up promisingly at them. As if their fear is a storm caused by tears which are washed away by one witty thought, they laugh and they begin to feast, bare feet dangling over the sides.