At thirteen, Johnnie was bought a bicycle. Johnnie explored his town with vigor and vim and the joy of the newfound freedom afforded by speed and transport. He rode to his friends home, few though they were and often reluctant to greet him openly on his unannounced visits. He visited his grandmother in her harbor view home, drinking tea and watching boats slide by as cats slunk about their feet. Johnnie explode the streets till the streetlights came on and it was time to be home, cool dry summer air whipping through his golden blond locks as he sped toward his awaiting meal.
Autumn arrived and he was pleased as he flew through fallen dry leaves which lifted into the air and twisted in his wake one late October night. No friends were available to play. No relatives had time to visit. The library was closed as were the shops and the streets were bereft of traffic, yet he sped onward, grasping at the last few hours of the weekend before bath and bed and reading the strange weird tales he was drawn to especially given the time of the year. He decided to visit the Courtyard.
The Courtyard had another name. No children knew this other name, and only ever referred to it as The Courtyard. The proper name was “Courtland Park” and its original benefactor was a god-fearing evangelist. This was why it was festooned with crosses and phrases on the gates and walls, only detectable if one pulled aside the decades of ivy and bushes that had grown up and over the protective iconography.
From his position at the corner a block away, Johnnie could see that the gate was open. He knew this was not the norm. It was a Sunday. The Courtyard was never to be open on Sundays. Johnnie was never one to do things that were not allowed. He could see a figure, a small figure, his size, walking among the decaying rose bushes and memorial benches. Johnnie decided to go to The Courtyard to investigate.
Then he met Janie.
Janie was like Johnnie in many ways. Janie was new to town. Janie’s parents were doctors and Janie lived in the east end. Johnnie and Janie had much in common and a bond was forged within a short period of time. They sat and talked and planned to meet again and finally noticed that the streetlights were on and that it was beyond the time to go home. They exchanged phone numbers by writing them on each other’s arm with a pen she kept in her bag along with a notepad she made little sketches on and wrote little weird poems. She left and he waved goodbye as he paused to but the chain back on his wheel sprocket that he noticed had come off when he dropped his bike on the ground to say hello.
He walked his bike to the gate. He noticed a fog beginning to form down Victoria Street toward the harbor. He paused thinking that he would have to ride through that fog home and hoped it wasn’t so thick he would need to dismount, but Johnnie wasn’t all that concerned as he had a new friend, a friend just like him.
Janie. Janie of the dark clothes and the long brown hair and smiling brown eyes.
He exited the park and could smell a faint smoky smell in the air. Someone had started up their woodstove about a month early. He smiled. He would open his window a crack tonight to let in the autumn smells, leaves, wind and a bit of the wood smoke. He would sleep well and content.
The smell was stronger now. He heard a swish behind him, in the Courtyard. Johnnie turned slowly, memory fighting through, memory of four years past.
He could see a dark fog, a thickish, swirling, moving fog. It swung between the flower beds. Grey, shadow but not shadow, more a lack of light than a blockage of light.
Johnnie saw the dark and the dark saw him and hung still.
He rode home, all the way home, through the thick cold fog.