I freeze under the weight of the loudly sustained A syllable, unable to even shiver in my boots (if I had boots to shiver in, that is). It sounds like a scream, a holler, a yell… a warning.
“Wait up for me will yah?” the man says as he jogs up beside me. “I’m gonna run into Jack’s and grab a sub, ‘aight?”
It’s Mike Somethingorother, I never really took the time to learn his name. He’s one of those guys that just attaches himself to you whether you like it or not. Not that I don’t like him; I feel a strange sense of security when I’m not alone. Strength in numbers as they say.
Or was it as they say? Then it would be just a ploy, a lie that they made to spread false senses of security among the populous.
As this terrible fact dawns on me I want to run from Mike. The security he offers me as a companion is a lie, and, even worse, one of their entrapments. But still I remain rooted to the spot, clutching my sandwich in two hands. It is the only thing that won’t betray me.
“A-Dave,” Mike’s voice rings. “Thanks for waiting up.”
“Yah,” I manage to mumble. More audibly, I add, “No problem.”
He stands beside me holding his own brown-paper-wrapped sandwich. I assume we look like quite the awkward pair, and therefore even more suspicious to them.
“Well, where are you headed?” Mike asks, finally.
“Nowhere, really,” I answer. “Should we find a place to eat these?”
Mike smiles wide, an echo of the hairdresser: he must have a plan of some sort. “I was waiting for you to say that. I found a sweet little garden down near my apartment building. It’s crazy where these green spaces pop up. Guess they’re in style, eh?”
“Yah,” I laugh, though it is admittedly forced. I hope Mike doesn’t notice or, if he does, plays along. “Guess you’re leading the way, then?”
Mike simply nods, and then starts out with me at his side, the both of us brandishing sandwiches. My nervousness has not dissipated, now knowing that I am participating in one of their games, but I can at least hope that they don’t know that I know, and therefore outsmart them.
Mum told me I was clever, she did.