The Soul Thief
It had been over half an hour and the boy was still sitting there, eyes trained on the Styrofoam cup in front of him. “There’s no reason to be afraid. You know what, let’s start over. My name is Officer Justin Murray, but you can call me Justin, if you want.”
“Most of the time, when people introduce themselves to someone, the other person says hi back, tells them their name. Can you at least tell me your name?”
No reply, just his gray-green eyes staring intently at the cup, his face stern and focused. The boy looks to me to be about ten or eleven years old, but the fingerprint analysis hasn’t returned yet and he still refuses to talk, so I have no way of being sure.
A tap on the door. I open it to see Officer Shangler standing there, “Any luck?” he asks. “Nothing.” I say, stepping just outside the door, “He won’t say a word. I can see his hands, he’s trying to hide them under the table, but they’re covered in blood. Something weird is definitely going on here.”
Officer Shangler shakes his head, “We’ll have the reports back soon enough and we can move on from there. For now, just keep trying.” I nod and return to the room. The boy clasps his hands tighter together, as if he heard me mention them to my superior. I was still trying to wrap my head around the scene from earlier that day. It was the most disturbing I’ve ever seen. After the alarm was triggered, I was the first officer to arrive at the Riley residence. I was expecting an intruder, but when I entered the living room, everything was drenched in blood. The carpet, the expensive paintings and sculptures, even the white walls. And there was the boy, sitting in the middle of all of it, his head drooping and swaying, whispering words I couldn’t make out. I shined my flashlight on him, and he snapped his head up, his eyes glaring, but in an instant, the glare changed to fear and confusion, and then, a scream. The only sound he’s made this whole time. Poor kid.
I sat back down and wrapped by hands around my own Styrofoam cup, trying to steal of the heat from the god-awful instant coffee within. “We’re still waiting on your fingerprints and a psychologist should be coming soon to talk with you.” Not that it will do much good, I thought. “No one has been able to find Dr. Riley yet, so it’s hard to say what happened. Is there anything you can tell me that will help us out?” He still didn’t move. It was as if he was in some type of trance. “Can you tell me how you got into Dr. Riley’s house in the first place?” This place was no joke, a ten-foot tall stone fence surrounds the property, except for the main gate, which is remotely controlled. Dr. Riley was known for being a bit of a nut. The security cameras show no footage of anyone on the grounds, although it cuts out just before the alarm was tripped.
As if that wasn’t weird enough, this kid must have hipster parents, if he has any at all, because he’s wearing what seems to be homemade clothing, like something from the 1920s, but they smell earthy or moldy, like an old cellar. I try again, “Do you know where Dr. Riley has gone? Or, at least when you saw him last?” For the first time, the boy’s eyes met mine and I notice that the whites of his eyes, aren’t really white at all, they’re more gray.
“Are you sick?” I ask.
“Over,” he replies. The first thing he’s actually spoken to me. “Over? You mean you just got over being sick?” Now he’s looking me dead in the eyes, it sends a chill down my spine and I almost wish that he would go back to looking at the cup.
He puts his hands around his cup and beings pulling apart the rim, placing the pieces on the table.
“My name is Jonathan Paul Baker.” He focuses back on the cup as he continues to pull it apart.”Dr. Morgan Riley is dead.”
“How do you know he’s dead?” I ask, even more confused now than before.
“Because I took him Over.”
Was that a confession? I sat up straighter in my chair. I glance at the tape recorder to make sure it’s still on and then back at the boy who is still busy with the cup.
“Did you kill him?”
A chill runs through my veins. Is it possible that small boy has murdered a well-known doctor, a man who is over 50 years old? I take a sip of coffee to try to stabilize myself. It doesn’t work.
“What do you mean by you ‘took him over’?”
“Over. It’s where the dead go. It was time for Dr. Riley to be taken, so I took him. It’s my job.”
Something about this is all wrong. The kid is basically telling me that he killed this man, yet he’s so calm. It’s like having a casual conversation with a wise old man.
As I take another sip of coffee, I realize how tight of a grip I had on the cup, and quickly release.
“They’re real, you know.” The boy says as his mouth curves into a strange grin, one that doesn’t seem to fit his face.
“The man that stood over you bed every night when you were little. The one that tried to stop you from breathing, from screaming. The one with the tall, funny hat and the black in his eyes and the sinister face. The glimpses of moving shadows that you still see out of the corner of your eyes, the voices you hear as you’re going to sleep.” His voice is much louder now, and almost sing-songy. The cup falls from my hands and coffee spills all over the already stained Formica table top. I stand up to try to help process what the boy had just said. I had never told anyone about my episodes of sleep paralysis I had experienced as a child.
“How did you…?”
“Do you know why the monsters choose children?” he asks me, his voice small again.
“Because we have so much more to lose.” As he looks up at me, I swear, his eyes have gone from gray-ish to completely black. “The time has almost come, Justin.”
Instinctively, I head for the door, but as I grasp for the doorknob, I notice it’s locked. I don’t remember locking it when I came back in from talking with Officer Shangler. The lights flicker and then go dark, and at first, I see nothing but a small white light and realize it’s coming from the boy’s eyes. “None of you are prepared for the forces that await you in the dark.”
My heart is pounding in my chest.
“Why are you telling me this?” I ask, trying to summon my courage.
“Because I have to. I see so much suffering in your world, all the infighting and pain, and though I am a slave to the dark, a soul thief forced to perform horrible acts, I still hope for the light one day. I hope to be free, to see my family again.”
This can’t be real. This can’t be real.
“They’re almost ready now,” he tells me, “They almost have enough souls to break down the barrier.”
“Who’s ready? What barrier?”
But the boy doesn’t reply, instead, he looks down at the spilled coffee on the table and I quickly turn to try to door again, which I find unlocked. As I step into the hallway, I try to regain my composure. What the hell just happened? Did I just have a psychotic episode? Was it a hallucination, like the ones I had as a kid?
What now? I can’t just leave. So, I take a deep breath and turn to go back inside.
The room is empty.
The boy is gone.
The body of Dr. Morgan Riley was never found. And no records ever came back from the boy ‘s fingerprints. Justin, out of confusion and curiosity, searches the database for the name that the boy gave him, Jonathan Paul Baker. A hit pops up. A small, blurry, black-and-white photograph of a missing boy. The attached article says that his family was murdered, bodies left to hang by hooks in the barn, the child never found.
The date was October 20, 1933.
“Do you know why monsters choose children?”
“Because we have so much more to lose.”