Earl was sitting alone in his cabin in the woods. It was a dark and quiet night. Not a breeze stirred the leaves on the tall trees. A wolf, from far in the distance, howled a long and lonely note.
As he was sitting, sipping his wine, he suddenly heard the clanking of chains. An apparition appeared in the window.
Earl froze. He looked away. He closed his eyes like two steel traps. He was back again. All the miles, all the years, and all the dime store shrinks. It all meant nothing.
Earl peeled his eyelids apart and looked back toward the window.
The figure outside was a tall, lean teenager with thick steel chains wrapped around his shoulders and neck. A threadbare t-shirt and jeans hung loosely on his body, soaked through with lake water. He glared at Earl through the cracked lenses of his coke-bottle glasses.
The window deadened the sound from the outside, but Earl shrank back as the specter mouthed those same words from his dreams.
“Yoooouuuu leeeeft meeee!”
Earl froze. He didn’t know what to do. His mind was racing. “Should I run? Should I hide? Should I …” But before he could react, the figure was gone. It had disappeared into the woods.
“What now?” Earl thought to himself.
Earl grabbed a chair from the kitchen and locked it in place under the doorknob. He grabbed blankets and draped them over the couch and hung them over the windows.
He threw himself onto the dusty wooden floor and opened a secret compartment. His arm bent down into the hole. He retrieved his grandfather’s rifle and a box of ammo.
“Ol’ Betsy!” he said, patting its side. BLAM! The gun went off, and he shot himself in the foot.
“Shit! The fucker was loaded!”
Earl grew quiet. Was that the ghost laughing outside? Or was he delirious from the pain and loss of blood?
The doorknob rattled, and the chains clanked louder than before.
And then there was silence. Earl released the breath he didn’t know he was holding.
“Maybe it went away,” he thought.
But then he felt drops of water on his shoulder, and a hand, heavy like lead, grasped his arm.
He felt his entire body go stiff, and, all of sudden …
He wasn’t Earl anymore!
His foot had magically healed, and he was overcome with joy … a feeling of indescribable joy. A joy he never thought possible.
He was now George … a farmer from Nebraska, and he was alive!