With no relatives living nearby, Esther was taken to an orphanage. It was a nice little place; there was nothing really wrong about it. Although many of the others noticed that Esther always seemed to be preoccupied. She was always either drawing pictures with crayons, or playing with that blue horse plush.
Several couples that had wanted to adopt a child selected Esther to be a part of their family. Esther was a cute and well behaved little girl, a good kid. However, they changed their minds when they saw her artwork. The subject of nearly all of her pictures was that tall man. Strange barbed tendrils branching out of his back and a frightening grin on his face.
These images scared many of the other children, and the caretakers often asked Esther to stop drawing him. To this, Esther humored them a bit by drawing normal pictures; a brown dog in a field of grass, an orange striped cat in a tree, a gray mouse sitting on a chunk of yellow cheese. But she always resorted back to her normal pictures of that man.
When they asked her why she drew this person she replied, “I don’t want to forget what he looks like.” When they asked who he was, she replied “I don’t know.”
These pictures covered the wall beside her bed. At first there was just one that she would stare at, but then there were more. By the age of ten, the wall had so many taped to it you could hardly see the light blue paint underneath. Sometimes she would just sit and look out the window, hugging her horse plush tight; wanting to see him again.
* * *
Years pass by. Esther is now the age of 18, time to leave the orphanage. It was a day she both looked forward to and dreaded. After watching child after child come and go from the orphanage, she wondered what it was like to leave. She still had the blue horse plush, as it was the last thing she had from her beloved father.
It was at last time to go. She bid farewell to the caretakers and was out in the world; on her own. With the money her father had left her she was able to afford her own apartment. It was small, but it was a place to call home.
Of course, money was still a problem. She would have to find a job. But what she wanted to do most of all was find the tall man. Deep in her heart she wanted to stay with him. The memory of him avenging her father’s death blocked out the knowledge that he sadistically murdered a man. She didn’t even know if he was human.
* * *
A few days passed, Esther still couldn’t find a job. She still wanted to pursue the search of the tall man. So she decided to go ahead and look for him, despite the fact that she should probably try to find a job first.
It was almost sun set, and Esther decided to go out and look. As she walked the streets, tears came to her eyes as she remembered her early childhood. She was on the same street that she had walked with her father the day he was killed.
Passing by her old preschool, she looked away. She didn’t want to look crazy, crying in the street. Speeding up, she walked by it and took a different route, one with less sad memories.
Passing by a playground, she looked at the swings. A small group of children were playing happily; sliding down the slide, playing tag, simply smiling. She could see the memory playing in her head; her father pushing her on the swing, both of them alive and well.
Part of her was jealous of the children; they were living their normal lives. They had a childhood full of friends and family, adventures and misadventures. All of it shaping them for their future lives as adults. And part of her was happy for them.
She stopped and watched them for a while. Sitting on a bench near a large tree, she thought about life. As the sun got lower, the sky was bathed in a bright orange glow. Many of the children left with their parents. After successfully convincing their parents to let them stay a little longer, other children continued to play joyously.
A strong odor filled the air, and a few children coughed. They tried to ignore it and continued to play. Esther smelled the air; there was something familiar about that scent. It was the strong smell of tobacco smoke. As she, like the children, tried to ignore it, someone passed by behind her. It was a tall man, black trench coat and hat, with a cigarette in his mouth.
She didn’t realize who he was until he was a little ways away. Getting up quickly to follow him, she grew excited and nervous. Him walking around like that, it was hard to tell that he wasn’t normal. He turned a corner, and Esther ran to catch up to him.
When Esther also turned the corner, she was greeted by an empty sidewalk. He was gone. The sun had set, and it was now dark. Streetlamps lit the air with their glow, a half-moon shined down on the city. Esther began to walk quickly, she had been so close. Where had he gone?
There were hardly any people on the sidewalk, but plenty of cars on the road. She looked around frantically, searching for any sign of him. She saw nothing. No tall man, no cigarette smoke, not even the smell of it. Disappointed, she started to head home.
Walking back home, Esther began thinking of what jobs she might be good at. But her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a snap, followed by a muffled scream. She paused and looked around, there was no one else on the sidewalk, and everyone else was in their cars.
There was a sickening crack, followed by yet another muffled scream. She noticed a dark area between two buildings, it was hard to see, but she thought she saw the shape of someone in there. As she got a little closer, she could recognize him; it was the tall man.
He leaned against the wall of the building, holding something. It was an injured man. He held the man by barbed tendrils from his back. One of his hands was covering the man’s mouth, muffling his screams. The other hand was up to the man’s ribcage. His thumb pressed down harshly, snapping one of the ribs. The man screamed again, but the sound was still muffled.
No one seemed to notice, they were all too busy wanting to get to where ever they wanted to go. They didn’t notice the man being killed, no matter how much he kicked and tried to scream. Esther could see the tall man shaking slightly with laughter. After snapping a few more of the man’s ribs, he noticed that the man was very near death. He got off of the wall and looked towards the cars in the road. The cars were halted at a red light.
The red light changed to green, and the tall man walked slowly towards the road, but stayed in the dark. The rush of the cars increased, and the tall man stopped walking towards it, he looked over at the man he was holding. He motioned towards the rushing cars and laughed, the man’s eyes widened and he vigorously tried to shake his head ‘no,’ but the tall man shook his head ‘yes.’
The tall man retracted his tendrils, now only holding the man up with one hand. He gave a small wave with his other hand, and then thrust the man into the road. Then he stepped back into the shadows as cars screeched to a halt around the dead body. People rushed out of their cars to see if the man was alright. Women and children screamed, and several others frantically tried to call an ambulance.
Esther tried to get around the people. Some were trying to drive away, others trying to run away, and others just stared at the body in horror. Soon the wail of an ambulance siren filled the air, and it arrived to take the body.
Under all this commotion, Esther could hear a deep sadistic laughter. She shoved past people to get to where she had seen the tall man. There were a few spots of blood on the ground, and the smell of tobacco smoke still wafted in the air, but the tall man was nowhere to be found.