January 1985 (Excerpted from The Snow Inside Me, available here on Amazon Kindle. Copyright © 2012 by Greg Stahl.)
I’d passed the alley a half-block before and lingered in the safety of the streetlight’s orange glow as long as I could. Shadows lurked in the bushes and behind houses. Tree limbs clacked. The winter wind bit.
The safety of the Stone Church was only another block away, but the darkness I would face had already settled in my gut. I drew a lung full of cool Pennsylvania air and walked beyond the streetlight’s protective shine.
The glow ebbed severely at first but then gradually, almost imperceptibly, as my footsteps worked along the sidewalk. The shadows lengthened and folded into one another until they consumed the block in a darkness that seemed blacker than the night. My footsteps quickened. My breaths shortened. I looked into the shadows. My spine tingled.
I stole a glance ahead toward the frightening contours of the old college library. It was protected by the dangling limbs of massive oaks that rattled in the winter wind. With neatly stacked bricks that formed a stalwart bulk, the library had two Doric columns ascending to a peaked roof. Below the gable and above the shadowy columns was a lone circular window about a foot in diameter. Recessed from the bricks, the deep black pupil of glass was surrounded by the white iris of its frame. I knew it saw me. As my feet worked in quickening steps, the window’s gaze followed, and I knew Clayton was behind the glass. If I looked too long I’d see him, fingers spread wide across the pane, nose smeared into the glass, his gaze as penetrating as the eye he lurked behind. Wherever I was on that street he saw me.
First across the street, then down the block and into the safety of another streetlight’s warm glow. Breaths heavy, skin tingling, I worked to defray. I had arrived at the well-lit college campus and was safe. I looked back along the block to the top of the library and saw the eye’s ceaseless stare, silent and cool. Shivering, I scampered around the church to a door that led to its basement. The door opened on a world I found simultaneously difficult and interesting: the social hierarchy and military-like code of Boy Scouts Troop 28.
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