OK, I had to finally tell this story. It's been haunting me for years, it keeps popping up in my dreams, bubbling like a boiling cauldron in my subconscious. And my mind is going to explode soon, so I'll just leave it here in an attempt to lose some of the baggage in my head. No series, I am spilling it out all at once.
Everything started in my hometown sixteen years ago. It's a beautiful neighborhood with about twenty buildings, all six stories tall. Few houses, a local grocery store and a pub complete the idyllic suburban picture. Everything was surrounded by massive beech and pine forests.
Back then me and my friends were all teenagers doing God knows what to piss off their parents. We often spent the nights playing cards, hide and seek, or breaking onto the roofs of some building and watch the shooting stars all August.
What we loved the most though is wandering into those woods surrounding the neighborhood. To make it easy - we had a big fat beech forest on the left and a pine forest on the right. The beeches went all the way up to the mountain, while the pines spread miles ahead, but eventually ended into two small villages with cherry plantations.
The thing that changed our lives began one late July night into the pines. A tiny trail near the far end of the hood led to a pretty old graveyard, which was the final resting place for about forty souls, and an ancient well. We really liked sitting around the well, telling some awful horror stories and hoping for those turn to be the truth. I did have some very rich imagination, but it was all about to change.
This cloudless and moonless July night I was sitting with five of my friends around the well, telling each other some cliché bullshit about Queen of Spades and how she blinded one of my schoolmates two years ago, when he tried to summon her in front of a broken mirror. We were at a summer camp, and odd things became happening, but eventually all turned out to be a fiasco orchestrated by one of the school's bullies. That's not important right know, sorry.
So, we were scaring each other when Alex emerged from the dark. He was new to the neighborhood and two or three years older than us. This puts him at about 20, he could buy drinks, he could smoke legally, which made him popular among us, you know the reasons.
Alex scared us a bit because he didn’t announce himself - it was pitch dark and quiet, you know. I finished the Queen of Spades ridiculous story and asked him what’s up. He looked oddly quiet. And he drops this:
- Guys, it's bad. It's really bad. Do you know where you are?
- Well, duh. We are at the well, doing the same shit we do every other night. - I said.
- No, I mean do you really know anything about this place? What's the graveyard all about, where this well is getting the water? Do you know about the Family?
Some newly made-up story, I thought. But it had potential to be something interesting.
- Why don’t you tell us, Alex, please. - said ironically Peter, one of my friends.
- Will do. - He started. - A long time ago there was a house deep in the pines. A big adobe house, home to a big family, all the four living generations. They were some scary weirdos, trust me, banished from the town for numerous cases of indecent behavior. So, they came into these pines, long before our hood was built. And made this house.
Spooky, I thought. He definitely kicked off well. We wandered into the pines, but we never found such a house. Apparently it was some fake shit, I smiled, but still said nothing. I wanted to hear what Alex had to say about it.
- The Family made this well, they are the ones to cut the stones you are sitting on right now. They sure didn't need electricity, but they ought to have water. At first it seemed everything was going well for them - nobody was snooping into their business anymore, no one was harassing them with judging comments, graffiti or worse - disgusting packages of spoiled food or dead rats.
- Their life was going smooth for about one or two years, when the oldest woman in the house passed away. They buried her around the well. Shortly after our neighborhood began rising up. Some of the first builders found the well and the grave and alerted the authorities. And people began snooping around, eventually finding The Family's house.
- I'll spare you the details and the disputes between The Family and the authorities. I'll skip straight to the moment when people started disappearing in the woods. Five of them were homeless, searching for who knows what, eight workers who went to answer the nature's calls, one lawyer, two clerks who needed to serve some papers, even one real-estate agent lurking for hidden opportunities.
- And I shit you not, all those people eventually turned up into marked graves around the first buried Family member. Official investigation was opened, but the police could never prove a thing.
- The Family members of those lost souls couldn't forget their loved ones and a raid was organized. They raided the house, destroyed part of it, and a man and a woman from The Family lost their lives under the rubble. The police got involved and it all ended without more casualties. You bet no charges were filed.
- In the next five years this hood was growing and there were no sign of The Family. The horrific story would have been soon forgotten, until a kid told his mother he found a house filled with death people. No kiddin', they found all Family members dead in the house. Some of them were dead for about a year, put in shallow graves around, others were killed horribly, while the rest died recently without a visible cause.
- Eventually it turned out they poisoned the underground waters filling this well. Their dump pits eventually reached the water and they literally killed themselves without knowing it. But before the tragic end, two of The Family men went nuts - their brains were poisoned and they tortured the rest of the members. There was this little boy who was commonly tortured and raped by his two older brothers. Believe it or not, he was to die last. Of starvation.
You could touch the silence.
- C'mon, Alex. I live here for about 15 years and never heard of this bullshit. - I said.
Peter looked amused, but Vince and the rest were quiet.
- Why is bad? - Surprisingly asked Vince.
- Why is bad that we are sitting here? - He repeated the question.
- Oh, but of course. - Alex did a noisy facepalm. - I forgot the important part. - He continued. - After all of the Family were buried in this graveyard, a legend emerged that you could hear the last boy's screams and cry in some windy nights. And if you truly wished something bad around this well while you listen to those eerie sounds, it will happened. To you. The boy's spirit would make sure it becomes real.
- And finally, the boy was 8-years old when he died. If you notice number 8 appearing occasionally around you, you are screwed. Really. REALLY. SCREWED.
We all had a good laugh of it but Vince. He stayed quiet and didn’t say a word all night.
Next weekend Vince came at our flat, he said he wanted to play Heroes III. You gotta love this game! I was just settings things up, when he revealed his real agenda.
- Let's check the house out. - He said rather quietly.
- What house? - The moment I shot the question I already knew the answer - it was that house.
- Aren't you curious, Kyle? We walked through the pines for what, four years, and we never found a house. Is it real or Alex just made it all up? - I want to know.
- I will admit I am a bit curious, but as you said - we've been there and there is absolutely nothing but the pines.
- I went to the graveyard this morning. Did you know twenty one of the graves belong to Ruskov persons? They sure sound like a family to me. - Vince's voice became more and more tense.
- OK, Vince, but I want to know something! Why is this important to you? If I am going to lose an entire day with you in the woods, searching for something that's 99% no there, I want to know. I know you very well and the hell if it's just curiosity.
- Did you ever make wishes there, Kyle? Did you ever throw some coins at night wishing some bad stuff about other people? - I couldn’t believe the tension in Vince's voice while saying this.
- Who didn't? The usual stuff, my bullies breaking a leg or a head, Miss. Almond going crazy so the school finally fires her, the usual stuff. Why, Vince, why?
- I wished for my parents to die. My foster parents. - I barely heard him saying this.
- What? - I just couldn't believe it? - Why would you wish for this?!
- I recently found out I am adopted and I hate them for not telling me. But that's not important. The thing is a few nights back I was at the well with my brother, who turns out isn't exactly my brother, and we went there so I could tell him what I found. And he became super angry that I poked about this story and he said not to tell anyone, this is bullshit, probably not true, stuff like this. And when he left I sat there for an hour. Alone. It was windy and at this moment I swear I heard a child crying. It was scary at first but then I found myself crying too. I was sad, angry, I took a quarter, made the wish and threw it in the well. And the fucking wind suddenly stopped and the crying was gone. It was nothing by the time it happened, but after last night…What if Alex is right? Am I going to die? Or worse?
I stared at Vince for a moment. Was he playing some shitty games with my mind? No. Obviously he was scared. No. He was terrified!
- Vince, looked at me. Nobody is dying. C'mon, we are going to the pines.
He was adopted? I have finally became to fathom what he told me. He and his brother looked so happy, and…alike. They were brothers for fuck sake. How could it be? I decided to leave this for another time and focus on the today's task - not finding a stupid adobe house and easing Vince's mind.
It's July 31, 1999. Noon. And we are going out to the pines to look for a non-existent house. I hated this thought, it was sunny and hot outside, but I wanted to fix the head of my friend. I was trying to look serious, put my comfy shoes, took two small flashlights, a pocket knife and a compass. You have to admit - for a forest walk it looked pretty serious back then.
We walked by the graveyard, I stopped, jumped the old fence and indeed there were many Ruskov people resting there. Weird. I said nothing, passed around the well and continued into the deep pine forest. We were here quite a few times, but we were just wandering around, chasing some dogs out of the neighborhood, building forest houses, you know. But this was different - we had a real purpose.
This house must have been close enough to the well, right? It was the water source of those people, if the story had some truth in it, so I've decided to cover about a two mile radius and if nothing turned up, we'd give it another try tomorrow expanding the search area by another two miles.
It was a sunny day outside, but the pines became so thick that it seemed like it was an hour after sunset. The light barely made it through those pine branches, but on a positive note - it was chilly down there. We heard a few squirrels, saw some cone falling down, one particularly managed to scare the shit of both of us, but nothing suspicious really.
It should have been around 7 or 8PM, when I've decided to call it a day. It would take us about half an hour to go back, just enough time to outrun the coming darkness.
- What's this? - Vince's finger was pointing to some thick bushes. They looked like old dry brambles.
- Don't know, let's check it out? - I said. Indeed it looked like there is something behind those brambles, like you'd cover something in the woods that you don’t want to be found.
I took an old stick and poked a bit. I hit something. After a while we discovered it was some small old adobe structure. Or what's left of it. I made few rounds, cut through some of those old brambles and it hit me. It was an old toilet. I still remember the chills over my entire body. I shook the feeling and look at Vince. He did realize the same thing. And you know, we didn’t see the house yet, but we both knew this is the murder weapon that killed the family. The outside toilet, one of the septic pits that eventually become their undoing.
Vince went pale. He washed out like ten tones from his face. I hit him gently with the stick on his back.
- Stop it. Don't let your imagination grow those fears right now.
- Oh, man… - He said nothing more.
The old adobe house was about 50 yards from us. It had three floors - the first one was mostly below the ground (it was a slope), the second was on ground level but many years ago had a veranda. Most of the third floor collapsed a long time ago taking some of the second as well. What's left from the roof were just few beams with very few black tiles.
Fuck, the house was real. The pines were about to claim it soon, but it was still there. We turned on the flashlights and began searching for whatever was left over. In one of the rooms we found a perfectly preserved old couch, which was weird. The rain, the winters and the nature should have eaten this thing, but here it was - lost color, but in very good shape nevertheless.
- Don't sit on this damned thing! - Vince said to me the moment I was trying to check it out.
- Goddammit, Vince, stop acting like a pussy. It's just an old sofa, probably preserved by some pure luck. - I looked upon the roof to show Vince it probably helped there, but there was no roof above our heads. Odd.
I sat on the old thing and it was actually warm and comfy. Some ants and other bugs became crawling onto my chest though and I quickly stood up.
- Fuck, fuck, fuck.
- I told you. - Vince smiled for the first time today. Good. If those nasty bugs helped him cheer up, then I'd do it again.
We were exploring the fraction of the still standing third floor. It was getting dark, so I urged Vince to go back and return the next day for more exploration. May be we'll take others, too. And then the floor collapsed and Vince disappeared right in front of me. Shit!
Once the dust settled I saw him below lying on the brown sofa.
- Damn it, Vince, that was something! - I screamed mixing both fear with joy he was OK.
The second floor became creaking, the entire house began shaking and Vince didn’t have the time to stand up and get out of there fast enough. The second floor yielded and Vince went down with the sofa on the last floor. I jumped through the old stairs and went down to help him.
Vince was groaning, there was blood around his right wrist and right cheek, but otherwise seemed fine.
- Gee, are you alright? - I was very worried he might have broken something.
- Yeah, just some scratches. Damn it, Kyle! I toldya this couch was cursed.
- It saved your life so I wouldn’t talk bad things about it. It may hurt its feelings, you know. - My bad attempt for a joke didn't cheer Vince up.
We were just leaving the house when I kicked something in the rubble left from the epic fall. It seemed we uncovered some hidden compartment, which was released by the heavy blast on the floor. There were some pages inside. Eight pages.
I lifted those up and Vince came around to check them out. One of them was a title deed, four were death certificates, two were birth certificates and the last one was… Well it was a hand-drawn picture of a small boy, very weak with blurry eyes. On the back…Man, the back was filled with 8s.
We both cursed. Vince was afraid everything was true, while I was afraid for him because I knew how the mind can play tricks with you given the proper motivation. And the motivation was hitting us both, hard. I knew well not to dwell on such things but Vince was already drowning into dark thoughts.
The very next day were returned alone, not wanting to mess with the minds of other friends. We found nothing of interest this time. We were almost ready to leave this place forever, when a chilly wind rose. And, trust me on this, I knew. I fucking knew what was going to happen. Yes, the child's crying and some snatchy screams were riding the stupid wind.
I stood frozen for a while, unable to do a thing. Not even blink. I don't know how much time a spent looking like a freaking statue, but after I came to my senses I found Vince sitting on the sofa, crying, shaking, and mumbling something. The fuck was going on with this guy.
- Vince! Vince! - I slapped him on the cheek and he came back. - Listen to me, man. This fucking thing has gotten to you and your mind is playing games with you. You are seeing and hearing what you want to see and hear. There is nothing to this, but your imagination blowing stuff way out of proportion.
- But… - Vince started, but I wouldn’t let him finish.
- Listen, goddammit! Stop thinking of this right now! The eights are bullshit, the wind always sounds whatever you image it to sound. There is no curse, no ghosts, nothing. You are mad and scared because you found out some stuff about your family. You know what? Go talk to them. Confront them! Let it all out and be over with! NOW LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!
Vince finally manned up and followed me outside the house. The wind was still blowing and I could swear and could hear a child giggling. That was new.
The entire August we tried to stay away from the meetings around the well. It wasn't hard as it was star gazing time - it was the Perseid meteor shower and we were busy choosing roofs for the space show.
The school began in the fall and everything seemed well. In late October Vince's bigger brother - Mat - called at home. We had only a landline back then, no mobile phones. Their parents and Vince were in a car accident. Their car broke and they hit a tree with over 100 mph. No one survived.
I stood their listening to what my mother was saying to me and I couldn't move. Couldn't think. She thought I was having a hard time swallowing the news. But, I know it may sounds harsh, I was more concerned about the fulfillment of the freaking prophecy instead of the dead people. I know, I know. Imagination, subconscious, stuff like this. It didn’t matter anymore.
The neighborhood was grieving and everything went quiet for a month or so. Even the pub closed. The depression was soaking the hood, like a deadly fog killing everything it touches.
School was hard, but meeting with my friends around was even harder. Alex didn't show up once, while the rest of us just wasn't capable of talking. I told them about the house soon after the funerals, but nobody wanted to go there. They didn't even want to believe me. I wouldn’t too, if I was them.
The winter came and brought 10 inches of snow. At least we now had the snow sliding to cheer us up. Every year we did the slides on a steep meadow near the end of the pines - at the other end of the neighborhood, not even close to the well.
The darkness upon us became fading as we were building snow castles, sliding or just fighting with snowballs.
The last day of school (December 32, 1999) before Christmas I was heading down to the bus stop. I had eight classes this day, the most exhausting day of the week. I knew the path very well, I was always careful when it was covered in snow, and yet I fell. It was 14:03.
My left arm was broken.
My mother drove me to a hospital and they put gypsum all around my arm. I had to wear it for eight weeks. We were in room number 8.
And it hit me. Room 8. Eight weeks. The clock - 14:03 - it was 8. I broke my arm after the 8 class. We even lived in Apartment 8. I began to see eights all over me. And my first wish I made in the well was my math teacher to break his hand so he couldn't give us a test back then. He was left handed.
My parents went to bad that night, but I couldn’t sleep. I tried to shake the eights out of my head and almost succeeded. When I heard that giggle again. I recognized it immediately. It was the boy.
I kept hearing it so I began to think it's real. I went to the balcony (we lived on the third floor) and I saw a little boy down playing with a cat in the snow. It was 2AM, who would let a little boy alone this late?
- Hey, who are you? - I shouted to the boy.
- I'm, Kyle. Why? - He kept giggling, it was so creepy.
- How old, are you, where is your mother? - I insisted.
- Oh, I turned eight years eight days ago. I am a big man.
I was shivering. And it wasn't from the winter that was bursting through the open window on the balcony. My mind once again was flooded with eights.
My dad scared the crap out of me, when he materialized behind me and asked me who I was talking to this late. I showed him the boy, but he wasn't there. Not even footsteps in the deep snow. Was I dreaming?
I decided to tell him about the house's story, Vince, the documents we found, the wishes he and I made. The consequences and the eights. And do you know what? He laughed. Laughed so hard that he woke up my mother. Then he told me he tried to teach me not to dwell on numbers and such mind teasers as this thing is exactly what happens. He was right, of course, I knew it already, but still. Apparently I was week as I couldn’t make the eights go away.
My hand healed successfully, I finished the school year and the summer vacation was just kicking off. I managed to drop the eight fiasco and was doing OK. Played more Heroes and StarCraft, Delta Force was fun. This is the summer I discovered the world of The Lord of the Rings and later became addicted to The Wheel of Time. You get the idea - I had lots of distractions and it was nice
One summer day, probably around the end of July (Year 2000) I was chased by one of the school's bullies. I ran like I was running for my life, but he was getting close. I tripped over something and stopped immediately. It was a huge piece from a broken mirror. I grabbed it and the pray became the hunter.
I was chasing Martin around on of the buildings and was threatening him to cut his…well, you know what. And for the first time I felt good, felt powerful. The bully was afraid of me. He decided to run closely by a building under the balconies. We had to bow our heads otherwise we'd hit them on the balconies' edges.
As I was chasing Martin I saw a boy with his mother, pointing at me, giggling. I got distracted for just a second and BANG… I saw the Queen of Spades in a piece of mirror and the world went dark.
I woke up in a hospital, my skull was fractured. My head was hurting like hell, I was completely motionless, I could barely see anything.
My parents told me what happened. I hit my hand on a balcony and they had to call an ambulance. I was unconscious about two days. Martin tried to help me, he was the one to bring my parents, even carried me to the ambulance. Unbelievable.
I tried to move my head. It hurt a lot but I managed to turn right and look at my mother. Martin was around too, with his mother. Of course, she was a doctor at the hospital. He approached me.
- I am so sorry, Kyle. I shouldn't have ran under the balconies.
I tried to smile and tell him it's not his fault, I was stupid, but my eyes stopped at the beeping monitor and my mind went nuts. 88 BPS. My heart-rate. It stayed 88 for a few seconds and then became rapidly increasing. The doctors cleared the room and shot me with something. I quickly fell asleep.
There is no need to tell you I spent the entire summer recovering, just as I spent the last winter at home. The eights came up again, but I tried to kill the thoughts with books. I was just finishing up "Path of Daggers" - Book 8 of The Wheel of Time series.
I read the last page and I as I was just about to close the book, when I found that my sweaty finger has smeared up the page number. The book was 608 pages (UK edition) and the 8 was the last digit standing.
- Oh, for crying out loud! - I screamed. I was also hyped on Stargate SG-1 at this time, so you know where this came from.
This was the point where I drew the line. I was convinced everything was real - the boy, the curse, everything. But I had to stop it. I couldn’t exactly remember all the wishes I made on the fucking well, but I was sure this will haunt me to the rest of my life. And I had to stop it. Hopefully not like in Final Destination, you know.
The eights kept popping all the way until the fall. But I was determined to spend what's left of the year to find a way to break the curse. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but there has to be away.
My quest kicked off with going to few churches, but the priests just said some obscure prayer and sent me home. I went to a fortune teller and she said to do some strange ritual requiring me burning a photo of myself and some hair within a pentagram drawn on a white paper, then take those ashes and throw the into a river. You can imagine this helped a lot. I'm kidding, of course, the eights become infesting my entire life - my new driving license (2568746320 = 44 = 8), my new car's license place (2105), my new mobile number (yes - 8), everything I touched was leading to 8. Even the numbers on the buses' tickets.
I found a lawyer who was ready to help me and didn't cost a fortune. I had to sell my new GeForce graphics card for $440 and return my old Savage, but it was still a good deal. This lawyer promised me to dig up some information about the family and hopefully - some living relatives.
I waited patiently for about two weeks, when I got the call. It was 8 in the morning, sharp. Through the 8 minutes we talked with my lawyer, he told me the good news - the was a living ancestor of the Ruskovs - an 80-year old man living on 8 Hill Street. Yeah, I know, like this wasn't creepy at all.
I took the documents we found back in the house, caught a taxi and went on the address. It was an old house, nested around modern taller buildings, and looked almost abandoned if it wasn't for some laundry.
I crossed the front yard and was just about to knock, when the door opened with a deafening creaking. A pale old man in dark blue trousers and shirt stood in front of me.
- You are about the eights, aren't you bastard! - He literally yelled at me. I could feel some saliva on my face, but I was determined to see this through, so I didn't do anything to compromise my confidence.
- Maybe. - I said. - Are you Todor Ruskov?
- C'mon in. It won’t take long.
The old house was like a museum - filled with pictures, old items like a coal iron and similar relics, everything dust free. Todor seems to have kept everything in order, even though the stuff was like a century old.
- What did you do? Tell me. I can see it, fool. You had to go there, right? You needed to check out the old house. You hateful son of a bitch. Why didn't you listen? Why didn't you read?
- Hey, Mr. Ruskov. Take it easy. Yes, I was in the house. And yes, obviously I made some embarrassing wishes that came back at me. Hell, one of my best friends died with his parents. But there was no warnings, nothing that could tips us off.
- So, you didn't hear Alexander's story? You didn't see the sign "DON'T TROW COINS IN THE WATER, YOU WILL POISON YOUR LIFE"?
It made sense. Oh, it made fucking sense. We'd been warned twice. The sign was there until Peter threw it in the water, but not before he drew a quarter on his back. He liked to "live dangerously" as he put it. And the new boy - Alex - he did warned us, but it was a bit too late.
And I shot everything what happened since that night with Alex. I blabbed everything in like three minutes. And the old man just sat there, shaking his head, and what was that, giggle?
- Listen up, spoiled little brat! There is nothing wrong with you. My ancestors were pigs, animals. They all deserved to die. But there is no curse, nothing, just your weaken minds by the modern world. But I know you won't believe me, as others didn't, so there is something I had to show you. Wait here!
The man went upstairs, I heard him searching through some stuff very loud, and came back in a few minutes.
- Here it is. The picture you are missing from the papers you brought. The ninth page. - He said the latter with irony.
I grabbed the thing and began inspecting it. It was a drawing of the well. Not a good one, done by a child, obviously. I flipped the page to find some text, written probably by the same child:
"If you want to grow past eight,
Wish your enemy a fortune great,
You need to make a wish of heart,
And grant your soul a fresh start."
Wait for a special sign of mine,
You'll be free of eight at nine."
It was signed with just "9".
- So, does this help? I don't know. Now give it back to me. And get out of my house. FREAK!
The old man scream the last part and literally kicked me out of the house. But I found my answer. It seems so logical now that I got it. I need to wish my worst enemy the best and I will be free. Easy enough.
My worst enemy is my Literature teacher and I am definitely sending my best wishes tonight.
I went the same night by the well and sat there for a while. I was about to make a wish, but I couldn’t think of one. What Miss. Almond would appreciate the most? Money, health? I sat on this for quite a long time until I figured it out. She was about 50 years old and wasn't married. I knew she was already at the state of mind where she hated all grown men, but she was hated from her students.
And this would have hurt her the most. She needed to be loved by her students, even though she was a stone-cold bitch, who terrorized everybody. She even beat me up once with a stick. Evelyn Almond was something like Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, but not as wicked.
I began to understand her and in the end I found myself wishing her the best, as it was just horrible to go to bed each night knowing nobody loves you. As I was about to throw the coin and make the wish, a cold wind blew and went through my skin, freezing my bones. I heard a child scream, and giggle. And then pure laughter, mixed with some strange, what was this - Noes. Someone was telling me No.
I closed my eyes and wished for the biggest and purest love for Miss. Almond. She deserves it and I really believed it. And there is this giggle again, giggling around me, inside me, in my ears, in my mind, everywhere. The wind blew stronger and stronger and I almost fell into the well.
I dropped the coin and all of a sudden everything stopped. I was almost sure I heard someone whispers 'eight' just before the wind went dead. Almost.
I went home that night and had a good sleep, something I was denied from a long time. God, that was nice!
The eights became rarer each day until they were gone completely. I finished school and went to college in another state, and everything was great. I was free. I kept tabs on my ex most hated person and indeed her situation improved over the years. It was my third year in college (2006) that I heard she won teacher of the year award for the state and was voted very highly from both her students and her colleagues.
I decided to return home to meet with her and congratulate her about the achievement. As I drove down the highway I saw a small ball right in the middle of the fastest lane. It was some sort of an animal and it was alive. I pulled over the car and went to grab the poor thing. It was a hedgehog. So sweet and scared. I took it in my car and drove off to my hometown.
I returned home and showed it to my parents. They also found it very sweet and amusing and took care of it, while I was out visiting my old teachers, reconnecting with my neighborhood friends, even went to check on my old girlfriend.
Hodgins, that's what we called the hedgehog, died after a few days I brought him home. Nine if I am to count them, but I am not into these things already. I took it to a vet, because I was curious what happened to the little fella. He seemed alright when I rescued it.
It turned out Hodgins was ill. He caught some parasites during his wandering in the nature and was irreversibly ill when I already found him.
I loved Hodgins already and I made him a funeral. I found a small beautiful meadow near our pine forest and berried it there. I have a few days left of my paid vacation, so I did some more meetings with my old friends, but each morning I went to visit Hodgins's grave under this young pine.
On the first day I found a dollar bill rolling just few feet from the little grave. I went and took it. Odd.
The second morning history repeated itself and I found a second dollar bill nearby the grave.
The last day I visited Hodgins's grave after I packed my bags and shove them in the car. I picked off some daisies on my way to the meadow. I sat near the grave for a while wishing I had more time with this sweet creature. No dollar bill today.
I left the daisies on the small heap and stood up. My hair touched the pine's branches and a dollar bill fell off right on the flowers. I took it and smiled. It was like Hodgins was sending me money as a thanks for making his last days joyful. I know it sounds stupid, but that's what I thought back then. Silly me.
As I was putting the dollar in my wallet next to the other bills I've collected from the grave, I was smiling. I felt like this sweet fella made me rich. There were how many - five, six, seven, eight, and today - nine dollars. I put all of them inside and kept smiling. I thanked him, looked briefly on the nine daisies and went back in my car.
Somewhere in the middle of the highway I was listening to the evening news. The announcer said:
"Good evening, folks. It's 9MP on 9th September and you are listening the news on your favorite station - Signal 9 at 99.9 MHz." …
Now it’s almost nine years from the last day I visited Hodgins. I've been a journalist for almost 9 years. And I've tried my luck as a writer for almost 9 months. The story I am writing today is my ninth piece of work. I bought Apartment 27 and live on the ninth floor on 27 CENSURED street. My new car's license plate number is 4950 (it's 9).
I think I am going crazy.