I closed my eyes so I could roll them without him seeing me do it, but that did not work.
“You don’t believe me, boy? You think I am a mad man, some kind of crazy old-timer who believes in cryptic kids of evil you cannot see? An unbalanced old man?”
“Kind of, yes. This evil you describe, unseen and mysterious, it seems like a bunch of superstition to me. What proof do you have that it exists?”
Brown Suit stood up as he replied. “I have been here many years, more than you probably would believe, and I have seen it hunt down the people around here. It took me awhile to understand it, how it thinks and what it wants, but I finally did figure it out. Since then I have tried to protect this place and the people who live here, at least as much as I can. Sometimes I have failed.” He stopped talking then, a slight quiver in his jaw which he fixed by clamping his mouth shut. After a moment he continued. “I have failed occasionally, terribly, but only a few times. I have done my best.” I thought he might be crying as he finished, or about to, as his eyes were glistening but it was hard to be certain. He turned his head away quickly and I left it alone, asking another question instead.
“What does it want?”
“It wants to feed, to eat people and consume their souls.”
“And rabbits have what to do with that exactly?”
“It’s easily distracted, so eager to feed that it will chase the most obvious thing that it gets a scent for, chase it down until it catches that thing. I use rabbits to keep it sated as much as I can”
“And then what? It’s full so it doesn’t go after the people around here?” I could hear the derision in my voice as I spoke those words and so could Brown Suit.
“See, you are not willing to believe, just as I suspected! Yes, it feeds on life energy, any life energy. And yes, rabbits serve that purpose, to fulfill that need so it doesn’t hunt humans. Laugh all you want to but I am right about it, right about what it wants and how to distract it.” He sat back down again.
“Based on what? How do you know you are right?”
“I’ve kept it at bay, for the most part anyway. That’s all you need to know.”
I waited a minute before replying, taking a long drink of water as I thought through what he had said. Draining the glass I set it down and spoke.
“You said the mine was dangerous but then went thirty miles away to release that rabbit. Is the mine dangerous because the presence you think exists is there? And if so, then again, why go all that way, in the opposite direction, to feed it the rabbit?”
“The mine is dangerous for many reasons, but yes the evil presence is one of them. It travels through, in a cycle around this area. I’ve figured out that cycle and I go to the place it will be.”
A bad thought struck me as he spoke and I confronted him with it. “Is that why you told me the lie about where the mine was? Did you, I mean, were you trying to get me to go there so this thing could, well, eat me?” I tried to say it indignantly but I caught a small amount of fear in my own voice. I mean, if he really believed in this presence and had told me information that might send me toward it, was he actually trying to get me killed? Brown Suit stayed silent, just looking back at me. I shrugged off my thought, burying it under my own disbelief in his whole story.
In my mind I was putting a check mark next to the “crazy” box for Brown Suit but still hoped to get some more information out if him. I tried a different topic.
“Why won’t you tell me your name?”
He stayed silent.
“Ok, how about this one. Why is it that no one hardly ever moves into or out of Clyde Forks?”
He blinked slowly and shook his head, like he was waking up from some kind of trance. I thought he was going to stay silent but he spoke.
“I suppose because they like the place.”
“But no one moving in or out? That seems really strange. And why have there never been any children here?”
“There have been. Every place has children.”
“Well, not many that I could tell. You know there is an old woman, lives up around the corner there off Clyde Forks Road. She showed me a bunch of pictures and hardly any of them had children in them. Doesn’t that seem strange to you?”
“I know who you are talking about. She’s a bit lonely I think, probably talked your ear off and more than likely told you what you wanted to hear. As for her pictures, well, it’s true that there have never been many children around here.”
“Damn it!” I slammed my hand down on the table as I spoke. “You say you know about this place and then give me cryptic answers, stories about unseen evil and silence when you don’t want to answer a question! Are you going to help me or not?”
“I’m trying to help you, but you are not getting my message. The help you need is to understand that this place is not for you. You need to leave and go away. Our mysteries are not for you to understand.”
I shook my head, frustrated and mad. I decided to keep trying.
“I heard a child around here that night, the one where I came over here and spoke to you and you got so mad. Do you remember?”
“I remember you coming over and talking nonsense.”
“I know what I heard and there is no place near here where it could have carried from as you suggested. That child is here, in Clyde Forks. Why are you denying it? And why is it being hidden?”
Brown Suit rubbed his forehead before replying. “Children are precious and must be taken very good care of. Surely you agree?”
“Of course. And are you admitting that there is a child here?”
“I’m simply telling you that children are very precious. Now, are we done?”
“I don’t think so. Tell me about this child.”
He stood up and went over to the door, opening it quickly without having to shake the handle. “We are done.”
…to be continued