The sky hung in globular lumps. An insipid colour, neither yellow nor brown, the clouds sought to contain the fingers of some unspeakable god that poked and prodded at their lurid viscosity. I hoped upon hope that they held.
The house on the hill that sat below that awful pigmentation remained silent its owner asleep, or so I prayed. I’d begged the other boys to wait until our parents came home, but they wouldn’t. As the smallest of the gang, I’d been tasked with retrieving the football that some other child had kicked into that overgrown and most littered of hovels. There was no way for me to refuse; I couldn’t take the beating.
And so it was that under the urgings of the bigger children, I took one last look up at the sky and opened the gate. The intent to be in and out ninja-like took an unexpected twist for the worst, when the hinges screeched their protest. Things were not going great. Deciding that speed was the key, I shoved the squealing metal further ajar and burst into the yard. Dodging around several turned over bins, I sprinted into the rear of the premises and to my relief saw the reassuring, white leather of the football. I grasped the thing, took a deep breath and prepared for the sprint back. That was when the sky caved in.
I heard the other boys crying, screaming and worse. Having curled into as protective a bundle as I could, I did not know what ailed them. When I, at last, opened my eyes, I knew. Everything beyond the homestead’s perimeter fence had vanished. The world was one of pulsating puce. The stuff that was once cloud undulated in unrestricted glee. I knew that it sought me, too.
Without thinking, I ran for the shelter of the house itself, and much to my shock burst into the unlocked kitchen and through into a plush living room. She sat there, the little old lady, with a smile on her face. Or I should better say, the thing that pretended to be a little old lady. The beast had done a wonderful job of disguising its body and I wondered how long it had been there? But the eyes of a fiend cannot be so easily covered. Thin slits of luminous green flickered at me.
“So, you work for me now and not your friends.”
It was not a question. She commented on what simply was.
“I have no friends,” I replied.
She cast me a suspicious gaze thinking I sought to trick her into release. When she realised that I told the truth, she smiled. I turned away.
“No, I suppose you don’t,” she hissed. “And you never will.”
I went to put the kettle on.