He didn't know if he was going to make the finish line or not. He could feel the heat of the thing chasing him as it closed in on him. Its breath was fetid and caused him to feel weak, but he wasn't going to give up without a fight. The crowds were cheering him on as his long legs swept him around the final leg of the track, but they couldn't see like him what was after him, who was really racing to beat him. And not just beat him, but pull him down mercilessly into a cesspool of destruction.
Even Jimbo couldn't help him this time. This thing was just pure evil.
It began that morning when he and Jimbo, his best friend, had been reading a stack of old Mystery Magazines published by Smith House. They loved the stories about brave detectives battling mysterious villains that had unknown agendas and struck down the innocent in the blink of an eye. They weren't rooting for evil, just marveling over how clever the detectives were who had to not only solve the crimes, but avoid being killed in the process.
Samuel knew and Jimbo, his best friend, a tall rascally export from Texas, had similar ambition. To live life to its fullest in pursuit of the unknown. To solve mysteries and crimes. To help those in distress and save the innocents.
Which when he thought back on it, he might have spared a little of that juice on saving himself s well. They had bought a new batch of mags at a downtown thrift store. It hadn't been there last time they had looked, but this time they found it after some really creepy looking person accidentally dislodged it from a higher up shelf, one they hadn't realized had any books at all.
He had turned after knocking it down and given them both a leer that caused Jimbo to stiffen as if ready to go into battle and Samuel to clench his fists, gathering some of his newly found powers of defense. But they weren't needed. The creepy person had touched his forehead where the third eye is, then gave them a really gruesome grin and exited the store.
"Who was that man?" Samuel had asked the clerk as they checked out with the string bound stack of detective mags.
The Clerk shrugged. "Comes in here sometimes, leaves things. Don't know why. He doesn't ask for any kind of charitable receipt. Just scares the crap out of everyone in here, then leaves."
Jimbo scowled. "Well, whatever he's leaving, I don't want it!"
They paid for the mags and stepped to the exit. The Clerk hollered after them. "Oh, I forgot to tell you, I don't know where those mags came from."
Jimbo and Samuel exchanged wary glances, but exited.
At Samuel's house they sat on his bed sorting through the stack.
"Weird Tales, Detective Tales, Tales of Death and Destruction." Jimbo named.
"Look here, Jimbo. This one is really strange. Never heard of it before." Samuel pointed out, holding up a very thin magazine with a glossy black cover and a single word on it. "Danger."
"Why would someone publish a magazine with one word on its cover?"
Samuel felt this odd tingling in his wrist when he had picked it up, but had ignored it, thinking he was just picking up on some weird vibes of whoever had held it last. You see, Samuel is not your ordinary teenager wanna be detective, he was a psychic detective, a spiritual one. He could see dead people, sometimes heal people, and see past lives. And other things kept popping up as he grew older as well.
"I did get kind of a weird vibe on this one, Jimbo."
"Let's can it!" Jimbo urged, not afraid of anything, but this mag creeped him out big time.
"Sure. Don't need no Pandora's Box to keep me happy." Samuel said.
He took the mag and headed for downstairs, then to the back of the house and out back where the garbage cans were kept. He opened the nearest and tossed the mag in and closed it. When he finished he turned to leave, then heard a weird sound.
He turned around and the garbage can was shaking like something alive had got trapped in it. Had he let an animal in it somehow? He didn't see how, but he had to check. He loved squirrels and those kinds of cute creatures.
He lifted the lid of the garbage can and was knocked onto his butt as something flew out into his face and slammed into him. He sat there stunned as something as dark as the magazine rose from the garbage can and eyed him with such intensity that he felt like he were being x-rayed. It had laughed in a scary sort of way, and then vanished.
He was so shaken when he got back upstairs to speak with Jimbo, that even Jimbo could see something was wrong. He told his friend.
"It's that creepy guy. Some kind of monster bomb."
Samuel laughed. "There's no such thing as monsters."
Jimbo scowled at him, doing his best to make his point. "How quickly you forget the creatures we've been fighting over the last few years."
"Oh." Samuel said, suddenly sobering up and feeling frightened again.
That's when Al showed up, his invisible friend, who also happened to be the smartest man on the planet, or at least had been until he had crossed over into the Light.
Al sat on the desk next to the window, which was half way open to let in sunlight and fresh air, and then waved a finger at Samuel. "You have been tricked, Samuel."
"Who you talking to?" Jimbo asked, and then s hut up as Samuel ignored him and rose to speak to what appeared to be an empty desktop.
"How were we tricked?"
"Just remember not everything is as it seems, and not everything seems as it is." Al had told him, then with a wise smile had vanished, leaving Samuel more frightened and confused than before.
Samuel flopped onto his bed, causing Jimbo to bounce up and down a moment.
"What're we going to do about it?" Jimbo asked. "Your invisible friend with advice knows, right?"
"But he's not telling. Something vague like don't trust what you see and don't see what you trust."
"Figures. Those wise guys like Yoda enjoy pranking our minds."
Samuel laughed and Jimbo grinned.
"Time to crème it up!" Jimbo announced.
They went to the local Freeze Dairy and had two scoops of Raspberry Sherbet and Banana Crème Pie and licked them down happily, letting the garbage can incident drop behind them as they planned the rest of their weekend.
But now it was weekend goodbye, and demon hello as Samuel raced against time and destruction against some kind of evil entity that was not racing in the track meet to win a prize, but to stop Samuel from doing so or worse.
Samuel dared to glance over his right shoulder. Big mistake.
The misty being was just a few feet away and looking right at him with a smile that could kill.
Samuel stumbled and then went flying across the track field, as the other teams flew past him, not one stopping to see if he was all right. The crowd let out gasps of dismay and worry. Emergency teams began running towards Samuel.
Jimbo, who had been working his way around the field parallel to Samuel, hollered. "It's not over till it's over!"
Samuel rolled over and leaped back to his feet.
The creature was leering at him happily.
Samuel suddenly knew what Al was telling him. "You don't win this one!" Samuel hollered.
Samuel put on a burst of speed, and even though he had bleeding cuts on both his knees, his wrists, hands and elbows he didn't slow down. He pumped his aching legs harder and harder, ignoring the blinding pain that was surging up them, and the threat of cramping that was growing stronger and stronger.
The other teams lost their grins as he caught even with them, waved, and then put on a final burst of speed, not even a foot from the finish line and crossed it.
The Crowd burst into cheers and applause, fireworks shot into the air, and guns rang loudly as he slowed down, then continued at a walking pace to let his muscles relax, so they wouldn't cramp. He heard a horrible scream, and then turned to see the Demon that had been chasing him shake an angry fist at him. At the same time, he felt, rather than saw the creepy man again. He spun around and the creepy man was in the crowd, his eyes furious as Samuel looked at him, smiled, and then waved.
Jimbo was not so nice.
"Hey! You jerk!"
Jimbo bounced up the stadium seats, racing to reach the creepy man, who seemed to make a quarter degree turn on his chair, then vanish.
Later that night Samuel's Mom, back from work, laid out a meal fit for a king.
"I'm sorry I couldn't make it to your track meet, Sammie."
"No problem, Mom. Jimbo and I had a great time."
She looked at the bandages on his wrist, hands and palms, frowned, then shrugged and went back into the kitchen, where he and Jimbo could hear her digging in the refrigerator.
"I get it." Samuel whispered to Jimbo.
"I wasn't seeing things how they were, but how fear wanted me to see."
"Oh." Jimbo replied, not sure exactly what Samuel was talking about, but willing to go along with his friend's revelation anyway.
Samuel clapped a hand on Jimbo's shoulder. "Friend, we're going to be the best detective team this world has ever seen."
"Since Sherlock and Watson?"
Samuel laughed. "They're just made up. We're the real thing."
Jimbo raised his root beer mug, frothing with vanilla crème. Samuel did the same.
"To us!" Samuel responded, and they drank their mugs down.
Samuel's Mom, in the kitchen, was alarmed when it grew suddenly so quiet, so she rushed out to see what was going on, and then burst into laughter. Both the teens had faces covered with root beer and vanilla crème and were grinning like Cheshire cats.
What neither Jimbo or the Mom saw, but Samuel did, was Al standing in the corner of the dining room, arms crossed, his shaggy wild white hair flaring outwards, and his walrus shaped mustache wriggling as he himself laughed as well.