“Fear is the highest fence.”
— Dudley Nichols
The chain-link fence rattled noisily when Jonny walked into it. He jerked back, almost dropping his phone. Nina snickered from behind, and Amy made a sympathetic noise.
“I’m fine,” he said before either of the two girls could ask. He rubbed his head absently as he looked over the fence. It surrounded the entire house, with a little entry gate in front.
“It’s not in there, is it?” Amy asked, a wrinkle of worry appearing between her eyebrows. She glanced down at her phone.
“Only Ghost Pokemon would be in a haunted house like that one,” Nina proclaimed.
Jonny shook his head, eyes widening. “There’s a Squirtle in there!”
The two girls crowded around to look his screen. Then they all glanced at the house.
It did look like it was full of ghosts. The paint was ugly and faded. There was no grass in the front yard, only dirt and rocks. The bars over the windows looked rusty and one was broken.
“Maybe it’ll move closer to us,” Amy said, sounding hopeful.
The children watched each of their phones intently, waiting to see if the elusive Squirtle would suddenly pop up on their map, within easy tapping reach.
But its silhouette remained dark, and the distance marked by pawprints remained the same.
A series of white rings burst onto Jonny’s map, and he gasped — then groaned.
“Just a Zubat,” he muttered, and halfheartedly flicked Pokeballs at it.
Nina shook her head. “The Squirtle must be in the house.”
“Well, we can’t just go into someone’s house,” Amy said, clutching her phone to her chest. “That’s bad.”
Jonny examined the fence again. “Not in the house,” he said slowly. “But close enough.”
And he stuffed his phone into his back pocket, grabbed the links of the fence with two hands, and began to climb.
Amy gasped, and Nina pumped her fist. “Go, Jonny, go!”
The fence fortunately wasn’t very high, and he was able to drop down easily on the other side, carefully rolling to avoid crushing the phone.
Covered in dirt, Jonny tiptoed closer to the house, which was bathed in shadow from the setting sun, and the phone’s lit screen glared at him as he looked around for the Squirtle.
He stepped onto the porch to the door — he heard Amy give a little shriek — and held his phone against it. The Pokemon had to be close now . . .
The door wasn’t locked. And it slowly opened against the pressure of Jonny’s hand. He took a step back, uncertain for the first time.
He couldn’t really see anything through the open door besides a dark hallway. Plumes of dust kept falling from the ceiling, landing on a huge black something near the end of the hall.
Jonny didn’t have a dog, but he liked them, and he had never seen one that big before.
He had also never seen one with red eyes.
It stared at him, seemingly puzzled at first.
Then it started growling.
Fear choked Jonny’s throat and he stumbled backward, nearly falling off the porch.
The red-eyed thing moved closer with alarming speed, and Jonny let out a strangled shriek and raced back to the fence, having the presence of mind to jam his phone into his pocket before trying to climb.
Amy and Nina were screaming as Jonny tumbled over the fence, tearing his pants and cutting open his knee. Nina yanked him to his feet, yelling, “RUN, RUN, RUN!”
A single glance back told him the thing was no longer in the house, and Jonny ran, Amy and Nina close behind.
Jonny couldn’t sleep. The cut on his knee ached, despite having been cleaned and bandaged by his mother, who couldn’t believe he had hurt himself just wandering around looking for virtual Pokemon. He, Nina, and even Amy had all promised not to tell their parents what had happened. None of them wanted to get into trouble for going into a stranger’s yard (though it only been Jonny, Nina had pointed out), and nor did they want to try to explain the thing that had chased them. Amy had convinced herself it was just a giant dog, and refused to talk about it any further. (Once the shock had worn off, Nina was merely disappointed that Jonny hadn’t gotten the Pokemon.) For his part, he knew it wasn’t a dog and he knew he could never go back to that house. Not even for a Squirtle.
The doorbell went off downstairs, and Jonny stiffened. Who was here so late at night?
He heard his dad asking his mom the same question and then open the door.
“Sorry to bother you folks, but have you seen my dog?” said a voice Jonny didn’t recognize. “I saw your son and his friends hanging around my house today and I thought he might have accidentally let him out.”
Jonny’s heart began pounding and his throat tightened.
“No . . . ” Jonny’s dad said slowly. “Haven’t seen a dog around here, I’m afraid. I hope my son didn’t disturb you?”
“Me, no. I . . . was working in the back and kept seeing a bunch of kids with phones wandering around. It was after your son passed by that I noticed my dog was gone. But I suppose it could’ve been at any time. I probably left the door open myself.” The voice gave a dusty-sounding laugh.
“Oh, all the kids are playing this Poke Man game,” Jonny’s dad explained. (Jonny mentally groaned.) “They go around the neighborhood on the phones to find these digital animal things. I told Jonny to not go into people’s yards, though.”
“I’m sure he’s a good boy,” said the voice. “I’ll keep asking around. Sorry again to bother you.”
“I hope you find your dog,” Jonny’s dad said.
“It’ll turn up somewhere. Always does.”
Jonny heard the door close, but he still felt like he couldn’t breathe.
“Well, that was odd,” he heard his dad say. “How did they know Jonny lived here?”
Jonny’s heart stopped.
Then, a low growl vibrated against his ears.
Almost against his will, he looked at his closet door.
It was slowly sliding open, and inside, he could see two angry red eyes.
Hooray, I’m back! Hopefully! XD For real, my sincerest apologies for the long hiatus, I’m still trying to figure things out work-wise. So much I want to do, but not enough time!
This story is a bit timely, heh, and yes, I’ve been playing Pokemon Go as much as the rest of the country (I was even a beta tester). Apologies if you don’t know Pokemon, but hopefully the story is still understandable, if a bit lackluster. (Still having a bit of writer’s block in terms of creativity — trying to work through it, though!)