She walked on the nearly empty streets where the streetlights shone soft, yellow stretches broken by dark strips of the road which was just out of their reach.  She strode confidently in the areas that was lit and quickened her pace when darkness enveloped her.

She wouldn’t admit it to many people, but her courage - even at the ripe old age of twenty three -  said goodbye at every door that led to darkness. He wasn’t what you’d call a very good friend. But, she liked walks and late evenings, and the torchlight on her phone was a very good alternative to courage.

She had walked about a kilometer and was on her way back to her house when she saw him - a little boy who looked about  6 years old. He was standing in a shadowed area, next to a dumpster, with eyes that looked crazed and calm at the same time. He looked homeless but she knew he wasn’t from his branded clothes. But, that wasn’t what caught her eye. Not the clothes, not the  eyes, not  even the disheveled hair. It was the blood. The sheer amount of blood.

His shirt was soaked in blood. The left half of his face was smeared with it. The top half of his trousers was crimson and the bottom was the beige.  She saw him look at her face and then at the blood on his palms. When he looked up at her the second time, the crazed look in his eyes was gone and now, he looked haunted. His skin was pale, the red on his clothes made it seem paler. He tilted his head a little to the right, and the look seemed out of place on the face of a child. She almost felt like he was… assessing her.  And as soon as it came,  it was gone.

She took a step closer when she saw his lower lip quiver. It was heart wrenching when he pursed his lips, and tried and failed to appear brave. When she moved forward again, he took two steps backwards until his head hit the dumpster and  fear rippled across his face when he realised he had nowhere to go.

‘Hey,’ she called softly.

His head jerked up at her words, surprised.

‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ she said. ‘I promise I won’t hurt you’.

A slow smile crept up the little boy’s face, before it was replaced by what she thought was distrust. She wondered if he had heard those words before. How many times he had heard those words before?

‘Can you tell me your name?’

He shook his head slowly, his eyes never leaving hers.

‘Okay, you don’t have to,’ she sighed. She looked around her,  thinking. There was nobody. She could take him to the police station. But it could be too late in the day for them to do anything, and the thought of this scared, little boy spending the night on the cold, bare police station floor strengthened her resolve to give him a warm bed to sleep.

The loud sound that  startled her from her thoughts into the present, also sent a shiver down her spine. He was standing  just a few feet from her, looking at her expectantly. She hadn’t heard or seen him come closer.  What gave him away was the empty plastic bottle he must have stepped on.

Of all the blood on him, none of it seemed to be his own. He looked unharmed to her, and for that, she was grateful. He must have decided she was trustworthy for he had stretched out a bloody hand in her direction. She hesitated, swallowed and then slowly took it.

They walked forward hand in hand.

She was standing outside the bathroom door incase he needed anything and thinking about what the police officer had said when she realised, to her dismay, that she couldn’t remember much. Her memory seemed fogged. She knew that the officer had allowed her to take the boy home, but she had no memory of the conversation. Her uneasiness grew. But she slowly calmed herself down writing off her incomplete memory to the evening’s trauma.

She had stripped him down to his undergarments and helped wash away most of the blood. She found it weird that the back of his shirt and trousers were nearly clean. It was as if he has slipped and fallen face first into a shallow pool of blood. She could hear the shower running. She smiled remembering the childish joy on his face when she showed him how to turn it on. He had nodded to everything she had said and accepted a towel, a pair of brown shorts - the one her little cousin had left behind - and her smallest pale yellow t-shirt.

He walked out unsure, not meeting her eyes, with the towel balled up in his hands, clean damp hair sticking out in every direction and the shirt falling off one shoulder.  She stretched her hand and tried to pat his hair down when he jerked back like he was burned. The crazed look was back in his eyes before it was chased away by what she thought was a mixture of revulsion accompanied by fear. She felt sorry for the boy for whatever horror he had experienced.

She tucked him in and was rewarded with a tiny smile which faded away just as quick as it had come. It made her uncomfortable, the speed with which the emotions on the young face changed. Somehow, she knew there was more to his thoughts and emotions than his face let on.

She shook her head slowly acknowledging that she was being ridiculous. He was just a little boy. A strange one, perhaps. But then, aren’t all kids a little strange?

‘Good night,’ she whispered, turning off the room’s bright lights. In the pale pink light of the night lamp, she could see him watching her. She wondered what he was thinking as she slowly walked back to her room. She wondered what had happened to him when she was getting into bed. She wondered why there was blood only on his face and the front of his clothes just before she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

She woke up with a jerk to see a curious pair of eyes watching her. He was standing there and looking at her as if he was mesmerized. It took her a full thirty seconds before she coaxed her breathing back to normal.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked him.

He just looked at her.

‘Do you need anything?’

He shook his head.

‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ she tried again, slowly sitting up and leaning against the headboard. He was looking at her with his head tilted to one side. For the second time that day, she felt like she was being assessed by this little boy.

Nothing,’ he replied in a sing-song voice. She gasped in surprise. His voice was beautiful. Like an angel, she thought.

In a move that was too fast for her to follow in her sleep addled state, he snatched her hand. In the next second, he had sunk his teeth into her forearm. She watched him in horror and she couldn’t feel her arm anymore.

As he looked up from her arm, in an instant, everything made sense. The crazed look was back, there was blood flowing out from the sides of his mouth, the shirt he was wearing wasn’t yellow anymore.

That’s why the back of his clothes were clean!
She had felt like he was assessing her, because he was! Like a hunter assessing his prey.

She felt sick. She tried once again to pull her hand from his grasp, but she couldn’t feel her arm-

She woke up panting. Her hand was numb. She looked around her room, rubbing her arm and trying to get some feeling back in it. In the light streaming through the window, she could see the familiar shapes of her things in her room. She tried to calm herself breathing in and out slowly. It was a dream - a nightmare.

‘A bloody nightmare! ‘ she said to herself. ‘This is definitely  going on my blog.’