A Curious Boy
The wind screamed its snowy breath as The Stranger opened the door, approached the front desk, and asked Deacon's mom if they had any vacant rooms. Deacon peered between the railings at the top of the stairs to get a look at The Stranger's face, but his splotched fedora attracted shadows like a dying candle.
"I'm sorry, we're all full up. Perhaps The Ivory Arms in Hilltop will have some rooms. I can call them if you wish."
The Stranger shook the snow from his hat, revealing a moon of a bald head, craters and all.
"My automobile has unfortunately found itself stuck in a snow bank a half-mile up the road."
This was a lie. Deacon knew. From the attic window he had seen The Stranger emerge from the woods behind the B&B, not from the road as he had just said. Deacon had been rummaging through the young couples' baggage. The attic had been converted into a small cozy guest room. The slant of the roof and canvas carpet gave the room the feel of a tent. Near the bottom of the young couple's suitcase, under a pile of pants, Deacon found a small midnight blue velvet box with a diamond ring inside. He held the ring up to the window and let the light spread into a million colors. That's when the shadowy man stepped from the white capped evergreens beyond the yard.
Deacon had a game. His parents called it a troubling habit. The game was Treasure Hunter. His parents called it snooping through their guests' luggage. Deacon didn't mean to be a snoop, it's just that he was a curious boy. Deacon was marooned in his parents' Bed and Breakfast. He didn't go to school like the other kids and that made it tough for him to know anything more than what the grounds had to offer. He wanted to see and touch and discover. Each vacationer that resided at Snowy Valley B&B brought with them treasures locked within chests from the world outside. His parents called these treasures private belongings. But to Deacon, these were his to explore. The treasures he would uncover were actually never that interesting. Clothes, shaving kits, lady stuff, and pills.
It wasn't the contents that made his imagination swirl. It was the moment. That magic moment, achieved only once he crept passed his parents to sneak a spare room key. Hiding the key. Sneaking off when the coast was clear. Slowly walking up the stairs, avoiding all known creaky spots. Opening the locked guest room without making any noise at all. Tip-toeing to a bag. Opening his ears to hear if his parents were a safe distance; cooking in the kitchen or making calls at the front desk. Then, and only then, did the moment arrive. Just before he unzipped, unhooked, or unlocked the treasure chest. Lifting it ever so gently, letting the chests keep their secrets a second more. What could be in this one? Deacon had to know. His eyes would open wide. He'd stick his tongue in the gap between his teeth. Every hair on his head would lift. Then he'd flip the lid fully open to reveal... nothing much. The moment would pass, the adventure at an end. He'd put everything back, he'd return the key and a slight feeling of guilt made him promise to never play Treasure Hunter again. But when a new guest would arrive with their treasure chests in tow, his curiosity awoke. What secrets could this one hold? Deacon would toss and turn until morning. When the new guest would leave to ski a new game of Treasure Hunter would begin.
He had been caught on more than one occasion and the consequences went as so: His father would yank him out of the suite and march him to their quarters. Then father would yell and yell some more. He would make him sit in his room for a day without supper... well, a little supper, but no ice cream. Then father would explain that going through people's private belongings, especially our paying guests, is not only forbidden but is not a moral thing to do. This only made Deacon want to see more. Instead of stopping, he got better at being quiet, better at sneaking, better at knowing what times to go and how to look and touch, but also how to put back, so that it would seem no one had ever touched anything at all.
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WATTY 2016 WINNER of the HQ Love Award! Strange Yarns is a ball of tangled tales. Twisted, knotted, and intertwined. Like Tales of the Crypt, the Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits. Strange Yarns is not just a collection of ghastly tales, these are...