I am super excited to have my short story “The Outsider” published by Terror House Magazine. Thank you, editor Matt Forney!
There was always something strange about Tommy. He never spoke to anyone, and he always played outside alone. Nobody really knew where he came from. He was like the proverbial baby in a basket, left on the doorstep of an orphanage. Except, he was about six years old when he knocked on the door of the Foster Care Agency. Nobody knew his age for sure. He never said anything, he just stood there, staring off into the distance. Of course, they took him in, and started an extensive search for his birth parents and where he came from. They asked him all sorts of questions, but he just stared at them, never smiling, never saying a word. The doctors were baffled. There was no physical reason for Tommy not being able to talk. They deduced it must have been some sort of emotional trauma. Over the next year the doctors performed a battery of mental and physical tests on the boy with no results.
Tommy always stayed to himself. He never played with the other children at the agency. He was labeled “The Outsider” because of his withdrawn deportment. The caretakers decided that it might be better if they could place Tommy in a loving home. Maybe some personal attention and affection would bring Tommy around. They interviewed many potential foster parents, but his behavior scared most of them away. Tommy started to show some unusual habits and abilities. He would pick up an adult level book and appear to read the entire book in mere minutes. Everyone thought that he must just be restlessly paging through the book and not trying to understand what it contained. He also started to build things with clay. There were all sorts of elaborate structures that were unlike anything the people at the agency had ever seen before. One of the adults mused that they reminded her of what she imagined buildings on an alien world might look like, or maybe even in hell. They all wondered where these strange visions came from. How did he come up with something so far removed from anything that anyone had ever seen? He must have a very wild imagination.
Finally, one day Mr. and Mrs. Johnson visited the Foster Home. They were looking for a little boy to bring into their home and love. They immediately noticed Tommy sitting by himself in the corner of the room with a huge book open on his lap. They walked over to him and said “Tommy, would you like to come home to live with us and be our son?” To everyone’s astonishment, Tommy stood up, put down the book, and took Mrs. Johnson by the hand. The people at the agency were relieved. Maybe this is all Tommy needed. Maybe having a loving family of his own would help him open up and start to act more normal.
Tommy went upstairs to pack the few belongings that he had acquired while being at the Foster Care Agency over the past year. When he arrived at the Johnson’s house he went upstairs as if he instinctively knew where his room was. This was not the only time that he acted like he knew what was expected of him. It was almost as if he could read minds.
Another year passed, and Tommy never did open up. He remained silent and pensive. He did not misbehave or cause any trouble, so the Johnson’s just gave them all the love that they had to give, and continued to hope and pray that someday he might finally show them some of that love back.
Every evening right after supper, Tommy would go out to the side yard to play in the dirt. He would carefully add water to make mud of just the right consistency, then proceed to create his fanciful statues and buildings. Neighbors walking by often stopped and wondered what he was doing, and if he might even be dangerous. Afterall, he did not act like a normal child. The townsfolk would stare, and the other children taunted him, making fun of him. His adoptive parents were concerned, but nothing they tried seem to help. The specialists they engaged were perplexed, and even frightened by Tommy.
Tommy always knew he was special, that he did not fit in this world. He always hoped that someday he could return to the universe that he came from, where he knew he belonged. One evening Tommy was playing in the dirt next to his house. He was fashioning an army from the mud. The soldiers were deformed and frightening looking, like some sort of otherworldly monsters. Several people gathered nearby and started to whisper and point. Tommy couldn’t hold back his anger any longer. He had had enough. If he could not fit in to this strange world, and be accepted, he would have to defend himself in the only way he knew how. Then he threw back his head, closed his eyes, and tensed up. Suddenly, as if by magic, the mud soldiers grew larger and larger, then came to life. They marched on the town, destroying all the town’s buildings. Every person that the soldiers touched turned into a mud statue. Tommy would teach them it was not polite to make fun of someone just because they were different. Then he stood up, stared off into the future, and started to walk away. No one ever saw Tommy again.