I opened the door to the liquor store and was met with a fist jabbing into my face. My body stumbled backwards in surprise and then turned to see the culprit sprinting down the street with a bottle of Rip Van Winkle in his hand.
"Go get him, Mr. Evergreen!" yelled the store's proprietor.
"You're damn right I will, Jay." The bastard and I twisted and turned together through the city, until I finally lost him in the the park below Only Way. "I was going to drink that!" I shouted into the trees. I tried to pick out any sign of movement from beyond the fog that layered the ground. "Where the hell did that fucker go?"
"Ah, but aren't you the best man alive at solving riddles?" I wheeled around to face the source of the voice, as an old man appeared through the trees holding a 12-year-old boy by the hand. They looked normal enough at first. The man was wrapped in a long green wool coat, and the boy was slipped into a light blue sweater. As the pair came closer though, I discovered that the old man's eye sockets were empty, and that the boy's mouth was sealed shut by duct tape. I froze, and the old man laughed. "I bet you haven't been called that in a while, have you Barnabas?" The man advanced confidently, almost as if he was leading the boy instead of the other way around. His voice sounded like two slabs of granite being ground together. "Or should I call you Robert?" I flinched, and his smile grew wider. Then suddenly he paused, losing his smile in thought. "No no no, not Robert. Robert’s not the one I want. Robert's the boring one. Wait. I know." His grin came back. "Christopher." I yelped with surprise, and the old man sighed as if he was scratching a long ignored itch. "Ahhhhhh yes, that's what she used to call you, isn't it? Christopher Teller. She was the only one that got to call you Chris. And she used to sing you a song. All the time; her favorite song..." He began to sing, a grin still painted across his face. Auld Lang Syne. And he sang it in a British accent.
"No!" I screamed. I dropped my cane and pressed my palms against my ears to block out his voice, but that didn’t stop my mind from forcing me into a memory I didn’t know that I had. It was of a woman’s face. I crumpled to the ground, and the boy started crying. The old man sang the entire song, and when he was done, he held out the bottle of Rip Van Winkle.
"You'll need this," he said.
He was right.