Faces peered out at him from behind trees as he walked home from school. “Sam,” they whispered, voices like the October wind through fallen leaves. “Come to us.” He balled his hands up and shoved them as far into his pocket as he could, head down and miserable. They had evil, pursed faces, ancient as monkeys, and clipped feline ears.
Clear skies had brought everyone out. Couples passed him, collars turned up against the wind and bloodless fingers clasped together, everyone laughing in duet. They were alien and unknowable; their eyes slid away from his, and he stared past them toward the signs at the corner. The bits and pieces of their conversations dinned in his ears like French or German or Farsi. He passed a stand of trees and the faces whispered. “Sam,” they whispered, “come to us.”
He slipped in through the back fence, giving himself a splinter in the process. He left his backpack looped over the ladder and sat on the end of the diving board to dig it out. There was a foot of water in the bottom of the pool, thick with leaves. They pushed their faces up through the leaves at him. “Sam,” they whispered, “come to us.”
The sky and the half-bare branches of the trees across the way filled the sliding glass door. Inside it was dark enough that even reaching for the handle he was looking at himself. They were sitting on the slate floor in front of the gas fireplace, long-fingered hands looped through their knees. “Sam,” they whispered, and he stabbed for the light switch, even as they uncoiled.