A midnight shift during the summer in a college town meant an odd walk to work. I didn’t mind that much, and it wasn’t as though I had other options. I had to work, and I didn’t have a car. I figured that as long as I avoided walking down Elm Street, I would be fine. I mean, I know Freddy Krueger is a fictional character, but better safe than sorry, right?
Anyway, the night was clear and so were the streets. With the college on summer break, there weren’t many people around. It would be an easy twenty-minute walk.
And it was. For about five minutes. I had just turned on to 2nd Street and crossed Elm (it couldn’t be helped). Before I could get to High Street, another man began walking next to me. I hadn’t seen where he had come from, and his appearance startled me.
“Nice night, isn’t it?” His voice was casual, as if we had known each other for years.
“Ah! Uh… I guess? Who…?”
“Oh, you don’t know me.”
“Yeah, that much I knew. But who are you?”
“Not really important. You just looked like you could use some company, and I had a few minutes to spare.”
“So you decided to scare me?”
“Oh my… Did I? I am very sorry.” There was not a hint of sarcasm in his tone, but I couldn’t help feeling that he was laughing at me.
“I just didn’t notice you walk up to me.”
“I do have a bad habit of sneaking up on people. Unintentionally, of course. I do apologize. Here, let me make it up to you.” Even in the darkness, I could see him holding out his hand. I extended mine, and he dropped what felt like a button. “If life ever gets too boring, just break that. It should liven things up.”
“What is it?”
“That’s something you’ll have to find out.”
We had gotten to College Drive, and I turned left. He stopped, looking at the road sign in the dim light of the street lamp. Looking at me, he gestured to the right.
“Okay. Gotta go. Nice chatting with you. Oh, and don’t break that inside. Just to be safe.”
Before I could ask any more questions, he began running frantically, waving his arms about like a child trying to fly. The night quickly swallowed him up.
I looked down at the disc in my hand. Not a button, rather it was a wooden coin. The light was not bright enough for me to make out the markings clearly, but I suspected I would not understand them.
I considered breaking it right then, just to be sure it wasn’t anything at all. But I was going to be late for work if I didn’t hurry. I shoved it into my pocket and decided to check it out the next chance I got.