They call him, Kid Stare.
I know that now but back then I had no idea. Back then I was an innocent. Back then I felt safe.
It was a week ago and the weather was sunny, a perfect day for a ride on my red trike. It had a long handle on the back and Mother had pushed me to the shop where she had bought me a cake, because I’d been a good boy. My cake was a sticky one with cream and icing and jam. Red flavour jam. My favourite.
Our plan was to take a trip to the park where we would sit on our favourite bench by the duck pond and eat. We would also feed the ducks with some bread we’d brought from home. It was going to be a good day.
But when we got there, it became apparent that things weren’t going to go to plan. To start with, the park was far busier than usual. The place was simply crawling with other children and their parents. I was aghast, more so when I noticed, for the first time, that our bench, my favourite bench, the one by the duck pond, was full of babies being fed. This was an outrage that I felt certain Mother would not stand for.
I was wrong.
“Never mind,” she said as. She took hold of the handle on the back of my trike and pushed me away.
Never mind? Never mind?!
I was furious and I let her know. My scream was long and loud and it carried clear across the pond scattering ducks in all directions. This of course meant the other toddlers could no longer feed the ducks and they wailed their own disapproval. Chaos ensued and I felt vindicated but still angry at my ruined day.
Mother very quickly moved me along and we made our way to another bench next to the play area. It was noisy; all the better to drown out my increasingly loud protestations. But I was soon distracted by the creamy concoction that Mother pulled from the cake box on her lap. She handed me the cream cake and, forgetting my tears, I gleefully took it with both hands. She took out a second cake for herself and proceeded to read a book that she had taken from her bag.
I looked at my cake, it was perfect. The icing was shiny and looked moist, but not wet, the cream piped in ripples along the full length and the red flavour jam just peeking out from beneath. My mouth watered at the prospect and I lifted it slowly upward to take my first bite. My eyes closed in anticipation, but before I could sink my teeth into it or lick some of the cream, I felt a presence.
I opened my eyes.
There was nobody there but the feeling of being watched remained. Slowly I turned my head, and there he was.
Standing in the play area, peeping over the fence with both hands grasping the bars, was Kid Stare. With his Peruvian ear-warmer bobble hat, a finger length of neon green snot slowly dripping from his right nostril and toast crumbs all around his mouth, he could have been any three year old. But he wasn’t. He was Kid Stare and nobody stares like Kid Stare.
As my gaze fell upon him I found myself frozen by his unblinking eyes. My mouth still open in anticipation of the cake that was held motionless before me gave me the look of a confused fish. Kid Stare simply stared.
What did he want? Would he ever speak?
A cough from Mother momentarily broke the spell of Kid Stare’s gaze and I ventured a, “Can I help you?” But I received no reply. He simply stared. It was as if he were looking into me. Not just physically into me, but into everything that I would ever do or become. He was staring with such power that I swear I felt my future-self crumble to the floor, as if from a crushing blow to the solar plexus.
Kid Stare continued to stare and I continued to attempt to fathom what it was he wanted of me.
By now the length of green hanging from his nose had reached his chin and for the first time Kid Stare did something other than stare, he sniffled. He sniffled and snorted until the string of green mucus had vanished back up his nose. And then…
He didn’t blink.
He didn’t break his perfect stare.
He simply let rip with an epic sneeze.
I’d been so caught up in the grip of his powerful gaze that I didn’t have time to react until after I felt the contents of Kid Stare’s nose hit my face. I was in such shock that my initial reaction was delayed just long enough for me to look down at the cake I still had gripped in both hands.
The once perfect cake, with its icing, and its cream, and its red flavour jam.
It had a new filling now. A green flavour filling that was slowly oozing and dripping down my fingers and onto the floor.
It was then I reacted.
I reacted in two ways, but to the untrained eye it would appear as a single motion. First, I screamed. It was scream of anger, of disgust, and of anger. And secondly, I made a decision. I decided that I had finally worked out what it was that Kid Stare wanted.
He wanted my cake.
So I gave it to him.
I reached forward and, for want of a better word, I mushed it into the Kid’s face. It was at that moment Mother finally turned to look. She had been so engrossed in her book that she had entirely missed the atrocity that had befallen me. If she had been aware, she may have been more forgiving. But she was not.
The situation wasn’t helped by the gaggle of clucking women who had turned in time to see me attack Kid Stare. Nor were we safe from the vocal reprimand of Kid Stare’s own mother as she leapt from her nearby bench, yelling and gesticulating at us. Mother made her displeasure of me all too apparent and with her embarrassment complete, she took that most heinous of actions. She picked me up, sat me on my trike and pushed me out of the park and back home as fast as she could.
We haven’t been back for some time. We haven’t had cake either. But I still see, him.
Each day at 3pm Kid Stare passes my home. He sits astride a tractor and is pushed slowly past by his mummy. And he stares at me through the window. There is still no emotion in that face, just a cold hard stare. And when I sleep at night in my racing car bed, I swear I can see his eyes, staring at me through the darkness.
Dear god, the eyes.