“Mom, check it out.” Noah angled his bowl of alphabet pasta to his mother. Along the edge of his bowl he had placed sauce covered letters to form the words creepypasta. His mother looked up from her laptop, gave him a brief smile and went back to paying bills.
“That’s great. I’m glad I pay for all that school so you can tell me your dinner is creepy. You’re the one who asked for Alpha-ghetti.”
“It doesn’t mean my dinner is creepy. It’s a joke… it’s literally a creepypasta.” She stuffed a check into an envelope and sealed it without looking back up at him.
“What makes your pasta creepy?” she asked.
“The pasta isn’t creepy. It’s just funny ‘cuz I spelled the word “creepypasta” from pasta. Do you even know what a creepypasta is?” His mom had started filling out t he electric bill and she just shook her head.
“A creepypasta is a scary story you find online—like Slenderman, Bunny Man or Jeff the Killer. No one knows if they’re true or not, but then real murders happen and you read about those so you know they’re true. Probably.” Noah paused to scoop up a spoonful of pasta.
“Jeff the Killer? Bunny Man? Where are you hearing stories like that? You need to think about bringing your grades up, not scary stories.”
“Slenderman is my favorite,” said Noah. “He’s taller than normal people, super thin and he wears a black suit. He’s like ten feet tall.” Noah’s mom stopped tapping at the calculator on her phone and looked up at Noah.
“How weird. I saw a man like that today in the park when I drove past. There was a kids party, and he was standing at the edge of it—a really tall, skinny guy in a black suit. I mean really tall, like he was on stilts. I thought he was kind of spooky for a kid party.” Noah dropped his spoon into his bowl. Flecks of orange pasta sauce splashed across his knuckles.
“Mom, that’s not funny. When did you see this and where?”
“I’m not saying it to be funny. I’m serious. It was right before I got here, like a half hour ago. There was a guy dressed up like your Slenderman at a little kids party around the corner. I didn’t know it was an internet character as I drove past. They should have just gotten a clown.” Noah searched his mom’s face for any sign of a joke.
“What did his face look like?”
“I’m not sure. It just looked white, like he had one of those spandex hoods over it. I didn’t get a good look at him. I was just driving by.”
“Mom! Slenderman doesn’t have a face. You already knew about him and are trying to scare me.” Noah pushed his bowl away and wiped the splashed sauce off his hand. “Slenderman goes after kids. Why would you joke about that?” His mom looked serious.
“Noah, I’m not joking. I really did see a guy dressed up like that at a kids party today. He was on stilts. It was just a guy in a costume.”
“I don’t believe you!” Noah smacked his hand down on the table. His spoon jumped in his bowl, knocking some of his pasta letters back into the sauce. Startled, his mom closed her laptop with a snap.
“Noah, calm down. Do you think you’re the only one who knows about this character?” She stood up, threw her phone into her purse and grabbed her keys. “C’mon, I’ll show you. It hasn’t been that long. I’m sure the party is still there.” Noah shook his head.
“No way, I don’t want him to see me. He’s real. No one would be stupid enough to dress like him at a kid party.” His mom came over and hugged him, stroking his hair.
“I’m not trying to scare you buddy. Slenderman isn’t real.” She knelt down and looked him in the eye. “I’ll tell you what. I will prove to you it’s just an entertainer. If I’m right, you have to buy me a cone. If you’re right, we drive away real fast and I buy you a cone. Deal?” Noah’s Alpha-bets looked cold and unappetizing now, bloated white letters sinking into pumpkin colored mess. A soft serve cone sounded tempting.
“Can I get it dipped? And get fries?” Noah was already reaching for his coat. “And we don’t have to get out of the car.” His mom picked his bowl up off the counter and put it in the sink.
Five minutes later they had pulled up next to the park. It was empty. Some paper plates, weighed down with mangled slices of cake, scattered around the trash can. A baby blue balloon bobbed listlessly across the grass, going nowhere.
“I guess the party’s over. The creepy costume scared them all away,” said Noah’s mom. “Can’t say I blame them.” She frowned, studying Noah’s profile as he squinted into the trees.
“I seriously didn’t mean to scare you, bud,” she said. She reached over and squeezed his shoulder. “I swear, bored people with no lives just make these stories up.” He turned back to look at her, pale and nervous. “How about we go get dinner wherever you want.” Noah’s eyebrows shot up and his mood changed in an instant.
“Even at the arcade?” His mom sighed.
“Okay, even at the arcade—but no more than ten dollars for tokens.” Noah whooped.
“Deal! What is a Slenderman anyways?” Noah shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Never heard of him.”
“Awesome,” said his mom. She started the car up and they turned back onto the road. Behind them, the shadows lengthened as the sun began to set, stretching across the park as if reaching for the retreating car.
As they turned the corner, Noah glanced into the passenger-side mirror to see one of the shadows detach itself from the treeline, impossibly tall and thin. A face, devoid of feature, turned towards the car. With a yelp, he twisted in his seat to look back at the park, but nothing was there.
As the park vanished behind them, he watched a shadow cross over the blue balloon. It popped, collapsing onto the grass. Then they had turned the corner and it was out of sight. With a shudder, Noah turned back around in his seat.
“I think it probably was just a costume you saw,” he said. “Slenderman can’t be real.”
His mom just nodded, keeping her eyes on the road.