Fanfic Friday – “Ethel”

13 Jul

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the trees were swaying, the birds were singing. The teenager had a few dollars in his pocket, and he whistled a jaunty tune as he enjoyed his morning perambulation. He was on his way to Pop’s, and he was feeling good.

He watched the people as he passed – the briefcase-bearing businessman, sweating through his collar; the couple, canoodling on the park bench; the boys from down the road, running and shouting with the feverish, unfiltered joy of childhood. The scrawny bucktoothed girl, sprinting straight toward him from a block and a half away.

He dove off the sidewalk, landing roughly on his shoulder. He grunted, scrabbling to hide his lanky frame behind a miserably small bush. He bit his lip, feeling cold perspiration spring forth on his brow. He waited.

On the morning air, he heard her shrieking calls carried like a heartwrenching scream. He shook with terror, hoping against hope that she won’t come here, she won’t see me, please please oh God please don’t let her see me. When she shouted his name, he stifled a sob and bolted.

The girl’s calling intensified the second he came into view. Energized by pure fear, he tore across the street and down an alley, jumping over garbage cans like an Olympic hurdler. His breath was tight and quick. He could hear her feet slapping the ground behind him and he launched himself at a chain-link fence with desperation, not caring that his pants ripped as he tumbled over. One hand was pumping ferociously as he ran, the other was firmly planted on his hat, and the girl was still screaming his name. Oh God, he thought, don’t let me die today.

He dodged a passing skateboarder and ducked behind a house, immediately doubling back and crossing several lawns. Then he found a secluded copse, and took a moment to lean against a tree and catch his breath. He couldn’t hear her anymore, but she’d be back.

She’d be back.

He was sweating profusely now. His turtleneck choked him, chafing at his bony neck. He pulled it away with a finger as he gasped and swallowed. Birds chirped. After a few minutes, he was breathing slower, and full of dread again. He felt the same fear a wildebeest feels when it knows it’s taking a longer drink than it should.

He scanned the area, hearing and seeing nothing except for the bright sun and the lustrous green grass. Tentatively, he poked his head over a picket fence – nothing. He listened some more. Nothing.

She had given up. She was gone.

He sighed with intense relief, and turned to leave, coming face to face with the girl-beast’s pointed nose and protuberant teeth. Her oily breath washed over him as she moaned, “Juggie,” and closed her talon-like fingers around his face. Her cheekbones were gaunt and her eyes rolled back like a shark as she puckered her shining lips and pulled him toward them.

In that moment, and for the rest of his life, Jughead Jones knew he would always hate women.

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