No one came to open the door, but that was normal. The rule had always been to make myself at home. I pushed the door open (there’s a knack to it) and I entered the hall, badly lit as always. I walked along the corridor, looking into the living room as is my habit. Granny Margaret, Chunk’s grandmother who has taken care of him for years, was sitting in an armchair, busily knitting. She shot me her traditional “Hello! It’s my favourite little Gabriel…” in a quavering voice, and I answered without conviction with a smile that must have been scary to see.
At the end of the hallway, I climbed the stairs leading to Chunk’s room, knocked on the door once, just once, and went in.
Chunk, unsurprisingly, was sitting in front of his TV with his PlayStation remote in his hand. He spun in his typist chair and looked me up and down.
– Since when do you come in without using the secret code?
The secret code was two long knocks, three short knocks and one long knock, but honestly, I had other fish to fry. I pulled the chest of games towards me, threw the pile of video games cluttering it onto the bed and sat closer.
– I have to talk to you. It’s serious.
Chunk looked at me for a long time, from head to toe, and I saw him notice the shapeless things I was using as shoes. Then he nodded his head and paused Gran Turismo.
– I’m listening, pal.
He’s like that, my buddy Chunk, and that’s why he’s my friend: he always takes my problems seriously.
I told him everything, without skipping a single detail, from the broken plate in the kitchen to the Pepsi I didn’t have the heart to drink. When I finished, he stayed silent for a while, probably to give me time to not burst into tears.
I cleared my throat.
– You think I’m completely crazy, don’t you?
– No, of course not.
Chunk had answered with a serious expression familiar to him. That evening, I admit, I almost threw myself into his arms.
I told him the theories I had come up with at the coffee shop, and Chunk suggested new ones which, even though more rational, weren’t worth much more. I remember throwing around the idea of human camouflage and double identities (like in My Teacher is an Alien and Groosham Grange, books I had read in elementary school), but my buddy Chunk didn’t seem convinced. The discussion got heated and, as a result, I felt a bit better.
(Go to PART 9)