I hope that Erwin hasn't grown up amassing as much unearned admiration from his fellow human beings as he did as a young boy. I hope, to say the very least, that his influence over fate has somewhat lessened.
There is the possibility that he will change.
And I think that this could happen; I think that a good person can do terrible things, be affected by an intervening philosophy, and then stop doing these things.
But this is a somewhat theoretical point as far as Erwin is concerned, because I feel far too much hatred for him to ever forgive him for what he perpetuated.
His house was the first on the corner, and when my parents turned from Brookstin drive onto Elmsview -- our street -- there Erwin's large house was, propped up deliberately on the top of the small hill that led to it. It seemed to me a mansion then, a small palace. On two nights, from the backseat of my parents' car, I saw him behind the house's massive living room window -- his adolescent face, suffused grotesquely with yellow light, forming the expressions that helped supervise the strange birthday parties that later made him renowned.
Both times I saw him through the undraped window his face was lifted up unnaturally, as if it was receiving the light of the living room's chandelier and at the same time presenting a mask up to the ceiling. The first time he looked smug, as if by letting the light strike his features he was mocking anything that might, with sincerity, ask him for a kind regard.
The second time I think he was laughing, and this time he seemed, I admit, somewhat more human. This ostensible humanness wasn't rare, however, for how would an overt monster be able to adapt within the school system, go to social functions with his parents, and live among society without some measure of normalcy? Nonetheless, though he was, generally, unobjectionable, occasionally his features seemed to be on the point of losing control of themselves.
In some way, Erwin had been channeling the vitality out of everybody who lived in our neighborhood and transplanting it, in the form of good fortune, to the celebrants of the exclusive birthday parties that his parents arranged and he hosted. I know that it sounds laughable: Coarse economic manipulation at the mercy of the supernatural. However, subtlety per se was either not a concern of his or he had a limited control over a nuanced application of his abilities. One door down from Erwin, only a week after he had arrived in our neighborhood: Mr. Thomson hanged himself. Next, a month later, two doors down from Erwin: Mr. Deangelo got cancer. A little after that his companion, Mr. Riggs, got into an automobile accident which left him with two paralyzed legs. Half a year after that, across the street Mrs. Maria Gomez was found dead in her garage. The neighborhood was continually stricken with grief and catastrophe.
For a while I thought that the mysterious elites who had their parties at Erwin's were all human. I took it for granted that this was the case, mainly because at great personal risk, undertaken by my youthfully courageous spirit, I had found another child -- at the present time happy and successful -- who had had an expensive birthday party hosted by Erwin. Even this prematurely disgruntled boy assured me that Erwin was quite spectacular at those parties, that there was something quite incredible about him. Elites of every age, I was surprised to learn, admired Erwin. He didn't just host parties for select kids, he hosted parties for select adults as well.
There is a limit, it doesn't even need to be mentioned, as to the presumed humanness, of a boy who has such a power -- a power which must have been lauded by many, but that could have gone entirely unanalyzed by all those beings from outside our neighborhood who paid for their birthday wishes. I don't imagine any of them questioned whether the good luck that was being sent them did not, in fact, have some sort of inexhaustible source. It is hard for me to put myself in the place of somebody who has just casually received some unnaturally absurd boon, and who wouldn't subsequently question where it came from and whether there was an involuntary loss incurred on somebody else's part. Maybe they thought they benefited simply from Erwin's charm, that he had some sort of benign aura about him that any receptive celebrant could, providing it was his birthday and he had paid his money, simply absorb.
At the least, Erwin was acting on behalf of a parasitic conduit. Or, he was in some way in charge of a force that was acting as a parasitic conduit. Of course, I have speculated on how he did it. Did he just suck the forces out through the air, or did he steal the forces away through some sort of prior physical contact with the victim, the future husk?
To introduce Erwin proper I will go back to our childhoods and the woods. The trails sometimes came within a hundred yards or so of the large suburban houses that are so much more majestic than the urban squalor I live next to now -- where I have wound up since I moved away from him.
He was standing on the side of the trail near a recently fallen tree, smoking a marijuana cigarette. His small pubescent frame was healthily grotesque, as usual. With the faggy sweater vest folded over his forearm, and a joint in the hand of his other tiny arm, his early adolescent rebellion looked odd. As I drew nearer, I tried to hide my panic. My heart felt like an animal trying to kick itself out of my chest. I hated that little cocksucker! I really hated him!
His glazed-over eyes happened on me. "Hello," he said robotically, holding the smoke in his lungs.
"Hello," I replied.
I moved closer yet and slowly started to walk past him, keeping my eye on him intermittently.
"Hey," he said loudly, spluttering out the marijuana smoke. He wiped some saliva left on his lips, "do you have any change?"
I had two quarters in my pocket, and a dime.
"I… what do you need it for?" I said stupidly, as I realized I didn't want to look willing to simply give him my money.
"Oh," he said vaguely, "I'll need it."
I stopped. I looked at him. It was just sixty cents. I twirled the change around in my pocket. I took it out and placed it in his extended hand.
"Happy birthday," he said, putting the change in his pocket.
I had started to walk on, but I turned my head around as my feet skirted some weeds and mud on the side of the path. "It isn't my birthday for a few weeks," I said.
"But yeah, no, anyway" he giggled, "happy birthday -- you get to pass."
I didn't say anything and I walked on. And then I heard something terrible.
"One must strike!" Erwin suddenly screamed, "one must strike!" And then I heard the savage laughter that made me want to run. He only wanted to scare me, and it had worked.
I didn't look back and the laughter eventually sort of ebbed away. My shaking abated and I could better control my footfalls. I was thinking about his loud, unrestrained lewdness a few weeks before on the schoolbus. (He was rarely on the bus; usually his anorexic, over-perfumed mother picked him up from Junior High.) He had kept talking about our neighbor, Mrs. Cynthia Anderson. He spoke vividly about her body, especially her breasts, and it had bothered me. Just some days before her husband, a robust young surgeon, had been murdered in the city by a mugger.
Cynthia Anderson is apparently still alive. She is now in her late forties, and I imagine that despite the damage methamphetamine abuse has done to her face and body, she has probably retained that sweetness that everybody in the neighborhood was so charmed by. I imagine that she completely lost touch with Erwin, of course -- not that I heard they were ever in physical contact, or became, sometime after the fact, lovers. I suspect she never saw him again after she abruptly left the neighborhood, and that things could only have gone worse for her if she had been sexually penetrated by Erwin, and then subsequently disregarded by him.
Three houses down from Erwin: Mr. Anderson, as told, murdered by the mugger. Next, 3 months later, four houses down: Mrs. Marjories, drunk, fell down her staircase and cracked open her skull. Five houses down: My mother had a foot and an arm amputated after my stepfather, enraged at having just found out about her adulterous affair with my younger brother's dentist, stabbed her so many times that the Doctors were left with no other choice. My brother dead, now, after a short struggle with leukemia.
All I know for certain about Erwin now is that he left the neighborhood after his senior year in high school, years after my family and I moved away. I am always given clues as to his very general whereabouts, because the pain becomes unbearable when I don't go far enough away from him.