The man had lived alone for so long, that no one around him remembered why. He kept to himself, offering little more than a raised hand or pained smile to those he met. As neighbours moved in and moved out over the years, rumours sprouted. They stretched like vines, the flowering ends looking nothing like the stem, rooted in the truth, so far away.
By the time the Vox family moved in next door, the branches of the vine spread far and wide. Deborah across the street spoke of a love lost to a particularly aggressive form of cancer. Noah two doors down kept his voice low and looked side-eyed along the street as he shared stories of lights flickering late at night and strange noises from the basement.
Pashmina Vox, the youngest of the Vox children, paid no mind to the stories. Not only because she was seven years old, but because she had already learned that most things adults said didn’t make sense, if they weren’t outright lies to begin with. She had seen enough to understand. Dark eyes peeking out from drawn curtains. The man’s sadness for being out in the world. More importantly, the dark figure constantly perched on his left shoulder. Plump and round in contrast to the man’s thin frame. A wide, toothy sneer to the man’s downturned lips.
Another thing that Pashmina understood was the futility in trying to explain the figure to her mother or father. They would only tell her to go play, to use her imagination somewhere else. She did know someone who would believe her, though. Her great, great grandmother. Long dead before Pashmina was born, but still with her. And so it was, that on a quiet Saturday morning in the spring, that Pashmina snuck away from the cartoons her father left her to watch and went to knock on the man’s door. As always, her Gran stood with her, ready to have a stern conversation with the little demon perched on the man’s shoulder, and perhaps put all of the rumours about him to rest.