by Emma Faye
They say there's a lot of power in names, so Micky soon finds out - 2016
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers…” The boy answered warily.
The man chuckled. “Now, now,” He continued, “It’s not like I’m a bad guy. Look, I’m a policeman.”
The man indicated the badge pinned to his chest to the boy. Looking closer, the boy could now see he was wearing a blue policeman’s uniform, and squinting he could even make out the lights on the dashboard that his mom had told him officers who don’t have a police cruiser use.
“I’m Micky.” The boy answered, feeling reassured.
“Micky? That doesn’t sound like a very serious name. Wouldn’t you laugh if your teacher was Mr. Micky? Or how about President Micky?” The man responded.
“Well, that’s not my full name, but it’s what everyone calls me. If I was the president I would go by my long name.” Micky replied, feeling a little offended.
“Well then why don’t you tell me that one?” The man asked, “I didn’t ask what your nickname was.”
There was a bang behind Micky, and he turned his head to see his mother walking out their front door behind him. He could see she looked upset, and he was worried that he was in trouble. That she must have called him for dinner and he hadn’t noticed while he was talking to the police officer. He turned his head back to tell the officer that he had to go now, only to see that the policeman was nowhere to be seen. He must have gotten a call on his radio and gone off to catch a bad guy.
Micky’s mom got to him and wrapped her arms around him. She took him by the hand and quickly led him inside, not saying anything as he continuously apologized to her. She held his hand very tightly, and that made him think she was really angry with him. Finally they got inside and she embraced him again, ruffling his hair and kissing his cheek. Now Micky was confused.
“I’m sorry, mama-“ He began to say, before his mother cut him off.
“It’s ok Micky, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m the one who made the mistake, and now I have to fix it.” She explained.
“The first thing I have to tell you is that we were wrong, Micky.” She continued, “When I adopted you, the caretaker told me your birthday was December third, but now I know that that isn’t right. Today is your birthday, Micky. Happy birthday!”
Micky’s mother faked a smile, but even Micky could see she was still very upset, and the smile didn’t last long before she pressed on.
“I know this,” She began again, “Because today you must have turned thirteen. That’s the only reason that man would be talking to you. What did he say to you, Micky?”
“He asked me my name, mama. And when I told him it was Micky he started making fun of me and saying no one would take that name serious. So I explained it was only my nickname, and then he asked for my real name. Then you came out and I thought dinner must be ready, so I was going to tell him I had to go, but he already left.” Micky spilled out, all in one breath, just wanting to make his mom less upset.
His mother breathed a sigh of relief.
“You did good, Micky. You did a very good job. You did exactly like I told you.” She replied with a smile.
“Why were you so upset, mama?” Micky asked, unsurely.
His mother took a deep breath before replying.
“That man,” She began, “Is a very bad man. He’s not really a policeman. He only dressed like that to trick you. He is a dangerous man, and you should never, ever talk to him. No matter what he says.”
Micky nodded, but was very confused. Seeing that he was following, his mother continued.
“That man has no name. He’s not even really a man. He’s a bad, evil thing that wants to take your name. To do this, all he has to do is get you to tell him what your name is. He can’t ask anyone else though, only you.” She explained slowly, making sure Micky was following along.
Micky took a moment to think, before raising a question.
“Why does he want my name? Why can’t he get his own?” He asked.
“Because…” Micky’s mother paused a moment before continuing, then pushed on, “Because if he has your name, he has you. Your name is a very powerful thing, Micky. It’s a magical thing. On everybody’s thirteenth birthday, a person will come to them and try to get their name. If the person doesn’t get it, then they will keep trying for three more years, then they have to give up. But, if the person gets the name, then they’ll steal away the person who they took the name from, and we’ll never see that person again.
Micky nodded again, but was less sure now. It sounded like a story one of his friends would tell him during a sleepover to try to scare him, but his mother was so serious. He looked into her eyes, waiting for her to smile and laugh, to tell him she was only kidding, but her gaze didn’t waver for a moment. Finally, after a long moment of waiting, Micky nodded once more, to show he believed what she had said.
“That’s my boy,” His mother said with a smile, “Now, you don’t have to worry too much, there’s only one rule. No matter what, you can never break this rule, ok? The one rule is to never, ever tell anybody your full name. You can write it down if you have to in school, and if someone asks you if that’s your name, you can say yes, but you can’t tell anyone your name. Just tell them that you’re Micky, and everything will be ok. It doesn’t even matter if they figure it out, just as long as you don’t say it to them. Can you promise me that you won’t tell anyone?”
“I promise.” Micky answered without a second thought.
“Good,” His mother answered, “Now, pretend like you’re a grown up in court, and the judge is asking you to promise.”
Micky had always liked watching movies that took place is court with his mom. He wanted to be a lawyer when he grew up. Smiling, he happily agreed and stood up straight. He raised his right hand like he always saw the person being asked questions do and placed his left hand on an imaginary book.
“I, Michael Thomas Richards, hereby promise not to tell anyone my name.” He said very solemnly.
His mother broke into a great big smile, and Micky did the same when he saw how happy he had made her. He thought about how it should be easy to not tell anyone his real name. His friends and teachers only ever called him Micky anyway. Plus, his mom had said it was ok to write it, so he could still write his name on his school papers and not get in trouble. He would just make sure to stay with the habit, and remind himself of this conversation whenever he met new people.
“Micky honey?” A voice called from outside the front door, “I’m back from grocery shopping, can you get the door for me? My hands are full.”
The smile fell from Micky’s face, as he recognized it as his mother’s voice. He turned to look at his mom, still standing in front of him. She was still smiling, and she reached out and held the hand he was still hold on an imaginary book.
“I, Michael Thomas Richards…” She said slowly, as if tasting the words.
Micky was confused and afraid. He didn’t know what was happening. He tried to pull his hand away, but his mother held tight. She looked him in the eyes and, still smiling, and just stared at him for a moment. Then, she turned, still holding his hand, and began to walk, pulling him along beside her. Micky tried to struggle, but felt as if he could not resist. His mother walked towards the front door and right through it. Again, Micky tried to resist, but could not. He too passed through the door, as if it wasn’t there. The two walked through Micky’s mother, standing on the front step, fumbling to get her keys from her pocket while holding two armfuls of grocery bags. Micky tried to yell to her, but found he could make no noise. Still, he screamed soundlessly as his mother continued to pull him away.
She turned to him one last time, still smiling that same smile. Before his eyes, her smile grew wider, until it was far too wide. It went from one ear to the other. Micky could now see that this was not his mother.
“Hi, I’m Michael Thomas Richards,” His not-mother said to him, “What’s your name?”
Micky tried to answer her, but found that he could not say his name. All he could do was stand there with his mouth agape as the thing laughed at him, turned its back, and continued to drag him away.