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If you ever travel down Lupo Lane, never. NEVER talk to Smiling Joe. My name is Tyler Fuller, and I will tell my story. I know I do not have much time left so, might as well recollect my experiences while I can.

First of all, I'll admit that I'm a little bit more on the heavy side. To be more specific, I have a hard time traversing upstairs, and my rather chubby nature led to me being picked on quite a lot during primary school. About 20 years ago, my mom enrolled me into the Saxon School for Troubled Youth. As a young boy, I often lashed out at other kids around my age, often because of the excessive bullying I went through because of my weight. My mom figured that I would have a better time with other troubled kids, as they endured similar pain to mine.

On my first day of school, I managed to befriend someone. That someone was a smaller boy, named Aidan Sweety. Sweety was a bit slow if you know what I mean. But he was kind enough, and we bonded together over the course of the school year. We helped each other out with homework, played party games on the blacktop, and fought off bullies, wherever they came. Us two were an unstoppable duo, ready to tackle any obstacle, together.

One day, during our lunch break. I was enjoying a nice sack meal my mother prepared for me. Aidan sat next to me, feasting. Next to him were a couple of other friends I made over the year. Jaxon Hamilton, an Amish boy. And Liam Dubois, someone I met playing "Whose fingers are in my mouth?" on the playground. Don't ask about it, or at least not me.

As we enjoyed our meals in peace, a gang led by infamous troublemaker Kalvin Bellon and his cronies sat down at our table. Kalvin himself took interest in me particularly, throwing insults, threats, everything he could at me besides beating me down. I was used to it by now. My Daddy already showed me the ropes when it came to that sort of stuff, but you get what I mean.

"Well, what do we have here but Tyler, the fatass! Had a bit too much to eat today? Maybe your back isn't feeling too good? How sad. Having fun with your crew of idiots so far?" He sneered at me tauntingly while his henchmen let out forced laughs.

"What do you want Bellon? Need more money from me? I'm all out. You took all of it yesterday!" I shouted across the table. Kalvin pushed Jaxon aside, leaning in to meet me face-to-face. At that point, I was at a breaking point. You can insult me, fiddle with me, beat me up all you want. But never, EVER harm my friends.

Leaping out of my seat, I attempted to hook Kalvin right in the jaw with a swift punch to the face, but he caught my fist as if it was nothing. Pulling me onto the table, I attempted to wrestle away from his grasp, but to no avail. Liam tried to help me, but the cronies kept him at bay along with the now-injured Jaxon.

"Was that it, fatty? You really think you're strong enough to bring me down?"

I growled at him, letting out a cry of rage. He simply smirked devilishly, kneeing me right in the face.

"Stop Kalvin! You're hurting him!" Liam pleaded desperately.

"Or what? Smiling Joe will get me? Don't make me laugh, punk. You fools are nothing to me. Next time I meet you losers, you better be ready to pay up. Or there's more where that came from" Kalvin threw me back into my seat, motioning for his cronies to follow him away. I felt helpless, like there was nothing I could do to protect the people closest to me. I needed to get stronger, so one day I could beat those sick bullies once and for all. How naïve I was. If only I knew what fate would befall me.

Day's, months passed by me. But the bullying never stopped. I began to feel completely worthless. If only something, anything could help me get stronger. Just strong enough to protect my friends. What followed next, would change me forever.

It was a normal Friday afternoon. School wasn't too interesting, besides the occasional insults and teasing I had to endure, I'd say it was a pretty normal day for me. Or, what would of been a normal day. Had I not taken a "shortcut" on my way home. You see, rumors had spread around the school grounds about a particular being that roamed the alleys around my area. He would entice young kids with promises of toys, games, food, just about everything a child could want. The being would lead them down a decrepit alleyway known as "Lupo Lane" by the locals. Famous for its uniquely terrifying atmosphere. Once the child stepped in too far, they would never be seen again. Whisked away by "Smiling Joe".

One consistency in all of these rumors was that the "being" always was referred to as "Smiling Joe". Smiling Joe presumed the role of a small child, wearing nothing but the skin on its own back and a set of ragged linen trousers. the child was always incredibly frail, almost skeletal-like, and entirely pale in tone. I never thought of myself as the superstitious type, so I always discounted these tales as nothing more than worthless jargon meant to keep kids like myself awake at night, or as some kind of warning to not misbehave. How foolish, I thought. Nothing like that could possibly scare me, right?

As I made my way home through my recently discovered "Shortcut", I discovered some kind of passageway between two buildings. An alley of sorts. Hanging down from above was a large wooden sign, reading "LUPO LANE - DO NOT ENTER" in red paint. I scoffed, taking a peek down the passage to discover what appeared to be small pieces of candy littering the floor.

Contemplating my decisions so far, I decided that I would debunk this tall-tale myself. Drawing a small flashlight from my backpack, I slowly entered the alley, letting the darkness consume me. Everything seemed normal at first, at least normal for a dirty, rundown passageway. But as I made my way through the cramped space, a frail voice called out to me.

"Hello? Is anyone there?"

I almost dropped my light in shock, but quickly collected myself. Taking in a deep breath, I responded to the voice. This would be the worst mistake of my life. I could've ran, should've ran. But something deep within me, yearned to meet the voice. Needed to. As if I had no control over my actions.

"Y-yes?" I called out

"Is it you, Tyler Fuller?"

I froze. How did he know my name? Was it someone from school, or a possible bully? Or was it him. Smiling Joe. I took in another breath, blocking the thoughts before they could intrude further.

"Y-yeah, and w-what about you? What are you doing in this alleyway all alone like that?"

A moment of silence followed before the frail voice called out again.

"I can help you... Help you, protect your friends. Those closest to you, from any harm imaginable. Those bullies? A thing of the past. Your weight? Nullified instantly. Just follow me, Tyler. And I can give you any desire."

By now I should've realized my mistake and booked it, but again something yearned in me to keep going. Was this really Smiling Joe? If it was, then why did he sound so ... nice? Could he really help me protect my friends? My entire body began to quake in fear, but I kept moving.

"R-really? You can help me, beat those bullies? But wait, how do you know me? How do you know about Kalvin?"

Out from the shadows appeared a small, pale child. Wearing nothing, but the skin on his back. And ragged. Linen. Trousers. The child looked at me with bright, blue eyes. Staring into the very depths of my soul, while I could do nothing but just keep walking, ever so farther down Lupo Lane

"Because Tyler, I am Smiling Joe. I am everywhere, and nowhere. Now, do you want my help. Or do you wish to be nothing more than a weakling for the rest of your life, destined to be picked on and mocked forever. Make your decision quickly, or else I may change my mind" it said in a raspy, yet distinctly soothing voice.

Against all of my prior judgment, I was overcome with emotion. To protect my friends, I would do anything. Even if it cost my life.

"Fine! I'll take your help. J-just please, make them go away." I whimpered almost pathetically at the much smaller child. How naïve I was. If only he just killed me right then and there.

"Oh, how pleasant! Well then Mr.Fuller, why don't we get started with our little deal?"

"Deal? W-what do you want from me?"

A large, unending smile plastered itself on the child's face as it slowly made its way to me. I could do nothing but look helplessly ahead, my body screaming to get away. But I could do nothing. It was too late for me now.

"Mr. Fuller, in exchange for me .. taking care .. of the bullies. I request nothing more than the measly price of your soul. Do not worry, however, for I'll only charge you once the deed is done. You will rest assured that your friends will lead comfortable lives, only without their good friend Tyler. Sound like a deal?"

I, found myself completely unable to do anything but stand face-to-face with Smiling Joe. Was it worth it? My good-for-nothing soul, for my friends. They meant the world to me. I couldn't bring myself to damn them to years of suffering under Kalvin's reign. Or could I? Why couldn't I just, tell a teacher? Hell, I could even talk to the Police if needed. Go to the gym, and get stronger myself. All these options flashed through my mind, but for some reason, I could not formulate these rapid thoughts into coherent words. With every fiber of my being telling me to STOP, my mouth opened.

"Deal. Just please, please take care of them quickly. I can't stand this any longer"

I had done it. This was the end. Smiling Joe would claim me, and I would be another name on a milk carton. Or, at least in the future. Smiling Joe reached out one elongated hand to meet mine, and with two shakes I had sealed my fate.

Right as my own hand departed from his, I found myself back home sprawled out across my bed. Was it all a dream? I hoped so, but all I wanted was sleep. Anything, to escape from my own mind.

Days passed by, and weirdly enough Kalvin stopped attending classes, along with any of his cronies. I found myself enjoying lunch period at peace. Finally, I could hang out with my friends without worry. Or, at least I thought so. Little did I know that Smiling Joe was not the forgetting type.

One Friday afternoon, precisely a week after my encounter in Lupo Lane, I had just arrived back in my house. Setting my backpack on the couch, I was just about to head upstairs when I heard a distinct crashing sound coming from the basement. By then I had completely forgotten my deal with Smiling Joe, and just chalked it up to the thunder outside. That's when the basement door suddenly flung open, almost flying off the hinges.

Paralyzed with fear, I could do nothing but watch Smiling Joe peer its head from the doorway, staring into my soul once again.

"I think its time for your end of the deal, Mr. Fuller. Don't you think?"

I backed up against the wall, unable to let out even a peep in its presence. I tried to shake my head no but, to no avail. It approached slowly, ending right at my face.

"Come with me, Tyler, and rest for eternity with me. Lupo Lane is calling, ''forever and ever..''"

With one final burst of courage, I shoved Smiling Joe away, making a beeline up the long staircase to my room. As I ascended the steps, my breaths became faster and faster, my progress slowing. Was this it? Would my life end, because of my weight? No. NO! Just before Smiling Joe could grab hold of me, I threw myself over the edge. Landing near the entrance to my room. I quickly steadied myself, slamming the door on Joe as some kind of futile barrier. With no other options available to me, I threw myself out of my second-story window, landing with a crunch on the grass below. Blood spurted from my now-broken leg as I let out a scream in pain. By then the only thing keeping me going was the adrenaline, steadying myself on my somewhat okay leg and started to limp away from my house.

As I fled the only place I called home, Smiling Joe stared at me from the broken window. Only god knows whatever it did to my mother. That will be my burden I carry unto death.

I spent years in-and-out of multiple foster families, attending many different schools on my trip away from whatever hellhole Smiling Joe resided in. Now I find myself with nowhere else to go. While I have yet to see the child again, I know my time has come. To those who are reading this .. mad rambling. Remember. Remember to never, EVER talk to Smiling Joe, or ever enter Lupo Lane. For whatever the Devil promises, has a price. A price, only payable in blood.

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