Disclaimer: Sniff……I don't own newsies…..wish I did so I could hug 'em!

AN: This is a pretty freaky story, with a lot of newsie angst, but I promise to try and make it all better. How? I'll never tell…

Summary: When a mysterious man begins stalking Blink and bringing sickness upon the lodging house boys, how will Blink handle the fact that he always knows who's next? And how will he lift the curse?

                                                                                                                                                           

            It was just like any other day, I'd swear to that. Sellin' the papers with Mush, just like any other day. I had sold just about half my papers and was trying to cool off (unsuccessfully) when it first happened.

            "I'll be right back, Blink. Dat's Race ovah dere."

            I only nodded as Mush stood up and made his way across the crowded street. I didn't have the energy to jump up and go talk to Race. I only took a long drag on my cigarette and leaned back against the brick wall behind me.

            Out of the blue, a man in a clean pressed hoity-toity suit walked up to me, and I forced myself to stand up and throw down the cigarette, thinking that he probably wanted a paper. When he said nothing, only stared at me, I began to grow uneasy.

            "Wouldja like a paper, sir?" I asked him, and he slowly shook his head, and I began to grow frustrated. Who did this guy think he was?

            "I don't want a paper, Blink. I have no need for a paper, for I know what is to come."

            "How do you know my name?"

            "I know what is to come."

            I looked past him at Mush and Race, who were now deep in conversation. Whatever kind of drugs this guy was on was makin' him nuts, obviously. I wanted Mush by my side in case he went wacko right here in the street.

            "Mush will not help you right now."

            I felt my anger and confusion reaching a boiling point. "Look, beat it. I got papes ta sell."

            "Watch out for your friends, Blink."

            "What?"

            He suddenly grabbed my shirt collar, slamming me up against the brick, my shoulder blades digging into the harsh material. I could feel my air slowly being cut off as my feet dangled a foot off the ground. Why wasn't anyone helping me? No one even seemed to notice!

            "Watch out for your friends, for they will fall." He hissed, his voice deathly cold and smelling of whiskey and cigars. Dis guy must be higher then da Brooklyn bridge! I thought, struggling against his iron grip.

            "What's dat…supposed ta mean?!"

            "This crucible of times will begin with the one called Skittery. His suffering shall begin tonight."

            He dropped me and I sank to my knees on the cement, gasping for breath. And just like that, he was gone. As soon as I had the strength I sprang to my feet, looking all over for him. He couldn't have gone far. But…he was nowhere to be seen.

            Mush chose this precise moment to cross the street back to me, his usual smile plastered on his face. But that smile was suddenly replaced with concern when he got closer to me.

            "Blink, what's wrong? You's shiverin' like it's thoity degrees out heah!"

            It took me a moment to realize that he was right; I was shivering, and it did feel like it was freezing cold around me. A shudder ran down my spine as Mush realized that I wasn't faking.

            "Are you alright? What happened?"

            I shook off the feelings I was having. That was just another doped up wacko, just makin' empty threats. But then, how did he know my name, and Mush, and Skittery? It didn't make no sense.

            "I's fine, Mush. Just don't feel so good. I'm gonna go ta Tibby's and relax a while."

            "I'll come with ya."

            "You sure, Mush?"

            "Yeah, I'm sure. Let's go."

            The walk to Tibby's was in silence, and I began to worry. Was that crackhead gonna go after Skittery? Was that what he meant? I checked the clock on a nearby building and realized that most of the other boys would be at Tibby's by now, and probably Skittery too. I could keep an eye on him, at least until after lunch was over.

            Skittery didn't seem to be having any type of problems with anything; it was just a normal day for him, just like mine had started out being. I made as much small talk as I could with him without looking suspicious- I mean, the guy's my friend, but we don't exactly sit down and have deep conversations around a fireplace or nuthin.

            Eventually, he knocked my hat off my head and said he was going back out selling, and I forced myself to relax. He'd been selling alone since his second day at the lodging house, and he'd always been able to handle himself. There was nothing to worry about. I tried to get my mind off of the strange man from the morning and sold all through the afternoon and evening without incident. The man didn't reappear with more wacko premonitions, and I even got all my papers sold for once. Mush and I headed back to the lodging house that evening both in a better mood than usual.

            "So you feelin' better now, Blink?" He asked, genuinely concerned. I just nodded and looked up at the stars, another shiver coursing through my body. I convinced myself that it was from the chilled evening air coursing through the darkened alleyways. He looked at me strangely, but didn't say anything else. When we got to the bunkroom Skittery was already there along with most of the other newsies, and he was already well enveloped in another one of Race's poker games. Laughing and talking, proving that nothing was wrong. That guy was just another drugged idiot, I thought, shaking off a strange feeling that had come over me.

            Bedtime came more quickly than usual, and we reluctantly ended the game and headed upstairs to the bunkroom. But as I took the stairs two at a time, I heard something that made my blood run cold.

            "Hey, Skitts, you okay?"

            Jack had said it. Skittery was still at the bottom of the stairs, and I immediately saw why Jack had asked; Skittery's face had paled about ten shades, his lips were blue, and he was shaking horribly. I practically jumped down all the stairs, just as Skittery began to fall. I caught him and, unable to support his weight by myself, gently lowered him to the ground.

            "Skittery! Can ya hear me?" I asked quietly, but his eyes couldn't seem to focus. Then, all of a sudden, he just went limp in my arms. Like a puppet whose strings had been cut. He was still breathing, but completely unresponsive. "Somebody get Kloppman!" I managed to choke out, and Mush turned and ran from the room to do so. The other newsboys were all gathered around, wanting to help but not quite sure how.

            Kloppman ran in, pushing through the others to get to us, and leaned down beside Skittery, immediately checking for a pulse. His brow furrowed with confusion and concern, and he gently picked the limp boy up. "Someone open the bunkroom door. Jack, go get Doctor Greer." He ordered, and Jack sprinted out the door. Doctor Greer only lived about three apartment buildings away, but this was serious.

            I told Kloppman to put him on my bunk so that he was on a lower bunk and we could watch over him better. Kloppman laid the still-shivering boy down, covering him up with the blanket.

            "Was he sick earlier today?" Kloppman asked quietly, and all the boys shook their heads, looking at one another for an explanation. I didn't want to say anything about my encounter. Not only could that man have done nothing to Skittery to make this happen, but they would all think I was nuts.

            The doctor came and left without any kind of answer for us, other than that Skittery seemed to be in a type of coma or somethin' like that. He said he'd never seen anything quite like this, that came on so sudden and that was so severe. He said there was nothing we could do.

            He also said that he wouldn't be surprised if we lost Skittery sometime during the night. That I was not willing to accept. I insisted that I stay up and watch over him the entire night- I didn't care if there was someone else there to watch. I felt like somehow, deep down, this was my fault. I felt like I could've done something, or seen something, that would've clued me into this.

            But I didn't.

            It was about 1am when Mush's shift came to help me watch Skittery. Skittery had scared me to death multiple times during the might with his uneven and unsteady breathing, sometimes accompanied by whispered words- merely shadows of his past, crying out names of those who had died long ago.

            "Blink, you really ought to get some sleep. This ain't your fault, and I don't get why you think it is." Mush said, sitting down on the floor beside me.

            "I don't know, Mush. I feel…I feel like I could've done somethin', seen this comin' somehow."

            "None of us did. What makes you so special?"

            For a moment I considered telling him. Just spilling it all out, right then and there. But I then decided against it. "I don't know. I just don't know. But if he dies…"

            "He ain't gonna die, Blink. He ain't gonna die."

            Nothin more was said, and his shift passed and moved on to Snipeshooter's- who promptly fell back to sleep, unable to keep his eyes from closing. And as I sat there in the darkness, I thought I saw a shadow by the window. Then a whispering voice came across the wind, fleeting but firm.

            "Racetrack is next…"

                                                                                                                                                           

AN: I know, uber creepy! Just bear with me. And if you have suggestions, I'm very willing to listen! R+r!