Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
The ground was dry and covered in fallen pine needles, rotting away back into the earth from which they came. The smell of moss and pine was thick, engulfing Cliffs nostrils, it was not a discomforting scent, rather sweet, but there was something more.. and it was discomforting, unwelcoming and growing. Now that it was no longer hidden in the aroma of the woods, it now carried as an aroma of its own, growing stronger like the sensation of a discovered wound. He felt unnerved and decided he would be better off heading his way back to camp, find another spot to pee.
If Cliff turned right to leave, life may have been a little easier, there would be less nightmares, less things rattling the cage in his head every waking hour of every waking day, but he did not turn right. Almost immediately after he turned left he found her, the girl the group was chasing yesterday. “Chasing her around like a chicken that escaped the coop”, he thought. She was still covered in mud, now dried into clinging lumps of dirt. She was laying on her back, one arm stretched out in a yawn and the other placed clumsily at her side. She was naked, down to the skin, no clothes in site and this made Cliff feel very nervous, his first reaction was to look away as his foster father had taught him before, to never peek at a naked girl, especially one so young. Of course he was only twelve years old and his curiosity had gotten the better of him, so he turned his head back to her. This was his second mistake.
She was not sleeping. A clear realization he had almost instantly and wished to God he hadn’t, wished he had left assuming she was in a deep slumber. In a way she was. She was dead. Cliff felt his heart stop in his chest and found it difficult to stand. The urge to cry fell over him like a trap net, trying to pull him down to the ground and keep him there for the hunter to find. The feeling meant to own him entirely but he could not let it, he had to stay strong. If Ford ever saw him cry he would surely give him something real to cry about. Was this not real? He looked, this time really looked at what he was seeing and his stomach tightened like a drum, his knees went numb but he still managed to stand. Through the clumpy mess of mud he could see her face, twisted in a tangle of knots and bruises, deforming her, eyes swollen shut. He remembered how she looked before. Beautiful, as much as a mud writhed fourteen year old could be. Now she lay like a crude clay sculpture that had been mutilated by a drunk, petty competitor. There was a dark blue ring around her neck, swollen twice its normal size and his eyes ventured down. This was it, his biggest mistake.
He saw blood. Blood. What had set everything into motion over his last remaining days as a child, the child he had denied himself to be, that Ford had denied him. That set the images that would not stop, nightmares that would not end. Blood. It covered her private places completely, dried to a thin brown crust, matting down the little pubic hair she had grown in her compromised adolescence. Cliff clapped his hands painfully over his face and at last the tears came, treacherous and screaming with freedom, he could feel the hot wet drops running through the spaces between his fingers. ” Oh God.” Cliff choked under his breathe, and hideous grief and shame washed over him like an acid bath. “Oh my God.” he choked again, not removing his hands, tears flowing faster and hotter through his hands. She was a virgin, he thought numbly. She was fourteen years old and a virgin she had been.
CREDIT : Cole Villagomez