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Mistman

Mistman
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Estimated reading time — 22 minutes

I had not received any replies from my good friend Colorado in over a week, and I wasn’t happy. All my efforts to play games with him online, or even just to meet-up and hang-out, were left on read. Not only was that bad enough, I had nobody to spend the summer holidays with. Only two weeks into summer holidays and I was bored.
The playground was not sheltered from the sun, but children played actively in the sandbox. Among them, my little sister Moira was busy socialising. I rested, back against the old paperbark tree, and stared to the sky. I thought maybe I could entertain myself with cloud watching – the small fluffy wafts of cotton in the sky – but that became just as dull as everything else.

The ground beneath the tree was hard and dry. It made me remember the rainy days when Colorado and I went swimming under this tree. That was fun.

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This particular tree had roots that bent and curved from the ground like the Kraken’s tentacles, forming a perfect swimming pool whenever there were storms. I could still hear the splashing and the playful cries from those earlier days. I took my phone and messaged my friend again.

“Where are you?”

Seen, yet not answer.

In an instant, Colorado had read my message, yet no response was heard.

I typed again, “where are you, man, and why are you not answering me?”

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Seen, yet nothing.

Feeling defeated, I shoveled the sand with my foot. Then, a small tugging at my trouser leg.
“Hot, too hot. Can we go home?” whined Moira, my barely four-year-old sister.

I agreed, I was fed-up with the heat too. This summer had been exceptionally warmer than was normal, even for these parts. In the air, there lingered a floating stickiness from the accumulating humidity, and the sun was searing beams onto my soft, exposed skin, slowly cooking it red as lobster shell. Everyone here knew whenever the heat got this bad the rain would be soon to follow. It always worked out that way; bucketing rain.

“Hot, it’s too hot,” Moira cried.

I took her by the hand.

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“Let’s go back home, to mam,” I said, and we trailed out of the park down the stretch of red earth road that ran through our town.

When we got home, we found the house in a noisy rumble. Mam was enduring a dreamy sleep as her snores almost shook the walls of our bungalow. I gently shut the door behind us.

I led Moira to her bath, making sure to be quiet as a drop of rain rolling down a window as we passed mam in the sitting-room.

Moira giggled and played in the water, splashing around with the mixture of bubbles. Soon, our mother had woken up and was standing in the door frame, her smile honey sweet.

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“Aw, you could have woken me up,” she said.

“I couldn’t do that, you’re unwell. You need rest, mam.” I answered, pouring water over Moira’s hair. She spat the water away from her lips as it trailed down her face in a curtain. My mother chuckled, and I did too.
Mother was wiping her reddened nose with a tissue. “So cute, the two of you together. You’ve become so responsible,” she said.

She blew her nose hard. Moira gave an excited cheer as I placed a rubber duck into the bathtub. Colorado had given her that duck, earning him the role of ‘big brother two’ in Moira’s eyes. There was some truth to that; Colorado came over so often he almost was part of our family.

“I love my family,” I said, “plus, I need to take care of you and Moira.”

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Mother crouched down by my side. She played with the water in the bath and leaned in to kiss the chubby cheek of my sister. Moira returned the favour with a wet kiss that was more like she was eating my mam’s face, which made mam laugh but me a tad queasy.

“You can go ahead,” mam had said, “I’ll take care of your sister for now.”

I refreshed with iced water as I rested in my bedroom. A moment was all I needed to indulge in the simple pleasure of having water on my tongue. I swished the liquid in my mouth, leaving no part thirsty, and swallowed. The air-conditioner disguised the heat of the day. The room was nearing a chill, but it was refuge from the summer elements outside. I drained the glass when I heard my phone buzz.

Ti-ting. Ti-ting.

It was Colorado.

When I saw his name appear, I tackled my phone like an Aussie rules player.

“Hey, man, I’m sorry I haven’t been replying to your messages lately, I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff.”
I texted back. “There you are, Colorado, where were you? Summer’s been crap.”

He texted me back. “I’ve not spoken to anybody. I struggle to face even my mother, so I’ve locked myself in my room all summer.”

What, I thought. All summer, I thought, he’s been locked in his room all this time?

Colorado – footy tussling, boisterously crazy, insider social magnet Colorado – had shut-himself away from the world all summer? Another text pulled up on my screen.

“I haven’t been ignoring your texts, I just didn’t know what to say to you. But you’re my friend. I know I can trust you with anything.”

There was a growing sympathy in my mind. Of course, he was probably having family issues, or he was unwell, or he had been busy with some video game. Possibly, there was a girl with whom he was spending more time – he had always been popular with girls. Much remained unknown, but whatever it was I would be to him what I always was: his friend.

“I understand. Does that mean we can finally meet-up?”

Seen, followed by a simple “yes.”

As I drew nearer to the bathroom the giggles of Moira returned. I poked my head around the corner, “I’m going out for a bit, just to let you know.”

“Oh,” mam said, “that’s fine. Will you be out long?”

“Not long,” I answered, “I’ll be back before dinner.”

I walked down the hallway and left the sanctuary of the air con, the humidity hitting me like a gross feeling. My mother called out to me.

“I hear it’s going to rain later. Big downpour; storms. Do be sure to get home before it rains.”

“Bring a jacket,” she added, but I was already out on the street. I would be fine, I thought. I’d be home shortly.

While walking, I noticed the sky was already greying above. Heavy clouds pooled together into one looming sheen. Rainfall was inevitable – as expected – and I had a plan.

Once I reached the park, I examined the old paper-bark tree. Its base was dry now, but I knew that just one minute of rain would fill it. The water would be deep, tall enough to submerge even Colorado, who stood taller than me by two heads, and have a decent amount of water left between his tallest hair and the surface. Standing by the side of the dried-up pool, I heard those playful shouts and curses echo from the past like the ghosts of happy memories.
I drew my phone from my pocket and texted my friend.

“It’s going to rain later, maybe we can go swimming at the old paperbark tree. That might save this summer.”
I was inside the empty swimming hole, studying the thick roots of the tree when his reply came.

“Actually, could you come over instead?”

I arrived at the Denver residence by the time thick grey clouds overtook the summer sky and began spitting onto the land. I regretted not bringing a raincoat.

It was Mrs. Denver, Colorado’s mother, who had answered the door. I could see that her appearance was unfamiliar. Where once a healthy tan glowed, a pale mesh of skin covered her body, and on her now fatigued face two shadowy sunken eyes clung. Around her torso an apron was wet fur – heavy with water. She appeared as the living-dead but was not so in her greeting.

“Are you here to see Colorado?”

Her face held a crinkled smile. She spoke more energetically than I expected, but I didn’t dwell on it.
“Yes,” I said, “but I haven’t seen him since school finished, and I’m worried something might be wrong.”
The inside of the house was dark. It was a gloomy accompaniment to the sky above.

“You’re such a good friend to my boy. Please, come in, he’s in his room.”

She stepped aside. I entered the house and noticed the floor was wet beneath me. Puddles of water trailed from the kitchen, leading to where Mrs. Colorado stood. I felt a cold splash on the skin of my leg as droplets fell from the hem of Mrs. Colorado’s apron.

“Please excuse the mess, lots of dishes to wash,” she said as I headed up the stairs.

Then, I felt her tightly grip the nook in my arm. Her hand was cold, her grip severe. I turned my head and was met with her hollow face. I felt my stomach tense with nerves.

In a gentle voice, she said, “before you leave here, please share with me everything he tells you. I haven’t seen him in so very long, any mother would worry – any good mother. Please, I’m worried about my son.”

Despite her words, I could pick up on the urgency buried in her voice. She sounded desperate, like the starving for food.

I thought of my own mother. She would behave this way if I or Moira had become as reclusive as Colorado. Any good parent would worry. But I struggled to imagine my mother with sunken eyes, paling skin, and speaking in tired pleas as Mrs. Denver was. The thought was too unbearable.

I told her that I would tell her whatever I might learn. She, having seemed satisfied with my answer, nodded before disappearing somewhere into the recesses of the unlit house.

I climbed the top of the stairs to find myself before the door to Colorado’s bedroom. Outside was a porcelain tower – plates and dishes stained with sauce piled in the hallway outside his door, from where an impossible to ignore odour leaked to offend my nose.

“Holy shit.”

I knocked on the door.

“Colorado, it’s me,” I said, “are you alive in there?”

No answer.

I knocked harder this time and called slightly louder.

“Colorado, are you—”

The door creaked open. Looking through the crack I was greeted by an eyeball.

Colorado opened the door wider. His face was unshaven and a sloppy mess. He looked ill, and there were more stains blotching his black hoodie. Worst of all, when he spoke his rotten breath smothered my face. Seeing my friend as gross as he was triggered a discomforting pull in my gut.

“Come in.”

I hesitated at first, reluctant to enter that pigsty of a room. But I had a duty: to find out what was going on with my friend. I stepped inside and Colorado shut the door.

If not for the light of the monitor, the room would have been completely smothered in darkness. Below, the floor was more plastic than carpet, as chocolate bar wrappers and various other food packaging blanketed the floor like tiles. It was impossible to walk anywhere without hearing the delicate crinkle below your foot. His bed was untidy too: a nest of displaced sheets and scattered pillows. Colorado grabbed the largest of his bedsheets and flattened it out.

“Please,” he said, “sit.” He gestured to his bed as he took the chair at his desk.

I sat down, and we spent much time without saying a word. It was tense, only the plastic crinkle on the floor broke the silence. Then, Colorado mumbled something.

I tilted my head like a puppy would, unsure what he was saying. He repeated himself, louder.

“I don’t know why I agreed to this.”

I listened attentively.

“Not once all summer have I seen another person. Not once. You texted me every day until I couldn’t push you away anymore. And then I agreed to let you visit me. Why on Earth did I agree to let you come over?”

I folded my arms, feeling my facial muscles twist in frustration.

“Well,” I said, “that’s nice, real nice. If that’s how you were feeling you could have told me and I would not have bothered coming to see you, then.”

“No, it’s not that, it’s just… I… Oh what’s the point, nobody would believe me.”

His breath was hot on my face. I turned my nose away each time he spoke, but the collection of bad smells in that room were overpowering, sickening. I felt an uneasy quake in my belly. I instantly threw my hands over my stomach hoping to quell the pain.

“What?” I said, “what do you mean by ‘nobody would believe me’?”

“This isn’t easy for me to say since I’ve not told anybody before about this,” Colorado said, “so listen closely because I will not say it twice. The first day of summer I locked myself in my bedroom. It wasn’t because I like being in here, and it wasn’t to hide from you or to hide from anyone else. I did it because on the first day of the holidays I developed a very strange fear.”

“A fear of what?”

I became impatient.

“I am terrified of water.”

My patience has been spent, and I was agitated. The combination of the stench, Colorado’s unexplained fears, and the growing discomfort in my stomach edged precariously on my nice side.

“No, honest! I can’t be anywhere near it. Christ. I don’t drink water – I live off canned soup. And the worst part is my hygiene is not what it used to be. I haven’t showered, I don’t use toilets, I haven’t brushed my teeth. I miss brushing my teeth. I’ve been in so much pain see?”

He lifted his upper lip to present a row of yellow teeth cemented together with food residue. His gums were no longer a healthy pink, but had changed to a plasmatic, fleshy red. I turned my entire body away from his in one motion.

“Look at them,” Colorado was yelling, “look, they hurt!”

My poor stomach couldn’t hold its contents at the sight. Pain consumed all feeling in my abdomen, and I was launched into a full sprint, dashing towards the bathroom. In the next second I was face-down in the toilet coughing-up vomit. I looked into the vomit filled bowl, which was the catalyst for the next spew I made.
By the time I flushed the toilet my pain was gone, but my disgust remained. I grabbed the toothbrush holder, spilling all the toothbrushes carelessly into the sink, and filled the it under the tap. I filled it to the brim. I fished a toothbrush from the sink.

I rushed to Colorado who, when he saw I held the water in my hand, scrambled away like a lizard.

“Stay away,” he cried, “you’re mad!”

“I’m mad?” I said, “you’re the mad one! Drink your water, wash your filthy hands, and brush your Goddamn teeth.”
I held the water to his face, and he retreated until his back greeted the wall.

“I said stay away. The mistman is inside it!”

The cup flew from my hand as his fist whacked it away. Water showered over the plastic-coated floor. Colorado leapt onto his bed, burying himself beneath the nest.

He roared, “clean it, get it out of my room. Now!”

I couldn’t bear to see my friend this way. He was the picture of terror, and no human deserves to feel that way. The good in me won over so I claimed one of the bathroom towels and mopped the spill.

“Is it gone yet?” Colorado asked me.
I dried it best as I could.

“Yes, it’s gone.”

He came out from hiding, face soaked. He wiped the tears away with the blanket.

Colorado was not known to cry. Not even when he got his arm torn open while playing football – clean white bone protruding from his flesh – did he cry. He was tough as nails and his strength surprised everyone. But I was never surprised by it; I knew him better than anyone. That’s why to see him bawling like a baby over something as trivial as a cup of water told me that there was something more serious happening.

I flung the wet towel out the door and turned back to my friend.

“What is the mistman?” I asked.

The crying hushed. He sighed a long and drawn sigh and sat upright in his bed.

“I didn’t want to say,” he said, “because I worried you might think I was insane. Yes, it’s true that I am terrified of water, but there’s more to it. It’s because of this mistman who keeps stalking me. That’s what I call him because of my first time seeing him.

“I’ll never forget the first encounter. It was the beginning of summer. School was over, and I came home and took a long hot shower. It hot enough for mist to cover the bathroom mirror and, well, that’s when I spotted him. In the mirror, standing behind me. He was a blur, but I am still able to describe what I saw in alright detail. He had a face like a mummy from a movie, but he was thin as a skeleton. It was hard to see in the misty mirror, but I am pretty sure he had a wide, gaping mouth of black teeth like a shark or a crocodile… but the way it acts is more like a ghost or a demon or something from a campfire story.

What’s worse is I don’t know what he wants, or why he is here, but I know he is everywhere. I’ve seen him in the water in the bathtub, in the bowl of the toilet, in glasses of water, and in the rain. He is everywhere water is, and it was in the mist when I first saw him. I don’t think I can ever get away, either. But, please, you have to tell me…”
Colorado stood and made his way to me. He put both his hands on my shoulders, breathing like had been running for his life, and spoke in a harsh whisper.

“… nothing so strange can be good, right? Nothing as horrible as the mistman is can bring anything good.”
More tears escaped his eyes.

“Maybe you should leave, now,” he said, “but don’t tell anyone a single thing of what I have told you.”

He seemed insistent that I leave, so I went. Checking the time on my phone I noted that it was already pretty late. The rain would soon fall.

I downed the stairs when I was confronted by the drained face of Mrs. Denver, who stood tall and with impeccable posture.

“You’re leaving?” she asked me.

I nodded.

“Did he tell you anything? Anything at all?”

I looked in her worried-sick eyes. I had never once lied to someone so mournful before that day.

“He didn’t tell me anything; I haven’t a clue what’s wrong.”

Seeing her slump then triggered guilt in my heart. She seemed so weak.

“You should go before you catch a cold. It will rain very soon.”

I thanked her for her concern, and I left without saying another word.

I wasn’t halfway home when the rain came down – and it came down heavy. Fat droplets ran-down on me like bombs onto an ominous cityscape, stirring my body to a shudder as I felt on go down the back of my shirt and roll down my spine.

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The smell of petrichor wafting the air was the spirit of our dry dead land to which rain scarcely visits. The rain fizzled in all directions around me, hailing the ground with ferocity. This sort of weather is a serial killer’s best friend; the kind where the commotion of rain is deafeningly loud – enough to drown a spine-chilling scream, rendering it mute to even the best pair of ears. That’s why I was forced to stop right in my splashing tracks when I heard not a yell, but a whisper – faint and soft.

“Go home,” it said, “get home now.”

The voice was sweet, motherly, and it spoke with compassion.

In the pouring rain I looked around for the source of the voice, but nothing – no person, object, or even creature – was near except for a few houses and the red dirt road. I would have thought I was turning mad, but it was true: the voice seemed to come not from within my mind, but from around me. All around me in the unceasing rain.

“Go home,” it said once more, more urgent like it was pleading me. “You have to go.”

A shiver went down my spine, and I couldn’t decide if it was the cold, the events of the visit to my friend, or the shock from hearing the voice that caused it. There was another sense that grew within, something which shared to me like a secret, telling me there was danger near my family. Instinct is what one might have called it. As it traveled down my back and into my legs, I felt them zapped with energy, and I ran home.

When I got to the safety of the front door, I threw myself inside, panting heavily. Before I could catch my breath, I rushed to the sitting room.

Mother was there, long since drifted asleep in her armchair, snoring like crashing waves. Moira sat on the carpet as she washed the pages of her colouring-in book with a marker – electric cyan in colour. My sister turned to look up to see me, covered in rain and panting like a cheetah, and it was enough to make her laugh a bubbly laugh. Her joy proved enough to make my mother stir and return to life from her slumber. She noticed me standing beside her armchair.

“Welcome home,” she said, yawning in laze. She looked me up and down.

“Ah, geez, you’re soaked to the skin. And you’ve tracked water all in the house,” she said.

I looked behind me. Small puddles of water followed. I was relieved my family was safe. But the voice was absent since I arrived home, and I wondered if its presence was somehow linked to my friend’s story.

Colorado heard the front door shut as he was wiped his tears on the blanket. He folded the corner of his window blind and peeked-out to see his friend travelling alone on the red earth road. Rain slowly tapped the window glass in rounded droplets, splatting like flies on the windscreen of a truck. Colorado closed his curtain back in place, blocking all light from his room, and sat in the dark for a while.

After some time, a knock came at his door.

“Colorado, my boy, may I come in?”

He made no response. Only when he heard the metallic clicking as his mother tried the doorknob did he react.
“Go away,” he yelled, “don’t bother me.”

“Oh,” she said in her soft voice, “I’m just worried about you. Please, let me in.”

“Stay out.” Colorado covered his ears with his hands and was rocking backward and forward on his feet.

His mother spoke again, but this time her voice was not sweet, energetic, or kind. It had become harsh, fiery, like the sound a sack of sizzling hot coals makes being dragged down a gravel road.

“Colorado.”

The doorknob shook furiously.

Terrified, Colorado scrambled for the pocketknife under his desk and held it tightly, ready to defend himself. The door jolted as it was struck repeatedly. She was charging the door with such great force that dust leaked from the doorframe and walls until the door tore from its hinges and fell directly onto Colorado. He released a hearty cry as his leg was crushed by the weight. He was immobile under the debris with his mother towering over him, staring down at him attentively.

“Why are you torturing me like this?” Colorado winced in pain, “seriously, what do you want from me?”

She was like an insect – indifferent to suffering.

“A deal,” she said, her voice dull.

Colorado blinked, surprised he was still alive. “A deal? What deal?”

“A deal,” she repeated, bending her body.

Her eyes were now level with his, “let’s make a resolution. Long as you live, I will never be near you. You will no longer seek to fear me as I shall no longer seek to harm you. You could finally be free.”

Freedom.

He could go outdoors; he could play with his friends. At last, he could play footy in sun, and in rain. He could brush his teeth, shower, and enjoy basic pleasures in life. No longer would he be imprisoned under the gaze of a lurking predator. This opportunity was golden – a way out and a real chance to live.

“There is a cost,” she continued. “Every living thing needs nourishment. Plants eat the dead, fungus eat the dead, animals eat the dead. I need to eat, too. That’s why you need to bring me water.”

“Bring you water?” he said.

“Yes, water. Water from the human brain.”

Colorado gasped in horror, “No, I will not do that! I will not kill.”

“No, not kill,” she said, “I need you to lure two humans into the rain. I’ll do the work, and you’ll be free to live a normal life.”

“That’s still murder,” Colorado said, “you can’t make me do it.”

He swung his arm, stabbing her pale face with his pocketknife. She didn’t flinch, and her face was hard like a statue. He struck her again, but the knife would not wound.
“You are a foolish boy,” she hissed.

Her face and her body transformed, becoming less human. Her skin dimmed white. Hair fell from her head in clumps, and her facial features melted onto the door in pools of excess water. The horror made Colorado scream.
“Help!” he called, “help.”

But nobody would hear him. The rain outside was at its heaviest, and the drops on the tin roof above were ear-ringing.

The mistman stood before Colorado, breathing heavily through the dark jagged hole in its paper white head. It stepped onto the fallen door and Colorado winced as his leg was squashed. He screamed.

“Okay” he cried, “I’ll do it!”

“Bring me the mother and child of your friend, or I’ll have your brain,” the mistman said.

Before he could bargain further, Colorado watched helplessly as the mistman slithered away into the house, leaving him alone on the floor.

The hot shower awakened me to the reality of how cold my body had become, and I never felt more grateful for any shower in my life. Hot water is amazing – it makes one feel safe, secure – opposite to the icy needles of water outside. I enjoyed the jets of warmth for quite some time, long enough for steam to form in thick clouds – they danced beneath the ceiling lights and lay on the mirror.

I was toweled off and dressed when I noticed I was deaf in one ear, as usually happens when I take a warm shower. The rain – still falling – was muffled. The tint tint tint on the tin roof was distinct, especially in the bathroom, which had the lowest ceiling. But in my deafened ear I heard the voice return, still sweet and motherly as it had been the first time.

“I’m here to warn you. There is danger near.”

“Danger?” I said, “what danger; is it the mistman?”

“No,” the voice responded. “It’s your friend.”

“Colorado?”

“He’s nearing your house now. I can see him. He is here and he is dangerous.”

I pulled myself to the bathroom window and looked-out, though I saw no sign of anybody outside.

“Why should I trust you?” I said, “you’re just some voice.”

“I’m more than just a voice,” it said. “I am here to help you. You must act now if you want to protect your family.”

“I still don’t think I belie—”

I noticed something in the mirror that cut my words short. In the foggy reflection, I saw my own blurry image, but behind it was the looming presence of a tall, white, skeletal figure. At the top of its face an opening widened, bitumen black with rows of pointy teeth that closed in around me like the mandibles on a wasp.

There was a sudden knock at the front door, and the blurry figure behind me disappeared from sight.

“I’ll get it,” I heard mother call from the hallway as she shuffled her feet towards the knock.

I cracked the bathroom door and peeked-out. I felt the hairs on my arms physically raise for there, standing out in the rain, was the familiar muddy face of my friend Colorado.

I burst from the room. “No!”

Everyone went silent. My mother looked at me as her jaw dropped, and worried Moira looked-up at me from her play with widened eyes. Colorado, instead, seemed to watch me closely through narrowing eyes.

I moved towards my friend.

“Colorado. Hey, man,” I played, “you didn’t have to come all the way to my house.”

I practically threw myself in his direction and pushed him out the doorway until we both stood in the rain. “Let’s hang-out outside.”

I slammed the door behind us, not giving my family a chance to comment on my actions.

Together, Colorado and I walked in silence down the wide stretch red road, now boggy and waterlogged, too dangerous for small vehicles to drive through. We walked for five minutes through the pouring rain with no destination in mind, my only goal being to get him as far from my family as I could.

“You’re not afraid?” I said, gesturing to the rain.

“No,” he said, “got over it.”

We stopped in the middle of the road and faced each other. It was at this time that I noticed for the very first time something peculiar about the rain. It fell fast, and so one had to focus to see it, but it seemed the droplets had the outline of a dark blue eye within their centre. Instantly, the feeling I was being observed overtook me, and I felt exposed outside in this weather.

“I know,” I said, “why you’ve come.”

Colorado bowed his head and frowned with guilt. I continued.

“Why do you want to hurt my family?”

“Because that’s the only way he’ll leave me alone. We made a deal. He promised he would never bother me again.”
His answer was sharp. I responded harshly.

“You bastard,” I said, “you traded my family.”

“I didn’t want to do it, believe me, I didn’t,” he said, “but the mistman, he gave me no choice.”

The rain fell harder around us. Colorado’s facial expression changed from guilt to a growing smile. He was an animal baring its teeth.

“You…”

I was taken aback by his cold and emotionless voice.

“You,” Colorado said, “are the only thing standing between me and my freedom.”

Suddenly, my friend lunged at me, grabbing me by my shoulders with two strong arms. I tried to push him off, but he was stronger, and we wrestled for a few moments. He was hard trying his best to push me to the muddy ground, but I pushed back against him.

“Hey, stop that!” I said.

Somehow, I managed to wrestle him off me, but he quickly latched on again. I swung my leg under him and managed to kick him over. When he was lying in the mud, I took my chance to run like wind.

As I ran I heard my heart drum in my ears, and the rain fell harder and more fiercely than before. The entire world became two sensations: the pelting rain falling all around us, and the desperate shrieks coming from my attacker – my best friend – as he chased behind me.

I ran towards nowhere. I just sprinted until my legs could sprint no more, hoping to get away and to lure my friend away from my family. I stopped when my feet landed in the soft sand of the sandbox in the playground. I was hands-on-knees and struggling to catch my breath.

Colorado, too, seemed to be struggling. He called to me, now in a slow jog.

“Oi, wait, don’t run,” he called. “I’m sorry.”

I turned to him as he approached. The two of us stood on the sand exasperated, catching enough breath to speak. The deafening rain and the gentle trickles of water on the pool of the old paper-back meditated me. The look of madness that had before overcame Colorado’s face was now replaced with sorrow. If not for the rain, which fell cold upon us, I would have probably seen more tears on his face. I was shaking with a mix of nerves and cold, and another instinct overtook me. A desperate one; one that wanted me to survive.

“Isn’t there another way,” I said, “to work this out. Together we can try to beat the mistman. We can find his weakness or a way to lose him.”

He lowered his head.

“Please,” I said, “don’t do this. They’re my family. You’re my friend. Colorado?”

He was in tears now – sobs – like a confused child who does not know right from wrong. As he looked me in the eye, I saw the hardship he was living with. He was scared he was might die. My friend, faced with death, would take any chance to change his fate. But I was his friend, I wouldn’t let him fight alone. Together we might beat the mistman, and I could keep my family and my friend. We could all live normally, without any fears.

Colorado held his arms outstretched, and we embraced. The warmth of his body was a warm shower. The soothing trickles of water mixing with the crystal-clear pool beneath the old paper-bark tree provided ease for my disturbed mind. But icy sting of a blade entering my back was the thing that snapped me back to reality.

I felt my senses fade. My knees folded, pushing me against the body of my attacker as he hugged me tightly.
“I’m so sorry,” Colorado said. “This is the only way to make things right.”

Everything was numbing away. My thoughts shut down as I lost my life force. In my mouth, I tasted a metallic tongue before I lost my sense of taste, and I could no longer feel the warmth of the body against me, nor the chill of the falling rain. I was ready to die. I heard the clink of the knife on the ground. I listened to the rain. When I could no longer hear the rain, I knew I was going to die. And everything was off as I began to gently close my eyes.

“Fight.”

I opened my eyes.

“Fight.”

Colorado spoke, “I promise, my friend, your family will not suffer. I will honor you all with my life.”

I felt some strength return to my arms. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to tumble Colorado enough to make him lose balance. I threw him down toward the pool in the roots of the tree. His body splashed as it fell into the water. I was lucky my arm caught on one of the sturdy roots, and I hung there with just my lower half beneath the water.
Colorado roared when he surfaced.

“Don’t,” he cried, “leave me alone! Stop!”

Through blurring vision, I watched as my friend struggled against the water. He splashed like an antelope does when a crocodile captures it, trying desperately to pull away from the jaws but with little chance of escape.

I noticed how he fought and struggled to stay surfaced.

“Please, no!”

He wailed in primal terror. The last thing I heard him say before his head sank beneath the water was heartbreaking.
“I don’t want to die.”

He was gone with a gargle as water poured down his throat, and there was silence. I dropped my head and felt liquid drip from my eyes, but I was thankful to be alive.

The rain began to slow, and the first patches of blue appeared in the sky. I listened to the calming trickle of rain on the water, falling much more carefully now, accompanying the beauty of the clouds above, which parted ways for sun to shine on my eyelids, nose, and skin. I felt it – that warm glow – bringing me back from the dead; waking me up. And although I was covered in my own blood, I felt hopeful that somebody would find me very soon.

Then somebody did find me, but it was worse than I could have ever imagined. A hand – bone white – grabbed me by the ankle. It tugged at me, and I had no strength left to fight against it.

“Hey, stop that,” I pleaded, the weakness in my voice evident. “Please.”

It didn’t listen as it pulled at me with increasing force.

“No.”

My arms couldn’t hold, and arm uncoiled from the sturdy root like peeling skin. I felt horror flow through my body as my body dunked into the drink.

Water washed past and into my eyes and ears, swallowing me into my dark watery grave.

“Two souls,” said the voice. No longer was it motherly or sweet. It was now unfamiliar; serpentine.

“Two souls I take away.”

Credit : Lochlann Gallive

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