Wednesday, January 30, 2013

At What Cost?

There are days when I wish I could be with you, Sis,” the boy stared down at the grave with saddened eyes.

“It’s been two years since you died,” he continued, “I miss you Suzie.”

A gust of whistling wind carried a trio of orange leaves from one end of the cemetery to the other. This same wind rustled the boys black bangs. His brown eyes moved away from the grave of his sister. He raised a face with skin so pale it could camouflage him in snow and stared at the black entrance gate of the cemetery.

Something caught his eye as he walked beside the stones and he stopped to examine it. It was an oddly shaped grave with a red line painted across the center. Where you would usually find the name of whoever was buried beneath the stone there were only words.

Leave a photograph of your enemy before my grave, and I shall eliminate them for you. However, in exchange-

The rest of the inscription was too weathered away for the boy to make out. He assumed this little more then a joke and continued on his way to the cemetery exit. He would return tomorrow with fresh flowers to place before his sister.

“Alan, do you know why I wanted to see you after class today?” asked Mr. Carter as he plopped himself into the office chair behind his cluttered desk.

“Probably because of the big red ‘F’ in the top right corner of my test paper,” Alan replied in monotone.

Mr. Carter stared at the pale skinned boy for a moment as if he didn’t believe a student would dare to use such a tone with him. But his expression quickly returned to one of a calm and collected individual. Mr. Carter was a middle-aged man but he always did his best to treat his students as equals.

“Alan, you’re a good student.”

Alan remained silently. His expression unchanged.

“Alan is something going on at home I should know about?”

Alan did not answer. In fact, he didn’t give any notion that he had heard Mr. Carter’s words at all.

“Alan are you listening to me?”

“Yes, Mr. Carter.”

“Like I said, I don’t know what’s going on. But whatever it is, it’s affecting your grades. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, Mr. Carter.”

“Fine,” Mr. Carter said after a moment, “You can go.”

Mr. Carter watched his student walk out of the room and slam the door. The teacher rubbed his chin with his fingers as he thought about what a good student Alan had been the years before.

His face was covered in the blood that gushed from his nose. His bangs clung to it in great clumps. The taste of iron filled his mouth. But he had become used to this. This had become Alan’s daily routine. It was just the way things were; nothing could change it. He had stopped resisting long ago.

“Well Snow White? How does that feel? Do you like it?” demanded one of Alan’s attackers.

Alan said nothing. Response encouraged them. It would only feed the flames of torment. So instead Alan stared at the tiled floor. He could see no alternative other then this. Nothing to do except wait until they grew bored.

The leader of the bunch, a large boy named Lars, made his fist one with Alan’s gut. Alan coughed and bent forward in reactive pain. Another fist forced his head back. Lars smiled with glee and admired his work. He was quite pleased with himself, to say the least.

“Look at him! He doesn’t even fight back!” laughed another dumb looking boy.

“Pathetic waste of life,” sneered another.

Lars twisted the front of Alan’s shirt and pulled him to eye level. For a brief moment Alan lost himself. His fists clenched and his eyes narrowed into a glare. Then he relaxed. But he knew it was too late already. Lars had seen this reaction, and he hadn’t liked it. He slammed Alan up against a row of lockers.

“Listen Jorgans, I don’t like that look in your eye,” Lars said as he delivered another punch to Alan’s gut, “I don’t like it one bit. The next time I see you, you should have a better attitude.”

Lars let go of Alan’s shirt and let the frail boy slide to the hallway floor.

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That afternoon Alan returned to the cemetery. Gray clouds hung overhead. The wind sliced through the cemetery. It stung Alan’s wounds. In his left hand he clutched a pair of yellow flowers. He wasn’t sure what kind of flower they were; he had picked them off the bush outside his house.

He shuffled through fallen leaves and pine needles. He stopped before his sister’s grave and dropped the flowers to the ground carelessly. His eyes widened in disbelief. His mouth became dry and his palms began to sweat. The wind reversed directions and shuffled his bangs before his eyes.

Panted across the center of his sister’s grave was a red line. The paint appeared to have been there for sometime as it was peeling from the stone. The line was not a neatly drawn line. It seemed to have been hastily slashed across the stone.

“What,” Alan quietly whispered to himself, “What is this? Is this a joke?”

He looked around to see if anybody was hiding nearby. He saw nobody. He turned back to face the grave of his sister, and the line was gone.

“Just imagining things.” Alan told himself.

But when he decided to leave the cemetery he couldn’t help but to stop before the odd grave he had seen the day before. The grave with the incantation.

Leave a photograph of your enemy before my grave, and I shall eliminate them for you. However, in exchange-

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“Alan, what happened to you?” Mr. Carter asked as he saw the purple ring that wrapped itself around the eye of his student.

“It’s nothing,” Alan replied plainly.

“Alan, what the hell is going on?” Mr. Carter demanded, “Is it Lars and his goons? It is, isn’t it?”

Mr. Carter had had problems with Lars in the past. Several of his students had been severely beaten by the boy and his group of not-so-loyal followers. If Lars was behind the black eye, Mr. Carter would be sure he was expelled.

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Damn it Alan! Stop this stupid kids stuff! This isn’t some game!” Mr. Carter stopped and took a breath to recollect himself.

“Mr. Carter,” Alan began as he stood from his seat, “I can handle it. Don’t worry about me. I can fix this.”

“I sure hope so, Alan,” Mr. Carter said, “And for God’s sake, don’t do anything stupid.”

“Well Snow White? Got a smile for us today?” Lars asked as he looked down at his victim.

Alan had already been struck several blows. They were far more brutal today. He had been forced to the floor. Blood and bruises concealed most of his skin. His arms were wrapped around his head defensively.

“Huh? You got an answer?”

Alan didn’t respond. He could feel the mixture of blood and saliva drip from his open mouth. Tears had forced their way to his eyes. He was consumed by pain and nausea. The floor had begun to grow hot and sticky. He knew he was lying in a puddle of his own blood.

“Alright guys, now he’s ignoring us,” Lars scoffed, “I don’t think that’s an improvement over yesterdays attitude.”

For the following ten minutes all that Alan knew was the feeling of being kicked and stomped. The feeling of bruising ribs and skipped heart beats. And after that he knew the feeling of hate. The corruptively powerful drug that is hate.

Alan visited the cemetery again that afternoon. Bruises and footprints marked him from head to toe, though he had washed the blood from himself. He remained in the cemetery for a much shorter time then usual, and when he left there were no flowers before Suzie Jorgans’ grave. The only object that was now there was a photograph that sat at the base of the grave with the incantation.

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Lars sat on his bed with a can of beer in hand. He smiled with glee as he remembered how lovely the sight of Alan Jorgans lying on the ground in excruciating pain had been. How intoxicating the feeling of beating on another human being was. He took a sip of his beer and flipped the page of his latest porno magazine.

The picture on the next page startled him. It was not a large breasted woman, rather a twelve-year-old girl with jet-black hair that hung below her waist. Her head was tilted at an angle where her bangs concealed her eyes. Her skin was white like snow. Behind her was a clock with words instead of numbers. In the center of the clock were the words “the time is.” The clock had only one hand, an hour hand, which pointed at where eleven should be, instead it read “Then.”

Lars was about to flip the page when something happened that made him stop. The hour hand began to move. Slowly but surely the hour hand was creeping towards the twelve o’clock position. Lars’ eyes widened as he watched the hour hand slowly creep towards the word “Now.” And after a moment that tiny, black hand reached it’s destination. And the instant it did a church bell rang. The bell seemed to have bee right beside Lars and he grabbed at his ears in surprise and pain.

He looked back at the magazine page as the bell chimed for a second time. The girl with the jet-black hair jerked her head suddenly and stared at Lars with terrifyingly red eyes. Eyes of blood. Eyes of fire. Eyes of rage. Lars felt the hairs on the back of his neck begin to stand on end and he reached out to push the book away.

But as his hand made contact with the magazine a snow white hand reached off the page and grabbed him by the wrist. The hand was cold as ice. It tightened its grip and suddenly another hand had reached out of the page and grabbed Lars by the arm. She began to tug on his arm. He screamed as the girl pulled him towards her, pulled him closer to the book.

He tried to resist. He pulled back and tried to break free from her grasp but he couldn’t. She was too powerful. His entire arm had been pulled into the magazine page now and his face was inched away from the terrifying red eyes of that girl with jet-black hair. Lars gave one last pull. He broke free and fell backwards. His eyes shut tight as he landed on his back and he took several large breaths.

He had escaped. He had broken free from the grasp of… whatever that had been. He was safe now. The girl was in the magazine and that had been knocked to the floor when he broke free of her grasp. He was on the bed, safely on the bed. After a few moments he opened his eyes.

What he saw was the blank stare of those red eyes. The girls face was mere inches away from his own. Her red eyes stared down into his blue ones. The cold feeling of death seemed to drip from her very being and fall to Lars. Her pale lips parted slightly as if she were going to speak.

Suddenly Lars was falling through an empty space. There was no girl. There was no magazine. There was no room. There was only him, falling through an eternal darkness and screaming for help. He was falling and falling. Then he stopped. He didn’t smash into anything, he just stopped. As if he were floating in the middle of space.

Lars was too terrified to blink. His eyes were peeled so far open he thought they were going to bleed. In the distance he could see the girl. She was a shining white against the eternal darkness. He swallowed hard and struggled to move, but he couldn’t. He was paralyzed. Sweat poured down his back. The girl stepped forward. She was getting closer. Soon she would reach him.

Suddenly there was a great pain in his gut. It felt as though something had punched him. Something much larger then himself. Pain exploded in the back of his head as well, and he found himself forced down until he was lying down. When he was down the kicking started. An invisible team of tormentors had gathered to kick him and stomp on him. Bruises and welts began to form up and down his arms and his nose began to bleed. His vision became obscured with the tears that had formed in his eyes.

He looked up to see if he could glimpse his attackers. He saw nobody but that girl with the red eyes and jet-black hair staring down at him.

“Help me,” Lars pleaded.

“Do you like the feeling of death?” the girl asked.

The last thing Lars saw was her eyes. Her blood colored eyes.

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Alan sat in his room with the lights off. He sat on a chair at a desk in the corner. He was thinking about what a great life he would live without Lars to beat him down. He was thinking about how great it would be to get Mr. Carter off his back. He sat in a chair, a smile sat on his face.

His smile faded when he saw her. A girl with jet-black hair and red eyes stood in the doorway to his room. Alan’s eyes widened, he could not believe what it was he saw. Her skin was so pale she could have blended perfectly with the snow. Her eyes were red like blood and her hair was the darkest black imaginable.

“Suzie!” Alan exclaimed and he stood from his seat, “Suzie is it you?”

“Your enemy has been eliminated,” the girl stated monotonously.

“What?” Alan’s voice quivered as he asked.

“Your enemy has been eliminated,” she stated again, “I am here to collect your debt.”

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