John Dayes gray car had trapped all the morning sun inside, so when the author of the fairly famous book of the occult stepped inside his car he was forced to remove his overcoat at once, spilling some of his coffee in the process. With an annoyed tschh, he passed his foam cup to Rebecca, who presently sat next to John. Even as Rebecca, with her long brown hair limiting her field of vision, peered into her vividly pink laptop with its racy hello kitty stick on, John Daye kept furiously rubbing a tissue on the coffee stain on his white seats.
Can you stop with that and listen to this? They sent me a location.
Daye had been waiting for this for some time now. Stretching to the back seat where he had thrown his overcoat, he pulled out his reading spectacles and took the laptop from Rebeccas hand.
Dont close the chatbox, all history would be deleted automatically.
John nodded, and looking over the single message displaying a location, he realized he knew this part of the neighborhood. It was right at the edge of a woods he had visited maybe thrice; on each occasion, he had went hunting for game, with a friend he got along famously. Needless to say, the location was very isolated and secure. There would be no chances of coincident encounters there and John Daye had to admit, these people were smart for choosing a place like that.
But now that the time had come, he rested his head on the steering wheel, not knowing what to do next, or rather, scared to do what he was about to. Rebecca didnt say anything either. Sitting beside him in silence, she just stared out the window with a cigarette, just lit, in one hand and watched the people walking past. The cause of this silence wasnt what would happen in the immediate future, but what happened just in the past.
When John had came back after his momentous meeting with the ineffable Alicia Lamb, yesterday, the night had found its way well into the later hours. Yet, Daye found it hard to keep his anger out he realized the injustice of it all. He had studied enough psychology to know that the story he had heard from Alicia was the cause of her mentally violent self. The need to burn everything came from the tale of drowning everything that is to say, when Alicia convinced herself that the Asian girl she had met had some sort of mystical powers, she also believed in the existence of mystical powers. When she chose to believe in a story that told her that sacrificing children would save the world, she also believed that sacrificing children would save the world. The fact that she had been raped at an early age should be enough stimuli for her brain to become the dark place John very well had come to know. Yet, the only few times he had conversed with Alicia were after the fire, never before. What had she been like, before she saved the world? Maybe he would never know.
But maybe he would, for it hit him suddenly. Rebecca White. Claudia Lamb. Of course, her niece would know how Alicias personality had been just before, and during, her pregnancy. So, even with his watch indicating past midnight, John called her.
I need to talk to you.
alright, sure, come over.
When Daye entered her cramped and small apartment, it seemed to him that he was attacked with bright colors. Her walls had mismatched wallpapers, some as bright a pink as her laptop. The spare furniture that was there was very somber in comparison mismatched again, but in colors of grey and black. The room was messy; clothes lay around on the couch, on the floor, on top of every counter almost, and he got the impression that Rebecca shopped impulsively. Presently, she looked at John surveying her room, threw a bra from her couch into a room to her right and motioned John to sit.
She sat across the coffee table, on a small stool, so John had no option but to look at the top of her head. Opening her hello kitty laptop led to her reddish-brown hair attaining a blue hue from the little light the screen gave off, and the elder male was forcibly reminded of the horror movie he had watched last Saturday, which started in a similar fashion.
So what brings you here, John?
Your aunt, John said grimly and she sighed.
Sometimes I wonder, why do you write about urban cults?
What do you mean?
John wasnt really listening to her; he didnt really much care about why he chose to write about them. Urban cults interested him, as it did everyone, and moreover books about them sell. That was enough reason, was it not? But John had always seen them in disgust, apart from them at all times. He looked at them like a judge would look at a criminal maintaining an impartial face while condemning him, uncaring, unbending and just.
I mean, Rebecca replied, your obsession.
I am not obsessed.
She sighed again.
Then let my aunt be, she doesnt concern us any longer. Its the Lady of the Lake we should worry about.
John was silent. As the brunette went back to hitting keys loudly on her laptop, he refused to look in her direction, wondering what she could mean. To him, the story of the Lady of the Lake had fanned Alicias flame and he thought the refusal to talk about one without the other seemed unreasonable. No, John could not let Rebeccas aunt be, and getting up to get water from her kitchen and spotting an old photograph stuck to the fridge, he realized, neither could she. There was a young Rebecca hiding behind the skirt of Alicia Lamb, the picture a bit worn and yellowed, but still very much intact. The Alicia of old looked much livelier, or maybe it was just Johns perception of things, for apart from the dark hollows under her eyes, she looked exactly the same in the picture as she did in the asylum.
eh, kind of a personal picture, that.
Rebecca stood behind him, tying her hair back.
Dont think she wanted to burn me then, do you? A light smile played on her lips, but the joke was lost on John.
When was this taken? he asked.
I was maybe 7. Yeah, probably around that. It seemed she wasnt too keen to talk about it, but John pressed on anyway.
How was she like, back then?
Rebecca looked at him, shook her head and looked away. She opened her fridge and started rummaging inside. Some people did find talking easier with their backs turned.
She was nice. She was very nice to me, at the least. Look, I was a weird kid. Well, she took out two cartons of Chinese food, passed one to John, then rolled her eyes towards the bright yellow kitchen wallpaper with sunflower patterns all over, I suppose Im still a weird kid.
Anyway, she was nice, she continued when John didnt say anything, and I didnt have friends so I used to hang out with her a lot. She wasnt working, so all she did was stay at home and look after the house, but I dunno, I thought she was damn fun. Used to tell me some funny as hell stories. Well, used to be funny then, I was a kid. And I dont know how, even in middle school, she was the only friend I had. I was so into computers, man.
She laughed throatily.
Did you know she was raped when she was young?
Rebeccas eyes became wide. She didnt say anything, simply sat down on a chair with her box of noodles. It seemed she was peering into it, and she started poking at it with her fork. John noticed none of the food actually found her mouth.
Nah, I didnt. Would explain a few things, eh, Mr. Daye?
John shrugged and pulled a chair across her. Sitting now, he realized why Rebecca hated her aunt. It was because she couldnt. She had found a friend in her, she had enjoyed her company, had probably found solace in her. As Rebecca continued talking about her aunt for some time, Daye realized just how close she had been with her the way she recounted memories of her, with downcast eyes and a faded smile, like recounting tales of a late friend, was very suggestive of the bond they had shared.
But she never told me about her being raped. She was silent for some time again. Neither John nor she looked at each other.
You would have thought she would have told me that. I used to tell her everything.
Rebecca still hadnt touched her food, beyond playing with it, and now she couldnt look at John either. There was a light blush to her cheeks though; the previous comment had left her embarrassed, for even to her, it sounded pathetic.
John had noted the comment very scientifically though. There was a hint of regret and anger in that statement maybe she thought she had been cheated, for she had shared everything as a child with her aunt and Alicia hadnt bothered to share such an important thing?
“The Lady of the Lake, Johns words made Rebecca look up, is a little girl from Japan. The story tells of a Lord who had to sacrifice his child to cure a village from plague. Thats the story your aunt heard.
She nodded and said, She was obsessed. When she got pregnant, I could hardly find the time to talk with her. People used to come over all the time and they used to pour themselves over books, all written in Japanese. She told me they were from a book club she had joined, but honestly, I could see their obsession, even as a fifteen year old. Every time they came over, I was sent off home. I knew she was hiding something, I knew it, but I never confronted her.
I suppose I wasnt that kind of a kid. I wore large round glasses, had messy brown hair, pimples and spots. I was ugly and very self conscious and no one told me you can fix problems just by talking about it. I never had the courage to go confront someone. I wish I had done something to stop her but I didnt. I should have told my mother that weird things were happening with Aunt Alicia, I should have told someone. But I just sat in the corner and watched I was perhaps the only one who could tell something was going on.
Blaming yourself for something you were never in control of is not helpful. You should accept what happened. John was saying these words a decibel above a whisper; he had no wish of stopping the torrent of words that flowed freely from Rebecca.
I have accepted, John. Hmm, I hate Alicia Lamb for going insane, but I hate her even more for being my only friend.
John looked at her, and he saw the intensity in her eyes; an ethereal power glowed from within her and it was implausible to imagine her as a soft spoken timid fifteen year old who wore massive glasses and spent all her time on computers and whose only friend was her aunt.
Hatred is justified, sometimes. Dayes voice was much firmer now.
Rebecca got up from her chair, kept her box of food on the table and stood looming over John.
Whatever you were as a fifteen year old, you arent anymore.
She took the carton from Johns hands and pushed it far on the table too. Her shadow fell over Johns face.
You have changed, John continued, you are beautiful.
For the next few minutes, time picked up an animal pace, and John found himself unable to move from his chair as tresses of whiskey colored hair sometimes red, sometimes brown formed a veil around his face. The kiss they shared deserved a more nastier word, something that could do justice to the filthy curl of her upper lips around his, something that better described the pressure of her raw teeth that bit into the inside of his mouth. No, a kiss wasnt the word for it, for what they had was a recipe for the wild, like two spotted leopards gnawing at each other to show love. But not even love described it, it was a simple ineffable fire, raging more than any flame Alicia could conjure, drowning them within itself deeper than any foreign tales they had heard. And as John ripped her clothes apart, and felt her biting blood out of his collarbone, the thought of the taboo love they were about to have was forgotten, lost.
When time slowed down again, he found the naked redhead resting on his chest, tracing her long nails along it, and him, staring at the top of her head again.
Why? he asked.
Why not? Meaningless sex isnt half bad.
Meaningless sex isnt sex. Its just action and reaction. Daye observed to the pink ceiling now.
Fine, then. Action and reaction.
Did Daye care about the age difference between them? Perhaps. Not even he could tell. It had been years since his wife and him got divorced, and he had had action and reaction ever since. This was just another night, and Rebecca did not object. Neither was looking for solace or companionship they were just alone and in need of some warmth.
Daye wondered what Alicia had meant when she said the world was dying.
Hey, Rebecca spoke up, you know we cant just sit and watch. I am not fifteen anymore. This Lady of the Lake, whoever she is, has to be stopped. She ruined my aunts life.
Alicia ruined her life herself.
Then the Lady of the Lake was the catalyst. How many other people she served as catalyst to? She is a service on the bloody internet, Daye, like a prostitute for hire.
Yeah, but do you blame the prostitute for being a slave? The Lady of the Lake is a little Japanese girl, probably brought here illegally. Hell, she was probably bought here.”
Daye saw Alicia sit up, coming close to his face and then nod once.
You are right. But whoevers behind this, we gotta stop them, dont we, Daye? I cant sit and watch.
John stroked her hair.
Neither can I, he replied softly, realizing Rebecca had been right all along. He was obsessed.
And so they found themselves in Dayes car next morning, as it zipped through an isolated road, massive trees providing a cool shade on either side of it. Rebecca was still smoking her cigarette in silence, and Daye was driving with his eyes fixed ahead.
They had decided early on, police involvement at this point would only make matters much more difficult. John was sure of the Asian girls existence, as he was sure of the existence of the shadow that would be undoubtedly behind her, as real as the shade the trees cast around him. At this point, what they needed was info, and that surely meant going into the lions den. And so Rebecca had made an appointment, and John had provided the money, a steep sum. At this point, they were criminals, John realized but he did not care. It could be explained when the time came.
Slow down a bit, Rebecca said, suddenly. She glanced at her screen, then looked left into the woods.
No roads from here on, gotta go as the crow flies.
Daye put his parking brake and got down. A wave of fresh air hit him, and the sounds of a stream nearby filled the backdrop. Hearing a twig break under her feet, John looked behind to see Rebecca already walking down the slope into the forest.
Come on, she said.
Daye followed. The much younger girl walked at a pace John was finding very hard to catch up to. It wasnt until the stream came into view to their immediate right that Rebecca slowed down and fell into step.
Twenty minutes from here.
Twenty? Thats long Johns mouth formed a thin line of annoyance. She only shrugged.
A few minutes worth of scenery past, Rebecca pulled her massive black jacket more snugly around her.
You know, I saw the fire that day. I lived right across the street, so I could see everything. I could feel the heat, from my porch, it was so huge. Like, it erupted up in flames.
I was there too.
John remembered how the fire engulfed the house, and he remembered the smoke escaping the shattered windows. He remembered coughing into his elbow, trying to cover his face to help anyone alive. He remembered dragging a screaming Alicia, sitting in the middle of the fire, helped by two policemen. He remembered the drawings on the floor, and he remembered the burning small bundle. He remembered crying hot tears that dried as if instantly. He remembered everything.
Seemingly, so did Rebecca, for she had the same hurt look that Daye had. Putting her hands into her pockets, she looked at Daye, and her hair never looked redder.
What makes a human so crazy that they would set a baby on fire? she asked, and stark pain was visible in her eyes.
Belief, he maintained.
But you dont believe in the Lady of the Lake?
Of course I dont.
Alicia told you she got pregnant right after meeting her, didnt she?
You dont believe in the miracle of life? Alicia was raped so brutally she couldnt give birth. Yet, she did.
There is no proof that the child was hers, and there is no proof that Alicia was ever pregnant. She could be lying when she said she was pregnant. I dont take every word that comes out of a criminally insane woman seriously.
Alright, fair point. But, just say, what if the Lady of the Lake was the real thing?
“Then there wouldnt be any human suffering, I suppose.
Rebecca stared at him as he walked past. Soon, with her mobile phone as their only guide, they reached the part of the stream where the rusting silver caravan lay on the green grass, like the many massive boulders they had walked past, slightly askew to them. Wooden poles had been erected beside it and a line stretched between them, hanging from it a few clothes that whipped around even in the little breeze that blew. John made a move across the green, but before he could finish his third step and Rebecca could follow, a woman stepped out of the caravan. Her black hair swirled around her and her clothes hung from her frail shoulders, as if she was painted in oil, but she looked creepily intimidating. John stopped where he stood.
Who goes there? she shouted, and her voice reminded him of an angry cat.
We had an appointment, shouted back Rebecca behind him, her arms folded across her jacket.
The woman in question turned to face the massive woods towards her left, and John and Rebecca stood stupefied. Then she turned towards them again.
You better come back later
What? exclaimed the brunette to Johns right angrily.
You heard what I said, woman, come back later, the frail woman hissed.
John took a step forward. The wind whistled as it blew now. When had it grown stronger, he didnt know, but he had a growing feeling of unease along with it.
We have come from far, he tried explaining.
There is no use talking to her. Look at her! She is bloody bombed out of her mind!
Looking closely, he realized Rebecca was right. The womans bony hands had red marks all over, her neck was long and starved, and there was purple dug out under her eyes, which in itself were bloodshot. All in all, she looked dangerous, and out of her mind was apt.
Watch your tongue, you
But Rebecca seemed to have no time for this, and in one sudden motion, she whipped out a pistol from her baggy jacket and trained it on the addict. This was so unexpected, and matters had escalated so quickly, that John recoiled back with his hands raised.
“Whoa, Rebecca, easy, easy. What in the name of
Look, if you thought Im gonna meet known criminals without a firearm, Im sorry, John, for not being that stupid. Now, you, whats your name?
The frail woman looked at her, then folded her arms with utmost reproach. It was as if she found ignoring the gun very easy.
Well, Amber, you are gonna have to invite us inside, havent you?
The caravan was a small one, and inside it seemed even smaller and cramped. There were two bunk beds in one end, and one much smaller one on the floor. Most walls were covered in sketches made in crayon, and the entirety smelled of smoke and chemicals. As soon as they were inside, Amber proceeded to an attached slab of a table, made a line and snorted the powder. The loud noise was filthy to Johns ears, and he made a face, while Amber complained to herself.
Knew we should have changed the location, too long in one place, I said. She looked at them, So where you guys from, eh, state or bureau?
Shut the fuck up, Amber, Rebecca demanded calmly.
Who else lives here? John asked.
Nobody, grinned Amber. Her teeth were black and decaying.
The redhead pushed the pistol against her temple.
Lie to us one more time, Amber Rebecca grinned back at her.
Jay and Lady. She replied sullenly.
John pranced around inside the caravan. His head almost touched the ceiling. He didnt much approve of Rebeccas method, but he had to admit being on the upper hand was safer. Once they had enough proof, and the girl, they could just call the police and everything would be fine. Everything was under control.
And thus convincing himself, he sat across the woman.
Lady thats the girl, huh?
Yeah. Apparently she likes being called Ana now. God knows whats wrong with her nowadays. Can you point that bloody thing elsewhere?
John motioned Rebecca to lower her gun, and she did so, albeit shooting a venomous look at him.
Look at you. Are you trying to tell me she can heal people, when you, her mother, looks like this?, Johns mouth was twisted in disgust.
Who said I need any healing? I am fine the way I am. I need no money, and I need no power. I have Jay and Lady, and I am happy. Can you say the same, mister?
John looked at her for a long time.
We are wasting time here, Rebecca complained, and where the hell is the girl, anyway?
Ambers eyes werent focusing now. But she was responding just fine.
Thats what I have been trying to tell you idiots. Lady gone running somewhere and Jay is out tryna find her. If he does, he would probably have her hide. God knows whats gotten into her, ran off with some boy, we saw. You both better run off too, it would probably take a long while before Jay finds that girl. She does that sometimes, goes off running into the woods. Damn weird.
Damn weird that she wants to run away from here? Really? Rebecca still had some humor left in her.
John had only began to wonder what to do now, when he heard noises from outside. He edged near the window, Rebecca following him ever so slowly.
What do you see?
John motioned her to be silent, and peered through an inch between the curtains. A bald man, as tall as they come and as pale as marble, with tattoos running down his skinny arms and a shotgun in one hand, was dragging a bawling little Asian girl in a green kimono with his free hand. He literally had to fight her, as he kept trying to pull her up, but she kept kicking and screaming and crying loudly.
Jesus, its them. Jay and the Lady of the Lake, Daye whispered.
John hadnt stopped watching though, and suddenly it seemed like the man with the tattoos had had enough. He stopped and slapped her hard, across her cheek, and she fell on both her knees. The sound was so loud, and the sudden pause to the crying so deafening, that Rebecca felt compelled to peer through the gap between the windows too.
And in that moment, John looked back, but he knew full well that it was not in his power to stop what was about to happen next. Amber had found a knife, somehow, and in one lunge, she was about to dig the blade into Rebeccas neck. The redhead was turning too, but too slow. So John did the only thing he could. He rushed to tackle Amber, hoping against hope that he could impede the motion of the blade.
It embedded itself into his shoulder and Rebecca whipped her gun up. Even as the blood oozed out from the gaping wound the knife left, he looked to see the bullet, leaving the pistol in a massive roar that shook the entire caravan and lit up even the smoke leaving the nozzle, explode through Ambers head. Blood flew everywhere, and the debris that had once been Ambers brains, and Rebeccas red hair became so much more redder.
John fell down, more out of shock than the pain, specks of blood not his visible on his face. He pressed on his wound, trying to hold in as much blood as he could, all the while looking at the decapitated carcass in front of him. The caravan door erupted as Jay smashed through it, no doubt having been alerted by the loud report of Rebeccas firearm. He looked at his dead partner, sans a head, painting the floor in red.
What the fuck! tears were already trickling down his eyes, which was lucky for Rebecca for it took him that much more time to lift his shotgun, and that much less time for her to aim her pistol on him. She knew that pale man with the tattoos would never just stop, so she pressed on the trigger anyway.
The caravan shook once more.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK,FUCK!
He fell to the ground, clutching his leg. His screams sounded like a pig about to be slaughtered. Rebecca went up to him and kicked his gun away. Then, she went out, where the little girl sat on the grass holding her ears and crying loudly. John remained in his corner, inside the caravan, pressing hard on the wound against his shoulder. His ears were still ringing from the multiple gunshots, and his eyesight kept fluctuating, desperate to adjust.
Fuck me leg! She got me fucking leg!
Finally, Rebecca half dragged the numb Lady of the Lake inside, and closed the door. John closed his eyes to the sudden dark.
Several hours before the gory incident turned the silver caravan red, when the wind was much calmer and the forest seemed much more tranquil, Jeremy and Tom walked, dragging Toms bicycle with them, towards the edge of the woods. Nothing seemed wrong with the world, as the two boys could be seen crossing forested plains shoving and laughing at each other. Jeremy had never known having a friend could cheer you up so much, and this surely was a welcome change. He knew he would have continued carrying on alone had Tom not talked to him moreover, he was almost certain Ana had used her powers somehow, to fix what was wrong with him but now that he knew what companionship was like, and that he discovered that time went much faster walking with a friend than cycling alone through the forest, Jeremy did not think he could go back to being alone.
All in all, Jeremy was happy about his brainwave for Tom was easily one of the more funnier people around and Anahasika was bound to enjoy his company. So when the silver caravan came into view, Jeremy quickly ducked and Tom followed.
What happened? the fat boy whispered.
She lives there. We cant let her parents see us. Shhh.
She lives there? Fuck, I thought that shit was abandoned.
Shhhhh! Jeremy demanded more loudly.
Jeremy surveyed the campsite very carefully. Ana was scared of her parents and he didnt want to be the one who gets her caught. Tom was squatting beside him now, and the younger kid told him to be patient. But Tom was fourteen and thus had more experience. Caravans in the middle of the forest scared him.
We should go, Tom had an edge in his voice.
Shhhhh Jeremy repeated from under a bush.
What kind of a friend lives in a caravan anyway? Tom whispered his thoughts out.
The other kid only glared at him, then turned to look at the caravan once more. It took about ten minutes more, felt much longer than the number could justify, but finally Ana came out of the caravan with a bucket full of soaked clothes. She approached the stream and sat down. The loud splash-splash of the water indicated she had started washing the clothes.
Alright, wait here. Jeremy told Tom, and before he could complain, scurried away.
Tom was growing more and more anxious, hiding under the bushes. That was an Asian girl washing clothes in a green kimono next to a stream. That was a caravan in the middle of the forest. That must be a family of hippies or worse, was what Tom was thinking. Anyway, the place gave him the creeps. Sinking deeper into the bush, he tried keeping track of Jeremy through the branches.
On the other end, Jeremy crossed the stream, stepping over rocks and whatnot, getting his socks completely wet in the process. He kept looking over at the van, even though the curtains were drawn. He was convinced he would be spotted, and he quickened his pace. Stepping behind Ana, he tapped her shoulder.
Her eyes widened in shock. You cant be here! she whispered in her sing song voice.
Calm down, I have come to get you. Lets go! and he extended his hand and smiled.
But Ana never took his hand, never even got the chance to. She seemed almost about to cry as she looked behind Jeremy, and he quickly turned, to see a ghost like lady standing behind him. Wide purple eyes, bony fingers extended and her clothes is complete disarray, she cried out in a high-pitched voice.
Jeremy didnt know what to do, he was rooted to the spot. Ana was already in her knees, as if she knew what was to come.
What the hell? a bald man with tattoos all over his right hand came into view. He sprinted up to Jeremy, just as he was about to run, grabbed him by the collar and shoved him towards the woman, whose bony cold fingers wrapped themselves around his neck.
Who the hell are you?, the man called Jay demanded.
Let me go! Jeremy screamed.
Please Ana was whimpering.
Oi, Lady, the thin long fingers tightened its grip around his neck, you know him?
Please, she wasnt looking at anyone, as she begged to the ground, Please, dont hurt him.
What the hell!, shouted the tattooed man, you been meeting people behind our backs, huh?
He grabbed Anas face and pulled it harshly up to him.
What are you doing? Jeremy screamed, or at least wanted to, for before he could finish that statement, the frail woman slapped him and he fell on the grass.
You stay shut, boy! her breath was foul and close to his now broken lip. Blood trickled down his mouth.
NO! Ana was screaming too now, everything was too loud. Looking up, Jeremy saw the tattooed man take off his belt.
I told you, Lady, no meeting other people. Simple rule, isnt that? Well, well, its time to teach you. And you, boy, you watch. Its a lesson for you too. You dont make friends with strangers.
And Jay raised his belt high over the whimpering Ana. A sudden rage hit Jeremy so hard, he forgot about any pain that was in him, or rather, was consumed by all the pain that was in him. He got off the ground and with all the strain to his muscles he could muster, rushed to tackle the adult head on. With a loud splash that sent ripples all over the water, both fell into the stream, as Jeremy kept punching Jays abdomen.
Fucking hell!, the woman screamed.
Fuck!, Jay tried yelling, but only gurgling noises came out. The stream was not strong, but strong enough to keep the two of them submerged as they rolled around trying to fight it and each other.
No, no, no, no, no! Ana was on her feet now, as she kept repeating this to herself like a chant.
Jeremy kept thrashing around, but his face couldnt seem to find the surface. Then he realized Anas father was trying to drown him. He kept pulling him under, and Jeremy kept trying to fight him, but he was losing, he was hardly hurting him. He was going to die soon, and he didnt even know how to swim. His lungs were becoming fire, but suddenly, the man let go and Jeremy was pulled up.
You retard, you retard! Tom had a rock in one hand, as he pulled Jeremy out of the water with the other. Through burning eyes, Jeremy saw the tattooed Jay massaging his head, as the fat kid threw one more stone in his direction.
Run, you fucking retard, run! Tom yelled at the other boy.
Ana!! Run! Jeremy, already on his feet, aided by adrenaline no doubt, screamed at the girl, who was still at the other end, divided by the stream.
Tom and Jeremy had landed on the other side, and they wasted no more time. They ran towards the line of trees, and Jeremy only looked back only once, sprinting with his lungs on fire, to see Ana running towards the trees herself, in the opposite bank.
RUN, ANA, BLOODY RUN! Jeremy shouted his last encouragement. She never looked back.
At the other end, Amber had disappeared inside the caravan, only to come out to throw a shotgun to Jay, who, rubbing his head, shouted back in reply,
First, I will find your girlfriend. Then I will find you, boy! So run and hide, run and fucking hide!
Crows took off from the trees overhead, startled by the loud sound.
Those words seemed to echo as loud as the first time he heard it, even as they went deeper into the forest. Trees formed a dizzyingly close periphery around the two boys, the sounds of birds and insects became gravely wild. What once used to be soothing, now made them feel lost.
Standing amidst tall trees in either direction, so close they felt they were being smothered, or maybe it was because of the breath that they couldnt quite seem to catch, clutching their knees and panting heavy, both boys looked at each other, naked fear visible in both.
Dude, that was messed up, that was so messed up, the fat boy said, removing his cap and ruffling his sweaty hair.
But Jeremy wasnt listening. He sat down on the ground, and his eyes sinking into grave shadows, as the thought of Ana came to him. He couldnt believe Ana had lived for so long with a mental family like hers; they were psychopaths, people who definitely had no idea how to take care of themselves, let alone a child. When Jeremy had wondered to himself earlier whether his life was better or hers, he had not known exactly how naïve he had been. He remembered Anas smile, and slowly it dawned on him; hers was the most beautiful smile for hers was the smile that had endured the saddest, vilest circumstances. She was born without parents, taken in by sadists, and she actually thought her life was fine. There could be no greater tragedy in anyones life, and wiping the one tear that forced itself out of the corner of his eyes, Jeremy became determined. Determined to show Ana what true life was, what true love was. Just as she had shown him.
We have to go back, Jeremy said, standing up again.
Tom looked at him incredulously. He seemed to wait for him to say more, or perhaps he was just lost for words, either way a dumbfounded look substantiated in him, as he stretched his arms out in a semblance of what the fuck.
Jeremy simply looked back, his expressions firm.
Whoa, okay, no, said Tom when he realized his newfound friend was serious, whoa, no fucking way. What we have to do is go find the ruddy cops. You saw what good we were there, Jesus, we cant go back!
I need to find Ana.
Tom grabbed his shoulders and shook him, as if that would do any good.
You are going to kill yourself for that girl, you idiot.
Jeremy pushed him away.
I met her before I ever met you, so why dont you go on home!
Jeremy was clearly upset. Tom understood that, he even respected that. But he was also being downright illogical. That man with the tattoos would kill him, and there was something definitely wrong with that woman too. Not to mention, the Asian girl. Tom felt something off about her, and he saw no point in Jeremy risking his life for her.
We should tell our parents at least. They would know what to do, who to call, pleaded the fat boy.
And when do you think help would arrive? That man has a shotgun and he said he was going to get her. You can head back home, Tom, but I cant.
Jeremy turned his back on him, already preparing himself to go back to the caravan. As Tom saw his friend run into the forest, and disappear quite quickly into the trees, all Tom could do was whisper best of luck under his breath.
Jeremy kept getting visions of Ana, with her green kimono turned dark red, with pellets dug into her chest and her smile forever fixed onto her dead face. If only he hadnt come to meet her today. He should have just let her go, should have forgotten about her and looked ahead. His life was steadily becoming better, he didnt need it to crash down about him now. But as he ran and ran, he knew he could never forget her, whatever his condition might be, for it dawned on him he liked her. It struck him how much he liked her; she was the first person he had felt like talking to, first person he had cried to, first person to hold so much importance in his life since his mums death. He couldnt, after all, let her go. His eyes were burning again, and it hurt and fell sore now, but he refused to break down. He was done crying and it was time for him to save Ana, just as she had saved him.
He could hear the sounds of the dreaded stream again, so he picked up his pace. The sound was growing stronger, but before the actual water could come into view, another loud sound cracked the air. Jeremys leg caught a root and he fell, face first.
He got back to his feet quickly, and wondered what that noise was. It sounded weirdly like a gunshot, but distorted, and fear gripped him. No, he wouldnt cry, Jeremy said to himself, biting down on his lip, he wouldnt cry, he wouldnt cry. He ran faster now, and the stream finally came into view. And just as it did, another gunshot erupted, and this time Jeremy knew. It had come from the caravan, loud and clear, still echoing through the backdrop, and still ringing in Jeremys ears. He couldnt stop the tears any longer, nor could he stop running.
His mind was blank now. If Ana was dead, he had to see for himself. The perimeter of trees saw the little boy pick up a branch and make his way across the stream once again. The woods were never silent, but for just that moment, all sound seemed to have drowned.
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