I close my eyes and pray with every single fiber in my body, cold sheens of sweat running down my face, frantic gasps of air escaping raggedly from the corners of my mouth, the persistent drumming of a frantic heartbeat echoing its tormented cadence through my ears. Please, not this time. I pray to you, oh Lord Almighty, not this time! I desperately clutch my aching head with both hands, trying to numb the flaring bursts of terror pulsing their way through my body. My guilt-stricken soul refuses to find solace in the name of God. I swear I’ll do anything, please, not this time, PLEASE!
The desolate trees swayed menacingly in the harsh winter wind as a young woman sprinted her way through the barren forest. Her breathing was heavy, the stitch in the side of her chest burning every step she took. A little boy, no older than five, was in her arms. The pain was almost unendurable, but yet she ran, through the grizzly storm with flecks of snow stinging at her bare face and hands. She gritted her teeth and shook off her pain. She had to stay strong for her child. Safety and refuge was close. All she had to do was keep up her pace a little while longer. She smiled at her sleeping son.
A waning moon slowly emerges from behind the parting storm clouds. The omnipresent darkness that inhabits my room is gently cut apart by silvery tendrils of light, casting shadows upon the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the entire room. For a heart-stopping moment, everything is silent. I look up, my face shining with tears, my cheeks bearing the marks of desperate, clawing hands. My ragged breathing has all but ceased, my frantic heart, pounding so laboriously just a few moments back, has ceased to beat. Everything is still. Everything is eerily still. And then, he comes for me.
The young woman barely slowed her place as she eyed an icy bridge spanning a deep chasm several hundred yards ahead. But her pursuer was gaining on her, a cloaked giant of a man armed with a spear, his cruel eyes blazing. The woman slowed her pace and stepped on the bridge nervously. It held her weight, but swung dangerously. She made it halfway before she collapsed to her knees, the fatigue getting the better of her, her frostbitten limbs unable to carry on any longer. Her child was jolted awake by the fall, and desperately shook her, screaming for her to get up and unable to understand why she was kneeling so forlornly in the middle of a bridge. “Mama. Mama. Please Mama, get up!
The shadows are moving rapidly towards each other. The darkness writhes and contorts in unconcealed hatred, fusing into itself, giving birth to a monster that seeks vengeance for a crime long buried in the deepest chambers of mind, for a sin that has scarred my soul beyond repair. It will deliver my punishment every single night, night after night. It will never forgive. It will never let me forget. My eyes are wide open in terror, unable to take my eyes off the swirling apparition of darkness who staggers towards me, determined to possess. Its arm rises, towards my convulsing body. No. No. NOOOOO!
The young woman opened her eyes. “My son,” she whispered hoarsely. “Keep running away from here. Cross the bridge and you will see a steep hill that you have to climb. Reach the top and you will find people who will help you. Go now”. The boy refused to leave his mother. “No Mama. Come with me, please!” he cries. The mother’s eyes brimmed with tears at the sight of her child trying to tug her along. But there was no time to lose. The man was getting closer by the minute, the sneer on his face visible. The woman wrapped her arms around her son, holding in the flood of tears that threatened to break lose any moment. “No matter what happens, remember that I will always love you,” she said lovingly.
I am immobilized in fear as the dark spectre takes a fluid form, swirling slowly around me, spinning faster by the second. A cold wind whips my hair. A long, drawn out scream issues from my mouth. A chorus of disembodied voices begin their hoarse chant, the words thrown by the gale. Coward. Weakling, whispers one. You can never escape your burden, sneers another. But perhaps the most chilling voice, that of a young boy’s. The voice I dread hearing every night, a voice of pain and misery I cannot comfort, for which I will never get a chance for redemption. Why didn’t you help? Why? WHY?
The mother pulled away gently and caressed the cheek of her young son. She smiled warmly, rose to her feet and turned to meet the man who had begun to stride purposefully across the bridge. The boy turned and ran as fast as he could, tears streaming down his face, his inner conscience screaming at him to stop, to go back, to help. He didn’t hear the screech of metal as his mother drew a short knife from a metal holster, nor did he hear the shatter of ice as she plunged the blade into the bridge. Cracks formed in the ice at an alarming speed, spreading outward from the point of impact. Any minute now, it would be over.
The darkness slows its pace, solidifying once again into a dark apparition sitting at the edge of my bed. Gazing right at me. I know what is coming. The image that is eternally branded behind my eyes, an image that refuses to part from the dreaded chambers of my inner mind. Time slows as the monster slowly reaches up and grabs the hood covering its head, slowly drawing it back to throw the sunken visage of my deepest enemy into the silvery light. As always, my eyes refuse to close. All I can do is gape at the face of the being I sentenced to misery on that fateful day…that fateful day…
The cracks had spread throughout the entire icy walkway within seconds. The man, startled into inaction by the mother’s actions, halted several feet away from her, too scared to take a single step for fear of unbalancing the bridge further. The woman sighed contentedly and envisioned the warm glow of the short, blissful time she spent with her son. She closed her eyes for the last time. On the other side of the bridge, the boy had halted at the foot of the hill, panting heavily. He didn’t turn around as the bridge collapsed, sending shards of snow-white ice tumbling gracefully into the fathomless void below.
They say that one’s greatest opponent is the manifestation of all the negative qualities that he possesses. The evil within one’s soul that must be fought in a gruelling battle, day after day. You killed us that day, screeches the apparition in my mind. We lost everything we had, reduced us to the broken husk of a human being you are now! Tears fall down my face as I look at the tormented face of a young boy no older than five, burning with the grief of losing his mother, a manifestation of the good entombed deep within me, qualities that don’t have a chance of resurfacing. Qualities I lost after losing mother…
I suddenly bolt from my bed, running towards the window with the cries of the spectre fresh in my ears. You forgot what she told us! You neglected to remember how she lived, and chose solitude. Running away WON’T SOLVE YOUR PROBL – “The apparition never finished his sentence for I had yanked the curtains over the windows with all my might. The moonlight dissipated, and I was left standing by myself in a dark room, shaking with grief. I don’t know how long I stood there, but when I finally moved, I crawled into bed, determined to find refuge in a few hours of undisturbed sleep.
Outside the window, a waning moon twinkles innocently from behind the refuge of several misty storm clouds, making its eternal voyage across the heavens, night after night, for everyone to admire…or fear.
Vanit Shah is a student at Turner Fenton Secondary School in Ontario. He enjoys spending his free time writing creative fiction, performing as a lead trumpeter for his school jazz band, and arguing in general with his two younger siblings. His love for writing has earned him recognition with the Poetry Institute of Canada on several occasions, although his true ambitions rest in inspiring others to make the world a better place, one small action at a time.