In every lifetime, there is a moment. A moment so clear, so profoundly unique that it stands out against billions of other moments. When you find a moment such as this one, pay extra close attention to it. It will contain something that defines you in the future. Prologue
“Are youcertainshe’stheone?” Lilywhispered.
Frostreplied softly, “Pretty sure, sheevenlooks a little like Freja. Howolddoyouthinkshe is? Four… maybe five yearsold?” From theplayground, came something remarkable. Alittleduplicate of thechildlying in thegrass. Theotherlittleangelplopped herself ungracefully onto thegrassybed next to her sister. Theyweremirrorimages of eachother.
Grey said, “This is quitetheunexpectedlittle glitch... isn't it? Whatdoesthismean? How is thisevenpossible?"
Frostreplied, "It's not possible."
Lilyglanced at Frost andsaid, “It definitelycomplicatesthings.”
One of the freckled littlegirlsnoticedthe three Ankhs watching. She sprang to her feetandraced over to thefenceandstood on her tippy toes. With a giantgrin, shestuck her chubbylittlefingers through therungs of thefence.
“Do youwant to come in andplay?” Shesqueaked.
Lilywhispered, “Aren’t youthemostadorablelittlething in thewholewideworld.”
“What’s your name? Youdelightfullittlecreature,” Grey said with his thick Aussie accent.
“I’m not a thingor a creature. I'm a kid. My name is Kayn, that’s my sister Chloe,” shepointed a littlefingeradorned with messy sparkle nailpolish at her sister.
Thelittlegirlhadsand on her lovely white frilly dressandgrass in her hair. Shehad a sticker of a frog on her cheek, andsheradiatedjoy. Chloe satup. Shewasnowglaring at them. Chloe wasclearly not going to be the one out of the two abducted by a randomstranger.
Frostappeared to be socaptivated by the scrappy childthatstood in front of them he couldn’t evenmanage to speak. Hejuststoodtherebeaming like a fool.
“You guyslook like moviestars.” Kayn gushed, andthenturned her attention to her ownhand, “I havenailpolish on...see?” shesaid, her beautifuleyesgleamed with pride as shedisplayed her wigglingfingersfortherest to see.
“Very lovely,” Lily appraised. Just as a littleboy with a mess of darkcurlscamerunningup to thefenceandgrabbed Kayn’s arm.
Heglared at thegroup, thenleanedoverandwhispered in her ear assertively, “Chloe saysyou’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”
Thelittlegirlstated,” Chloe’s not theboss of me.” She thengraspedthefencefirmlyandstuck her faceright against it with her littleupturnednosestickingright through to theotherside.
Frost, quiteobviouslyblownaway by the feisty, spiritedchild,touched one of thelittlegirl’s dainty fingers through thefence. Hemet her gaze, marveling at theinnocenceandvibrantintensity that shoneback through thechainlinkbarrier.
His expressionchanged briefly as hewhispered to her under his breath. “It’sveryimportantthatyoubecomestrong.” Hetouchedthetip of her nose with his fingergently.
The Moments Before She Sleeps
The humming of Kayn’s blood as it coursed through her veins seemed to sing along to the steady, almost tribal, beat of her feet as they pounded rhythmically into the dirt. A veil of earth flowed behind her. She resembled a flaxen haired angel attempting to outrun a cloud of dust that seemed to follow her for a moment or two longer than it should with not one whisper of wind in the afternoon air. The smile that spread over Kayn’s lips while she trained showed that her heart was overflowing with so much joy that it could not be contained beneath her serious competitive demeanor.
Kayn noticed in the moment of clarity that Kevin was not sitting in the grass watching her run. She could picture Kevin as he rushed to his locker, and fumbled with the lock in an attempt to keep the facade going. She wasn't stupid. She didn't actually believe that he enjoyed watching her run in circles around a track. She knew here was a method to his madness. Her best friend was madly in love with her twin sister. He had been addicted to the mere sight of her since kindergarten. To anyone else this would make no sense, but Kayn understood. She was Kevins friend, and Chloe was his fantasy.
She could picture him shoving his way past a herd of students and prying his body through the single doorway that lead the gym. In her vision of why he was late for their daily routine. He was shoved up against the wall and his books fell out of his backpack. She found herself laughing aloud as she ran for thoughts of him always brought a smile to her face. His organizational skills had always left something to be desired. After taking a moment to collect his papers, he would zip up his bag and continue on his quest for his moment in the presence of her twin sister. The always unattainable Chloe Brighton.
She noticed him out of the corner of her eye. He ran up the hill and unceremoniously plopped himself down in the grass beside her school bag and things were as they should be. She rounded the corner and kicked up dust like a champ. She saw him fiddling with his cell phone. He was going to time her next lap. She flashed by her best friend in a cloud of dust. Kevin smiled at her through the haze. Her body, lean and freckled from exposure to the sun, glinted with sparkles. Kayn loved coconut sparkle tanning spray. She could see it on her clenched fists each time they flashed by her line of sight. She was a girl with a list of strange little rituals on her daily to do list. At the beginning of her run, she imagined that she did look magical, glittering in the sun, but not by the end of her run. By the end of her training, the glitter tanning spray would cause the track’s dust to stick to her whole body in a comical way. She would end up looking as though she had spent her whole afternoon rolling in it, not running on it. Kayn allowed herself to appreciate the sun’s rays gently whispering across her skin. She experienced a feeling of pure joy that was transcendent. Kayn kicked up another cloud to outrun as she rounded the corner. Then came that pleasurable jolt of electricity that surged through her brain, ignited her soul, and set her afire with insurmountable joy. This moment in her run had always left Kayn with the sense that she had been given a gift or anointment of physical power. Her adrenaline rippled a winding path of pleasure underneath her skin. She hit the straight stretch feeling such unimaginable, euphoric, physical ecstasy that she felt baptized by the sweat trickling down her forehead to the sides of her face. Kayn Brighton was alive in that moment in a way only a runner could comprehend. She was thankful for that moment, and every single time the experience overwhelmed her; her soul felt stronger. Every nerve ending was humming, “Faster, Kayn, go faster.” Kayn was an athlete born to push the limits of her body, programmed to be a powerhouse. Runners were a breed of their own; they had their incredible days and their horrible days in competition. Every day on the track, trail, or wherever a runner chose to run. The act itself was always a followed by a feeling of spiritual completion. “Don’t Call Me Baby,” by Madison Avenue was cranked in Kayn’s ears. She kept pace to the beat, feeling powerful and strong. Kayn grinned and made eye contact as she ran past her best friend Kevin, signaling her acknowledgement of his presence. Kevin sat listening to his own music, plucking the long, green strands of grass out of the ground by their roots. Kevin glanced up from his grass picking duties as she approached, and over zealously waved at her as he displayed a giant charming toothy grin. It was a funny thing he’d done since kindergarten. It never failed to induce laughter. She acknowledged that she had seen him sitting there being a goof by shaking her head and smiling. Kayn started walking to cool down her overheated body. Her heart began to thump and pound in her chest like an act of defiance to her now walking feet. Kayn licked the sweat from her upper lip, tasting its salty, pleasurable reward. She took her track dust covered hand and wiped her forehead to keep the stinging sweat from her eyes. Kayn wiped the sweat on her shorts noticing the streaks of dirt and wondered if she had a streak of dust across her forehead. Kayn turned in one fluid movement to greet Kevin, whose grassy scent signaled his arrival at her side. His giant grin told her that her face was most certainly covered in dirt, but he didn’t mention it to her. He always cheered for her as if she had just won the Olympics or something equally spectacular. She smiled for she could see him cheering with no sound. The sight of him cheering to the music in her ears was more than a little bit adorable. Kayn yanked one of her earbuds out.
“Holy crap,” Kevin yelled in her face. “That’s your best time this year. You are going to kick serious butt at the finals next month.”
“You know my earbuds are out, Kevin. I can hear you.” Kayn spoke quietly.
“Oh, you think you’re pretty cool because you’re fast. Well, young lady, plenty of people are fast, but how many people can do this?” Kevin retorted. He did a peculiar dance that involved a twirl and some kind of running man move as he laughed at her mortification.
“Please, stop,” Kayn said as she surveyed the track and surrounding area for witnesses.
She knewshewas an attractivegirl, butshehadneverknowntheperfection of her twinsister Chloe. Itdidstand to reasonthatshecouldquiteeasilyalter her appearance, to match her identicaltwin, but shedidn't care about superficialthings. Shewasthesociallyawkwardversion, andshewasfine with that on mostdays. Her naturallycurly, wheatcoloredhairwasdamp with perspirationand in a messy ponytail.
Kevin hadoftentold her thatsheresembled an Amazonian sizedforestnymph. Shehadneverbeensureif his observationwasmeant as a compliment. Sheknew her facewas speckled with freckles from exposure to thesun, and her nosewasprobablyonceagain streaked with mud. Kevin wasjogging beside her now in an attempt to keep up. Shewalked with long, atheletic strides.
Her bestfriendused to be themostadorablelittleboy on theplanet, but there was a pointwhereshe sensed hehadstoppedfeelingadorable. Thatwaswhenshehadsurpassed him in height. Itwas around theend of seventh grade. As a joke, their mothershadbeenplotting their nuptials since thesecondgrade, sothatwas a complicationthattheyhad not anticipated. Kevin hadbeen in a painfullyawkward, acne coveredstagefor at least three yearsnow. Hewasstilladorable, althoughpossiblyonly to Kayn. However, shedidnoticethat Kevin’s skinwaslookingprettycleartoday. Kayn smiled at him as hevaliantlyattempted to run as fast as shewaswalking. Kayn’s afflictionwasverydifferent. Kayn wasinvisible. To her thiswas a goodthing. Itwas her preference to blend into thecrowd.
“You are awesome. I meanthat, and I’mtotally not sayingthat to butter youupsoyou’ll put a goodword in with your sister,” Kevin said with a grin that spread from ear to ear.
Sheloved him to death, butshehadbeenletting him down easyfor ten yearsnow. Shegave him a pat on theshoulderandthenflung her arm around him. Sheslowed down to a casual stroll andsweetlysaid, “There’sjustthis one problem, muffin. My sister is way tooadvancedforyou.” “Right… That’swhatyousay to all theguysstalking your twinsister,” he countered with a grin at thecleverlycreativeway of calling her sister slutty. Kayn choked on a laughandsaid, “Yes, as a matter of factit is exactlywhat I say to everysingle one of them. I wasforced to come up with one token linethat I use with everyone. Itjustsavestime, darling.” Kevin’s facecrinkled into a dimpled grinandheshook his headfeigning his distaste.
Heresponded in a flirtatiousvoice, “I can’t believe after all theseyears, I am merely a number to you.” Shedisplayed a giantsmile at his attempt at innuendo. Maybeshe would haveevenbeen a littleflatterediftheconversationhadbeendirected towards her.
Kayn gave Kevin a friendly pat on theshoulderandsaid, “Just doyourself a favor; take a hint. She is not therightgirlforyou.” She slapped him on thebutt andteased, “At leasthavethedecency to warn me ifyoueverfind yourself wanting to wear my sister as a skincoat. I can try to getyousomehelp.”
Kevin let out a small yelp, andhejumped from thesting of her hand. Heshot a dirtylookback in her direction. Kayn took on a fakeserioustoneandsaid, “How hard can it be to arrange an interventionor a creepyexorcismor something in your honor. I would hate to have to visit my bestfriend in a paddedcellsomewhere.” Shesent him a sweet, innocentlookandwaitedfor his inevitablecomeback. “You’re reallyveryclever, Candy Kayn. You should have a comedyshowor something,” heshotback at her. “It would be hilariousifitwasn't thetruth,” Kayn challenged.
Kayn’s twinsister, Chloe Brighton, wastheperfectedversion of her. Shewasstylishandalwaysthepicture of popularityandperfection. Her twinwasdescribed with words like captivating, stunning, and provocative. Kayn, on theotherhand, was blandly characterized as cute, funny, and a goodrunner. Itdidn’t seemveryfair; however, sheloved her sister with blindacceptance. Theyhadalwaysbeenextremelyclosebutdefinitelydid not hang out in thesamecrowd. To be honest, Kayn hadnocrowd at all. Itwasreallyjust her and Kevin. The only boys who had shown an interest in Kayn were usually after her sister Chloe. Kayn, being less sophisticated, would always fall for their games. She would think, maybe this time the guy liked her. She would talk to them on the phone for a while, and then inevitably they would ask to come over to hang out or maybe do some homework together. Kayn would invite them over and right when her heart would begin to flutter with the romantic possibilities of a goodnight kiss or how incredible it would be to have an actual boyfriend, it would happen. They would make their intentions obvious by saying something like, “Because we are such good friends could you introduce me to your sister Chloe?” Friends… an uncomplicated word, it was also a word that Kayn had begun to hate at a very young age because of her sister Chloe. That one single word had felt like the wind from a breath that would blow out every single candle she had kept lit inside of her heart her whole life to date. Kayn would be blatantly lying if she said that the constantly repeating scenario didn’t breed some resentment toward her sister. Still, she would never let it show. Not once had she ever freaked out at her sister for stealing her imaginary boyfriends or simply for being completely morally bankrupt. She’d learned at a very young age that Chloe didn’t follow the same ethical or moral codes that most people followed. Kayn had this thing called a conscience which included guilt and a little voice in her ear that repeated until she chose to listen to it, “Don’t do it, Kayn.” She was pretty sure the voice talking to Chloe said, “Do it,” every single time and there was really no need for sentiment or morality in Chloe’s universe. The giant self-contained universe that seemed to revolve completely around Chloe was simply amazing. One could stand with mouth agape for hours listening to the stories of horrific events that Chloe had caused during a 24-hour period of time. It was as though her sister were protected in her own little snow globe completely by herself and life surrounded her. Once in a while someone stirred up her water, but it simply revolved around her like everything else did, never really touching her or swirling her around to lose a second of her control. Chloe was completely unaffected by the world around her and stood unwavering through life’s currents.
Kayn couldn’t reallygetmad at theboyswhofellfor Chloe becauseshetrulybelieved her sisterhadthemythicalpowers of a siren. Chloe wasalluring, enticing, andseemed to have catnip formen on her somewhere. Shewonderedhowall of thisgamehadended up in one of thebabiesand not theother. Theywere in thesamewomb after all, anditdidn’t reallyseemfair. Kevin was one personwhoseopinionshevalued. She could vent to him, andheunderstood. Heunderstoodthepowerthat her sisterheld. They would joke about it on a regularbasis, but as soon as Chloe was in a ten-foot radius of him, hewasn't able to tellyou his ownname. Itinfuriated her to noend.
Shestoppedwalking, andshelooked behind her. Thetrackwasempty, butshe couldn't shakethefeelingthatshewasbeingwatched. Sheshivered as a gust of windseemed to run a trail down thetrack behind her stirringthedust up into theair. I need a rest. I overworked myselftoday, shethought. Sheshook her head as shelooked up at the trees that surroundedthespan of thetrack. Theywerecompletelystill. Itwassmokinghotoutside. Sheknew a randomcoldspot in themiddle of a swelteringhottrackwasmore than a littlebitstrange. Kayn turned her attentionback to her friend in an attempt to hushthe nagging voice in theback of her mindthatwasrepeatingthewordsSomething’s wrong.
“Did someone walk over your grave?” Kevin whispered in Kayn’s ear, breakingthesilence between them.
Shesmiled at his quote from Grandma Winnie. One of the token things Kevin’s grandmotheralwayssaidif someone shivered in her presence. Kevin’s granny alwayssaid a sneezewas a ghostwalking through you. Ifyoushivered, she would saythat someone hadwalked over your grave.
Theretortwasalways, “But I’m not dead, Granny.”
Granny would answer with, “If onlyyouknewhowirrelevanttheworddeadactually is in the grande scheme of things.” Kevin’s grandmotherseemed to have a directline to thespiritworld. Nearly All of her randomthoughtsweremore than a weebit creepy. Sometimes his grandmother would spendhoursjustchatting with Kayn about her dreams. Granny Winnie was a quirky, warm, wittywoman that hadtreasured her from day one. Kayn was a faithfulmember of Team Granny becauseshe unlike therest of theplanetseemed to despise her sister Chloe. Granny Winnie couldn’t evenbreathewhen Chloe was in thesameroom. Granny would pretend to gasp for oxygen ormakesomekind of foul stench relateddeclarationreferring to Chloe. Shewasbelievableenough to cause a perfect in her ownmindChloe to smell her own armpits. Chloe, beingcompletely void of respectfor her eldersorprettymuch anybody else, would refer to her as a crazyoldbator a witch. Often Granny Winnie would call Chloe out on an evildeedor two as ifshe could read her mind. Strangeweatherwe’vebeenhavinglately, Kayn thought as shewatchedtheclearblueskychange in a matter of moments from completelycloudless to a powder of fluffy white clouds. She could smellthescent of thefreshcutgrass; itwasalmostoverpowering to her senses. Itwassopotentthatitwas a littlestrangethatshehadn’t noticedit until rightthissecond. Thepairwalkedquietlyfor a secondmorewhen Kayn looked down at her feet; as sheshuffled through thegrassthesoundsseemed to amplify. She could hearthegrass rustling under her feet; it crackled loudlyandwhispered softly in her steps. Something feels off today. Kevin’s feetcame into her line of sight. Sheraised her eyebrows at him andpointed to his untied shoelaces. Kevin bent over in front of her to tie up his shoes.
Kayn began to speak as ifshewerereading his obituary. “I can seethepapernow; it would read something like this: Kevin Smith was a wonderfulboy, sosmartandgoodlookingbut a littleclumsy. Hadheonlytied his shoeshe wouldn't havefallen down the stairs andfound himself impaled on a janitor’s broom. Remember kids—tie your shoes—safety first.”
“Have I toldyouthatyou’re an asshole?” Kevin statedwhenshefinished her latestversion of his obituary.
Kayn didn’t have a comeback. Sheglanced behind her andthen from side to side. She couldn’t shakethe unnerving feelingthat something wascoming. Therewas a hollowache in her chest. Astrangefeelingthat lingered eachtimesheswallowed.
Kevin leaned in to Kayn’s earandwhispered, “You sureyou’re okay becauseyou’restarting to creep me out a bit with this weird behavior.” Kevin’s warmbreath in her earmade Kayn shiver again. Everything seemedheightened. Shehadthestrangest urge to leanoverandkiss him square on thelips. Shewasobviouslygoing a littlebitcrazytoday. It must below blood sugar or something?
Shereplied, “No... justovertired I guess.”
“The wayyou’reswinging your headaround, younglady, is frankly a little creepy,” Kevin said, raising his eyebrows in her direction in a moderately concerned fashion.
Hetwirledaround in a circleandadded, “Nobody is coming, I swear.”
“I know,” Kayn answered, “I’mfeeling a little off. Maybe I’mcomingdown with something?”
“We should be moreworried about your creepy behaviorcausing a nastycase of whiplash.”
Kevin flung his arm around her shoulderandgave her a buddy-like squeeze. “You gohave a shower, muffin; you’rekind of sweatyandnasty. Whatdoyoudo, cover yourself in honey before yougofor a run?”
Kevin chuckled as hesmelled his handsandgroaned, “Ewww, that’s not honey.”
Kayn sparred, “There yougotalkingalldirtyagain, literally; it’skind of hot, allthistalk of toxinsandwaste.”
“What was your boyfriends’ nameagain, Kayn?” Kevin asked innocently.
Theywerewalkingtogether, andshegave him a solid shove in jest. “You should call up your invisiblegirlfriendandask her what her name is lovemonkey,” shesaidandwinked.
“I have a girlfriend. Her name is Chloe. Shejustdoesn’t knowityet,” heteased.
He couldn’t help himself. Sheknewthis. Hewaswellawarethatconstanttalk of her sisterirritated her to noend. Itwas his easysmack down in a comedy standoff.
“Do youknowwhatthedifference between youand a stalker is?” sherespondedsweetly.
“It'swhetheror not you’rewearing my sister’s stolenthongunderwearrightnow,” shesaid.
Sheattempted to wrestle with Kevin a bit in order to catch a stealthlook down theback of his shorts.
“Hey, hey, simmerdown. I swear I will yellrape. I'mgoing commando. Pulling my shorts off is not a greatidea,” helaughed as hefended her off.
“Like you could handle me,” Shechuckled. Shecringed with pain as sheshifted her bag to her othershoulder. Italwayshad twenty pounds of books in it. She could nevermemorize her lockercombination. Shewasutterlyhorrible with numbers. Thatwas her excuse. Therealreasonprobablybeingthatshe would be obliged to speak to thevapidgirls that hung out around her locker. Sheliked to be left alone in her ownlittleworld. Kevin grabbed her heavybag off of her without saying a word.
“Hey, I’ll haveyouknowthat I havebeengoing commando since my first wedgie in fifth grade. Oncetheygrabforunderwearanddon’t findany, theygetveryafraidandbackrightoff, “Hechuckled. Kayn doubled over into a fit of giggles. Shechuckled, “I honestlydon't doubtthatfor a second.”
“You learnlots of littlethings that helpyoumaneuver through geekdom unscathedifyou’recrafty, youknow,” hesaid as theystartedwalkingagain.
Kevin wascarryingboth of their bags. Sheknewhewasbeingtough, butsheknewhowheavy her bagwas. Shesmiledandtook her bagback. Itwas in thesesweetlittlemomentsthatshewondered, Could they be something more?Would heevermake a move on her? Shewasn't sureif her friend Kevin knewanymoves. Ifheeverhad a secondwherehehadallowedthethought to cross his mind, shehadprobablyreacted as shehad a bitearlier. She would haveassumeditwassomekind of joke. Hecaught her staringandknit his brow. Thiswasstupid. Whatwassheeventhinking? Shewas hormonal or something today. Hewas her best friend.
Kayn wasbeginning to growtired of thefactthatmoreandmore of their conversationshadbecomecentered around her sister.
Sheshot a somewhat disapproving glance at Kevin andsaidpleasantly, “Let’s stoptalking about Chloe all of thetime. Frankly, I’msick of it.”
“Shush,” hesaid as heput one fingerdirectly over her pursed lips. “You know not to speak of her voodoo powers.”
Thephrase “Chloe has a boyfriend” was easily compared to cursing out loud in the Brighton household. Her sisterwould find herself running like shewas on fire from everyboyshehadeverattempted to date. Seeminglynormalboys would graduallylose their marbles. Itwas as ifthepressure of being close to her would make their sanityunfold like a reversal of an origami swan. It would start with a vehicleoutside of thehouse in themiddle of thenight, andrapidlyescalate. Once Chloe grewboredor annoyed by their obsessive behavior. Sheinevitablydumped them cold. On occasion, randomguys would break into their houseandstealobjects that belonged to her. In thebeginning, thepolicethought Chloe must be doing something to bringthis on herself, but after shewent in for a coupleinterviews at thepolicestationandfullgrownmen couldn’t helpbutfawnall over her sister. Theyallunderstoodwhat Kayn hadalwaysknown.
“We shouldn't even be joking about thisstuff. The breakups with thelast three or four of her boyfriendsturned out to be pretty damn scary situations,” shesaid in a hushed tone.
Thelastthing Kayn neededwas to be caughttalking about it by one of her sister’sminions. Kevin turnedandgave her a strangelook that said, think about whatyoujustsaidfor a second, andtheybothbroke into a fit of giggles. Agiantstinging slap followed on her spandex runningshortcoveredbutt. There stood Chloe. Kayns infamous, andmoderatelyeviltwin. Aliving breathing covergirlcommercial gracing us with her badass presence. Chloe smiled at her, andgave a slightglance acknowledging Kevins presence. Heturned ten shades of red as thoughshehadwhispered something dirty in his ear. He’scompletelypathetic, Kayn thought, shaking her head.
Chloe threw an arm around her, thenjumpedawaysaying, “Ewww, yuck, gross, you’reallsweaty and nasty. Listen, you backstabbing witch with a B, I’m not feelingthathottoday. I’m on my wayhome. Doyouneed a ride?” Shesaid.
Chloe alwaysdonned a giant, gorgeous, showstoppingsmile. Itwas like everymoment of her lifewas one strange, endless, beautypageant.
Shehad a sarcasticsense of humorthat Kayn nevertookseriously. “I’m not goinghome. I'mgoing to gohave a shower, andthengo to Kevin’s housefordinner,” Kayn replied.
Chloe leanedoverandkissed her sister’s sweatycheek, quietlywhispering, “Yes, gohavethatshower.”
Chloe sighed, “I’mgroundedagainfornogoodreason. I will seeyoulater Sis.”
“Shocking,” Kevin murmured as theywalkedaway.
Kayn suspectedthat her sister Chloe got herself grounded on purpose. Just to have a forcedbreak from her socialresponsibilities. If there weremedals in the Olympic games doled out for groundings achieved in a three-year period of time. Her sister Chloe hadthe equivalent of a goldmedal.
“Bye, Kevy.” Chloe yelled behind her as sheflounced off.
“Yup, voodoo powers,” Kevin whispered to Kayn.
“I heardthat Kevin. You're a little stinker,” sheyelledback.
Kayn smiled at Kevin, casuallyadding, “I betwhenyouthought of sexy nicknames she would callyou in your fantasies, little stinker wasn’t one of them.”
She couldn’t help herself; he’d leftitwideopen, andshewas on a roll. Kevin turnedaroundandsocked her in thearm.
Shestopped, turnedaround, andsaid, “Seriously, youhit me. I can’t believeyou would dothat.”
Sheglared at him and feigning painrubbed her armlooking genuinely upset.
“I wasjustkidding. I didn’t actuallyhurtyou, did I?” Kevin whispered.
Heknewhehadbeenhadwhen Kayn’s seriouslookcrumbled into a grin, andshesaid, “Woman abuse,” shesmoked him on thearmtwice as hard.
“What woman? I don’t see a womananywhere around here. Oh, youmeanyou?” he countered as herubbed his stillthrobbingarm.
Kevin pretended to be lookingaroundfor a moment.
“I will buttyou out like a cigarette, littleman!” Shemade a fistfor a jokeduel.
Kevin glared at her. Oh, no—the expression. Game over. Whoops...She hadgonetoofar.Itwasallfunandgames until shemade one toomanyshortjokes with Kevin.
“I am not little,” hesaid. Kevin stomped towards thecoveredentrance to thefacility.
“Okay, how about vertically challenged,” Kayn saidinnocently.
Shewasdigging her owngrave, andsheknewit. Kevin could argueforhours. He could debate something foreverandwear anyone out.
“I might lookshort to an Amazonian like you,” he countered.
Shedidknowbetter than to pushit anymore becauseifhekeptit up, thelaughtershehadbeentrying to suppress would escape.
“I am stillgrowing,” hesaid as his voicecracked a little.
Kayn doubled over laughing. She couldn’t helpit with thewell-timedvoicecrack.
“Can youplease be donelaughingnow,” Kevin said as theywalked into thefitnesscenter.
“I’ll seeyououtside in fifteen minutes, yousexystud,” shewhispered, sultry as a porn star.
Kayn wasstillgrinning as shepushed through thedoor to thegirls’ changingroom.
“Quit mocking me, Amazonian woman,” heyelled dramatically from behind her.
Assheenteredthechangingroom, Kevin’s last joking retortbounced off the walls of the concreteandtileroom. Her feetwerestillthrobbing. Thetiles on thefloorwereicyandsoothed her achingfeet. In a matter of months, she’dalreadyworn out her running shoes. Her mom would kill her when she asked for another pair. Shedropped her shoes. Thesound as theylanded on thetilesechoed. Itrepeated a fewtimes as if someone haddroppedmore than one pair.
Kayn wasdying to sing in theshowerbutwasafraidthat someone would walk in on her. Shepulled her tanktopand bra offandlooked into themirror. With a clearview of theroom around her, she could seethat nobody elsewas there. Shewasalone. Shethought of Kevin waiting. Thensherememberedthat there was a coffeemachine in thelobby by thepool. Kevin wasprobablyhaving a coffeeandoglingthegirlsswimteam; hewasfine. She stripped down andstoodnaked in front of themirrorfor a second. Shepulled her hair out of her ponytail, anditfell in damplooseringlets across her bareshoulders. Shetilted her head to one sideandposed seductively with a smile as shesurveyed her reflection. Maybe I should startwearingmakeup to school, shethought. Her facewas freckled andtanned from hours upon hours of training in thehotsun. In thewintertime, all of her freckleswentaway, and her skinwas porcelain white. I could lookjust like Chloe if I wanted to, Kayn thought, sucking in her cheeksandthenplastering a giantpageantstylesmile across her face. She scrunched up her nose. She enjoyed being dorky, and a little bit weird. It would take a lot of effort to pull off her sister’s version of perfection. She didn’t need to be perfect. She would wither and fade if she had to live her life under a microscope. She did prefer to let her strange roam free. Kayn walked toward theshower stalls. Shestoppedandglanced over her shoulder at her reflection in themirror. Theconversation with her sisterflashed through her memory. Chloe wasfeelingsicktoday; that’swhatwasgoing on then. Kayn quiteoftenhadsympathyillness whenever her twinwasn’t feeling one hundred percent. Kayn turnedaround, pulledtheplasticcurtain to theshower, andleaned in to turn on thewater. Itbegan to tapdance against thebottom of the stall, andwhenitwasjusttherighttemperatureshesteppedinside. Shesmiled as thewaterbeat against her wearymuscles. Shebegan to lather herself up with thenice scented pump soap. Todaywas her luckyday; a freshfulldispenser of soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Shedidn’t evenhave to reachdownandfind her own in thebottom of her gym bag. With her favorite running songstillgoing through her mind, shestartedhumming a fewbarsandthenbegan to singthewords. Justthensheheardthedooropen, andshebecamesilent. Shehurriedthrough, rinsing herself off, andtoweldried her hair. Sheran her brush through her hairandputitback in a ponytail. Asshepassed by themirroragain, shewonderedif Chloe everwanted to be more like her. Shequicklyblew off thatcompletelynuttyidea. Kayn was five minutesyounger than her sister Chloe, but her twinacted five yearsolder. Kayn hadno voodoo powers with men; shewasawkwardanddefinitelypossessednogame at all. Shewonderedifsheasked Chloe howshediditifshe would sheteach her something…anything. It would be nice to have someone ask her on a date before shewas eighty yearsold. She had to admititbugged her that Kevin obsessed about Chloe, not thatsheseriouslyliked him or anything because that wasmostdefinitely not a goodmove friendship-wise; there wasthatominouswordagain…friends. Kayn toweldried her backagain, feeling trickles of water from her stilldamphairtrail down her back. Shestepped into her underwearandwonderedwhy her mindkepttravellingtheroadback to questioning her feelingsfor Kevin today. Kayn shookthethought out of her headandwhipped her clothesback on. Shegrabbed her bagandhurried out thedoor, hopinghewasn’t too frustrated waitingfor her. Sheforcedopenthedoor with an over-exaggerated grunting sound. Kevin wassitting on therailingwaitingpatientlyandlookingup at thesky with his mouth agape in a totallycomicalway.
Kayn walkedup beside him andteased, “Trying to catchflies?”
“Always,” Kevin sparred with a dimpled grinandquickwit.
“What are welooking at?” Kayn said as shestaredup toward theheavensandmadethesame open-mouth face of awe.
“Come with me, and I’ll show you,” Kevin laughed. Hegrabbed her hand, andtheystarted to walk toward thefield.
Kayn hadlivedthismoment a thousand times. Kevin lay down in thegrass, andshelay beside him.
“Oh, wow I getit; look at howfasttheclouds are moving. I noticedthatearlier; it’salmostcreepy. I wonderif there’s a stormcoming?” Kayn whispered.
As Kayn laypeacefully in thegrass, suddenly a sharppainseared through her core.
Shegrabbed her stomach, sucked a deepbreath in andgasped, “What thehellwasthat?”
“You okay, Brighton?” Hesatupandtouched her arm.
Kayn wincedagainanddoubledover, her insides afire with anotherstrangepenetratingpain. Kevin placed his hand on her stomach, watching her facecalm. Thepaindisappearedagain as quickly as ithadbegun.
Helooked at her andstated, “You probablyneed a bigglass of water, maybesomedinner?”
Shestood up, trying to shake off a sense of impendingdanger that hadbeen replaying in her mind. With thepainsuddenlygone, shesaid, “Yeah, that’sprobablyit.”
“Did youskiplunchagain?” hescolded with a disapproving look on his face.
“I dobelievethat I did not eatlunchtoday.” There was a verysimpleexplanationforthesharpundefinedpainthatshehadexperienced. Kayn wasoftenpracticing at lunchtime and would forget to eat. Shefeltthe urge to look behind her again. Shelookedaround in everydirectiontrying to shake off theuncomfortablefeeling that hadbeenplaguing her allafternoon. Something in her mindwasstillwhispering, be careful, Kayn. Sheshook off theanxiousfeeling, rememberingthatthelasthorrormoviethatshehadwatched with Kevin onlydaysearlierhadtakenplace at a lake. There theystood by theturn off to Lakeshore Drive. It’sall in my mind, Kayn thought. Shestarted to laugh a little at her seriously overactive imagination.
Kevin kneeled in thegrassandpicked up a handful of itandsmelledit. “Just what I thought,” hesaidlookingseriously concerned now.
“What is it?” sheasked.
“It’s hillbilly urine; wehadbetterget our tastyselveshome before theycome to eat us,” Kevin said, pointing toward homeprovingif there waseveranydoubtthathehadnoactingability at all.
“Let’s get out of here, you geek,” Kayn saidshaking her head at him andsmiling as hehadobviouslyrecalledthe hillbilly, cannibal moviethatthey’dwatchedtheweek before.
“Okay, let’s go to my house. It’sgot to be like five by now; dinner’sprobably on thetable,” Kevin saidandsmiledagain.
Theylooked at eachotherandsmiledandstartedrunning through thefield before thetrails. Thiswastheritualracehomethey’dhad since theyhadfirstbeenallowed out of their yardsalone as children. Kevin hadalwaysbeensneaky. Heknewusingfairplay there wasnopossibleway to beat her in a race. Heshoved her over per usual, andshefell with a gentlethud into thegrass.
“Cheater,” sheyelled, out of breath as hekeptrunningaway from her. Shelaysprawled dramatically in thegrasslaughing. Kevin waslaughing hysterically as hecovered a good twenty feet.
“Cheater,” sheyelledagainandslowlyrose to her feetspitting out the freshly mown grass from her mouth.
She would let him win; itwasgoodfor him to winsometimes. Kayn could take one fortheteamtoday, especially to see him thishappy. Kevin let out an obnoxiouslyloudcheer as hevaulted over thefence to his yard. Heraised his arms in a silentfakefanfareandtook a bow. Hehadneveroncewon graciously in thewhole ten years of their friendship. Sureenough, theywalked inside Kevin’s house to theamazingsmells of his mother’s cooking. Her stomachbegan to grumbleloudly. Thedeliciousaroma of Kevin’s mother’scookingfilled her senses.
Kevin’s mom greeted her with a giantbearhugandsaid, “Hello there, beautiful. Gowash your handsand I’m not going to askyouwhyyou are bothcovered in grass.” His mom raised her eyebrows andadded, “We are at thetableready to eatsohurry up, you two.” Sheglanced into themirrorandpulledthegrass out of her hairletting a littlesmileescape as shewashed her hands in thebathroomsink. Shestartedgiggling as shethought about howwrongitlookedwhen two teenagers of theoppositesexshowed up covered in grass. Well, anyone else—with them platonicwrestling would be completelynormal. Kayn wassurethatif her dadwalked in andtheywerewrestling on her bed. He wouldn’t evenflinch. Kayn sat at her usualspot at thetable with his family. Kevin’s familymirrored her own. Theywerealwayscrackingjokes, andtalkingloudly about their day. Sheloved everything about the Smith house, from themismatchedframesfilled with family photos in the dining room to theextremelyoutdatedgreen shag carpet in thelivingroom. Thelivingroomwascompleted with a mismatched, yet cozy, couchset with two fluffy lounging felines that could always be easilyseen from the dining roomtable. Kayn sworetheyhad not moved an inch in years.
Kevin’s granny sat at theend of thetable, her wispy white hairwildly untamed. Kayn could envision Kevin’s grandmother as a beautifulyoungerwoman. There was a black and white picture in thehallway. Beautiful didn’t quiteencompass Granny in her youth, forshehadbeenenchanting. Shehadrichcrimsoncurlsand exquisitely structured highcheekbones. There wasobviouspower, andimmeasurablestrength of spirit in her innocentwide doe eyes. Physicallyshelooked as thinandfrail as a newborn fawn. Shehaduntoldstories in her eyes. Shewas a girl with manysecrets. Thechapterswerewritten in thecreases of her smile.
Shewas not thepicture of pin up perfection, butshehad an unexplainable quality that madeyoucurious. Youwanted to knowmore about her with one look into her eyes. Granny hadwornthesameshade of darkblood burgundy lipstick eventhen. Shealwayswore lipstick ten shadestoodark, and her teethwereworn, yellowed from age, alwaysseeming to have something stuck in them. Ifshegotsomefalseteethit would make her look ten yearsyounger, butshedidn’t seem to care in theleast. Shestared at Kayn thewholemeal without speaking a singleword to her. Itwasveryunusual.
Kayn couldn’t help herself; shesaid, “Is there something wrong?”
“You know something is amiss, don’t you?” Granny whispered. Itwas as ifshewereafraid of thewords that might slip from her lips.
“Kayn hadsomestomachpainearlier; she’sprobablycoming down with the flu or something,” Kevin answeredfor her.
“Perhaps,” Granny Winnie replied. Sheglancedbackdown at her plate. Grannylooked a littlebitilltoday. Itlooked as thoughshehadmore to say, butforonceshe remainedsilent then shelookeddirectly into Kayn’s eyes with unmasked sadnessandsaid, “Always listen to your instincts, child. They are neverwrong.”
As Kayn waspreparing to leave, Granny stoodupandmade her way over to Kayn, hugging her so tightly thatshehad to squirmaway in order to breath.
Grannyleaned in andwhispered in Kayn’s ear, “You survive. Youfighthard.”
Granny Winnie alwayssaidverystrange, random, andsometimesominousthings. Kayn knewthat there would be a three-hour longconversation about spiritualthings,ifsheasked her whatshemeant. She knew she didn’t have the mental steam left inside of her for that talk today. Kayn excused herself to go to thebathroom.
Sheattempted to callhome on her cell. Itwentstraight to voicemail. Chloe wasprobably on thephone; heavenforbidsheeverhadsomekind of crisisandneeded to talk to her ownparents. Chloe had a cellphone, too, butwasalwaysgrounded from it; yet theystilllet her talk on the landline which meant nobody else could getthrough; heavenforbid, someone spend two dollars on an extralineorcall waiting. Shesat on thetoilettrying her mom’s cell; shewasobviouslygoing to be a fewminuteslate tonight. Thensheput her phonedown after leaving a messageandsneaked down thehall to Kevin’s roomfor a quickprankor two before shewenthome. Kevin’s mom gave her a bag with somefresheggs in itfor her mom. Itwasstarting to getdark, so Kevin’s dadoffered to drop her off at home. Shethanked him with a hugehug as shegot out of thecar. Theairsmelledamazing, like cherry blossoms in fullbloom. It must havebeenrainingwhiletheywereeatingdinner. She stepped out of thecar, into a puddle, andtwisted her ankle. Of course, shethought. Soakedfoot, eggsandschoolbag in hand, shelimped up thesteepdriveway toward thefrontdoor. Thedoorwaspartiallyopen which was not normal. Howeveritwas a little windy outandquitenormalforthedoor to be unlocked, somaybeitwasleftajar, flungopen by thewind? Sheturned around and noticed that Kevin’s father was driving away. Kayn felt off, apprehensive as shewalked toward thedoorthatseemed to have a life of its own. Thedoorshifted from cracked open thenalmostshutagain with thewind. Shelooked at her cellphone. Itwas a quarter after eight. Thiswasobviously a prank. Theyhadleftthefrontdooropen, andentrancelightsoff to freak her out. Chloe wasprobablyhiding around thecorner. Practicaljokeswere an almostdailyoccurrence in the Brighton household. Itwasalmostdarkoutside. Shestoppedagainfor a secondtime, feelinguneasyforsomereason. Her heartfelttight, and her chestfelthollow as shepausedagain. Thesurroundinggiant trees madeitextradark in her yard. Theslivers of lightflashed through the trees as theymoved in thewind. Theylived in a beautifulareabutveryisolated. Kayn shoved her cellback in her pocket, andpocketdialed Kevin by accident. Shestepped toward the darkened doorway’s thresholdandpausedfor a momentagain before pushingthe doorway completelyopen
“I’mhome,” Kayn yelled as shewalked in thedoor, kicking off her shoesanddropping her schoolbag.
Shetriedclicking on thefronthalllight; itwasburned out or something. Kayn hadseenlightsonupstairs as shewalked up thedriveway, sosheknewthepowerwasn’t out. It’sjust a burned out lightbulb. Kayn began to yank off her wetsocks, shetried to balance on one leg, but a smallstab of pain from her freshly twistedanklecaused her to put her hand against thewall in order to balance herself. Her handslid off thewall, andshestruggled to pull her second soaking wetsockoff.
Shemassaged her anklefor a secondandnoticingitwasswollen, saidaloud, “Great, there goesthetrackmeet.”
“Kevin’s mom gave us eggs,” shesaid, speaking in almost a whisper, suddenlyawarethatsheseemed to be alone in thehouse. Where would theyhavegonethislate? Her mindbegan to sort through thepossiblescenarios.
“Mom…Dad?” shecalled out from thefront doorway.
Kayn wasanswered by silence, andthentouchingthewall, shefeltthestickiness on her hand. Sheheld her hand up to thefaintsliver of lightstreaming through the trees thatmadeit to the doorway. The palm of her handwascovered in blood. Ripples of adrenaline coursed through her body. Shefelt as if thousands of spiders hadrun across thesurface of her skin. Kayn frozefor a split second, paralyzed with fear, shivers of terrorcrawling across her flesh. Shestarted to gingerlystep backwards out thedoor. Shesawmovement in theform of a darkfigure in thehallway.
Sheheard her sister’s voicescream, “Run, Kayn.” Itwasraw, primal, andshrill.
Sheturnedandran, bringingtheeggs in her hand with her. Sheknewthat someone was behind her. She could sense them there. Sheknew there wasnotime to look behind her. Kayn ran with norhymeorreason in thedirectionthatshewaspointed in. Sheslipped in thewetgrass, turnedaroundsomehow, andthenshesawtheopening to thetrails in thedistance. Itseemed to beckon her toward its mouth. Theneighbor behind them was closer than theneighbors on eitherside of them, makingthetrails a somehowlogical yet illogical split seconddecision.
Kayn wasn’t able to thinkorbreathe, and her basic animalistic instinctforsurvivalwasguiding her. Shehadletgo of thebag of eggshalfway across thebacklawn, throwing them behind her, hoping to slow her attacker. Kayn sprinted toward thetrail’s opening, its entrance overgrown with foliage. Sheburst through thebranches which hadpartiallyhiddenthefamiliar pathway. Thebranches of thepricklefilled blackberry bushtore at her flesh as shepushedthrough. Thepainheightened her survivalinstinct which nowpossessed her. Itwasonlythat which drove her forward. Kayn barreled into theovergrowntrail, forcing her way through whereshe instinctually rememberedthetrailhadbeen. Shehadplayed in thesetrails as a child. Shehadfound a place to hide a thousand times, but there wasnotimeforstrategyorthought. The crunching of leavesandtwigs in the pathway behind her told her hewasclose; fartooclose to do anything butreact. Kayn slipped in themudagain, skiddingyet not falling. Sheignoredthestinging of her knees, thrusting her body with a violentjolt as ifstarting a run on thetrack.
Kayn hadnowlostthatprecioushalf a secondlead; ithadallowed her hunter to closethespace between them. Her heartpounded in her chestthreatening to burstright through her skin as her tiredlegspropelled her body through thewinding bike trail. Therocksandclaymudcut her barefeet. Thesharpreachingtwigsandbranchesslashed at her legs, andthepricklebushes sliced at her flesh.
“You have to runfaster, Kayn, runfaster,” her sister’s voicemindscreeched inside of Kayn’s terrordrivenmind. Kayn heardthebranchescrunching behind her; thedarkfigure’s rhythm, as steady as therhythm of her running. Hewassoclose behind her thatshe could feel his breath on her hairandneck as hepanted. Hewasalmosttouching her. Hewassofast, inhumanlyfast; sheneeded a rush of adrenaline to edge her ahead. She could seelights from someone’s housepeeking through the trees. Shewasgoing to makeit, shethought as her barefeetpounded over therocksandtwigsslashing at her anklesandlegs; shewasalmostthere. Shedrove herself forwardknowingshehadonly a halfsecondlead from thehunterthatpursued her, almost to safety…just over thecreek. Her barefeethitthesmallwoodenbridge…almostthere. Kayn felttheelation of victory as shewas about to burst through thebusheswhenshefeltheatplunge into her back. Her eyeswidened in terror as theknifeplunged into her again; its bladeseared a moltentrail of excruciating pain through her body. Asweatyhandmuffled her gasp of shock as shesunk to her knees in disbelief. Her captor’s armswereslick with perspiration; like a python, theyconstricted around her neckcrushing her larynx. Screaming and pleading for her lifewasnowimpossible. He continuously brought her to thebrink of strangulation andthenshook her awake, harshlyreviving her. Kayn tried to close her eyes; maybehe would believe her to be gone. He would leave her in thetrails to bleedalone, allow her to slippeacefullyaway, becoming one with theforestfloor around her. Insteadeverytime her eyesslippedshutshefeltthe slicing, searingpain of his knifeagainandagain in her stomachandchest until her eyesopenedwide with terror. Thenextpainstole Kayn’s breathcausingblood to sputter from her mouth. Shegazedahead of her and through the trees which wereglimmering in flashing flickering light; shesaw a figure in thedistance. Help me, oh, God, pleasehelp me; see me, please, I’mrighthere, Kayn’s mindscreamed. She could see his shadow on his patio through the trees in theluminescence of his porchlights; hewassoclose. Amanwas on thebackporchhaving a cigarette. Hepunched her stomachorcuther…shewasunable to distinguish one kind of brutality from another…onlythat something wassearing a hot excruciating fire through her stomach. He’skillingme…please, her soulpleaded as her visionblurred from her tears. Kayn couldn’t speak; shetried to scream; her throatcrushed, theonlysoundshe could makewas a gurgling as shechokedandsputtered on her ownblood. Why, why are youdoingthis to me? Her mindcried to thestrangerwhobreathedquickly with joyousexcitementand stimulation in her ear. Shefeltthecompetingrhythms of their poundinghearts, her back against his chest. Shesawthetwigsandrocks on theforestfloor around her. Kayn could smelldamp moss andthescent of tree sapandthesweetmetallictaste of her blood. On her hands, she could feelthewarmstickinessthatshebled out into thedirt, trickling down her arms as itescaped from her body. Her clothingwasheavilysoaked in her essencethatmoistenedtheearth around her. Helet her gofor a second; shelanded on all fours andtried to crawlaway, butshe couldn’t will her body to moveforward. She couldn’t breathe.
Now on her knees, her breathcame in shortlaboredattempts. Shetried to grasp ahold of theground with her fingertips. His hotrepulsivebreathandquietlaughterechoed in her earagainandthenhebeganwhisperingthingsthat Kayn couldn’t understand. His hotsweatybodywas behind her pressing against her back. Shefelt her stomach churning, revulsionmixed with blinding pain. Shetried one laststrugglingmovement to getaway from his grasp, andthensuddenlyfeltsome horribly blinding pain across her headandface. Thelightsflickeredandthenwentout. In thewoodslay a bleedingangel in all her glory. Her armsposedgracefully above her head, and her hairsoaked in themud, blood, andfeces in which shelay. Dying, fading into theotherrealm, her formwaschristened by therain as thoughthe trees hadbegun to weep upon her forthebrutalityshehadendured. There was someone waiting in thetrails; a darkpresencelingered nearby waitingfor her to regainconsciousness. Kayn awoke in frigiddarkness. Thepainthatpulsated through her seemed to recycle in waves until itbegan to slowlydullandbecome a tolerablenumbness. Shestruggled to openandfocus her eyes. She could smell a familiarscent; itsmelled overpoweringly sweetbutsomehow like metal. Kayn could tastethesweetrepulsiveflavor of it in her mouth; itmade her want to vomit. Shewaslying in mud, andshefelthotstickiness behind her. Shesuddenlyrememberedwhatthattastehadbeen. Itwas her ownbloodthatshe could tasteinside of her mouth. Kayn could not manage a singlebreath. Shuddering, shebegan to relive thebrutalitythatshehadexperienced. Her mindbeganfeeding her slivers, flashes of inhuman savagery. Her mind numb anddisoriented from bloodloss clicked through scatteredmemories from her childhood. Help me, please, her mindpleaded into theforest through thesounds of theraintappingthebranches above whereshelay. Theyseemed to be shielding her, and as her visioncame into focusshe imagined thelushgreenbranches above as giantarms. Theyprotected her, covering her from theelementsallowing her one lastpeacefulmoment. They are beautiful, shethought. Her mindwandered through mystical visions of themajestic cedar trees aliveandsomehowcapable of offering her protection.
Thecalmsmile on her face that hadbeencontorted with anguishsignaled his essenceback to her. Her visioncame into focusandonceagainthe trees came to life. Theycackledandmocked her. "You’regoing to die, yousilly bitch," theychanted. Theywaved their branches, howling as thewindwhistled through thetrails which hadsuddenlybecomeicycold. Kayn’s consciousnesssnappedback to reality; shehadlost a lot of blood…none of thiswasreal.
Amanstood by thatsame tree whoseimaginaryarmshad shielded her from therain, stillwaiting, veiled in mist. Thechange in temperaturehadcausedtheforestfloor to comealive with a dancing mist that seemed to add a thickness to the tapping sound of theraindrops. Writhing in themud, Kayn willed her body to move; her fingersclawed at theground around her until shewasspent. Shelay in stillnessfor a moment, feeling like a halfdeadanimalwaiting to be finished off by its hunter. Sheconcentrated on eachbreath…inandout…alittleair. Shewasalive. Itfelt like shewasbreathing through a strawandsomebodyhadpinchedtheend. Thestreams of light from themoon that hadbeendancing through thedarkstormycloudshadnowvanished, leavingonly a colddarknight with nofinalvisions of beauty. Kayn longedforsomelightbutwasleft with onlythe flickering of blurry darkimages. She couldn’t see anything in theabsence of lightandbegan to panic again, forshe could feel her grasp on her lifebeingabsorbed into themist.
I’msoscared; I don’t want to die; pleasehelp me, her soulsobbed. Theonlyanswerwasthe crackling quietsound of therain. Kayn couldn’t see anything at allnow with her vision clouded with tears, soshehad to stop herself from crying. Her headpounded with the blinding pain that had abruptly returned.
She could sense thathewasstill nearby watching her. His darkshadowloomed in thedistance as ithad in thehallway of her house. Please, please, nomore, she pleaded in her mind as hecame closer. He stood only a fewfeetaway from her now. He was watching her with his headtilted to one side. Her heartwasbegging, pleasedon’t hurt me anymore. Kayn wastrying to wriggle, butnomovementcame from her now. Shewilled herself to grasp at themoistcoldearth with her fingers. Shewasunable to move. Her bodywasnothingmore than a brokenshell. Howcruelfor her mindto stillsee; to stilldesirelife at thispoint. Kayn looked into his eyes. In hers was the desperateplea, why are youdoingthis to me? Shewassocold her bodygave an involuntary shudder. Kayn realizedthenthatshewasnaked, completelyexposed to theelements. Whywasshenaked? Her eyeswerefull of tearsagain; shefeltinstant, almostoverwhelmingshame. Kayn could stillfeelthestickyheat behind her as her blooddrained from her body, soaking into thedirt. Thepain in her headbegan to numb as thelights through the trees began to flickeragain. Thedarkmass of her violator suddenlyappeared beside her, leaning in soclosethatshe could smell his putridbreath, moist over her face. Everyhair on her bodywasstanding on end. The electrical power between Kayn andtheman in thedarkwas like a charge. Heran a finger over her exposedbreastand said, “You werenever to be born; thissituationhad to be corrected.”
Kayn saw his knifeglint in thelight from themoon. Itwasraised above her chest. Yes,shethought, letit be overnow.Sheshut her eyes as theknife sliced into her chest. Kayn opened her eyesagain with acceptance; shefeltnomorepain. Shestareddeeply into his eyes as hers filled with tears.
With a voicethick with emotionhesaid, “To thislife unto thenext.” Heslowlybegan to cutsomekind of symbol on theskin on Kayn’s chest above her heart. Shelaylimp in his arms, stillconscious of whatwashappening, yetfree from thepainandfearnow. Hepulled her close to cradle her nakedbody in his arms like a baby, rocking her broken, violatedflesh in his arms, stroking her bloodsoakedhair. Hebegan to sob as ifhewere repentant in somewayforhowhehadtortured her. As her visionflickered one lasttime, themanwasgone; itwas her motherlooking into her eyes. Her mother’s eyeswerefilled with somuchlovethatitseemed to release her from her painandfear as ithadwhenshewas a smallchild. Her mother cradled her as a baby, rocking her backandforth. Shewassafenow in her mother’s arms. Shewas at peace. Mommy, her heartsang, you’rehere to save me.Thewarmth of her mother’s loveenveloped her tortured soul. Shelooked into her mother’s eyes. Shetouched Kayn’s faceandstarted to sing a songthatshehadsung to her everynightwhenshewasverysmall.
Sleep, sweetsleep till themorning Justdreamawayandclose your eyes My loveyou’ll be safe until themorning Sleeping in my heart, all through thenight Althoughbaddreamscome to scareyou My love will scare them allaway My heart… Thelightsflickered, thepainwentaway, and her motherwasholding her, singing: “Sleep, sweetsleep.”