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The wind picked up, blowing leaves across the forest, whipping the girl’s hair around, making a wall around her face, but this wall would not protect her from the event soon to happen. The autumn leaves crunched under her feet as she approached the forest whose trees towered above her. No one could expect the upcoming events. No one. Not even U.S. Of course, we knew the event that was going to happen, was going to happen, but we don’t know how it would. That’s the only the only thing the oracle hides from us, otherwise she tells us everything; the time, the place, the who, etcetera. We watched from the middle of the field as she approached the first tree of the forest. The oracle had let in one detail about this certain case though, “The first shall no longer be the best.” At the time, none of U.S. understood what this meant, but as we watched her step towards the first tree, every one of U.S. had a realization. She kept walking. We kept watching. She stopped midstep, as if she knew her dreadful fate. The young teenage girl stared up at the forest, squinted her eyes at it, shook her head, and kept walking. After all, it was only a forest. Nothing else. Compared to the size of forests in Africa, it was tiny. Compared to the forests in Africa it was bite sized. But it was lethal. Not the forest itself, not like the trees came alive and ate you or anything, but it was beginning to become the base of all crime in that tiny town of Holmes.
Holmes was tiny, but it was still considered a town, and not a village. It was usually a peaceful place, a place filled with laughter and friendship. It was settled in 1980, made up of a bunch of wandering nomads who decided to settle down and make their own town rather than stick to their nomadic ways. There were seventeen stoplights in the entire town, five main streets, one movie theatre, seven restaurants, and a population of 1250. As you may guess, all the residents of this town were extremely close-knit with other residents, and it was as if everyone knew everyone’s business. There really was no secret kept in Holmes.
The young girl was named Sarah Sascar. Her family was one of those that settled the town, actually it was her grandfather that did. He brought her father along and they settled in homes and ended up being the creators of this town. Her father was a doctor, and her mother was mayor of Holmes. Anyway, Sarah was only a few steps away from her untimely--. Well, I cant tell you that. That would ruin the story, wouldn’t it now? Those last steps one of U.S., the person next to me to be more specific, clicked a button and time slowed down for Sarah. No one else. Just Sarah. Every second was an hour to her. Yeah, that’s where that classic line, “Time slowed down as I neared my death” comes from. Not that Sarah is going to die, but back to what I was saying, We are what causes time to slow down. To me, we do this for dramatic effect. But, the rulebook clearly states, we do it for the victim to think about their life, and what obstacles they overcame in order to live for as long as they did.
Sarah is at the first tree now, I hear another click of a button and I know that time is now at normal speed to her now. I sigh, knowing that this part is the worst part of my job. I want to close my eyes, to turn around. Anything, but that is not allowed. I have to watch the tragic ending, have to see this young girl’s last couple steps. I blink quickly as Sarah turns left at the first tree. Her expression quickly changes from bored to terrified. I stare at her as she backs away, her eyes wide with fear. Before she can run or yell for help, I hear her scream in pain. It’s happened again, I thought to myself, not wanting the others to hear my personal, rule breaking thoughts. The person standing next to me nudges me, I nod slowly to say, “Wait a moment. He may still be there.” After about thirty more seconds we hear the hard crunching of leaves against the forest floor.
“It is time.”The man next to me gently pushes me forward, and I pad toward the tree. There she is. I think to myself. God she’s beautiful. No, stop that! Shut up and think about your work! The other side of me, the serious side screams at me in my head, and I kneel down. Sarah’s eyes are still open, and her breath is coming in short spurts. She writhes in pain, and as we all know, this will just cause her even more pain. I can’t stand her being in so much pain, so I touch her forearm and her body goes stiff. I nod carefully, and another person swoops behind me, I’m not sure who, but someone does. I was too focused on Sarah.
Why did she specifically have to die? He was just waiting there, he could have killed anyone! She’s my age. She’s dead at the same age I am. Maybe she knows how I died. I won’t be able to ask though, she’s dead.Unless… My thoughts end as the man examining if she is worthy to join U.S. stands.
“Shes a fighter this one. I think she will be useful with U.S.” He smiles and motions to her. I kneel down and reach into her heart to begin the Dislodging Process.
“Wait. No. I won’t let you. I don’t want this girl to become as heartless as We have to learn to become. I don’t want her to watch people die. She deserves better than that. We all deserve better than this. I mean, you say it’s an honor to be a part of U.S., but is it really?” The Examiner standing next to me stares at me for a moment.
“Alex, we all have our moments when we regret our heartlessness, but listen here. Without us, there would be no afterlife. There would be no mourners at the point in time when the person dies. We only come when there is no one else around except the perpetrator and the victim. They need us, just as we need them.” He places his hand on my shoulder, and I shrug it off. “Please just continue the Dislodging Process so we can leave this bloody place.” I sigh and quickly reach into her heart and rip out her soul and place it in a jar the Examiner is holding out for me. He places the lid on, and tells me to stay, he wants Sarah to come with U.S. when we make our next round. I nod and settle down on the grass.
How could I? Stand up like that? Rebel against the rules… but what The Examiner said, is that true? Does every person who becomes one of U.S. really think like this at least once in their careers? I feel bad for the victims, not knowing how they died, then coming to this terrible place. I’ll tell Sarah how she died. Not right away, she may not believe me, but later. Of course, she may be upset, but it will be nothing like the feeling that I have, that feeling of being unknown. My thoughts continue like this for awhile as I settle back onto the grass. I close my eyes, and rest.
I wake up to the sound of my name. “Alex? Alex! Wakey, wakey!” I feel my arm being shaken by something, so I open my eyes. There in my view is The Examiner and Sarah. She smiles at me and awkwardly sticks her hand out.
“Right… wait. Alex? As in Alex Hartly?” I nod yes, wondering how she knows this, after all only the Witnesses to my death know my last name. “ I remember you.” She touched my cheek.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean, you remember me?”
“You were part of my life. Well you used to be.” She smiled sadly at me, and turned her eyes towards the floor.
“Wait, so you would possibly know how I died?” My eyes held a pleading expression, and she looked up from the floor to me.
“Of course I do. You were the only boy I ever loved, outside of my family of course.” She nodded slowly, as if this was obvious.
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember. But would you tell me? How I died?”
“In a fire. An arsonist set fire to a building and you were the only one in there. It was June 31, 2013. Two years ago. The firefighters tried to save you, but you were so still… I could tell you were already gone the minute they walked you out on the stretcher. I’ve missed you so very much.” She glanced at me.
“I know you don’t remember. But, for some reason, I do. Is that strange?”
“No. Its me that’s strange. You are supposed to remember, but I don’t. I don’t know why.”
“The fire. It probably damaged your memory in some way.” I nodded slowly, as if I had thought of this so very many times before.
“Sarah?” I said after a moment. She glanced at me, her eyebrows raised.
“I remember something.” I grin at her. I don’t remember something. I remember someone. Sarah. Her brown eyes staring at me. Her warm embraces. The way I felt about her, the way she touched me. The way she smelled. As soon as I tell her this, her eyes open wide with surprise. She shakes her head.
“After all this time… you remember. Me. You remember me!” She slowly kisses me like a long lost love.
“Sarah, I-“ I hesitantly pushed her away from my face.
“You said you remembered.” Her chocolate brown eyes stare up at me with more love than I have ever seen.
“I do. But I remember that you broke my heart.” She stares at me and nods, the love in her eyes disappearing and transforming into sadness.
“Oh. You remember that too.” I nod, and she turns away from me. “But I love you.” She pauses. “Isn’t that enough?” I shake my head.
“Sarah, I don’t remember how you did, but I know you did. I shouldn’t be with someone I don’t know why I hate.” A tear travels down her cheek, and I touch it with my lips. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t.” She turns toward me swiftly. A smile breaks out on her face. She runs into my arms, and I spin her around. She touches her lips to mine, and I return the embrace. She locks her hands around my neck and I laugh. I hear The Examiner before I see him.
“Alright lover birds, come on, we have work to do.” He laughs, and stands next to me.
“Be there in a sec.” I kiss Sarah one more time, and she giggles. She turns her head to The Examiner.
“Can you go away for a minute?” I hear leaves crunching, as he walks away. And when we were sure he was gone, Sarah kissed me again. She placed her hand on the small of my back, pulling me closer to her, and I place my hands on her perfect hips. One of her hands tangles in my hair, and I laugh. She pushes me away, and chortles.
“Sarah?” She turns to me. “I love you.”
“I love you too Alex.” And with that, we walk away hand in hand to join the other Witnesses.