A Child's Nightmare

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The forest holds a dismal silence, stretching for countless miles. Then along the wild trail path, the voices begin to rise from the peace but then are brutally shattered as the owners of the young voices come into view of it.
“If anyone can do it, it’s you Archie. You just have to stay calm and remember, after all, it’s just a stupid cav—, “
The sheer sight of it stole his breath away like a grim reaper in the night and the once energetic Chris fell mute. These four kids, just shy of being considered pre-teens, stopped dead in their tracks the moment they rounded the final curve of the trail. It towered over them and with eyes widen with anticipated horror they caught a glimpse of the single object that corrupts even the most innocent dreams, an enormous hollowed opening in the earth, or more commonly, a cave.
The ominous emptiness belonging to it seemed to stare intensely with welcoming, nonexistent eyes and a hungrily toothless smile grinning sinisterly at its visitors. The four stood paralyzed by its enormity, gaping fearfully at the wide grin of the darkness praying that he would change his mind and they could turn away from this place. The three hopefuls turned to tallest of the four and prayed for a rational thought, a retreat from this madness. However, instead Archie Kilgore did something they resented and admired, he took a step forward. He began a steady pace down the ominous path, his long hair flowing in the breeze as his unfortunate entourage grudge ly followed in silence toward the cave with chilled blood.
Once again, they stopped. Now, they stood at the very end of the path, not daring to venture any closer as they gawked into the formidable darkness. Each shared the same petrifying vision produced by their young, overactive imaginations to what lay behind that shroud of murky darkness. Of the four, Archie’s eyes were the widest because they were filled with a surreal mixture of excitement and horror but there was something else, the overwhelming sense of regret.
“You know, you don’t actually have to do this,” a quivering voice whispered from behind Archie. He was surprised to find that it belonged to Michael, a boy who earlier accused Archie of being a chicken which started this whole debacle.
Archie remained silent with glassy eyes that vividly reflected the incapacitating dread that emanating from the task that lay before him. Then he felt the hand of his younger brother, Richie, on his shoulder. It felt like the sudden grasping of the reaper in the night and Archie almost jumped at its abruptness but as the hand began to tremble it lost its fright.
“ Come on Archie,” a slight tremor hide in his voice,” let’s just go home.” Richie’s voice sounded solid but Archie detected the desperate ring hidden just beneath the surface of his dismissing words, just as he felt his hand quiver upon his shoulder. Archie didn’t need to hear their shaken voices or see their shivering bodies to know they all wanted to run away from here to the sanctuaries under the blanket and cry.
The cave itself emitted a potent aura of overwhelming fear and exhaled a chilling wave that made each of their breaths visible. Archie desired nothing more in this world then to get far far away from this nightmarish place but, he couldn’t. Something kept him from running away, something indescribable that compelled him to stay and go through this.
It was a sin that young Archie fully didn’t understand yet, known simply as pride. That’s what kept the hysteria from bubbling up and driving him to run for the hills. Something else too, something probably more important, something that kept him from cowering like those behind him. Although, Archie’s eye read undiluted fear, his body did not shake. A renowned sense of courage held him still and that’s what drove him to take a step forward towards the abyss. The hand on his shoulder slowly fell away and tears formed in the eyes of the little brother as he stood frozen in place, helplessly reaching out for his older brother.
Archie walked cautiously forward with every nerve in his body on fire by a chilling flame and it offered no relief to the arctic air produced from that demonic opening. His heart thundered within the confines of his chest and breathe escaped his tightly sealed lips to form a mist of anxiety before his azure eyes. His audience of quivering children over his shoulder stood huddled together and breathless, Richie still reaching out with a groping hand in the air to where his brother once stood. The tears forming in his eyes spoke sorrow and true fear for his older sibling’s life that now seemed so far away.
With each progressing step, the brighter the cool blaze on his nerves burned, the faster his heart pulsed. As he neared the cave mouth, he could hear his heartbeat in his temple and it made the supernatural hollow in the world almost seemed to possess its own living, breathing heart. Archie had to disregard these kinds of thoughts or he wouldn’t be able to go through with stepping into the jaws of this stone beast.
The monstrous stone entity towered over little Archie, the arch of the cavern was like a massive wave about to crash upon the tiny boy who dare challenge it. Strangely, to the surprise of the three trembling spectators Archie appeared under supreme composure and without a hint of fear. Unless you were close enough to see the hairs on his neck standing on end or the massive fear dwelling deep in his eyes under the fantasy of control.
Suddenly, upon his last step to the foot of darkness a cold gust of wind swept through the world and carried the leaves of the forest’s life around Archie. A howl erupted from the beast, the bitter breeze of it sent a shiver down Archie’s spine and made the frosty inferno on his searing nerves flicker restlessly like the lash of a wipe. His gawking entourage gasped at the perhaps first actual hint of fear and for a moment they thought he was going to run.
He didn’t though, instead he did something else. Swiftly with a odd sense of grace as the wind danced with his hair, Archie turned to them. They gasped. Chris mouthed words he couldn’t say. Michael only could shake his head in disbelief. The tears faded from Richie’s eyes. Archie Kilgore was smiling. The burden of immature panic lifted from his shoulders and his brilliant azure read of peace. With one simply step backward, he allowed himself to be engulfed by the shifting darkness that haunts young children’s dreams.





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