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part one: love
“…and so, if we divide six into the prime categorization of the factor x-“
Mark really didn’t care what Mr. Parkinson was saying, and he was more or less drowning out his slow, monotonous voice with the music playing in his head. He was staring at the clock, yearning for it to be 3:15, and trying not to fall asleep at the sound of Mr. Parkinson’s monotone voice. “Six minutes,” he muttered aloud, and he stared out the windows into the woods, dominated by tall evergreens and tall pines. He could see the brook that cut through the playground, lazily flowing through the dirt of the kickball field…
“…the x is the second factor, so carry the 11-“
Why did Mark’s parents make him move to this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere? The only things there were in Baskerville, North Dakota was trees, snow, cows, sheep, and bullies.
“…so find Least Common Multiple of the 12 and remember the four Q’s in the- repeat after me-Quality-“
Park hated everyone and everything that ever moved, but Park held a special place in his heart for Mark. He stuffed mark into lockers, called him “Little Marky-warky”, stole his stuff, and Mark had come very close to telling the principle, only to be greeted by a sign in his office that said, “Detentions for Tattle-tales.”
Mark knew that things would be worse over the summer, considering the fact that Mark’s house was three away from Park’s, and mom considered everyone Mark met his “little play-mate.” She would have no problem letting Park inside to wake him up at eight in the morning.
Mark stared at the clock, and he started thinking about himself.
“There’s no reason for me to get bullied like this,” he thought. “I mean, I’m not short. I’m not short, I’m not fat, and I don’t smell bad. Somewhat normal- so what if I have long hair (maybe that’s the problem- he thinks I’m a hippie.) so why me?”
Mark was so engrossed in his thoughts that he barely heard the bell ring, and he managed to submerge from the depths of his mind. He got his jacket, grabbed his backpack, and left with the stream of exited students.
He made his way outside of the school and began to walk home, past the Middle School, and he decided to take a shortcut through the densely forested woods.
The shortcut led into a clearing near his dads dentists office. He was walking down the trail leading into the clearing, when he heard stupid laughing, and a dense, thick, deep voice that only meant one person- Park. To further unsettle his nerves, he heard a high pitched scream that sounded like pure terror.
He had to stop Park before it was to late.
Mark knew at once that Park wasn’t the one screaming, and Park was way too much of an idiot to realize when he crossed the line from bullying into something much more serious.
Mark didn’t think- he just ran down the path into the clearing and saw that Park had knocked a girl down and was about to hit her. Acting again on impulse, he screamed
“HEY PARK, COME HERE AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN!”
ark looked around stupidly, saw Mark, and charged him. Mark barely had time to scream “RUN!” before he saw Park’s 290 pound body flying at him.
On instinct, Mark dodged Park, and Park was sent flying into the trees. Park let out the primal howl of a hurt lion and Mark ran down the path in the same way the girl went.
Mark had never ran this fast of this far in his life. His lungs were bursting, and it seemed that they were screaming at him, saying, “GIVE US A BREAK, YOU IDIOT!”
He knew that he wouldn’t be able to run much farther. Mark had never been this far down the trail before, and it began to narrow and he had to periodically jump over fallen trees that littered the path. No one had been there in a long time.
Roots and sticks littered the ground in addition to the trees, and he could no longer hear loud grunts and the snapping of sticks behind him. Park wasn’t following him anymore, so he slowed down to a walk. After about five minutes he saw her.
The girl that he had saved was sitting in the low branch of a tree. She saw him, gave Mark a startled look, and fell out of the tree.
Mark laughed and called, “It’s alright. It’s me.” he walked over and helped her up. “I didn’t mean too-” he stopped in mid sentence.
The girl was beautiful, with long red hair, and in the exited flurry that his mind was in, he saw that she was wearing a Beatles tee shirt- his favorite band. He could hardly talk, and the more he looked at her the more surreal this moment felt.
The girl smiled and said, “Is everything ok?”
Mark smiled back and said,
“Yeah. Right now, everything’s just fine.”
The girl smiled as she looked at him and said,
“Thanks for what you did back there. It was really, really brave.”
Mark kept smiling and said, “It was nothing.”
The girl was grinning now as she said,
“Don’t say that, because you know its not true. You saved my life. What’s your name?”
“Mark Kingston. Yourself?”
“Maria. Maria Walsh.”
“Maria. The most wonderful sound I‘ve ever heard.” Mark muttered this word to himself, and he looked at her, she looked at him, and suddenly, without any warning at all, they moved toward each other, as if a magnetic force was pulling them together. He felt his feet walking, and his brain was transfixed on only one thing- her face, the face of an angel. He wrapped his arms around her waist and she wrapped her hands around shoulders and they danced, silently, to the tune that the couple had made up on the spot- the sweet, sometimes sad song that sung in the hearts of everyone- young, old, poor, rich.
The song of love.
The brush crackled and Mark glanced back, and he plunged from cloud nine, landing hard on the cold, ironic earth. Behind them, out of all things, stood a moose, foaming at the mouth with his upper horns coated in blood. He looked angry, and stamped a foot on the ground, and charged.
“RUN!” screamed Mark.
As Mark squeezed between trees to close together for a moose to even put his head through, he saw a flash of red ahead of him- Maria’s hair. He heard grunting behind him and trees splintering, so he started too sprint.
Without warning, the ground disappeared and Mark was flying through the air- his heart skipping many beats. Before he knew what was what, he hit cold, dark water with a splash, and started to sink.
As Mark sunk, he knew where he was. He had stumbled apron one of the most magnificent places in the world- a place told about in fairy tales, stories, and legends- a place that only a few believed in, and none had seen.
He was supposed to be drowning, and although he couldn’t breath, he wasn’t in pain…it was if he didn’t want to breath anymore.
Mark closed his eyes and let his waterlogged clothes drag him to the bottom of the deep pond. His lungs weren’t screaming, because they weren’t scared, and he made no struggle, because this wasn’t impending doom- (he would face that a few times in his journey) this was…heaven.
The world went into a peaceful dark and Mark was in utter peacefulness, for the woes of mankind were beyond him.
part two: fantasy
For the next few weeks, people around Baskerville, North Dakota had no idea what had happened to Mark Kingston and Maria Walsh. There were massive search parties, the FBI had been hauled in from Boston, and a team of around 15 forensic scientists were studying everything- including the trail the two had run down. There were no displaced sticks anywhere, and Park was in a comma after he ran into a tree in his dad’s Lamborghini a hour after Mark and Maria had disappeared. The town firefighters and policemen brought in a team of search dogs. The dogs took 3 steps down the trail, whimpered, and ran backwards at an alarming rate.
People were afraid, because it’s common knowledge that people fear the unknown. They had no idea what happened to the two youths, and they certainly didn’t realize that Mark and Maria were far beyond help.
Mark opened his eyes and saw where he was. He didn’t believe it- it was as if his eyes were playing a nasty trick against him. He was staring up through many trees into a bright, violent blue sky. The trees were old and willowed, each looking tired, like a old man. His entire lower body was already covered in a thick layer of leaves, and each second the wind would gust and even more would fall, landing on his lap.
He stood up, and shook the leaves off, his eyes wandering in every direction- he could see great, towering mountains in the distance, and a lake-
The explosion was so massive that it knocked Mark off his feet and threw him to the ground. He landed on his butt, and his ears rung and stung painfully as he looked at the stirring mass that could only be Maria.
Mark crawled over to her, his body crunching against the layer of leaves on the forest floor. He brushed her off, and took her hands.
“What was that…?” she looked into his eyes, looking so scared and helpless.
He stared back at her and said, “I don’t know. All I know is that were both in danger. I have no idea, but we should have died in that Pond, yet were alive…breathing…unless we already died.”
Another smaller but still massive explosion rumbled from the north and he could hear the wind carrying the faint screams of victims in agony.
“If we are dead, do you think were in heaven or-”
“I think were in the other one.” Mark repined gravely, looking cautiously into the forest.
The forest floor cracked behind them and Mark turned on his heels toward the sound.
“I guess you would be right about that.”
Out of the shadow of the forest stepped a extremely tall knight in completely black armor. A face mask shaped like a skull covered his head, and Mark noticed unpleasantly that around his waist was a belt, and holstered to the belt was various weapons made of humans bones.
The huge knight was carrying a huge, deadly crossbow made entirely from bone. The arrow loaded into the weapon, however, was the darkest black imaginable.
“Make one move, young love birds, and this arrow goes straight into you and out the other. I’m going to take you to the king now- I’m sure your bones will make a delightful spear. Follow me, or face a most unpleasant fate.”
The black knight walked behind, arrow drawn, as Mark and Maria made their way down a trail not unlike the one that they had ran down a while ago (or was that a life-time ago? It was hard to tell) Every nerve in Mark’s body screamed in terror, and as he lifted his feet, he could feel and see them trembling.
Suddenly, the black knight was behind Mark. Whispering in a raspy, deathly voice, he said
“Scared boy? If I had a soul, I would be too.”
They walked for five more minutes until the came to a great tree- easily and by far the biggest tree Mark had ever seen in his life. The base of it must have been about the size of a pool, and it easily was over 50 feet high- the top was touching the cloud. The knight pointed to a very unsafe looking ladder and said, “Climb.” They climbed up, the ladder creaking in protest, and somehow the black arrow man had the arrow still pointed at both of them.
They climbed for around twenty minutes, and Mark started to help Maria along, who was getting very weary. Mark held her had, helped her along, and every now and then he kissed her cheek. The black knight would sn----- and hit Mark in the back of the head whenever he did that, but Mark felt as if it was worth it.
About five minutes passed, and they were at the top- a tiny, creaky deck at the top of the massive dead tree. The knight pushed Mark and Maria to the side, the black arrow still pointed at them, he faced the tree.
“Make any sudden moves,” the evil knight said, “and I will send you flying to your deaths.”
Mark decided wisely that he wasn’t going to make any sudden moves.
They stood on the deck on top of the trees, staring down at the outline of the trees below them, the sun setting. Inside the tree, there was a small, pitch dark cavern.
“King, my lord, Master of death, Humbly I call upon thee.”
Maria gripped Mark’s hand.
The voice echoed in the cavern, and a deep, booming voice, cold and full of indifference said, “What is it you want, Knight of Death?”
Maria looked at him.
“You have visitors, my lord.” said the knight.
He looked at her.
“Rebels? Peasants? What kind?”
They moved into each other, as if to kiss…
“The worst of all, my lord. They came by the pond.”
There lips hit each other, and Maria pulled him closer and it seemed like they were tow souls now- he wasn’t just Mark and she wasn’t just Maria. They were One.
“Off with there heads. They have seen too much.” boomed the voice.
With this, Mark crashed down from his bliss with Maria, and his heart sank and panic began to grip him. Mark really had no idea where he was, where he was going, or why he was going to be killed, and he couldn’t think of a good reason to justify what was about to happen.
All he knew was that he was going to die.
To understand the truest, purest feeling of fear, you have to understand what it’s like to have an unstoppable doom loom over you, like a bomb, ready to go off, or a tiger, ready to strike. The feeling of certain doom is the worst kind, because as humans we fear the unknown, and death is the greatest unknown of them all. Who wants a one way ticket to the great unknown? Who wants a one way ticket to death?
Mark didn’t. As the black knight, grinning, unsheathed his sword and swung it back, about to slice the back of Mark’s neck with a bone shattering strike, Mark let the panic overwhelm him. He used every once of frantic strength he had in his 14 year old body to strike out at the knight with his feet.
Mark prevailed. He sent the black Knight stumbling off the back of the porch of the great tree, and sent him spiraling toward his death.
As the Knight’s screams echoed through the knight, Maria ran toward him and jumped into his arms and before they had chance to kiss, the great tree boomed “BOY! YOU MADE A BIG MISTAKE!”
The deck rattled and gave way beneath them, sending Mark flying into the great unknown with his love still in his hands.
Mark and Maria fell and fell into the infinite beyond, hugging each other, and using each other to accept what was happening. They were going to die.
As Maria whispered “I love you,” the world faded into black and he was falling…still falling…MARIA….In his arms…MARIA….I…love…you….the world faded un till he was surrounded in complete blackness- a veil of truth- so black that it could make you go blind. Mark could hear Maria behind him, and he was having the last revelation, the final truth, the oblivion journey with no escape.
“That was death then…It wasn’t so bad. I love you even in death, Maria.”
Maria said in her sweet, sweet voice. “Mark, I love you even though I can’t see you…I can feel me leaving…Mark, no matter what happens next, I LOVE YOU!”
With that, Maria disappeared from earshot.
Beyond the truth of humanity lies a great black veil that contains the most shocking revelation or all- the final destination. He started to fall, but it was more fun then anything…then he landed on the ground and his body shook as if he was having a fit…and he could feel himself lifting…he awoke.
He was on a delivery bed in Lake worth Hospital in Lake Herron, Idaho. It was his first breath of life, the new dawning.
Mark had just learned the most shocking revelation you don’t learn until the very end.
Death is birth.