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A woman came to my home in the wee hours of the morning. As I opened the heavy oak door, she stood there, cloaked in black. She was of old age, withered. Wrinkles slithered through her skin, small lines telling stories of her age. Her face, pale in complexion, gave the hint of a smirk, one easily recognized as mischief. “May I help you?” I asked, curious as to the cause of her visit at such early hours. “I am here for your wife. It is her time to come with me and never return to this earth.” Taken aback, I quickly shut the door, not offering her further entry. But to no avail, she stepped through the door, as if made of some wispy substance I could only dream of. Mouth open, I quickly fled to my bedroom, waking my wife. “Kaiya! Kaiya! We have to go! NOW!” Groggy from sleep, she looked at me quizzically, strawberry blonde hair in disarray. “Shayne, what are you talking of at this hour in the morning? I would like to get some rest before work this morning.” “Kaiya, love, we have to go now! There is a lady here asking for you. She wants to take you away from me. I cannot let her! We must go!” Rushing around the room like a madman, I gathered the bare minimum we would need, if that, footsteps growing nearer to the room. “Shayne,” Kaiya looked at me as if I was crazy. She could not see the danger. Rushing to her bedside, I pull her to her feet. Our house may not be much, what with one floor and only two bedrooms and bathrooms, but I had planned for escapes like this. Pulling her toward our closet, I dropped to the floor and began digging. Finding what I was searching for, I pulled at the tight, thick rope at the base of the small room. A trap door flew open, revealing a maze of walls. Cobwebs lined the walls, homes of unwanted guests. Hearing the tapping of withered, papery fingers on the bedroom door, I laced my fingers through hers and plunged into the labyrinth. Shutting the door behind me, I feel a tug. Whipping around, I see the old woman, hands wrapped around Kaiya. “Kaiya?! Let her go you old hag!” “I cannot do that Shayne. You see, I have a job. And my job is to bring souls into a peaceful death. Your wife will die within the hour. It depends on you how much pain she suffers.” “I can’t let you take her! She is my life. Without her I die!” “Like I said,” she retorts,” it is up to you how much pain she endures before you let her go.” Bolting toward her, I take Kaiya’s hand and plunge into the maze. “Wait," Kaiya stalls, “What if she’s right Shayne?” abruptly, I stop. Whipping around, I stare at the woman who won my heart completely. Over the past several months, she’s gained a little weight. Now, through her nightgown, it shows. But as I look at her angelic face, piercing green eyes, nothing else matters but her safety. “I don’t care Kaiya. I….I can’t lose you. I can’t bear it if…..what’s that?” looking down at her hand, I realize she has two small, purple spots on her hand. I look at her, but her face mirrors that of mine, questioning and scared. “How did that happen?” I ask her. But she says nothing. She just keeps staring at them. “Kaiya?,” I place my hands gently on either side of her face, ”Kaiya, love, are you ok?” Her eyes turn upward, looking at me. “Kaiya?”, I stare at her, mouth agape, as I watch the blackness spread across her hand. “She cannot hear you. “ I whirl around, facing the wrinkle wretch. “What did you say?,” I ask, my voice full of empty threats. “She cannot hear you. She doesn’t know what you are saying. That blackness on her hands? It is death. At the end of the hour, the blackness will consume her. No matter where you run, no matter where you hide, she will die, writhing in pain and agony with each spread.” “I won’t let it! It can’t... you can’t take her from me!” the sight before me became horrifying. The woman’s wrinkles seemed to drip off of her body, bones gleaming in the dull light, her body a wriggling mass of smoky faces writhing in pain. “Kaiya, honey, if you can hear me, run.” I tug on her hand, anxious to rid myself of the horrendous sight. She follows, stumbling and tripping over nonexistent rubble. Looking back, I watch the horror growing smaller and smaller. Tripping in the dim light, I race to the end of the hall, dragging kaiya with me. But there was no end. Every wall looked the same, with every turn leading back to the wretched old hag. I turned to kaiya. The blackness had taken hold of her arms, weaving its way up her neck and face. Her veins were black as coals; skin a ghastly shade of grey. “She won’t last much longer.” By now the old woman didn’t even resemble humanity. Her black cloak bellowed out at her sides, making room for the ashy souls that make up her form. Her eyes were shiny black, moving like flickering flames. She smiles mockingly. Behind me, Kaiya murmurs uncomprehendingly, hey eyes blood red and haunting. She looks up, eyes unseeing, somehow able to focus solely on the reaper and, shrieking, bolts from my grasp. I chase after her, fearing for her, and tackle her to the ground, her ear piercing shriek filling my head. I hug her tightly, this creature, whispering in her ear. “I love you. I need you. Don’t leave me.” But to no avail. With every word, she rocks and shakes uncontrollably, always focused on the witch before her. “You cannot hold her. She is changing to rapidly.” The wretch murmurs, voice full of pity. “Please,” I cry, “please don’t take her from me. I love her. Please!” “It’s my job, dear child. I must take her, for her time is up. If she stays any longer, she’ll die a painful death.” By now, she was by my side, leaning down over us. “I can’t. I can’t live without her. Please.” But my pleading did no good. She touched my hand. Shocked, I notice her hand, now a fleshy pink. “Shayne, I must take her now. If you love her,” she whispered,” you’ll let her go.” In that moment I realized that Kaiya was calming, stilling, waiting. She was my Kaiya again, her flesh peachy, her veins a dull blue. She looked at me, her brilliant green eyes sharing so many thoughts. “Ok,” I murmur, “Ok.” Carefully, I stand, never letting go of Kaiya’s hand. I wrap my arms tight around her, snaking across her stomach. “I love you,” I whisper. And then I let go.



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