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The Reeds

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It was a dark night, of course. All these things happen on dark nights. The darkness of this particular night, however, was especially peculiar. The moon was shining bright, beams of light cascading down to earth in silver waves as the aged tresses of an old maid fall softly across her shoulder. This darkness was something else. It was glowering and malicious, and seemed almost conscious, whispering to me in the wind of dark scenes acted out in the night again and again through time, as Pyramus and Thisbe to Romeo and Juliet. And it was thick; the humid summer air seemed to conglomerate malevolently, dimming all sense of anything.
I was the first to hear the screams, distant as they were. They didn’t pierce the night, as they do in books and movies, but rather they wafted in, borne along with a promise of rain on the night’s breeze. There were five of us then. Who we were and what we were doing out there now is irrelevant, but there were five of us.
We ran towards the sound, rather than away as perhaps we should have done. How could we have known? We were too young to know that there are far too many things in this world which cannot be solved simply with good will. Nevertheless, we learned.
The darkness was thicker in that small clearing by the stream than it had been beneath the sheltering arms of the trees. But there was nothing there. The screams had stopped, replaced by the soft murmurs of the wind conversing with the reeds. And then it came again, softer that time than it had been before, but coming from all around us as if the sound were bits of dust, suspended in the air surrounding us. Then just like that it was gone again, blown away by the wind. The reeds were still; the air was still; the darkness was still; we were still. For one blissful moment, I thought I was going crazy.
The moon continued to shine down, now penetrating the shell of darkness and hurling us abruptly into a shower of silver. Four of us, anyway. The darkness hadn’t been pierced; it had congregated around The First, seeming almost to have a shape—that of a man. Time got stuck and slowed to a heartbeat. The First was frozen with it and as the darkness advanced The First did nothing, could do nothing, except scream. Then The First was dead, in the space of a heartbeat.
The screams of The First echoed across the forest, bouncing off the trees to be entangled in the deft webs of the reeds. And they continued, sustained by the breath of the wind in the reeds.
There is a story from Ancient Greece about a barber who whispered a secret to the reeds. They say that the reeds heard him and whispered it back again and again until the entire hillside reverberated with the words of that secret.
This is not Ancient Greece, but the reeds of this secluded stream have ensnared a dangerous secret, the echo of which has already killed The Fourth. I am The Last, and I whisper these words now with the knowledge that they shall be carried on through time, my last contribution and a warning to any who come here: run. Run. Run!





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