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Where I Live (Part 17)
A cry of pain sounded so loud in my ears that I thought my eardrum would explode. I jerked awake and found myself where I had been the night before, but now I was on top of someone. I was staring at dirt over someone’s shoulder, my teeth clamped down on something. The bitter tang of blood was in the air and in my mouth.
It was Ethan’s.
Surprise and horror made me freeze for a few precious seconds as Ethan pushed against me. Then, I heard Kole shout.
I forcibly unclenched my jaws, but before I could pull away, Kole’s foot slammed into the side of my head. I had taken more painful blows before and this one didn’t damage me too badly, but I was thrown to the side. I rolled at least three times before coming to a stop and realized that the ground was soft and muddy. It was raining. Maybe that was what had inspired the water in my dream.
As I picked myself up slowly, I swept an arm across my mouth. Though the rain started washing it away quickly I saw how it stained my sleeve red. Fear pulling my breath away from me, I turned my head and saw Kole helping Ethan up. His face was twisted in pain and he clutched at his shoulder.
Blood ran between his fingers.
“What have you done!?” Kole shouted, glaring fiercely at me.
Ethan opened his eyes enough to look at me and the fear I saw broke my heart. Without another word, I sprang to my feet and ran. I ran as fast as I could without slipping in the mud and even then I was pushing the limits. Slipping my jacket off as I ran, I used it to clean the blood from my face and the exposed skin of my neck, then tossed it on the ground. My thoughts whirled. I had attacked Ethan in my dreams and when I woke up, it had come true.
I lost track of time, everything melting into a blur. Kicking off my socks and shoes for better traction. Mud squishing beneath my feet. Trees rushing by. Memories flashing in my mind. Blood. Ethan’s screams. The fear in his eyes. The utter betrayal when he looked at me.
My right foot caught on a root and after running for so long, my hopes and fears building up inside me, I didn’t have enough energy – nor did I care enough – to keep myself from falling. Time seemed to slow as I pitched forward, then my shoulder hit the mud and everything came back into focus. The rain was loud in my ears and I realized that Kole’s kick had knocked my hat off. I was soaked through and it was cold outside, but I didn’t feel it much. I felt numb, body and soul.
After a long while of lying there, I pushed myself slowly up off the ground and started walking weakly, stumbling along. It took a few minutes, but I made it to the old rundown cabin I had shown Ethan before. Now I was on the complete other side of the lake from them, but it still didn’t seem far enough. Searching under the eaves until I found the hidden key, I opened the door and walked inside. Once I had locked the door, I set the key on the table and shed my dirty clothes as I walked. I opened one of the drawers from underneath the bed and found that, thankfully, the clothes I had left in case of emergency still fit me. They were a little snug, but they fit.
Fortunately, the bathroom sink still worked and the water was clear. I stuck my hair underneath it as best I could and washed off the mud. Once I was done with that, I walked back out and collapsed onto the bed. The place hadn’t been used in nearly a year, but I didn’t care about the cobwebs and dust.
As I lay there, I wondered why I had locked the door. Why would anyone come here? I thought as I turned over on my side, curling up into a little ball on top of the blankets. They’re not going to chase after you. . . They’re probably running the other way. . . They’re afraid of you. . . You’re afraid of yourself.
I continued talking to myself until everything started to melt away. The rain became a quiet, distant little pitter patter on the roof. The cabin melted away as I closed my eyes. Nothing existed but me. If nothing was there but me, then there would be no one for me to attack, no one for me to betray. . . No one for me to kill.
And so I stayed in that little world, in my memories before all of this had happened. I had had a good life. Then I had met someone, someone I shouldn’t have met . . . I tried to remember who . . . and my life had gone downhill. I wanted to escape. I retreated into the past.
Mom, Dad, Kyla, Kadin and I were on a fishing trip at the lake. We came back to shore and Dad told Kadin and I we could wander into the forest for a little while until lunch was ready, but we had to take little four-year-old Kyla with us. Kadin and I smiled at each other and took her hands, leading her off into the trees.
“Be careful!” Mom called.
“Don’t stray too far,” Dad added, “Lunch will be ready soon!”
“Okay!” I called back with a wave.
Kadin played around on fallen logs and stumps, sifting through bushes and plants when he found something he wanted to add to the leaf collection he had started only a couple days ago. I just smiled and laughed at his antics, keeping Kyla close by so she wouldn’t get hurt. After a while, she tugged on my sleeve and pointed off to the right.
“Kadin!” I called. He poked his head out from the other side of a tree. “Kyla wants to go this way. Come on.”
“Just a second!” He disappeared again and came back out with a little yellow leaf held high above his head. “I got it!”
“You’re gonna start climbing trees next, aren’t you?” I smiled as we walked.
“No, but that’s a good idea. I should just get ‘em before they fall.” He smiled too.
We walked for a while and I vaguely wondered if we were going too far when Kyla broke away from me and ran past a gigantic boulder to a small hill. She stopped at the top and dropped to her knees, looking over the other side. Kadin ran after her but slipped at the edge of the hill, disappearing over the other side.
“Kadin!” I shouted, running up to Kyla’s side.
There was a wooden thunk from the other side before I got there and when I did I saw him sitting on some kind of wood that had been almost completely covered by moss.
He looked up at us, still a little stunned. “I’m okay.”
I sighed. “Good . . . What happened?”
“The grass up there is slippery.” He stood up and rubbed his butt where he had landed. “That hurt.”
The wood creaked underneath him and I hurriedly held out my hand. “Come on, you shouldn’t stand on that. We don’t know how old it is or where it goes.”
He nodded and reached up. Locking my hands firmly around his wrists, I pulled as hard as I could and with the added effort from his end, he was sitting next to Kyla and I in a matter of seconds.
I stood up, brushing off my pants. “We should get back before Dad –”
All of us jumped and spun at his voice. “Dad!”
“I thought I told you not to wander too far.”
“Well, we weren’t going to before,” I said, nervous though I was telling the truth, “But Kyla said she wanted to come this way. . . Actually, she didn’t say anything, she just kind of pointed.”
He came over and picked her up. “Oh, did she now?” Though his tone was joking I knew he believed me. “Come on, kids, let’s go back for lunch.”
“Hey, Daddy,” Kadin couldn’t resist looking back at the wood, “What’s this?”
“Silly little boy,” I patted his back lovingly, “Why would Dad know what it is?”
“But . . .” He tilted his head innocently, “Daddy knows everything.”
Dad smiled and walked over to where we were standing. “Those are doors, Kadin. They lead down below the ground to a place that was used as a bomb shelter a long, long time ago.”
“Whoa . . .” I stared up at him in wonder. “You do know everything.”
He just laughed and patted my head. “Come on, let’s go back to the boat, you’re mother is waiting.”
Smiling happily, thinking our dad was the best in the world, Kadin and I followed him through the forest.