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L'Esprit D'Escalier

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The Fading

When I was young I had a friend called Icebrend. He was my best and only friend. And I his.

He came to the village when I was eight years old; no one liked him but me. We would always ride on our bicycles, Firstly in and around town and later on in the woods because we were being bullied by the cool kids. Icebrend was a bit of a weird boy. He was very pale and had long black, seriously black hair, which he would wear in a ponytail. And although he came to my house from Tuesdays to Sundays, he didn’t show up at school nor my house on Mondays. I once asked him why, but he just got mad and rode away. That was on a Tuesday, He didn’t speak to me for a week.

As we grew older, we went our own ways. I went to college and he went out of state. But the last week we were in our village together, he gave me a wooden doll. Just a hand-cut doll, but it looked exactly like Icebrend. I put it in my suitcase and went to college the next week, thinking I would see Icebrend again at Christmas. I returned home for Christmas, no Icebrend. Next summer, no Icebrend.

After college I gave up hope of ever seeing him again. I found a job in Arizona and settled there. I got married to An-Marie and forgot all about Icebrend. Got 2 lovely kids, Luke and Kate, and moved to a somewhat bigger house. I worked hard and saw my kids grow from babies to toddlers to teenagers.

Luke was around 15 when I lost my job and decided to go to my parents back east, so An-Marie and I packed all we owned in a the car. She and the kids would take a plane and I would drive. I drove through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. In Tennessee I took some back roads because of the closure of the highways. There I saw a mate in the field, with short blond hair. But I pulled over, because I thought I knew him. I thought it was Icebrend. Although I hadn’t seen him in years, I recognised a tick he used to have. I got out of the car and called his name. No reply. I walked to the man and asked, "Don’t you recognise me?"

The man looked up. I could’ve sworn I was looking at icebrend. Only this man, since a man he was, had a dark colour of the skin. He said something I didn’t understand, more likely in a language I didn’t understand. It sounded hateful, and although I was certain of his being Icebrend when I first saw this man, I wasn’t any more. A man came running towards me, blond hair and blue eyes, yelling: "Go away, leave my workers alone!"

I apologised and left in the car.

When I drove away, I noticed that the weather had turned. Where it had been nice and warm it now felt as though a storm was coming. I heard the faint sound of a bell in the distance. When I came home, my wife and children had already arrived. I greeted my mum and dad and found a second of time to slip up my old room.

Old memories came pouring up again, how I used to go swimming with Icebrend. Get ice creams, or just the times we would ride through the forest ringing our bells and screaming our lungs out. How I always tried to convince my mum that I needed dad’s tools so I could build a hut, or that the new toys in the shop were something you couldn’t live without. She sometimes gave in to buying toys, but never gave me my dad’s tools. But not only the good memories, but also the bad ones came back. How people always bullied me, how people used to ignore Icebrend. How we always lost all our money. And of course how lonely I felt on Mondays, when he wasn’t there. An-Marie came in, she looked around. I saw that she was thinking and a bit afraid as well. She finally said something, about having dinner I believe it was. She then stepped out of the room with her back never towards me, but always facing me. I never thought anything of it.

After living about 2 months with my mum and dad, I found a place and moved out again, out of state because of the work I could get. Kentucky was where I would live for some time now, leaving the kids to live with my parents, but taking my precious An-Marie with me. Next Christmas I came home, for me it had been a few weeks since I last saw Luke and Kate, and I was happy with the thought of seeing them again. When I got home I saw someone sitting on the front porch, a bit odd since we didn’t use the front porch. I stepped out of the car, and helped An-Marie out as well. Together we walked to the front door. And yes, there was someone sitting on the front porch. It was someone I thought I had seen in Tennessee, someone I thought I’d never see again.

He said, "Hello."

I mumbled back, "Hello, Icebrend."

My wife was pinching my hand a bit. So I introduced her.

At dinner, everybody seemed extremely silent; the only one talking was Icebrend. He talked about his life, how poor he had been. Which places he had seen. He was talking of all the places I always wanted to visit. I hung on his lips for hours and hours. I sat with him at the table until far in the night, I remember now seeing my mom and An-Marie talking in the kitchen. I heard my kids say to me that they were off to bed, and I also heard my dad go upstairs. An-Marie came to me at around 2 O’clock; she kissed me on the cheek and said to me that I shouldn’t stay up too long.

Around 3 o'clock, Icebrend went to the bathroom. It took him long. We had a few beers and said good night. I laid down in my bed next to An-Marie. She felt a bit cold so I hugged her. I thought I faintly heard a bell. Next morning I woke up with a bit of a hangover, went downstairs and got some cereals and milk. I ate it on the porch. It is extremely silent in the house, I remembered thinking. I went upstairs to my lovely sweetheart.

I know I blinked thrice, then thought I must be dreaming. There she lay, beheaded. I ran up to my children, stabbed to death. So I went to my parents’ room. My dad was over there, fast asleep. I went to look for my mum, I only found Icebrend in my old room. He was laughing out loud. I ran downstairs, and called the police. I could hear Icebrend laughing. I waited outside, the police came in force. They stormed inside and looked for Icebrend, they couldn’t find him. I told them that I didn’t know where he lived, but that he had worked out of state for years.

They brought me inside since it was freezing outside. I got a cup of coffee out of a thermos can. I stood there looking out of the window.  I saw Icebrend cycling away, I pointed and mumbled something. I saw him fading away halfway between the house and the forest. The police never found evidence that there had been a boy named Icebrend in the village. They did hear from my parents that I had had an imaginary friend when I was younger, and that I collected Animal skins in my room.

I got locked away in a mental hospital, but I swear that I can hear bells every day at 4 o'clock in the morning, and sometimes a satanic laugh joined in.

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