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The Reeling

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What can I do?

The river's overrun

We're swimming in a flood, you know?

I thought I felt your touch

But the water's rising up

He cut the Walkman off, slowly wrapped up the headphones, and stuck it in his pocket. Though he locked it by habit, he knew it was pointless. There were far worse things than an unlocked Mp3 player where he was going.

He sighed and looked down at the Beretta M9 he held in his right hand. It’d been surprisingly easy to slip it past the teachers and, more importantly, the students. Recent laws had seen to it that gun regulation was at its peak, yet here he stood, in the middle of Scotts Hill Elementary’s gym with a highly lethal weapon.

He vaguely thought of the briefcase he had concealed underneath his dresser, the one that contained half a million dollars. And yet it wasn’t near enough to pay for what he truly wanted – that, he knew, couldn’t be estimated in currency. And if he could never find what he needed, what was the point in existing?

Suicide – the ejection seat of life, he thought, staring at the M9. It’s not like it matters, anyway. He pictured Abra Hamilton, once his soul-mate, now a complete stranger to him, and how she would react to the entire thing. He knew she and all the others wouldn’t give his death much thought. But at least once the bullet had gone through his head he wouldn’t have to feel any more of the nothing.

As he raised the gun to the side of his head he closed his eyes and recollected the greatest day of his life. It had been seven months ago, in 7th grade. He was riding his bike down some back road on a sunny Monday afternoon during spring break. He was hoping he’d run into town or something where he could get some food – even fast food like McDonald’s would work – but he couldn’t find anything. For the most part he hadn’t passed any people, maybe a few cars here and there, or a farmhouse or two. But straight ahead down a hill there was someone riding their bike, just as he was.

He sped up and smiled when he realized it was Abra in the distance. Though they’d been in the same class since 4th grade, they didn’t really know each other too terribly well, but he couldn’t just pass her without saying something. He sped up a bit, trying to form a conversation in his head, something to say to someone he didn't really know. When he caught up to her he ended up stating, “Good afternoon."

She didn’t seem too surprised to see him. “What are you doing way out here?”

He shrugged and avoided a rock in the road. “Just went out for a ride. Finally got a day with some decent weather.”

“I thought I was the only one who still rode my bike.”

“Nah. Can’t drive, and it’s better than walking.”

They rode for a while in silence, gliding down another hill past an old farm. Finally she said, “You don’t talk very much.”

He hated it when people said that. How did they expect you to respond? “Never really have much to say.”

“Well, surely you have something to talk about.”

“Sure, if I really know you. I don’t really know you so I have no idea what to say.”

“Guess I could tell you what I’m after.”

“Oh, so you’re searching for something. What is it?”

“You can’t tell anyone. They’ll think I’m crazy. Hell, even you might think I am, but I don’t think you of all people will.”

He nodded. “I’m guessing that’s a good thing. So anyway, what is it?”

“I dunno, really. I saw it in the gym a few weeks ago. It was up in the rafters, looking down at us, and it looked sort of like a person, except its face was white.”

“Maybe it was a ghost.”

“Maybe. That’s what I was thinking. But the next night – this is where it gets weird, so stay with me – I dreamed about it, except it could speak to me, and I could speak to it.”

“Those are called lucid dreams. Not that uncommon.” They’d reached a bridge now. Due to the sudden heavy rains a few days prior the creek was a good ways deep and incredibly swift.

“No, this was different. I couldn’t control what he was doing, and it felt like I was awake, but I was stuck in this white room. He told me to come out here and look for him, so here I am.”

“But why would you do that?”

“Wouldn’t you want to know who he is?”

He shrugged. “Guess so.”

“Exactly.” She suddenly jerked to the right and flipped over the bridge’s mid-height concrete wall, a splash following a split second later. John gave off a startled yell and leapt off his own bike. “Help!” Abra barely managed to cry before the current dragged her under. John climbed over the wall to jump in and attempt to save her but was thrown back by an unseen force.

“The fuck - !” he exclaimed, but then his bike flew at him. He tried to leap out of the way but it slammed into his right kneecap. “Shit!” He limped forward to the side of the bridge, still determined to try and rescue Abra. But the force grabbed a hold of him and threw him even farther back. “Fuck you!” he shouted, though in what direction, or who exactly to, he wasn’t sure. He picked himself up as best he could, but was pushed away well past the bridge.

Amused laughter erupted from behind him. He spun around and was met with the same person Abra had described. “Oh, I could do this all day!” the person said. “And the best thing is you’d let me!”

“Who the hell are you?” John asked him, though he was nearly frightened out of his wits. The person – if it even was a person – was dressed like something you’d see in a horror movie - he was tall, dressed in a long black cloak and hood, underneath which was a white mask that barely resembled a human face. There was also something about him that made John incredibly paranoid.

“I am known as… Zepplid. Did you like my display of Air I just performed?”

“What, you mean throwing me around? Not really, and I’d appreciate it if you’d let me go save Abra now, she fell in the-” He was flung in the air and slammed down into the ground. He tried to move but was somehow pinned where he was.

Zepplid appeared over him, holding a sword up against John’s throat. “Sorry, but I couldn’t do that,” Zepplid rasped. “Abra’s a Forgotten, you see, and if I let her live then that means more trouble for me later on. You, you’re just a witness, and though I’d like to see you live the rest of your life in fear of my return, I’m not feeling too generous at the moment, so cutting you into unrecognizable pieces would calm my nerves better than letting you go free.”

In two fluid moves he sliced a large gash in both John’s forehead and the bridge of his nose. Blood immediately poured out. John’s first instinct was to cry out at the pain, but he ended up surprising both Zepplid and himself by leaping directly at his opponent. He wrapped his arms around Zepplid’s legs and both of them went sprawling. John landed roughly on his back. As he rolled over Zepplid was already towering above him again, holding something both black and bright in his right hand. “You’ve messe -” Zepplid began, but before he could finish a blade had appeared out of his chest.

Zepplid vanished with a piercing scream and a flash of bright light, and Abra stood where he had been before, sword in hand. She made it disappear and asked John “Are you alright?”

He meant to say 'thanks,' but what came out was “How the hell’d you do that?” She helped him up and he eyed her warily. “Make that sword appear, I mean?”

“Hell if I know,” she mumbled. “Just happens when I get pissed. You’re the only one who knows though, alright?”

“Yeah,” he said, completely bewildered at what had just happened, and still remembering Zepplid's eerie mask. “Alright.”

She stuck both of her hands out and gently set them on his wounds. A slight stream of water trickled out of her palms, washing the blood away and somehow making the stinging pain let up. She pulled her hands away once the gashes had completely stopped bleeding and looked at him skeptically. “I hope that stopped the bleeding.”

“I… I think it did. But did-”

“Yeah, the water came out of my hands. Weird, huh? Don’t tell anyone that, either. They’ll think I’m a freak or something.” She paused. “You sure you’re alright?”

“…yeah, I’m fine. Just a bit weirded out. Not by you,” he added hastily, “Just… I dunno.”

Abra reached down and grabbed her bike. “You know, I’ve never been this far down the back roads,” she said, gazing down the winding road. “And if you’re still up for riding, I say let’s go. Don’t think there’s any fast food out here though.”

He smiled. “How’d you know that’s what I was after?”

“Because I was looking for the same thing.” And that was how their relationship started. He’d always thought it was pretty ironic, somebody so evil and violent bringing them together, but it did. They started ‘officially’ dating later that evening, but even then John wasn’t sure exactly what to call it. It felt as though they’d been married, but marriage wasn’t exactly the right word. It was far more permanent that marriage was, and it was something that was bound to last forever, and beyond that.

Or so he thought.

Just two weeks ago she had inexplicably stopped talking to him altogether. If he tried to say something to her she acted coldly polite, as if they’d never been together at all. Something was wrong, and whatever it was couldn’t be fixed. Now here he stood, and the answer to his problem still eluded him as the gun pressed against the side of his head. So why live at all?

What’s life without a completed soul?

Suicide – the ejection seat of life.

She’ll love me again someday.

"John I’ve never really talked to you before are you sure you’re not mistaking me for someone else."

"No you loved me-"

"I’VE NEVER MET YOU BEFORE!"

Fuck!” he shouted. His voice echoed off the gym walls. “What am I supposed to do!

“Well, for one, you could put that gun down.” John looked up and saw a young man, maybe in his early 20’s, standing a few yards in front of him. He hadn’t been there before. He smiled, showing extremely white teeth. “Nice to finally meet you, Mr. Duran. Name’s Solaris.” He extended his hand, which John slowly and awkwardly shook with his left hand.

“What do you want?” John asked.

“I wanted to see you, is all,” Solaris responded, grinning wider. “You didn’t seem to be getting along without Abra. Had me worried.”

“The hell’d you know about her?”

“Well, seeing as you and your doings are very interesting to me, she’s a part of you, so that automatically makes her my business. Or, was, in this case. Sorry ‘bout that.”

“…Well, you’ve seen me. Now leave me the fuck alone.”

He laughed. “If I do that, then you’ll be thrown out of your seat! You’ll hit the eject button too soon, and then where will I be? Nope, I’m here to stop you from pulling the trigger so you can keep living your life and I can keep thriving in mine. Now, you can do me a favor by putting that gun to good use.”

“What do you want?” John nearly shouted. “Tell me straight up!”

“Good, good! You’re nice and pissed off. Makes my job a bit easier. Anyway, take a good look at this!” He stuck his hand out, and John could feel that connection, the same connection he’d felt when he was sure Abra and him were going to be together for a lifetime and more. Before he could marvel at this a different feeling replaced it: it was like something was forcefully pushing him out, demanding he sever the connection. He could almost hear her shouting “John, what the hell! This isn’t us anymore! Get out! Cut the thread! I want nothing to do with you!

“Damn it!” he shouted. The feeling had only lasted a few seconds, but it felt a whole lot longer than that to him. “What did you do?”

“I connected you to her subconscious,” Solaris replied. “And as you can see, she really doesn’t want you anymore." He shrugged. "The thread’s been cut, and it’s mainly her fault. Yours too, don’t mistake that, but mainly hers. She’s turned evil – as evil as Zepplid was, or worse – and worst of all, she’s wronged you, she and all the others. The injustice of it all! But that’s how life works, and if you’re not going to push the eject, you gotta pull the trigger. That’s why I’m here. You have to show all of them the errors of their ways, and the best thing is you’ve got the tool to do it.” He motioned toward the Beretta. “But the question is: will you let evil triumph, or will you cower down to her, and what used to be?”

John looked down at the pistol, thinking deeply, remembering everything. Then, before Solaris had time to react, he cocked it back, put it to his head, thought of her and pulled the trigger.

There was a loud bang and John’s head moved slightly to the left under the impact of the bullet. He expected to feel flames roasting him now, or a sense of weightlessness - something signifying death - but when he opened his eyes that he didn’t realized he’d closed he saw he was still in the gym, and Solaris was looking happier than ever. “It’s what I expected!” he nearly laughed. “You’re an Elicitor! Just needed some verification on that. Oh, and you’ve gained some powers. Fancy, eh?”

John looked down at his right hand, where the gun used to be. Instead he found the Beretta floating freely in his palm. He twirled it around a few times, completely devoid of any emotion but a new, manic energy. “So… you say I’m combatting evil?”

Solaris shook his head, chuckling to himself. “It never ceases to amaze. But yes, yes! Combatting the worst evil there is: love. Confusing, yes, especially with what drabble society puts in your mind about the idea of it. But love is too powerful a force for us to deal with, and it corrupts and twists in the worst ways imaginable. Just look at what this girl’s done to you! Completely ensnared you in her tangle of lies and deceit, and for what? You need no one to complete you, no one at all!”

Just for a moment the spark of the old John Duran remained. “But that feeling I got when we fell in love……it wasn’t evil.”

“Just a ruse, a disguise, nothing more, nothing less. That feeling was your soul falling for the trap. All souls are weak, and love is a weak emotion for us to feel. Powerful on its own, but weak that our souls desire it. That is the evil we’re combatting, this lust for power we can't comprehend, and with that weapon and your newfound powers, I’m sure you’ll do a magnificent job.”

“You want me to shoot her……”

“That’s the idea. Get rid of the source, and the rest of them, too. All of your classmates, teachers, and even those you don’t know - everyone here, they're all the same. They’re all misguided, confused, wrapped up in their thoughts on what is and what isn’t. Better to send them to a better place” – he pointed up – “than to let them be led astray down here. I think you can handle it from here on out.” He saluted, turned, and strolled over to the doors on the far side of the gym. John stood erect, thinking, unmoving, until the bell rang and brought him back to the present. He gripped the gun in his hand, started for the steps that led to the crowded hallway where Abra was, talking to her friends, and he sang softly:

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone

Turned on some music to start my day

I lost myself in a familiar song

I closed my eyes and I slipped away…

Just one of the many short stories I'm writing to try and piece my main series together. Not particularly scary, but I wanted to give it a relatively shocking ending. As my first pasta, let me know how it is and what needs fixing.

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