Injuik

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A girl finds herself in a struggle between accepting her own death and reality. She awakes to a world beyond imagination and fears in which she must escape to reincarnate.

Submitted: July 26, 2016

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Submitted: July 26, 2016

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“Sink! Sink! Sink!”

The children circled around the girl in the water, chanting the same rhythmic tune. The song seemed to repeat, yet it was never repeated. The echoes versed through the waves of the ocean water, as the setting sun amplified them. The girl was floating in the middle of the chanting children, smiling as she bravely tried to do what the other children couldn’t. As she framed herself around the waves, bobbing up and down, she could hear the words faintly and distinctly with each bounce. She closed her eyes and listened.

“Sink! Sink! Sink! Whisper softly and you will think! About how the water there is to drink! It won’t be there once you link! You’re heart and soul into the brink! Of despair as you die in a wink! Now sink! Sink! Sink!”

The children sang it once, yet it always repeated. Or it seemed so. The water fiddled underneath all of their feet and kept them afloat, as if wanting to be entertained. The water soon settled within the girl’s ears, keeping her in a trance to the ocean’s waves and the other children’s singing. The sun faded more and more until…silence.

The girl awoke. She had not dreamt. She had not awakened amongst the children. She found herself on the beach sand, roughly accommodated by the elements that drifted atop her. She coughed up the remaining water out of her lungs and blinked several times to release the sand from her eyes. Her eyes opened after the minute, coming to a distraught she knew not of. She had never seen this before.

There was not a soul in sight. Every object was frozen in a trance, as if it was meant to continue but had not received the momentum to continue. There was no wind and only the starlight along with the moonlight reviving the landscapes. Except the distraught came from the absence of life. The trees were no longer there. Only seven circled leafs were left for each one that had left. There were no people among the objects had been accompanied with. The umbrella with no one under it. The beach ball with no child holding it. The food with no one eating it. Every object lay their lonely, but every living thing had vanished. She was worried. Soon, that worry became fear.

She helplessly shivered among the nightly temperature, clutching the skin that was no longer wet and replaced with the frivolity of sand. Each step sank further and further into the sand until she reached a summit, normally where the road would be. Normally, there would have been cars. Asphalt. Busy commotion and houses. All that remained was the asphalt, the houses and the cars. The grass was absent too, except the same pattern repeated in which five blades of grass was rounded in a circle for every acre of grass there would normally be. It was this normalcy, this forgotten normalcy that began scaring her. The girl whimpered a little and spoke softly.

“He-Hello?”

As the words left her mouth, they echoed, repeating over and over. Except unlike an echo, they did not became fainter throughout the distance. Rather, it remained exactly the same. The same exact way she spoke it. Frightening her more, she said something else.

“Nicky? Rowdy? Henson? Simon? Charles? Opal? Winters?”

The names of the boys she shouted became echoed in place of the words she uttered before, soon following upon the earlier phenomenon. She began running through the streets, finding every door was open among the houses. When she ran through each one, she found it empty. No memories. No memoirs of the presence that a person or people lived in it. All that she found in each house was this: wooden floors, white walls, a staircase, and a photograph. A single photograph in black and white. The picture she found in this house of the first boy she spoke of. Nicky. When she looked at the photograph, she could hear his voice echoing his section of the chant she heard in the water before. 

“Sink. Sink. Sink.”

Once she heard the words echoing from the photograph, she panicked. She heard nothing more than her heartbeat, pulsating through her arms, her legs, and her throat. She gulped. She shivered. And ran up the stairs of this house, realizing she couldn’t go any further. A locked door barricaded it shut. She wrestled with the door knob with a few tries. Each tug and pull became weaker and weaker, feeling there was no other option than to give up. So she ran outside the house and collected the photograph she threw feverishly on the floor before she left. She ran so fast that bargained with a chance encounter as she carelessly bumped into a person. A person that she could feel. 

She didn’t believe it. As first, she felt the ground with her hands, wondering if it had changed. Once she lifted her head higher, she found a very tall man in a light blue suit and tie. His dress pants were light blue as well, yet the colors of the suit, tie and pants somehow matched that of the ocean perfectly. The tall man removed his light blue hat, and took to a curtsey for the girl whom he would call, “little lady.”

He spoke in a very frigid tone, deepest to the sound and lightest to the touch.

“And whom might you be little lady?” he said, helping her to her feet. 

Before the girl could answer, she listened. Not to his words. To her heart. She listened to the beat, as the racing that was once brought on by hear, suddenly change tempo. It lessened in speed, suddenly welcoming a relief. A person. 

She grabbed the waist of the man, hugging the stranger as tight as she could. The man giggled ever so lightly, and yet, would not smile as he did. He simply crouched down to her height as she left go of him. 

It was then that she truly saw his face. It was stranger than an assumption about a normal human face. His skin complexion was pure white. As white a child’s cloud as one imagines. His face had eyebrows, yet they were merely two very thin black lines. As black as a child’s night as one imagines. His eyes were two very large black dots, that of a perfect circle. He had no nose and his lips were thick like rubber, yet resembled that of any other normal lips. 

She suddenly collapsed a few steps back, yelling at the man to stay away from her. The man calmly slipped his hat back on and talked again.

“I imagine most that wander here would be afraid of me. And yet, I will never truly know the answer to that question. But perhaps I have a question for you. Would you say that life is found in your eyes? Is life in your eyes? Those eyes of yours?”

The girl backed herself against wall, bleeding from the question. She couldn’t understand, but she did understand the loss of her reality. She accept this wasn’t real, and yet, what was life then she wondered. His question dealt with this meaning, this conception of life. Whether real or not, she had no choice of accepting neither possibility. She did not confide in the man, but she did confide in the conversation. It was all she felt she had left.

“Mister…I just want to go home. This is home…I think, but it’s not the same as it was before! Can you tell me what happened? And what about my friends?”

The man, the very tall man pointed conclusively at the photograph she held in her hand.

“That is one of your friends, is it not?”

She nodded, and the man blinked the dots he had for eyes. His head tilted far to his shoulder, eyeing the young girl.

“What is your name?” the man asked, as if her already knew the answer. The emotion was far absent of this. 

“Injuik.”

“Then it appears you finally died child. You remember how you died yes? I take it that you died amongst the water? It appears to be what is left of this realm.”

“I-I…I died?”

“You see little lady, I am an overseer. I am the one to greet you upon your death. For every life, whether it be that of an ant, or that of a human being, we greet you in this next life. What you see around you is what is left from the time you will be next placed in.”

“The time I will be next placed in?”

Injuik ran away from the man as far as she could. The man did not facilitate any response. Not of that of an emotion, nor as microscopic as a twitch. He merely stood at his tallest and watched the child run off into the nightly distance. As she ran, she kept reappearing 5 seconds before where she ran from. Needless to say, she could not escape him. 

The man extended his arm and graced Injuik’s shoulder.

“Little lady, are you familiar with reincarnation?”

Injuik brushed his hand away and fearfully nodded.

“Yes mister. I am. Will you…will I be reincarnated?”

The man adjusted his suit and smiled. He knelt down before the child and handed her a pen and paper. Injuik indifferently stepped away from his grace, not understanding or willing to accept his gestures. And understandably so. For Injuik, this blue world was too blue for her to understand. Anywhere she looked had the very shade of the color. The sky even seemed to have ripples. Ripples she thought. Her last memory was of the sea. The very blue sea.

“Am I…are we under the sea?” Injuik asked, only to find the man gone. 

“Mister?” she called.

She looked up at the starry night to find his face reflected atop the entirety of the sky. His face enlarged in every detail. Along with his shades of blue.

“You’re body lies under the sea. For I am only there to grace your presence. Only few people are reincarnated for the lives to come. I am not permitted to understand as to why you are the select few chosen, but nevertheless you were chosen. Now accept your fate and take the pen and paper little lady. Go on and permit yourself to the trial ahead.”

Injuik found the paper and pen unsatisfactory. It couldn’t answer her questions nor could the man she trusted no more than the reality she found herself in. But she knew going forward would have a better resolve to the answers she desired. So reluctantly she found the paper and pen in her hand.

“What do I-”

The man was now beside her instead of being above the sky, adjusting his suit once more.

“Do you recall the chant little lady? The one you heard before you died?”

Injuik focused. And began writing.

“Sink, sink, sink,” she said quietly to herself, as if pleading to her hopes that the man would not hear. But he stayed right beside her.

“Very good. So you did recall the photograph that whispered to you.”

“That was real?”

The man chuckled and lent her his suit.

“Put it on little lady. You shouldn’t catch a cold down under this blue. It can be very unforgiving. And very chilly at that.”

Injuik quietly thanked him and slipped it on over her attire, as the suit to large for her draped over most of her body.

“For this trial to commence and to be completed, I cannot aid you further. But I am permitted to tell you this: find all the photographs. And write down all the whispers. Do that, and the trial will cease and your reincarnation will be the last willing testament to your lease.”

“My lease?”

“Yes little lady. There is a lease as to how long one is permitted to stay dead. Given that the time you are dead is infinite, you are not allowed to stay in purgatory infinitely. If you do not find the photographs and record their testaments in time, you will be kept dead within this blue. Frozen with only your thought. For all of time to come.”

The man began to walk away and Injuik pleaded for him to come back, but the man faded into the ground below. It seemed to make it bluer somehow. But Injuik looked around the tides she was surrounded by. It was a ghost town, left dead by the only living thing that managed to exist: herself. It didn’t seem to make up as compensation. It only seemed to digress her inner state, wishing for anything more than what this was. 

So she walked. House after house she ransacked, looking for anything that resembled a memory. A photograph at that. Yet all she found was empty beds, ownerless furniture, and lonesome floor boards. She left the seventh house she searched only to find daylight. No stars. A sunny blue sky. The sun shined in blue light and lit the sand beneath her feet. But directly below the sun was a boy. One that waved to her and laughed very loudly. So loud, it seemed to whisper right beside her ear, despite the distance they were apart.

“Rowdy? Rowdy! That’s you isn’t it? Rowdy!”

Rowdy laughed and disappeared. Injuik ran to the last sight she had of him, dazed and drenched by the sun’s overbearing heat. She then took off the suit given by the man and tied it around her waist. 

And then a shadow.

Not over the sun, nor over her. It was felt rather than seen. She could tell you it was there and yet it wasn’t. It could only be described as the chill that races along the hairs of your body when you feel a presence. She knew it was a shadow. But nothing could give life to that shadow, for there was nothing close to her.

But it was enough for her to run. She ran and locked herself in a nearby house, only to find Rowdy sitting on a sofa chair. A remote control to the television that happened to be across from him was in his hand. He kept jamming the buttons, begging for the television to work. But it remained off.

Rowdy laughed soon after, turning to Injuik.

“You knew about the Boo-Man? How? I always thought you were stupid. But you knew about the Boo-Man!”

Injuik was terrified simple enough to say. And that was precisely the problem. She was too terrified to speak, for the smile stretched across Rowdy’s face was not usual to the one’s she recognized on the living Rowdy. This was a fictitious Rowdy. A fake Rowdy. 

“Come on! Tell me how you knew!”

Rowdy playfully leaped out of his seat and shoved her a few steps back. Injuik knew he was messing around, but none of the play felt like a child-like manner. It felt much darker than that.

“Who’s…who is the Boo-Man Rowdy?”

Rowdy laughed and threw the sofa pillow at her feet. Again, he did it playfully. But Injuik knew better. She kept silent and waited for him to answer.

“I knew you were stupid. I saw you from the window here. You knew to run away. From the Boo-Man.”

“Who is the Boo-Man Rowdy?” Injuik said defiantly. She was angry…and she knew not why. Rowdy picked up on the tension and stepped back a few feet.

“Fine. You’re going to be like that I’m not gonna tell you.”

He resumed back to there chair and repeated his earlier fashion of clicking the remote control to the television begging for its arrival to his eyes. So Injuik thought carefully and had an idea. 

“Rowdy, if I turn on the television for you, will you tell me about the Boo-Man?”

Rowdy laughed and exclaimed happily out of the chair.

“Really? You would do that for me? Yea! And I’ll even tell you the next part of the chant! But that’s only if you turn on the TV. I’ll wait for ya.”

Rowdy then lost all emotion and sat statuesque on the chair. Injuik said his name twice, terrified at what he now was. But she figured if she could do what she offered, that she would proceed on this trial she was now bound to. So she quickly looked behind the television. And it was perfect. Too perfect. No cable out of place, and not to mention it was plugged in. So the television should be working. Under normal circumstances. But now all she could do was scratch her head. 

Oh no she thought.

It was cold again. Too cold. It was that presence. The Boo-Man. She ran around the house, looking for a place to hide. She ran into the kitchen and found herself underneath the sink in a cabinet, looking through the creak of the door. That’s when she saw the apparition. It was in the shape of a cat, no larger than that of a normal sized cat…but it was made of sand. The cat then whispered.

“I hear you child. I hear you and I want you to die. I want to kill you. Please let me kill you. Won’t you let me kill you? You’re already dead so you have nothing to fear. So let me kill you. I’m tired of waiting.”

The cat made of sand then dispersed underneath the floor. And that coldness she felt vanished. She retreated out of the cabinet and found herself puzzled. It was a cat made of sand, but Rowdy referred to it as the ‘Boo-Man’.

Why?

She thought about it for a moment, but then resumed to finding a way for the television to turn on. She went back to it to find Rowdy the same as he was previously: inert and dead-while-alive. It couldn’t be helped to shiver as she gazed upon his stature. It was as cold as the presence she felt before. 

Injuik could only stare at the television. It was among the last of her hopes to escape what seemed already lost. It was as blank as her ambition at this point, due to the idea that all of this seemed meaningless. To her child like imagination, she believed this to be reality. Oddly enough, she doubted that belief. She didn’t think any of this was real. And yet, she found herself here, trying to acquire the skills to turn on a television.  

The piece of paper fell from her pocket. She went to pick it up. And a grain of sand fell upon it.

Oh no.

It was very very cold again. This time she was too frightened to run or to rationalize a way to do just that. Instead, she remained as still as she could as more grains of sand collected atop the paper in the form of the cat she saw before. The cat had a human smile.

“Ah there you are! Injuik is it?” the cat exclaimed, dispersing yet again and then recollected on top of her shoulder.

Startled, Injuik flailed her body left and right, but the sand grew larger and larger in the figure of man. A man with no face and no muscular build. Only a plain human form made of sand. And it wrapped sand around her throat.

“I can kill you now. You’ll let me kill you? Please say you will. All you have to do is say it. Say it. Go on and say it. Say it! Say it! Say it!”

Injuik almost let the light go out of her eyes, but she remembered Rowdy. He was there. Frozen in place. She yelled his name as best as she could. And nothing. Only more sand and more sand. It wrapped around her face until she could no longer her see. She assumed this was the end. That is until her foot knocked over the television by mistake. The television fell over and the light flickered on long enough for Rowdy to awake.

“You did it! You turned it on!” Rowdy said, alive and well.

It was after that Injuik found herself sitting in a chair beside Rowdy, as if nothing happened. The television was knocked over on the floor and working. For a split second that is. The next second, it was turned off.

“Aw come on!” Rowdy angrily pouted.

“Rowdy didn’t you hear me calling out for you?”

“What? What are you stupid?”

Injuk shook her head.

“Nevermind. A deal is a deal. I turned on the television. Tell me about the Boo-Man.”

Rowdy huffed a bit, pouted by the television’s failure to perform to his every expectation. He then turned to Injuik and laughed, as if having forgotten what had transpired with the television. It was no longer of value to him.

“A deal is a deal. So the Boo-Man is the boogey-man of this place. He…she…it maybe? Whatever it is, it wants you to stay dead because if you reincarnate, you’ll end up killing him. It? Him or it?”

Injuik shook her head.

“Why would I kill him Rowdy?”

“Why are you so dumb? You wouldn’t directly kill him. It’s like if you change something that happens in time. If you rewrite it, every action has another reaction and so forth. And so within those actions, he would die. So he wants you dead so he can live longer. You understand now you dummy?”

Injuik shook her head again.

Rowdy sighed and kicked the television.

“Well…how do I stop him?” she asked shyly.

Rowdy laughed with a little tingle of anger to stretch his voice. As dark as it was with scales of blue lighting what was already dark, it seemed to only emulate and escalate the nature of his voice.

“Stop him? You can’t stop him Injuik. Nothing can! But ill give you some advice: hide and seek. If you can do that, you’ll be just fine. Oh that’s right! I forgot about the other part of the deal! It’s…”

He paused with a grin and leaned in close to Injuik’s ear.

“Whisper softly and you will think.”

Before her eyes, right before her eyes, Rowdy vanished and the television came on abruptly after that with a still image of Rowdy. In black and white. The blueness of the sea made it linger only as an illusion of the color blue, but was still black and white none the less. As Injuik turned to leave, frightened of the events that had taken place, she bumped into the man she had met before. 

The man with the blue suit.

Now of course he no longer had the shirt of the suit. His dress shirt was light blue along with his tie. He knelt down to Injuik and politely brushed the remaining sand off her clothing.

“It’s important to always look presentable in public, is it not?”

Injuik shyly didn’t respond, allowing him to fix her clothes only out of the stillness of fear. This man seemed deliberately gentle, as if he has a grand reason in doing so. Not so much as an ordinary humanitarian, but as a sinister trickster. She was paranoid at this point and could not tell the difference between the meanings. For now, she accepted his welcomes. 

“I’m…I don’t want to be in this place mister. Mister, I want to leave! Please let me leave!”

The man smiled, and stood back up tipping his head down politely.

“You do not need my permission to leave. You have to be strong enough and willing enough to do it yourself. I am merely here as a guide, or rather, to give you suggestions of sorts.”

His words did not seem anymore comforting. The words were implicative of generosity, but also indicative of desire. And as many know, desire can be dangerous. That danger was the overwhelming nature she was bound to. And it now festered in her mind.

“Well…how do I know you’re not the Boo-Man?”

“The Boo-Man? Little lady, you mustn’t be afraid of the likes of him. He is here to distract you from your goal. Keep pushing forward, and sure enough you’ll make it. At least…I hope you do.”

Within moments, he walked and blended with the blue of the sea. Disappearing was amongst the sights Injuik could easily dismiss. For she had more pressing matters. The lingering satisfaction she had from escaping what she remembered to be called “alive” was now stumped by the fears she had of the lack of knowledge of everything accumulating to her present state of mind. 

Those fears and her clean escapes were muddled upon the path she now found herself. Her objective was very much the same in terms of obscurity. So far she had written down:

Sink. Sink. Sink. Whisper softly and you will think.

As she read the words, they seemed to worry her. It was troublesome to imagine, or rather, to accept that these words were the moments of her life ending to the place it was now. She knew not of the definitions, but these words seemed so surreal. It was as if she could relive the dream and not remember the nightmare. 

Nevertheless she followed the steps the man had taken. For what was hours of walking amounted to feel like minutes as she found herself at her home. Her beach home was amongst the others she had seen. And yet, it was not the safest. Not according to Injuik. Many of the troubling memories she had would relive the trauma she had endured over her years as a child. It was the very reason she admired the beaches and found herself at sea. She knew the water was the closest to the remedy she needed, and most of the time, it was an escape. An indifferent one. She imagined swimming for eternity, living only to die upon it. But she couldn’t escape the chains of her family. She was bound to them, and no amount of water could take her away. 

The house was a hut. A single floor made out of wood from the local trees indigenous to the island. The stairs leading to the hut were broken as she remembered from when she had lived. They were broken and cataclysmic to the every step she took upon them. But soon after, she had made it to the door. Only she had heard faint noises.

It sounded tranquil, like the sound of rain pattering against a windowsill. It was then that she became awfully terrified. For she knew what the sound was. 

The soft sound became whispers.

“Come in Injuik. Your family is waiting. I am too. They want to see you dead. And I do too. You want to die don’t you? That’s why you were always lost at sea. And that’s why you are lost at in it now. So why not end this confusion? Open the door and come in Injuik. You can buried by sand.”

Injuik closed her eyes. Her breaths matched the heavy rhythm her heartbeat failed to manage properly. She couldn’t help but pursue opening the door because she knew she had to continue forward. But she was worried yet again. She wondered if she would actually die if she opened the door.

In an instant, she found herself opening the door.

She expected to die. The very worst of it was she wanted to. But it was simply enough to find out that she alone. The whispers were absent to an owner, and the house was exactly how she remembered. Except the table that sat in front of the door was empty. She checked across the hut and no one. Completely empty. As she walked back to the doorway, someone was sitting on her steps. 

It was Henson.

“Henson?” she said quietly, not believing it was really him.

The little boy Henson turned to her and smiled shyly. He was nervous in his own state, but Injuik didn’t understand why. She sat next to him. He spoke first.

“I wish…I’m sorry for what happened to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“…I…do you remember what happened before you died?”

“Henson, I am alive aren’t I? If I’m not, then why are you here? Can you please tell me what’s going on? Please!”

Injuik realized her aggressiveness and found herself at the forefront of her hands at his collar. Henson was nervous again, but played it off with a light smile. Not a sinister one, but a fake one.

“I’m not allowed to tell you. He won’t let me. But I can help you. I’ll tell you the next thing to write.”

Before he could, a cat made of sand appeared on his lap.

“Oh no…” Henson said in shivers. The cat made of sand laughed and purred upon him rubbing the sand against his stomach.

“Shhhh child. And pet me. Don’t speak unless spoken to you,” Boo-Man said. 

Henson nodded nervously and stared blankly in the distance. Injuik, who was too frightened to move, watched the cat made of sand. She looked at him and he at her. The cat was first to speak.

“Now Injuik, may I ask, why did you open the door? You were prepared to die, weren’t you? You wanted to die, did you not?”

Injuik hesitated and clenched her chest, looking shamelessly to the seabed that was the floor.

“I knew it! So let me kill you. That’s all you have to do. Yes or no?”

Injuik shook her head “no” and proceeded to leave. But the cat made of sand dispersed and reshaped into a man. He towered over her and formed a grin.

“I can be ugly if you want me to be. Or we can just end this malarky and accept your fate. You were meant to die. So give in and die!”

Boo-Man took hold of her and chucked her back inside the house. Henson witnessed it and cried. He admired Injuik. Most of all, he liked her. And didn’t want to see her hurt. 

“No! Don’t hurt her!”

“I told you to be quiet!”

“Injuik! It’s ‘about how the water there is to drink’! Write it down!”

Before Henson could say more, Boo-Man dispersed and travelled down the mouth of Henson and choked him to death. Injuik remained conscious enough to witness the water evaporate from the entirety of his body. Injuik’s mouth dropped in horror as she cried Henson’s name. The Boo-Man laughed and shut her inside the house. Injuik frantically cried and ran to open the door, only to find the Boo-Man and Henson’s body gone, as if they were never there to begin with. 

Injuik searched for the paper only to find the man sitting in a chair adjacent to the table in the house, holding the pen and paper.

“I figured you could use some help.”

The man handed her the items and as she read the paper, she discovered the phrase written down:

Sink. Sink. Sink. Whisper softly and you will think. About how the water there is to drink.

The man fixed rationally fixed his shoelace. It was perhaps the strangest occurrence Injuik witnessed. It was so normal, and yet quizzical to happen. She couldn’t understand why he would fix his shoes so gracefully. There was no rhyme or reason to, considering the position he was in. But at the same token of appreciation, it was a casual systematic conception of society to tie shoelaces. So why didn’t she accept it? She didn’t understand it, so she asked him.

“Mister, why are you helping me?”

The man smiled and finished tying his shoelace. He politely stood from the chair and assisted to Injuik.

“It is my duty to help you little lady. Now I’m afraid I must be going.”

And like that, he walked briskly from the front door and proceeded to camouflage with the blue. Sure enough, in a matter of moments, he did. Injuik bravely picked up the pen and paper and continued out of the house. Once she had, a man and a woman appeared. They were a couple, holding arms and laughing as they delightfully continued past the house. Injuik was too excited to see the presence of normalcy and ran to approach them. She did them and addressed them accordingly.

“Excuse me, but can you tell me what is going on? I’m so scared and you both are-”

Again she was frightened. Not because of the presence of the Boo-Man, but this couple’s presence. They were smiling. That’s all they did. They didn’t breathe. Or speak. Or blink. Or move. Or cough. Their eyes were dead upon her and frozen to smile at her. She didn’t bother finishing her sentence before she found a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay ‘Inj’. It’s me. Simon? Remember? We go way back!”

He hugged her lightly, and took her hand away from the smiling couple.

“Simon-”

“Shhh ‘Inj’ and watch.”

Injuik watched as the frozen couple that were once smiling resumed to what they were doing before. They continued to disappear into the blue. Simon pointed at them and continued to hold Injuik close.

“You see that? They are here to brainwash you. We have to avoid them together.”

“Simon-I-I don’t trust this. Or you. Something isn’t right.” 

Simon pushed her away and gave into a tantrum.

“Fine! This is the thanks I get for trying to help you? Fine! Then come and find me! Simon says…let there be couples!”

Simon snapped his fingers and couples, men and women, laughing and walking were now in the thousands. Simon ran off in between them and began shouting Injuik’s name.

Injuik began to look nervously around the dainty smiles that surrounded her. She knew she had to catch Simon in order to retrieve the next part of the chant to write down. But now she lost among the happiest and loneliest faces. It was bittersweet to her, knowing that these couples appeared so happy, but were so lonesome inside. She could tell they were dead.

Injuik shuffled through couple after couple, calling Simon’s name. Minute after minute, she was nowhere fast. She knew this was a worthless waste of time. She needed to figure out a way to draw him to her, but she didn’t know how. She recalled in her life that Simon was fairly idiotic. He was gullible and easily malleable to one’s every request. Except that he needed to be governed by a desire. He wasn’t willing to do anything for free. So now she was bounded by the everlasting dilemma of decision. And with the amount of pasted faces cramming beside her, thought and space was limited. 

But the idea sparked in her mind. It was rash, bold, and everlasting enough to be considered reckless. But reckless was the least worrying to trouble her mind. It was enough for her to let it be considered as such and to just go on and do it. So she did.

“Simon! I’ll bet you one hundred dollars that you can’t beat me in an arm-wrestle!”

The happy couples suddenly all stopped and their sweet fake faces became harsh frozen glares. But they calmly stepped aside, all of them, allowing Simon to pass through easy. Simon laughed as he did.

“You? Beat me? In an arm-wrestle? Well you know I can’t refuse a challenge like that. It’s a guaranteed win for me! Prepare to lose those a hundred bucks of yours!”

Simon was fairly oblivious in Injuik’s mind. She knew his vulnerability to be expected. In fact, so expected, that she didn’t care to win. First and foremost, she whacked him in the side of the head with her fist and pinned him down to the floor.

“Simon, you dummy. I found you. Now tell me the rest of it!”

“Dang it! How did I forget about that? Well…well-well I’m not telling!”

“Yes you are! That was the deal! I find you and you tell me! So tell me!”

“Fine…”

Simon appeared lifeless. Not that he was or wasn’t, but something happened inside him. His fears, the strongest propelled ones twisted inside his mind and became reality. He froze in fear. And as Injuik kept shaking him and calling his name, she began to understand why Simon was shivering silently like he was. For she felt it too. That chill. The eerie silence that crept down her body before.

The Boo-Man.

But he was nowhere in sight. Even worse, none of the couples were either. While she was distracted, they disappeared. But it was the Boo-Man. Somewhere…somewhere.

“Riddle me this you tiny thing. How do you know something exists if you can’t see it?”

Injuik remained silent for a moment, and then quietly spoke.

“You hear it. You feel it. You smell it. You taste it.”

“Well then, answer me this: can you feel me? Can you…taste me? Smell me? Can you hear me? Where am I Injuik?”

Before her eyes, she watched as out of Simon’s mouth poured sand passively in a fluid like motion until it morphed into the shape of the towering man-like form she had seen before.

“Tell me Injuik, am I terrifying yet?”

Simon began coughing and tried to run away, but the Boo-Man stretched the grip of his sand over to his head and began suffocating him. Injuik stood horrified, unsure of how to act. But she knew she couldn’t let the Simon she knew die. But she also knew blindly trying to attack him wasn’t an option either. She needed to figure out how to stop him. And then she cleverly produced an option. For her, it was the only way.

“Please stop! You win! I’ll let you kill me instead.”

The Boo-Man immediately ceased suffocating Simon and came over to her.

“Excellent,” Boo-Man whispered.

Injuik had more to her intelligent plan. She remembered the pen. The simple ink pen. And behind her back, she took apart the pen so that only the ink remained in her hand. Once the Boo-Man came within close proximity of her, she sprayed the ink over the Boo-Man, enough of a distraction for her to run away and grab Simon’s hand, leading them both into the house.

“What have you done? He’s gonna kill us!”

“He would have regardless! Now help me find-nevermind!”

Injuik couldn’t find a lighter within the house in time. So she decided to grab the broomstick from the kitchen and turned on the stove. But the Boo-Man appeared before her.

“That was clever. You brat. You had no intention of letting me kill you. But you won’t have to worry about me much longer. I’ll proceed to ending your life. Here and now.”

Injuik quickly yanked the broomstick that was ignited by the stove into the Boo-Man. The fire dispersed him in a fit of screams and rage. But he escaped. The slight manifestations of sand that spawned before now vanished leaving only its memory to be trailed. Simon turned to her with a few gasps of air to spare. He rested a hand on her shoulder and relieved himself in knowing they were both alive. It seemed like his own life was more invested in her state of mind than his own. But Simon felt obligated in this way to at least extend his gratitude for that life.

“The chant,” he said, still catching his breath, “the rest of it…is ‘it won’t be there once you link’.” 

Injuik nodded and pulled out the paper only to recall the fact that her pen was now useless. She swore and threw the back of her head against the wall. When she turned to look upon Simon, she found the man instead. She panicked and fell over to her right.

“You? What happened to Simon?”

The man happened to be sitting next to her with a slight smile to his face. Not with a devious intention, but an intention nonetheless. It was difficult to ponder as to why it was coordinated in such a manner, but she couldn’t help but not to trust him. 

“Little lady, I’m afraid I cannot answer that question yet. But I do have a gift for you.”

Out of his jacket pocket was another ink pen. He offered it to Injuik very casually, as if certain that she expected it. But she did not. And she stood up and crumpled the paper.

“This is stupid! Why am I doing this? What is this? I can’t take it anymore! Let me leave! Let me leave!”

The man also stood. The shadow beneath his blueness casted larger than it had. He seemed taller too. Injuik could no longer yell after seeing the action unfold. The man had no quarrel prepared, but the menacing shadow he cast was clear. Injuik felt the chill. But the man simply took the paper, flattened it of all the wrinkles so it appeared completely new, and handed her the pen along with it. Then he spoke.

“I must guide you to the salvation you seek. You will be reborn. And this…all of this will no longer be available to your memory. But if you wish to leave little lady, you must record the chant in its entirety. The chant is very crucial.”

Injuik decided to take these keys for her survival and sighed.

“But why mister? Why is this…this-this chant important?”

“Do you remember how you died?”

Injuik shook her head and lost all reason to common sense. Confusion took its hold.

“But you never told me. I can’t be dead. I mean…I’m alive now aren’t I?”

“Do you feel alive little lady? It’s easy to imagine that you are, and yet it you look around you, in this wretched place, you understand that this cannot be the normal world you are from, yes?”

Injuik gave herself a moment to look around. The adrenaline kept her from yielding time to process her reality. And now that she had this moment, confusion crept more and more into her brain. It was all so nonsensical to her that the comprehension to any fact was more so like a whisper from a constant liar. 

“Little lady, I shall explain the reality you seek so that you may continue. This experience is your last brain activity. Right now, you body is beginning to shut down. You are inside of your own mind and in order for you to be reborn, you must escape it.”

“But that makes no sense. How can I escape my own mind if I am…my mind?”

“Little lady, do you know what you are made of?”

“Atoms?”

“Yes, but more accurately, you are stardust. All of the universe borrows stardust and at one’s end, it must be returned. Your stardust is being returned and will be borrowed again at a later time. This wretched place is a figment of your imagination. So do understand that I have guided an infinite number of borrowers and I will continue to do so until the universe ceases existence. Each borrower has their own ‘chant’ to decipher…well, human borrower anyway before they can ascend for their next borrow. You see, each human has heard a phrase before they died. That phrase is the key to their borrow to be returned.”

Injuik sighed and kicked the wall, hoping it would accomplish something. But it didn’t.

“And what happens to those haven’t returned what they borrowed?”

The man blankly stood before Injuik and knelt down to her once more.

“They perish before the darkness and the light is vanquished. Simply put, they are never to exist again.”

The man stood back up and tried to comfort Injuik with softer words.

“I mean not to frighten you little lady. Please do understand that you are one that seeks answers. I cannot give you all of them, but I can attain to some. Do finish the chant and I will guide you to your next borrow.”

The man proceeded outside the house. When Injuik tried to find him, it was as if he wasn’t there at all. And if Injuik believed the man, he really wasn't there. And neither was she. Abruptly a gentle urge came to her mind.

Suicide.

It was so simple. She could just kill herself and end it. It seemed so easy. Such a gentle thought. It kept whispering in her ear.

Kill yourself.

Do it.

You’ll die and end the struggle.

The pain.

Kill yourself.

Injuik panicked when she found the pen at her throat. She realized she was ready to jab it into her neck. But it wasn’t that that panicked her. It was the coldness. The chills. She felt them again.

“Dammit child! I really thought you were going to do it! If you killed yourself, sure I would have lost the satisfaction of having done it myself. But at least you would have died. And that’s what’s most important…right?”

Injuik was too frozen to turn. To look around. She knew it was the Boo-Man. But suddenly she felt the sand, brushing against her leg. It was him. She saw him now. But he was in his cat-shaped form. She could feel the sand vibrating. And purring. It felt ever so softly, which scared her most.

“You thought you defeated me child? Hm? You see, sand happens to be the grains of what passed before it. I am a collection of what once was. All the past lives, the past ‘borrowers’. I am death. A collection of death. And soon…you will be added to my collection.”

Injuik bolted for the door, but the Boo-Man expanded larger before her eyes and strangled her. The Boo-Man swiped the pen away.

“I learn from my mistakes child. And I’m afraid you have run out of tricks to stop me. Now die!”

Injuik again thought of another clever trick. Knowing fully well that the Boo-Man would try and suffocate her with sand, she struggled and wrapped the suit the man lent her and tied it around her nose and mouth. But this only bought her little time before the Boo-Man would simply use brute strength to subdue her again. So she cut her hand against the wood as hard as she could and used her own blood to wet the sand. Having blinded part of the sand, she managed to make a break for the door and escaped.

What she escaped to was oddly more confusing to her than the reality she chose to accept. Still underneath water, there were bodies. Dead bodies, all laid out in an orderly horizontal line. All of which had the appearance of the same boy. She recognized him though.

“Charles?”

One of the not so dead bodies lifted up and turned to her.

“Why Injuik? Why can’t you understand all of this? Don’t you see that we were your friends? And you let us down by killing yourself.”

“What? Charles, this doesn’t make any sense. Just tell me the rest of the chant. Please.”

“Okay…but you have to tell me which one of us is the real me. You have to prove that I was important to you. Only then will I be your friend again and tell you.”

Injuik watched in horror as all of the hundreds of dead bodies that happened to be Charles rose up simultaneously and in unison asked the question.

“Which of us is the real Charles?”

After hearing the echo, Injuik could echo the sounds of defeat in her head. It rang loudly like a bell on delay. She expected a ringing, and when she did, there was nothing. Only the replicas of Charles all before her. And when she expected silence, the ringing started back up. She could hear her subconscious telling her to give in and submit to the death before her. Death by the Boo-Man.

And then silence.

She needed it. The silence of free thought. She had to concentrate. How would she know which one was the real Charles? She examined them carefully with her eyes darting left and right. Nothing was out of place. They were all exactly the same. And then it hit her.

They were all the same. And that was the point.

“I got it! You all are the real Charles! You’re all the same so therefore you’re all Charles!”

The “Charles” replicas all simultaneous assembled into one Charles, each smiling before they united. Charles calmly walked up to her.

“I’m sorry about being hasty back there. The man made me give you this trial.”

Injuik suddenly lost light in her eyes. Something dark grew in them. She felt cold. None of this felt right.

“Wait Charles. Are you telling me that the man in blue put you up to this? Did he put the rest of them up to this too? What are the point of these tests? Tell me Charles!”

“Slow down Injuik! I don’t about the others, but the man said that in order for you to proceed into the next life, you have to pass the tests and complete the chant. Oh and the chant is-”

“When did you see him last?”

Charles face depleted. It lost all essence of life. It looked to be drained, and to some extent it was. Charles searched through his pockets and handed her a pen.

“He said you would need this.”

Injuik took it reluctantly. This meant he knew the Boo-Man took her pen. And that means he had to have been watching her. But Injuik knew something still wasn’t right. How could the man have known with such ease? She couldn’t place it yet, but she would. For now, she turned to Charles.

“You’re heart and soul into the brink. That’s the next part in the chant. You should jot it down quickly. We don’t have much time.”

Injuik nodded and wrote it down on the paper. She slipped the pen and paper in her pocket and lifted her head.

“Is the Boo-Man coming?”

“Maybe,” Charles said with defiance. He didn’t want to believe it, but he knew that the Boo-Man could very well arrive. At any moment.

“I’m going to take you to Opal. You haven’t seen her in awhile and she seemed pretty excited to see you last I heard.”

Injuik looked at him and believe he wasn’t real. She kept looking around and the ocean floor they were stepping on. All of it was impossible. And yet she was making it possible by existing within it. But she accepted confiding in her friend’s embodiment. 

“Charles…can you tell me anything that is going on? I still don’t understand this. Am I really dead?”

Charles stopped in his footsteps and turned to Injuik. It was the look on his face that reminded Injuik of their mission. But the mission was unclear in the ultimate goal. Charles knew Injuik pursued the answer to this, but was unsure how he could handle in reassuring her that it didn’t matter.

Injuik awaited an answer and could only give indefinite silence until he did. The face on Charles was very still, as if not having heard what Injuik said to begin with. He appeared dismal, was as comfortable as a soft sleeper. Injuik wanted to confide in it, but the paranoia kept building inside of her. None of this felt comfortable. The idea that his face was comforting to stare at bothered her more so.

“Injuik…do you remember what happened…before you died?”

Injuik thought a moment. Looking around, she could see the shadows of rippling water.

“I remember…water. The ocean waves. All of us were playing in the water and playing the ‘sink-game’. I was the sinker and the rest of you guys were chanters…and then it’s all blank from there.”

“That’s when you died Injuik. I’m sure you know that the rest of us are alive. The real ‘us’. Me and the others that you see…are just-just projections of the real versions. We are here to test you. The man is testing you.”

“Why?”

“To see if you are worthy enough to push onward. To be reborn. To be a new person.”

Injuik felt a chill. Too many chills. And the sand beneath her feet began shifting. 

She quickly began to run until Charles calmly grabbed a hold of her and pointed to the ground. What had emerged from the shifting sand was a crab. A small crab that had began walking to the side. 

“You remember that moment, don’t you?” Charles said, fixing Injuik’s clothes.

“What? I…is that from when I was small? I remember playing on the beach and I watched the sand do that and seeing that crab. That same crab. Are you saying…that was a memory?”

“Your memory and yes. I think you have figured it out by now. This is your mind. Your world. Your fears. Why do you think the Boo-Man is made of sand? What is your greatest fear?”

Injuik felt the chill again. It was drowning in sand. Years back she played amongst the friendly waters when a wave toppled over her and her face clogged in piles of muddy sand. Ever since, she became worried of dying by suffocating in it. 

“Now do you see? This is a projection of your mind. But you should know that this is very much real. So if you die here…you die for good. The man doesn’t want that. But then again…you just might. Now come. We haven’t much time Injuik.”

Injuik pulled away from Charles and took a few steps back.

“I don’t trust you. Something about this…it isn’t right.”

Injuik began to cry and ran in the opposite direction. Injuik always heard people when they talked. In this sense, she understood them and identified with them. Charles was very very loose and friendly. Never well-spoken and never so disconcerting. She knew that wasn’t the Charles she knew. Injuik didn’t bother looking back but as she kept running. A small figure in the distance grew larger until it appeared right before her eyes.

She ran into the figure in all of its blueness.

“Little lady, you mustn’t stray from the path. Follow Charles to your friend Opal.”

Injuik backed away with frightened steps.

“No! I don’t trust you, or Charles, or any of this! This has to be some-some-some bizarre sort of-of dream or nightmare! I’m going to wake up from all this! None of this is real!”

The man took no normal reaction to her words. It appeared that his mind was aflutter and that more tasking matters weighed heavily upon him. Injuik could not tell from looking at him, but she knew that she could not pursue her these trials any longer. She began to run away from him, but soon her weeps. Soft weeps.

Long ago, the last she heard those cries, were from her mother. And there was no mistaking those weeps. In swift motion she turned. She only found the man in the same stature she last saw him in. And it bothered her greatly. 

“Where is she? My mother! Where is she?”

She grabbed hold of the man, expecting to hurt him and make him talk. But Injuik could only shed a few tears herself, and beg pleas to the man for him to take her away from this awful place. But the man solemnly took hold of her hands gently and spoke in soothing pains.

“She is alive little lady. She is alive, and those cries you hear…they are above you. Outside of you. Your mother is perhaps right now above your body. Weeping at the sight. And I’m afraid that you will never see her again. I am sorry. But you have to aspire to something more. Something greater than what you are now. So go on little lady and obtain the rest of the chant. When you do, you will be free from this awful place.”

The words did not help Injuik. It made her feel like the demise befallen to her had already dragged her to the surface and past this pit of hell. It was a watery grave, and ironically the very place she enjoyed. The water was always fair to her, even in the pains the tides took to her at times. And yet she always respected the water. Now she realized that whatever this place was, it was her grave.

But she would not die here.

“Fine,” she angrily said, pushing herself past the man. 

She turned to say one more thing to him, but he was no longer there. She glanced upon the paper and recited the chant she had written down thus far. 

“Sink.Sink. Sink. Whisper softly and you will think. About how the water there is to drink. It won’t be there once you link. You’re heart and soul into the brink…”

As familiar as it became, it was so distant from her imagination. And from her memory too. Why was this particular phrase so necessary? Sure she understood that it was the last phrase she heard before she died, but what was the point? She didn’t bother to understand it at this point. For she felt another chill again.

And someone grabbed her shoulder.

She screeched as flapped her hand backward to try and dispel what she thought was behind her. But it was none other than Charles.

“I finally found you. Why did you leave?”

Injuik sighed. She wouldn’t trust him, but she also knew that she needed to pass the next trial. She needed to find Opal. And she would.

“Take me to Opal Charles.”

He nodded and lead the way. They continued walking throughout the empty water. There was nothing except the shade of blue ripples and the sand beneath there feet. There weren’t people or signs of civilization. It was a normal basin floor. And as she looked up she could see the Prussian-blue like color that was so vast it appeared black. But she knew it was blue because everything was a shade of blue here. 

Charles on the other hand was rather unfazed. His steps were silently dissolved into the sand, only to appear back up. It was a normal sight of course, but Injuik found normal to be the most strange in this place, for nothing was typical of the reality she thought she knew. And as they kept descending. Nothing changed. Nothing. And there was nothing except for the two of them. They had already trekked an hour in silence between the both of them and there was nothing. This absence bothered her.

“Charles, where are you taking me?”

He said nothing.

“Charles?”

Injuik didn’t trust another second. She ran away from him and found Opal in the distance. This bothered her too, but she was so frightened that she didn’t care for instinct.

“Opal? Is that you?”

She ran for a minute until she could see her face brightened by the blueness. She was very quaint and chirpy. She was lost from the pain surrounding the place and had only comfort to spare. Her youthfulness was defined in every word she spoke.

“Shh! Big bad Charles is upset is all. He’s upset that you didn’t trust him,” she pouted playfully. 

Injuik was comfortable knowing that out of all of the illusions she saw of her friends, this one was the closest to the real Opal. It was like being with her all over again. Her childishness was always an appealing quality Injuik appreciated. It allowed her to let go of the troubles she had. And for awhile being lost in the place, Injuik smiled.

“Opal…you’re not hurt are you?”

Opal laughed quietly and took her hand.

“Come! Come! I have to show you the other part of the chant. I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget. I carved it in the sand.”

Sand. Injuik no longer trusted the word. Overtime hearing it only reminded her of him. The Boo-Man. She was used to seeing him every so often, but now being apart from his presence for this long, it felt like a lifetime since she saw him. Or felt his presence. But when Opal said that word, it all came rushing back.

Injuik turned around to see Charles standing alone in the distance. Quiet and contempt. As if he was dead too. She wanted to call out to him, but she couldn’t trust him. He seemed too distant for the trust to be measured. Or met.

Opal held her hand tighter and tighter and they marched on. And still, nothing was in sight. Only sand and the blue water they were submerged in. Injuik could only shiver as she took each step. But she wanted to believe in this version of Opal because Opal was such a soft and gentle presence. An aura could emit to her and challenge Injuik’s for the better. So she decided to hold on to that brightness. And to trust it.

“Do you trust me Injuik?” she said too happily to be considered a question. Oddly enough, Opal already knew the answer.

“I don’t Opal. I don’t.”

Injuik let go of her hand and stopped.

“I know what’s going on. Charles took me only to keep taking me. You are doing the same. I’m going to be stuck walking back and forth between the both of you. You two are wasting my time so I perish and don’t move on from here. So just…just tell me that chant and I’ll be out of your way.”

“But Injuik!” Opal complained. With a lasting smile.

“The Boo-Man won’t be pleased about this. And maybe he might just kill us both.”

She winked and began to run. Injuik tried catching up to her when a pair of two hands held her arms back and kept her stagnated. They were masculine hands. Sturdy but weak. And she turned her head to see their owner.

“Charles? Let me go!”

“I’m afraid I can’t. Betrayal is the next trial you have to try and pass. And if you don’t…you will die.”

“I don’t understand-”

“I will let you go in a moment. When I do, the Boo-Man will kill either me or Opal. You will have to decide which one dies.”

Before Injuik could refute, she felt cold. Very cold. The water even seemed to turn a darker shade of blue. She could feel him.

“I brought him! I brought him! He’s so cute!”

Opal had the Boo-Man in his cat-like cradled in her arms. She even started twirling him in the air until she arrived directly in front of Injuik.

“Don’t be shy Injuik. You can pet him. He doesn’t bite.”

The Boo-Man laughed and shifted form, swaying the three of them backward and onto the floor. Suddenly the sand beneath them ensnared them and kept them locked in place. The Boo-Man could only laugh harder at this.

“Finally! Finally I have you terrified, hopeless, and permanently imprisoned to my clutches! Now as Charles should have told you, I must kill one of them that way I can kill you. You must have figured out my weakness by now…have you not?”

Injuik was hardly able to breathe. She looked upon Opal and Charles, both of which were content being trapped in the sand. Opal had even begun to laugh randomly form time to time. But once she processed the Boo-Man’s words, she had figured it out. She had understood why the Boo-Man truly wasn’t able to kill her.

“Are you saying…does one of my friends have to die before you can kill me?”

“You really are a clever little girl! Yes, that’s precisely it. You have successfully freed each of your friends from my clutches. And I am bound only to kill them with your submission. Why do you think I always tempting you to kill yourself? That way you would fail your friends and I could kill you myself. And I kept trying…I kept trying to find a way to defeat you. And I finally figured out how. This. A fallacy if you will. You have to decide which one to kill. There is no escape from this. Even if you try and wait this out you will die having run out of time. There is no clever way out. You lose. Now pick! Who will die? Opal? Or Charles?”

Injuik was breathing again, not having truly paid attention to any of the Boo-Man’s words. But Injuik knew she needed Opal to tell her the chant. And she couldn’t kill Charles either. Otherwise, she would ultimately be killed by the Boo-Man.

“Choose!” the Boo-Man raged, coming closer to her face and clutching it with his sand.

Injuik closed her eyes and thought for long moments. She constantly withstood the screams and pain from the Boo-Man. 

“Choose! You only have one choice! Choose!”

Only one choice. That was it. Injuik knew what to do. But she had to turn to him first.

“Charles…kill Charles.”

The Boo-Man laughed and without hesitation suffocated him in sand.

“I knew you would submit.”

The Boo-Man began to try and kill Injuik. 

But he couldn’t.

He just couldn’t.

It was beyond his comprehension. Why? Why couldn’t he kill her? And not before long, the sand trapping Opal and Injuik dissipated and freed them both.

“What? Why aren’t you dead?” the Boo-Man shrieked.

Injuik coughed and pointed to Charles.

“Take a look.”

The Boo-Man did. And it was Charles. He didn’t understand.

“What?”

“When Charles tested me through his trial, there was more than one of him. And I realized they were all him. But there was still more than one. So you killed one of the Charles. But not all of them.”

As if having been revived, Charles rose from the sand and brushed his clothes. Very gently. Opal on the other hand hugged Injuik and smiled.

“You did Injuik! You really did it!”

The Boo-Man shrieked again and was ready to attack them when Charles multiplied himself like before and surrounded the Boo-Man.

“Go! Both of you! I will hold him off!” Charles screamed before he was submerged by the Boo-Man’s sand.

Injuik cried in knowing what had to be done. In that moment, she feared believing that really was Charles. It was because he was so real in that moment. All she could do now was force Opal’s hand into hers and run with her in the far vast emptiness. And worst of all, it became quiet. There was no more screams or rushing snaps of sand thrusting about or words. It was quiet. As Injuik and Opal kept walking, the houses Injuik was familiar with in her neighborhood began to appear again. All stable. And all quiet.

Opal pointed at one ominously.

“Charles…he lived there…”

Opal let go of Injuik’s hand and walked inside. But she shut the door before she could come in. And when Injuik burst through the door, Opal was nowhere to be found. Except her photograph upon the floor. Along with Nicky’s, Rowdy’s, Henson’s,  and Simon’s. Soon after she began looking at the photos carefully, she found Charles’ photo too. As if it had just appeared.

And she couldn’t help but give a soft smile. But a shadow appropriately casted over it. A tall one.

“You do realize the Boo-Man killed him? He will be coming for you now little lady. And he will be able to kill you.”

Injuik nodded, not bothered by the man any longer. She was tired and dreadfully exempted from feeling hurt any longer. Between the scarce adrenaline that veiled over her and the fear freezing her, she no longer had energy to continue caring. She wanted it all over.

“I just need the rest of the chant. Opal said she carved it in the sand. So where could it be…?”

Injuik proceeded to go outside, but the man took ahold of her arm. Very gently, he fixed the sleeve of her shirt.

“Little lady…do be careful.”

The man untied the suit he had lent her from her waist and slipped it atop of her.

“It will be cold outside. Very cold.”

The man left the house first and shut the door. When Injuik followed after to him, she opened the door and found out he was right. It was very cold. Except it wasn’t from the Boo-Man. She knew the difference. It was just a normal absence of heat. And nothing more. Except there was no sign that it should have been that cold. Everything appeared the same as it was before when she last saw her surroundings. 

She then saw the water. 

Her precious water out in the distance, the water she spent the most time in throughout her childhood, was completely frozen. She had never seen it like this before. She was immediately drawn to running toward it. She needed to be with the water, no matter what state it was in. And when she got there, she found the message carved in the sand.

Of despair as you die in a wink.

Injuik couldn’t bear herself to write it down for a strange reason. She didn’t understand why she was stuck, but she understood once she saw her reflection upon the ice. Her precious memories were halted in this world. This awful place. And it occurred to her that if all of this was real, then this would be the end. Of her friends. Her family. Her old life. What memories that were frozen upon the water would be deleted into her new perception of time. And she couldn’t bear the fear in knowing that.

Still, she managed with her shivering hand to write down the rest of the chant. Once she finished, a soft and chattered voice spoke out to her.

“She wrote that…Opal…she wrote that because she thought you would die.”

Injuik recognized the cold and soft voice. 

“Winters?”

Winters was shivering, without any clothing except his briefs. And his skin had became so pale that the reflection was as clear as the frozen ice. The blood that was once warm in his body was beginning to clot and stagnate. He hadn’t much time.

Injuik rushed to his side and threw the suit jacket around him.

“Winters, oh my god, Winters what happened?”

Winters teeth kept chattering over and over. He could barely lift his tongue to his jaw to speak. It was all so cold. And Injuik tried to hug him tightly and give him the most of her body heat. None of her efforts helped him much. 

Injuik desperately cradled him, feeling his skinny and fragile body slide between her arms. She feared he would be preserved for an eternity in this awful place. So Injuik closed her eyes and spoke.

“I don’t want you to tell me the chant. I don’t. I know you will try and I don’t want you to. I want to die here. Because…because I-this is wrong. What I’ve done is wrong. I don’t deserve to move onto another life. I left you freezing here before. I remember that now and I-I don’t want you to help me move on. I want to let go. I want to die.”

Winters eyes widened when he pointed behind her. Injuik didn’t bother looking. She wanted him to kill her.

“The magic words!” the Boo-Man hissed in his man-like form. 

The Boo-Man raised a large portion of sand to crush her when she tumbled out of the way and ran towards the frozen water she loved so dearly. She took off her shoes and tried her best to slide along the ice to get away.

“You fiendish little girl! You knew I would come and try to kill you! You knew I’d be listening!”

“Well you are made of sand! And everything beneath us is sand! So it occurred to me that you could be there anytime!”

“I hate you! And I will kill you!”

The Boo-Man glided amongst the icy water with ease and was catching up to Injuik. And her effort became futile when she fell. But she saw the ice crack when she did. And it gave her an idea. 

Injuik began teasing the Boo-Man. Left and right as the Boo-Man chased her. But Injuik was purposefully crushing her heel into the ice to make it crack more and more in the radius she was running in. 

“Quit squirming!”

She did. She stopped in the middle.

“It’s over for you! Not me!”

Injuik jumped as high as she could and when she plummeted down, the ice broke apart around them long enough for them both to fall in and sink. The Boo-Man screamed for a moment until he was submerged into the icy water, turning into mud and fading away. It didn’t make sense to Injuik that this worked, considering they were already submerged in water. But she could no longer appreciate free thought, as she struggled to swim. Her limbs were tense from the frigid cold water and she lost track of thought. Her eyes began to close. And she was ready to die. This time, she admitted her defeat and wanted solace. She was ready for her time to end in this life. And she didn’t want a next one.

Until she felt warmth. Gentle warmth. It took hold of her arm and pulled her atop of the ice. It was Winters. He lifted her up and gave her the suit jacket to warm up. 

“You…I was meant to die Injuik. You are not meant to. I-I…see that now. Take…take this. It’s yours.”

Injuik could barely comprehend his words at this point, but she saw the paper and pen. The chant was still written on it. But there was another part added to it. The chant was complete. She quietly read it aloud.

“Sink. Sink. Sink. Whisper softly and you will think. About how the water there is to drink.It won’t be there once you link. You’re heart and soul into the brink! Of despair as you die in a wink. Now sink. Sink. Sink.”

As soon as she finished, the ice immediately melted and in an instant, Injuik sank. She kept sinking. She could see Winters sinking with her too. But his eyes were closed with a smile, as if he was awaiting this moment to die alongside her. But she was happy that it was all going to be over too. And she smiled.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

A boy awoke from his seat in the back of his father’s car. He stretched his arms high and bright and rightfully stared out of the passenger side window. Outside was a highway on a stormy day. The rain pattered rhythmically upon the car and gave the boy a sense of joy. He was happy to be with his father.

“Hey dad! I had this crazy dream!”

His father honked his horn at another car.

“Not right now son. This is bad. Really bad. I’m going to be late for work.”

“There was this man dressed in a blue suit! Like everything he wore was blue! And he told me something to do…something…I can’t remember! But I remember all this blueness! It was so weird and cool! But I forget!”

“Be quiet! Please!”

His father blasted the radio and his son quietly slumped in his seat. And he stared out the window. He could have sworn he remembered something. There was something in that dream of his…but he shifted his back into his seat to get more sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 LeoHarp. All rights reserved.

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