Her Name Was Sarah

Her name was Sarah, that’s all that I can really remember. That and she looked lovely in red.” I said.

“Sarah? What else can you tell me about her?” She asked, in her cushioned chair.

I laid back and stared at the ceiling, my voice and mind wandering to the wooden rafters and tiled ceilings.

 

She moved to my hometown in the middle of August: an uncommonly cool August day, as I remember it, because there was a girl I had never seen before sitting in the back wearing her auburn hair neatly in a ponytail that draped down over her shoulder that complimented the deep red dye of the loose shawl that she wore. It was a couple of days after the start of my seventh grade year, she simply stood out from the rest of the class simply because I didn’t know her. I had attended school with every one of the twenty or so students my age who lived in our small town. She was called to introduce herself in front of the class. Her name was Sarah, she said, and she had moved from California to here because of her father’s job had led them here. She stated all of this was a barely audible voice and her green eyes cast down to the ground. Nobody spoke to her that day. Nor the day after. Or the day after that. It wasn’t until the first week of September that I’d hear her speak again.

I was held up in class after school, that day, talking to my teacher or something, it doesn’t really matter anyhow. I ran to catch up to my friend who had definitely started to head to our neighborhood without me. I ran out the door and rounded a corner and ran pushed open the door that led out of the building. I stopped after the door hit someone standing there.And there on the ground, lying face down was that auburn haired girl with the red shawl. There was Sarah.

“Sorry!” I said, lending a hand to help her up. It took her a while to accept it. Her hand was so soft, I remember thinking, I lingered a moment too long even when she was up before dropping up.

“I’m s-sorry.” She stammered out. Those were the last two words I heard her speak. “I’m sorry.” And it was beautiful. As beautiful as the red draped over her shoulders. Her voice pierced through the ambiance of everyday life like an arrow whizzing through the air, and struck my heart at that moment. I must have looked like a fool standing there saying nothing, because she walked away after that, with a slight rouge tint on her cheeks. I remembered the soft touch of her hand, and felt my own cheeks flare up. I walked home with the feeling of her hand in mine. I really must have looked like a fool.

I tried to gather up the courage to speak to her, but ask any young pubescent boy with his first crush how feeble that courage is, and how quickly it falters and falls. I’d gather up the courage overnight while lying in my bed, only to fail the following morning as soon as I saw her. She was always in my peripherals; catching glimpses of her when her head was turned around, or watching from far away. I’d follow the same routine, day after day after day.

While watching her, I noticed something odd. She didn’t seem to get along with the other people in the class, I hadn’t noticed at that point, but it was painfully obvious to me now. No one spoke to her, and she spoke to no one. When classes let out for recesses, or for lunch breaks she’d sit at her desk, her downward gaze cast only on the desktop in front of her. Whenever she did head out she’d sit underneath a large pine tree that sat in the schoolyard. She seemed lonely to me, and realizing that gave me another burst of feeble courage that’d fail just like all the rest. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who picked up on her loneliness. Loneliness is a festering wound, it hurts you constantly and draws to it diseases and infections of the worst kind, as was the case of Sarah…

It was the middle of September when it started, a couple of girls gathered around her desk and introduced themselves. I still remember their names, burned into my memory. Sabrina, Charlotte, and Claire. They surrounded around her like a swarm of yapping feral dogs. They’d talk to her, asking about her hair, her choice of clothing, her hobbies, her…anything that they could think of! And they’d always through in some cruel barb, so quick quip to lower her self esteem. How they loved how, ‘lived in,’ her clothes look. How they adored her wild hair. How they just had to know where she got her tattered shoes. Each passing day they’d make these comments, and each day they’d grown more frequent and even more harsh. Each day they’d walk away giggling among themselves saying quietly-but-not-too-quietly about how ugly she was, how homely. And, every single day Sarah would take it. She’d never show any sign of sadness, or sorrow. She was resolute. A never-bending tree assailed by a winter storm. A cliff face assaulted by terrible waves. She was strong. Resolute, and all the more beautiful in my eyes.

As the days continued, as the seasons passed from one to the other, as the maple trees that surrounded the town turned from vibrant greens, to deep, beautiful reds, and finally losing its autumn coat, baring their branches to the world, everything fell into routine. The first snow of that winter fell one Monday in late November, and Sarah came to school wearing a long scarf tied loosely around her neck that dragged behind her wherever she walked. To me it seemed like a ball gown worn by an aristocratic lady in waiting. I remember thinking that once we were married -because we would definitely be married, once I gathered the courage to finally speak to her- that I’d buy her a wedding dress with the longest red veil. The gaggle of girls, however, didn’t see it the way that I saw it. They instead, saw it as another wound to attack, another scab to pull at, and like any good disease they struck. They would “accidentally,” step on it while she walked in front of them, usually causing the scarf to tighten around her neck and causing her to fall or yelp in pain. They’d give pseudo apologies and walk past laughing at the joke only they found funny. Yet, each time they did this she never once showed any sign of breaking. Not a lady in waiting, no. A queen, was she.

And so November ended and December began, it was the last day of class and I was finally going to do it, I was going to talk to her. She had a head start on me, and I hurried through the halls for the last time that semester, and rounded the final corner before going to the last stretch of hall to exit the building and catch up with her, but I was stopped.

There in the doorway was Sarah, blocking her way was Sabrina, the leader of this particular attack, shadowed closely by Charlotte and Claire over each shoulder.

“So I heard you called me a ‘bitch.’” Sabrina stated, her hand resting on her hip. She didn’t, I would know, I was watching her all semester long…”Well, are you going to answer me?” She continued, this time followed by a slap. “Answer me!” She screamed, the next slap was harder than the last. And the next harder than the one before it.

Before too long she had Sarah’s hair balled up in her hand as she slammed her face into the concrete over and over again. Her two shadows began jeering and pulling at her auburn locks. When they were finished she laid face down on the ground, even from that distance I could see the strands of pink that covered the snow in front of the girls.

“Let’s go.” Sabrina said, with a final kick to Sarah’s head. Not once during that whole thing did I hear her cry. Not a queen, no, not a queen an empress, I told myself.

I walked up to her to try to help her out, but I stopped short when I heard a soft sound. A quiet sob escaped Sarah’s lips for the first time that semester. She stood up, turned to face the door to make sure that no one was watching. Her now swollen green eyes locked with mine for a moment, and I saw her lip quivering for the briefest of second, and a single, sparkling tear trace down her red, swollen cheek. She turned and ran away, disappearing quickly into the winter… I wanted to go after her, I did, but I didn’t. I wanted to talk to her and try to help…but I was a coward, nothing but a coward. I walked home alone, the quivering of her lip on my mind all the way home. I didn’t eat dinner that night, I just went straight to sleep. I dreamt of her.

It quickly was replaced, however, by thoughts of free time, thoughts of roaming the snowy streets of the town. My friends and I went out when the sun was starting to hang dangerously low in the sky on the first day of the break to play hide and seek. It was one of them that suggested playing at the school, we all agreed. We hopped the fence when the sun had long set, and the moon was shrouded by a thick layer of nimbostratus clouds. We picked who was, “it,” by a quick game of rock, paper scissors and those of us who won split into various directions.

I knew immediately where I was going to hide: behind the giant pine that Sarah sat under some days during the semester. I ran there almost immediately, trying my hardest not to make deep indents on the snow. I got there in a couple of seconds and ducked behind it, trying to stop the puffs of white that escaped my nostrils and mouth. I froze there, however.

Above me I could hear…something. I didn’t know what it was, a steady knocking sound. Knock. Knock. Knock. It sounded. A slight wind blew and rattled the branches, knocking some pine needles onto my head, I brushed them off and there it was again. Knock. Knock. Knock. Three knocks, just like the last time. I stared into the branches and, squinting. I could barely make out something thanks to the strands of light that peeked through the clouds and the thick branches over head…

Knock. Knock. Knock. Another breeze caused it to knock again. Was it a loose branch? Knock. Knock. Knock. There it was again. I strained my hardest to see, and, for the second time that night I froze in place. The moon burst from underneath it’s cloak and illuminated the area. Knock. Knock. Knock. And there she was…there was Sarah. Knock. Knock. Knock. Hanging on the lowest hanging branch, her beautiful red scarf tied around her throat, swinging in the breeze, knocking her feet against the trunk with every cruel breeze that shot through the night…

I broke forth from my frozen terror and clawed at the tree like a madman, the frozen bark digging into the soft flesh of my fingers and sticking underneath my fingernails . Every time I made any amount of progress I’d fall back to the frozen earth. I don’t know how long I did this but I did it again, and again, and again. I could feel that the skin on my fingers had long since torn away, but I didn’t care. I had to help her. This time. I had to get to her this time. Climb. Fall. Climb. Fall. Climb again, fall again.

It ended when a man in blue grabbed my shoulder and put me on the ground. He said that there were reports of a child screaming at the schoolhouse, had I been screaming? I don’t’ remember doing that, but my mouth was open, and all that was coming out now was a garbled mess of sobs and blood…he looked up to where I was looking and spoke into his radio. He dragged me away from the tree as a team of other men climbed an aluminum ladder and cut her down. I broke away from the officer and ran to her.

Her face was blue and bloated: both eyes were swollen beyond recognition: the once emerald orbs now clouded over by the mist of death. A stream of red, now congealed blood stained her chin, and dribbled down her swollen neck, where her beautiful scarf was tied tightly…I screamed again, and was pulled in by one of the officers.

The rest of winter break was a blur,didn’t know where it was being held, nor would I want to see her, my Sarah like that again. On the first class of the new semester Sabrina made a show of sobbing like a child in front of the class, faking grief. I walked out and went home, and I refused to go to school after that. My family moved out of the town shortly after that and I attended a new school…I tried my hardest to forget, but I never did…I never will.

Her name was Sarah. That’s all that I remember. That’s all I want to remember. That and she looked lovely in red.

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A Hat

A Hat

A strand of honey hair hugged the straw underneath the inner band. With a softy yet quick tug he pulled it free and out of shadow. It shimmer against the setting sun, like a chain of gold hung ‘round the slender neck of a bright-eyed girl. She’d softly giggled when the cool metal brushed her ivory skin, and turned to kiss him deeply when he’d link the chain together.

With a tepid heart he released it from his grasp, and it flitted away in a breeze.

A loose straw hung on the edge. He pulled it out and held it under his nose. It smelled like sweet summer grass. Of dew laden lovers lying on their backs, and honeyed hair splayed across the verdant. The forests shrouded them in silence. Her lips parted in a smile beneath their kiss, and stood stretching her arms. She was like the moon had come to earth, and shone just for him.

With a trembling sigh he released the yellowed grass and it fluttered to the waves below.

Around the center hung a ribbon, frayed on both ends. It mimicked her eyes, once. Though now gray with age. He held it towards the sea, the wind blowing the frayed edges back towards him. And, try as he might, he could not let it go and stuffed it into his pocket.

He looked over the hat once more: she loved it once, as he loved her. But like so many things: the straw, her honeyed hair, the blue ribbon, she left it behind. “Sorry,” the note said, that sat underneath the hat on the bench in the train station where he worked at. He’d crumbled the note and threw it away. And, like the note, he tossed the hat. It flew out of site and landed on a wave, to be washed away. Somewhere far away. Maybe it’d find her, or maybe it’d wind up in the belly of a sea beast. He didn’t care. As it vanished from sight, he turned away: an arthritic hand wrapped around the end of a cane, and another grasping the ribbon in his pocket.

Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust

It was just past midnight, when I had decided that I’ve done enough typing for the night. I stood, popping my knotted muscles and bones and walked over to the window, sliding it shut: the ambiance had kept me focused on my work, but would keep me from sleeping. I shut off the light, and then crawled underneath my polyester sheets and reached down to turn on my fan: the soft hum lulling me to sleep.

A sudden sense of dread jerked me awake. A primeval fear hung thick in the air: a primal response to something horrid, no doubt. I looked around frantically, but the darkness obscured my sight.What horrid monstrosity had crept into my room, what eldritch…thing had invaded my space this late summer night? I could see nothing: hear nothing save for the humming of my fan, and the soft ambiance of the city below my window.

I sprung out of my bed and rushed to the far wall, flipping on my light. With a soft buzz the fluorescent flickered slowly to life, chasing off the shadows of night, and bringing in the light of modernity. And with the darkness being flushed out of my room, so too was my irrationality. There were no monsters in the dark, of course. The modern era had banished all horrors of our past, with the flame of enlightenment. I chuckled to myself at how silly I had been. I emphasized my internal monologue by walking to the window and throwing open the curtains, allowing the fluorescent light of modernity to flood the outside darkness, if only a little.

The fear, however, crept back into me. Not with any movements, nor with any sound, but with a feeling. The feeling of the brush of a warm, breeze on my forearm. I looked to my left and froze. The window was opened. Just an inch or so, but opened nonetheless. I slammed it shut and turned around, once more, scanning the room: sweat forming on my brow. And, once more, fear slammed into me like a truck: overtaking all of my senses. This time coming in the form of a soft, yet audible, “click.”

With that click the lights flickered off once more, and darkness swarmed into the room. It was only then that I noticed the thick dust that hung precariously in the air: reflecting the ribbons of pale moonlight that now flooded the room. Millions of particles of dust, floating on the night air above, behind and around me. And then, as if disturbed by a strong gust of wind, they began to move. They swirled around the room and into a fearsome vortex in the center. Spinning and spinning until they began to coalesce, not more than a couple of inches from me.

First the particles of dust formed into a head: oblong in shape, and longer than any human or animal that I had ever seen, with not a speck of hair on it. The eyes were nothing more than to sunken ovals that barely penetrated the white, “flesh,” of the being, that took up more than half of its’ terrible, “face.” No mouth formed, yet I could feel it’s horrible grin. Next the dust formed into a body: as misshapen as it’s head, and even more hideous. With sunken pores and holes where moonlight pierced covering it, like some pale pumice stone.

It’s arms were longer than they should have been. Reaching to at least the middle of what could be called its calves. It’s knees were bent backwards and the legs themselves were short, yet it towered above even the tallest man, due to it’s long torso, stretching at least five feet. It craned its neck downward to look down on me, it’s sunken eyes peering into my soul.

I tried to scream, to have some stranger, some passing good Samaritan rush to my aid, and fill my dark apartment with the white fluorescence of the hallway. Yet no sound escaped my lips. Though my larynx strained and tore against the horror forming in front of me, I could not get a single terrible syllable out. And as the last of the swirling vortex of dust stuck to this sordid terror my silent screaming halted. As the being became complete it reached it’s long, gangly arms towards me.

I snapped out of it, slapping it’s arm away: the dust that formed the limb blew across the room and I sprinted for the door, towards safety. A gust of wind shot past me: the creature of dust had disconnected and reformed in front of the door: blocking my escape.

        I backed away…I needed to escape. My legs gave out and I fell on my backside. The creature once again reached out for me, and paralyzed by fear as I was I could only wait.

        It’s large hand grasped my face: it’s digits encircling my head. I kept my mouth closed, it, too, struck still with fear. I could feel a pressure on my occipital lobe as the creature squeezed and I involuntarily opened my mouth in a silent whimper.

        As my mouth opened it stuff something that I was not prepared for: all the dust that formed it’s hand rushed into my narrowly opened mouth. The creature wrenched my jaws open and I could do nothing but stare as each individual particle of dust flooded into my mouth, into my being. The dust scratched at my palettes, and my throat as it seemingly dispersed throughout my entire body, and I could do nothing but choke on the seemingly unending torrent of dust. And then it ended: my consciousness left me as the oxygen was robbed and replaced with dust…

      I woke up in a cold sweat, and looked around…I was under my polyester sheets on top of my spring mattress. It had all been a dream, a horrible nightmare. I sighed and laid down starting at the ceiling before I stood up. My heart sank as I saw the curtains wrenched open and the window opened just an inch…