by Andrew Patch
The mist clung to the trees. Sophie paused, transfixed by the whiteness silencing the world around her. It felt like nothing was real anymore. She exhaled, watching her breath drift lazily into the white. Adjusting her rucksack, Sophie stepped off the pavement into the small wood that lay within the concrete sprawl of her housing estate.
She almost missed Astrid’s grumblings as she followed the path that slipped between the trees. Her best friend hadn’t been at youth club tonight, so Sophie didn’t have the accompaniment of Astrid’s running commentary regarding the vampires and werewolves hidden within the darkening wood. Nor did she have to rush along in her friend’s wake, whilst Astrid declared that their remains would be discovered here the next morning if Sophie didn’t hurry up.
‘If that happens, I’ll make sure that everyone knows it’s your fault’, Astrid would say. Sophie never had the heart to point out the flaw in her friend’s logic.
Tonight, the only sounds were Sophie’s trainers amidst fallen leaves and the jangling of keys clipped to her rucksack. Though she empathised with Astrid’s fears, for her this route was preferable to the one that went past the shuttered row of shops. For that was the domain of Kyah and her cronies, an assortment of nicotine stained breath, topknots and rage.
Kyah had recently decided that Sophie was an irritation. Sophie was unsure quite what she had done to provoke Kyah, yet she did know she was now involved in an established process that had blighted many fellow pupils school lives. Stage one was just daily name calling, at some point this progressed to stage two, a series of unfounded accusations. Stage three occurred when Kyah decided there was enough evidence to justify a confrontation, normally held after school. A ringed carnival would assemble to witness the spectacle of hair pulling, punches and gouging nails.
No, the woods offered sanctuary. Sophie looked back the way she had come. The mist had thickened and she could barely make out the shadowy silhouettes of the street. Plunging her hands in her pockets he set off toward home, looking forward to a night of television, biscuits and her Father’s mutterings about politicians. Her progress was interrupted by the sharp crack of wood breaking. Sophie stopped, her heart beating furiously as she scanned the now sinister sentinels for Astrid’s monsters.
It was probably just a dog, a mangy stray, comprising solely of ribs and fleas. Hopefully it wasn’t Kyah.
Another snap, another leap of her heart, the sound seemed closer now, off to her left.
She recommenced walking, her pace quickening whilst she reached round for her keys. Grasping the points between her fingers like Astrid had shown her. Ahead, she could make out the other end of the path, an orange streetlight flickering less than fifty metres away.
She didn’t hear the feet running towards her until they were right behind her. As Sophie turned, a gloved hand covered her mouth, whilst another encircled her waist. Sophie found herself lifted up, her assailant pulling her backwards into the trees.
With all her strength, she hit out with her keys. Her attacker yelled, I got him! The hand released her mouth, wrestling the keys and throwing them away. She screamed out but the attacker swiftly returned his gloved hand, silencing her. Dragging Sophie into the dank musty foliage beneath the trees.
He threw her to the ground, the impact knocking the air out of Sophie’s lungs. She looked up to see her attacker stood over her. She recognised him, he worked in one of the shops. He reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a thin blade. He was breathing hard as he knelt down on top of her, bringing the knife up to her face, his knees pinning her arms. Sophie could see sweat staining the shirt under his coat. He put a finger to his lips and began teasing the fabric of her school coat with his knife.
Sophie waited for him to say something, yet he remained silent, focused on the blade slicing the buttons off the front of her coat.
The barking of a dog nearby startled them both. Her attacker looked back over his shoulder to the path. Sophie, hope surging, pushed upwards from the ground as hard as she could, and screamed.
The man was unbalanced for a moment, then readjusted, forcing his weight down onto her, his hand pressing down on her mouth. The sound of footsteps on the path, lost in the mist, walked past without stopping. Sophie felt terror flood her system; she struggled, fighting against his weight. He just looked down, mocking her attempts with a fixed grin.
She went still as he kissed his finger and pressed it against her lips. Then he slit her throat.
The pain was incredible, a white-hot band. Sophie looked up into the eyes of her killer. Pain wracked her body. It felt like she was on fire.
She screamed/He screamed.
The face opposite him was contorted in screaming terror. My face. Memories of who he was crashed in like a tsunami. I’m not Sophie, I’m him.
He wanted to shut his eyes, to close off from his reflection in the mirror. He couldn’t, restraints kept his eyes open, his head still. Sweat ran down his back, as his body convulsed against the metal frame he was strapped to. Cables and tubes twisted around him like snakes, feeding him the right drugs and nutrients to maintain his existence in the twin cells of reality and memory.
He just wanted to go outside, to speak to someone, to feel the sun on his face. Too feel warm once again.
The PA crackled into life, ‘Prisoner X-23De, insertion in five.’
‘No … no …I can’t … I’m sorry …please …’
The world became white.
The mist clung to the trees. Sophie paused, transfixed by the whiteness silencing the world around her.
It felt like nothing was real anymore.
From the UK, currently living in Brisbane. Working on a first novel whilst dabbling in flash fiction.
You can follow me @imageronin
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'A walk in the fog'