By Molly Izer
The girl’s scream echoed in his head, the high pitch wailing ringing in his ears, her face filling his vision and pushing all else from his mind. He wanted her to stop, just stop screaming before he lost his mind. Her blue eyes were wide with terror, her pale face swimming before him. Her skin had a soft glow, and her face was young. There was something about her that he remembered. Her screams started to form words… pleading words. His name was upon her lips, his face reflecting in those wide, fearful eyes.
He sat up, sweat pouring from him, his tattered rags clinging to his soaked skin. Springs squealed in protest as he sat up, the old, hole riddled mattress he was laying upon being too old to work properly or be comfortable. He was in a house, though certainly not one he would like to live in, with its moth eaten curtains and drippy ceiling. The house had obviously not been lived in for quite some time, and old objects of furniture were overturned upon the ground , along with old uneaten meals that had molded away to dust. Cold, winter daylight was flooding through the window, and it tickled his bare toes, but despite the weather, guilt stabbed his chest and beat his brain with its demanding hands. What had he done to end up in this house, with no memory but his name?
After he laid in bed for awhile, he realized that none of his strength was coming back to his muscles, who were burning like he had just run five marathons while carrying a buffalo, he shakily climbed out of bed, knees wobbling and heart pounding. He collapsed to the ground and dragged himself to the corner of the room, were an old cracked mirror was propped against the wall, and he instantly regretted it. He hated what looked back at him.
The creature in the mirror was hideous. Its bare chest, though muscular and taught, was a maze of red scratches and several bleeding wounds. Its legs were also muscular, and they too bore scratches and wounds. His body was only covered by a pair of black denim jean shorts which had obviously been pants at one time, at least until the owner had ripped off its legs in a crude fashion. Its forearm had a black six-sided star on it with little grey flames in the middle. The creature’s puffy eyes were a startling grey, and its short black hair was matted. Horrified, Jack glanced at his legs. That was no creature in the mirror.
He shook his head vigorously and sprinted out of the shadowy house. A dazzling light blinded him, and he fell, his arms scraping against hot black pavement in his haste to cover his eyes. He got up quickly, brushing off his wounds as the children in the surrounding all down the road houses gaped. He staggered, his legs of lead, towards the town at the end of the road, not sure quite what he was looking for. By the time he reached the end of the road, he was dragging himself on the ground, unable to stand.
“Need some help, son?” Asked a deep voice, and a shadow crossed Jack’s face. A hand reached out, and Jack grasped it, allowing the strong hand to pull him to his feet. The hand belonged to a man donning a bright orange vest and a highlighter yellow hard hat. He held out a cup of water and looked Jack up and down.
“Yes, sir.” Jack whispered, his voice raspy, and Jack took the cup and drank it all down in one big gulp. Jack leaned against the wall of the building he was standing under, a bakery that leaked it's delicious smells upon the air, and the scent teased Jack’s whimpering stomach.
“You might want to get out of here kid,” said the man, his voice suddenly cold. He pointed to a poster on the bakery window. “Thieves and arsonist aren't welcome in the town of Elderwood.” He man snatched the cup out of a bewildered Jack’s hands, and he turned on his heel, walking back to a group of men in identically outfits to his. One of them was on the phone, casting nervous glances back to Jack. Jack turned and peered at the poster the builder man had pointed to.
Himself looked back at him, but this was no reflection. Large letters above his head on the yellowed paper read: “Missing Child, known thief. Known to be roaming on the outskirts of Elderwood. Responsible for the murder of Sarah Orpheus. ”
Jack staggered away from the shop window and looked around the square frantically. From every window the pictures of himself stared back at him. People were herding their children back into shops, shielding them from Jack's view. Sirens wailed in the distance.
He cowered against the Bakery, forcing himself to think fast. He took off at a smart pace, running into dark woods, feeling as though the place was calling to him, whispering to him that he was safer in the darkness of the woods. He ran as far as he needed to go to drown out the sound of the sirens, and he collapsed upon the ground.
When he had awoken from his slumber without any memory, he thought that he might be a homeless child with a disorder or something. But now he knew that his memory had been wiped on purpose. Had it been he, himself who had wiped blank the slate of his mind? Had he really gone that far to forget the terrible deed he had committed? Was this girl really that important to him?
Yes, he thought. Yes. This must be the girl that haunted his nightmares, the little girl that screamed and screamed, the little girl that wove through his dreams.
At the corner of his eye, the leaves stirred. He whipped his head around and stared. He didn't see anything, but he felt the eerie feeling in his brain cause his neck hair to prickle.He looked around franticly, and slowly backed into the shadow of a large elder tree. The shadows cleared his mine, and the pounding headache he had attempting to ignore faded completely. He felt his weak legs regain their strength, and the scratches on his arms seemed to melt away and turn to wisps of swirling black smoke that tickled Jack’s nose with its cold touch. Cold smoke? He wondered, lightly poking the area of his arm that had healed. No pain. Every blemish on his body had mended with tiny whips of smoke, leaving only the scars on his forearm. He turned his attention back to the direction of town, searching for the sounds of the sirens and the trouble that was looking for him.
That was when he heard the voice.