When his girlfriend leads him astray from his paranoid mother household, Pazel stumbles on something far more than cuts and bruises.


2. Unearth

Cassidy pulled on my hand, squealing and only with glimmers of a half moon could I see the white of her teeth and nothing else. The forest rose much further than I remembered from day time, and without my sense of sight I started to stumble on almost everything. The ground hissed as I snapped a branch or landed on the head of some nocturnal creature. Cassidy was one with the route though, and walked through as if she was floating just millimetres off the forest floor. I could feel the aging autumn leaves crinkle with my every step, and my mind counted internally just in case of an emergency and I had to crawl myself back.

Five hundred and sixty one steps. I was starting to wonder wherever she was taking me. “You’re going to love it Paz, everyone’s here. I doubt you'll be lost for a second. They’re all dying to see what you do when you don’t come out.” Her eyes searched without care for a sign of a teenage settlement, while mine were just trying to avoid the generous roots bursting out of the ground and on its way, at an archaic pace, to wrap itself around the ankles of walkers.

She prepared to run and urged me to go faster, but I only managed a handful of swift moments before I stumbled to the floor and I felt a crack in my ankles. I winced more in shock than in actual pain, and Cassidy sprinted back to my side and reached deep into her bag for whatever medical supplies she could find. Her hands grasped around blister patches for high-heeled shoes and the flashlight on her phone.

Within a second, the bright light caused my pupils to retract so violently my head almost begins to pound. She traced the light down my headlit-rabbit face down the plain white t-shirt and to my withering leg. “Let me just pull up the trouser leg, hold still.” For once, there was nothing annoyed on her face. It was simply patient, focused and ready. I wanted to say something sweet, but all I could think about is the throbbing from the tips of my leg. With absolute precision, she pulls up the first few inches without touching an inch of skin and lays the flashlight to our side, illuminating the crippled and the helper like silhouettes on the trees old and fraying. She pursed her lips until she reached the source of what appeared to be bleeding, before the pursing turned to a gasp of pure fear and it headed straight at me. My heart was pumping so fast I was starting to wonder if seventeen was too young for a heart attack and she jetted across so she was a good metre away from me, and studied the cut from a distance.

“What, is it that bad?” I had never had to deal with blood before, my mother made sure of that. What if I reacted badly to infections, or the injury was worse than even I could have guessed.

“Pazel, you’re not bleeding.” She trembled as she talked and looked at me like I might try to swallow her whole.

“What are you talking about?” I could see the dampened end of my jean from where the cut must start.

“It’s not blood, Paz.” My nerves soften a little at the nickname. It doesn't seem so stupid now when all I wanted is for her to erupt into laughter and tell me nothing’s wrong. I would settle for the truth though, at this point.

“It’s, it’s gold.”

“What do you mean?” I sprang up and ignored the shooting pains that were rapidly decreasing, and with the brightness of her phone, began to examine the cut for myself. Ankle is fine; I noted mentally, cut is small, but…

“No, it’s a trick of the light.” I argued back, and bent my spine so there was no distance from me and the cut. It was a neat split along my ankle bone, oozing a liquid slowly as though it planned to heal up in no time. The blood was glittering in the little specks of light, and Cassidy point blank would not come any closer. It’s blood, I reassured myself. It’s blood… but even when I squint my eyes, I couldn't see crimson. I touched the bruising tissue with the tip of my index finger, and attempted to identify it even if I would’t like the results.

The blood was cool to touch, without the warmth I might have thought blood would have. I could feel the molten outer coat begin to solidify, as though turning to a block of something in my hands. I went to grab the phone to look closer, but as I did; the light shut off. Suddenly, the whole device weighed considerably more as I wrapped my fingers around it, and Cassidy started to scream in a fear at the dark. Now we were readily relying on the moon once again, and as I held it up I could see her phone is no longer her phone anymore. It was a lump of solid, satisfying, legitimate gold.

And it came from my hands.

"Switch the light back on Pazel." Cass warned and wiped a strand of wavy hair from her face. No matter what the bottle told her her hair colour would be, it was only a palish blonde in the presence of real gold.

"I could't." I muttered, and my cut has healed to a chunk of yellow substance. For once I was glad for the dark and the way it shields me from her, and her breathing was slow and steady to start, but the longer we are lost without light the more it quickens and follows my own. 

I heard her stand up and scan the area in all directions. "We'll find the party soon and get help, it shouldn't be too far off..."

"We couldn't just wonder anywhere Cas." My head was screaming with the confusion of it all. What was happening to my blood? Already I could feel a strength inside build until my muscles grew heavier, and my build a little taller. There was something pumping fast all around me that I hadn't been aware of before. "Are you okay, Paz? I am coming for you I swear, it's just; Ah!" I knew she'd fallen without her usual grace, and in a panic I reached down and search for her, but she managed to part further away than I'd thought. We were skimming the floor and wildly flinging limb to find another limb, with only the sounds of a light struggle and midnight creatures to fend off the silence.

In the dark, I didn't see the little brown leaves turn metallic.

In the dark, I didn't see as the roots of trees begin to warm to an aureate shade, and crawl the colour along the trunk until at last it had reached every life leaf.

But in the same dark, I couldn't miss the half-second screech of a girl being turned ochroid. In the daze, I pulled her hand into mine, but her fingers no longer curled into my palms. Then the screaming stopped, and I was left in this nightmare, with only precious metal for company.

I cradle what used to be my girlfriend but her body is so stoic that she no longer bent to my touch. What once was a peachy-freckly loveliness was now just solid gold. All I could imagine was her heart being taken over, frosted with the curse and making its way to shell her out, until she was no longer breathing. We lay there, except we was only I now, and not one of us could anymore fit the term of human.

Only the fear of being discovered kept me from yelling out, like a accidental murderer must feel as they clutched the victim. Could I be called a murderer? I hummed the song the radio was playing in my bedroom to keep my mind from imploding, but the lyrics don't fit as I remember them and it's considerably hard to hum when your whole mouth is taken in sobs. 

Her body was now a task to move, and I realized I didn't have the strength to lift her. Instead I scrambled for cover on the grounds, leaves here, wildflowers and cones there, and the tears wouldn't stop as I covered her, square inch by square inch, until all I could see peeping out was her almond-shaped eyes, preserved in a flawless casing. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." I repeated again but I knew she'll never hear me call again.

Monster. That is my definite term now. Cassidy Stone, of five foot three inches, was now inanimate, and I was the reason why.


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