The leaves rustle as the wind blows through them. Some detach and flutter to the ground, browns, reds, and oranges surrounding me wherever I go as fall shows its colors. The sky ahead is gloomy, clouds everywhere. Not a clear patch of sky to be seen. The sun’s healing light forgotten.
I keep my eyes focused on the path before me. Tremors plague my body, goosebumps covering my flesh, but not from the chilly air that claims this month and the ones to follow.
A foot comes out of nowhere and, before I can properly react, I’m already stumbling towards the uneven terrain below me. My feet leave the ground and my arms come up in a last minute attempt to keep myself from flying headfirst into the ground.
My landing is still rough and painful, tiny pebbles digging into the palms of my hands and my knees skidding over the surface of the rough path I’d been walking along. Behind me are snickers, something I’ve become well-acquainted with over the years. Something I had forgotten for all of two years. Something that demands not to be forgotten.
Pushing myself up on my elbows, I wince in pain as my already bruised skin darkens further from the pressure I apply unwillingly to it. Next, I try to push myself up further and then from there maybe stand up.
I don’t get the chance. A foot slams down on my back, forcing the air from my lungs and making my already feeble arms to collapse underneath me. My face returns back to the earth harshly, new scratches opening and starting to bleed on my exposed skin.
I suck in large lungfuls of breath as I attempt to regain it, still shaken from my sudden landing. Above me, I see the hulking figures of my fellow peers. They look down at me, their faces partly in shadow, grinning wickedly. They enjoy my misery. After all, to them, I’m below them. Something sub-human.
I avert my eyes quickly. Tears start to well up in the corners and I quickly try to blink them away, refusing to cry in front of these horrid people. It’s only been a few days since they died. Do they not spare me anytime for grief?
My heart clenches at the thought, my tears instantly gone, replaced instead by a burning fury.
“What’re you gonna do, devil child?” someone taunts, and I suppose it is the one whose foot is on my back as the pressure there increases. I wheeze as my chest is unable to pull more oxygen into my lungs, not enough room being had to expand and decompress my lungs.
More fury burns through my veins and my fingers twitch. These people really think they are above me. Yet they haven’t gone through what my friends failed to.
I’ll show them. I’ll show them all.
My hands move faster than my thoughts do, my hands coming to rest under my shoulders and then pressing down onto the ground as hard as I can, pushing my body up and getting rid of the foot on my back. I quickly hop onto my feet, stumbling back a few steps as my balance reorients itself and my head spins from my sudden decision to stand.
Around me, my torturers are silent, not having seen me fight back before. This silence is, unfortunately, only momentary. Quickly enough, they recover and those same smiles that I’m so sick of seeing return.
“Oh, so the Devil’s Child thinks she can resist us, does she?” More laughter.
My eyes narrow as I stand confidently. I have come too far to surrender now. My friends gave me strength in the time they were here. I will not disgrace them now by being weak.
“I will enter the Gate tonight, you pathetic bunch of cowards. Then what? Will you still call me a child of the Devil because I have done something all of you are too afraid to?” I make eye contact with each and every one of them, staring into their very souls.
They remain motionless as I brush through them, not caring if I bump shoulders with someone or not. They don’t try to stop me, stunned again at my words. Their rage has not yet set in. I should flee while I still can.
Rounding a corner and exiting the park, I make sure I’m out of sight before I take off running. I really don’t want them to catch up to me. Even though I spoke so confidently, so fiercely, back there, that was all false bravado. All bark, no bite.
Slinking down a narrow alleyway, the reality of what I’ve just done hits me like a train and I slide down against the wall. My legs suddenly weak, the ground rises to meet me quickly. I hardly notice, my hands grabbing big bunches of my hair as I nervously pull on them, more tears starting to well up in my eyes.
What have I done?
What have I...
A salty liquid makes its way down my face, only one drop at first. Then another follows the first. And another. And another, until there’s an endless stream of them. I try to keep my hyperventilating gasps at a minimum, not wanting to alert any passerby to my presence, as I break down.
The wind still blows through this unforgiving town, pulling with it an article right into my little alleyway, as cliche as it might be. With strained eyes that still pour out tears, I look at the paper. My eyes flit over the top of it and my heart sinks even further, my mind falling even deeper into hysteria.
The article read: Friday, October 13: NEW DISCOVERY!: Allegedly 4 Teens Died Beyond the Gate. Mary is the Winner of this Round’s Bet!
Another sob rips through my body as my stomach churns at the words. This world I live in is so twisted. Why do they think this is some sort of entertainment? Do they think that death is funny? Do they think it’s okay to mock someone else’s passing and grief just because they’re the outcasts?
I pull my knees to my chest and rock myself back and forth. My mind is blank as my breathing continues to be erratic, not enough oxygen getting to my head to form a rational thought.
There I sit, alone in an alley, grieving my inevitable death.
And here I stand, before the Gate, staring death in the eye.
I must commit myself to this. I can’t turn back. The curse, the spell, whatever you want to call it, has established a firm hold over my body. I am here and either I will go through those large, ominous, aged, and wooden doors or I will meet an undesirable end.
Here I stand with the knowledge that I will not be walking back out of those doors alive, but not without a companion.
I am not alone, tonight. There is one other that stands beside me, dressed in similar attire as I. White. Pristine. A suit. I wear a flowing, fancy, white dress and matching lace shoes.
Mother pulled and pricked my head, roping my hair into an intricate braid. She seemed almost happy to do it, right after she forced me into this ridiculous outfit.
The boy next to me doesn’t say a word as we stand, side by side, staring at the doors before us. As we stand, looking at the Gate to Hell.
My head turns and I look at the one who will be traversing whatever horrors we may face down there with me. His head turns to look at me in turn. We take each other in, still not saying a word. The square is silent, even though dozens of people have crowded into it, wanting to see the spectacle that is our deaths. Or, more accurately, my death.
He is only slightly taller than I. His eyes are blue, but startlingly so. They almost glow in the moonlight, looking like what I imagine ice would when illuminated. They’re mesmerizing. His hair is blonde and his features are moreover average.
To me, he is the most beautiful boy in the world. And that is because he isn’t looking at me with what everyone else does when they lay eyes on me. There is no disgust or hatred lurking in those icy depths of his eyes.
There’s just sadness.
I break the spell, turning my own muted green eyes back to the Gate tonight. Around me, the people still stare, their mouths sealed shut. I can feel the weight of their eyes, heavy on my back, making chills run down my spine. I’ve lived with these stares for the majority of my life. This is the last time I will suffer under them.
A hand encloses mine within it. I know whose it is. It is the beautiful boy’s next to me. My heart warms a little at this small gesture. He probably doesn’t know how much this means to me, this little show of support.
My own eyes fill with sadness, just like the beautiful boy’s eyes, and rightly so. I do not think we will survive.
For, tonight, we dance with the devil.