Bogleech.com"s 2015 Horror Write-off:
Submitted by Nelke
“How is your friend?” she asked. I did not know what she was talking about.
“Your friend, Ella!” she continued. “You used to talk about her all the time! Did you two get angry?” I shook my head. I did not know any Ella. It was a weird name in Spanish, it only meant “She”.
I was six at the time, and the world was tiny, and she was pregnant with my brother. It was just one day away from the letter with the diagnosis, and the start of the treatments, and the chemo that gradually started working while it ate her away. The conversation we had was lost, for children do not waste their time on things they cannot comprehend, and so many other things were happening.
I was twelve. We were playing in the backside of the train station, on the scarcely-used tracks for freight trains. It was a derelict kingdom of cracked concrete, weeds, cicadas and rust. Our parents had met on a bar nearby, and they thought we were playing in the park.
I hated playing with her, because she always made me feel small. It was not that she was overtly mean to me; she was just fourteen and she did not like to be paired with a child like me. However, we found some kind of truce chasing lizards and making up stories about remote castles and deserts.
“Who was that girl, anyway?” she asked. “She’s not from your class.”
“Who are you talking about?”
“I saw her walking you home last week. She was your age. I thought you had no friends in class.”
I had no friends in class. I had no friends whatsoever. Nobody had walked home with me, I would have remembered that.
But I let my reply die in my throat, and I just shrugged. She would have not believed me, anyway. She made a dismissive gesture, and went back to play with a stick. It was a time before the smartphones, so she had to look for ways to ignore me.
The temperature dropped suddenly, and the world became gray for a moment. Cicadas went silent. We looked up, and a cloud had covered the sun. The sky had been a perfect summer blue a moment before. For a moment, the sound of something big and rusty filled the world, but it was gone very fast.
We ignored it, and went back to our awkward companionship. She was actually ok for the rest of the afternoon, and told me about her lessons and her insecurities, that I could not really understand (she was cool, I was not).
I only saw her again once, at a meeting of our parents, but we did not really talk. Her family left town soon after, after an unfortunate incident that led to a fire in their house. She lost an ear, and part of her face, or so I was told.
Our school was ripe with rumors and exaggerations. One girl told me she had walked near the burned-down house and she had stepped on a piece of charred human skin. She stared at the rest of the class when she told us, as if she was challenging us to call her a liar.
I was eighteen, and a weirdo. We had to head through a barren stretch of land to go to the municipal sports facilities for PE, for our high school did not have means for so many students. It was just a five-minute walk, but it seemed so much longer, dragging my feet along the others who walked in knots, chattering and teasing each other. I was not bullied, not anymore, but loneliness had already started to sting.
I felt somebody walking by my side, all of a sudden. I looked left, then right, but there was nobody there. Suspecting it might have been a prank, I turned around, but the other classmates were busy with their own interactions. However, the feeling of being next to somebody did not fade: it got stronger, and she was always behind me, or to my side, or right in front of me, but she was always somewhere I was not looking. I whispered a greeting, thinking I was going crazy, but I heard nothing. Just a soft breeze that felt a little bit hotter than it should.
Afterwards that day, a classmate asked me to whom was I talking. I felt a million ants running on my skin. I just shook my head, and swallowed down my fears. I did not sleep that night.
The next time we walked to the facilities, there was a dead dog next to the path. It was half-hidden amongst the overgrowth, and I did not see it, but I could smell it. The others wrinkled their noses in disgust, and some boys made gross comments. I breathed a little bit more easily that time.
The carcass stayed there for the rest of the school year, right until the summer. At that point, it did not smell anymore, and it was just yellow bones and skin. I came close to it once: it was a sad little thing, like all the dead. The skull was missing, only the lower jaw remained.
I pulled one of its teeth, which was easier than I thought. It was a canine, still white, with a yellowish root much longer than the teeth itself. I washed its grime, and kept it as a relic to remind myself it had been real.
I spent the following years thinking about the encounters. Each episode had been separated by two-thousand three-hundred days.
I was twenty-four. I was walking down the snow-covered streets of a city I was new in, in a country with a language I did not speak yet. Winter there was an endless succession of dusks and nights. It was not so late, but the world was dark and bone-cold, and wind howled in the train tracks above us.
My friend was drunk, and rambling. I was not. I had pretended to drink the whole night, getting a bottle of beer and filling it over and over with water from the bathroom sink. I was sick, and running a fever, but I forced myself to leave the house for the whole day. I did not want it to be my partner.
She had cheated in a couple of her partners. She was nosy. She had betrayed my trust a couple of times, when I told her personal secrets and she had not kept them to herself. She was sometimes harsh and rude to others, especially people who were serving her. The truth is, she was not worse than myself or than many of the people I called my friends. None of her faults were unforgivable. I just did not like her very much, and she was available, and better her than anybody else I knew.
And then came the moment I was dreading. It was almost a relief.
“Hey, look! Isn’t it this the girl you were talking to in the last party? She looked cool!”
She was pointing at a lonely figure standing under an overpass. She had turned to look at us and, although I could not make up her face clearly, she was beckoning us, a gesture of recognition.
“Yeah… It’s her. Her name is Ella. Mind if I talk to her for a moment?”
“Yeah… of course. I want to meet her.” She stumbled next to me.
I forced myself to look. I was right about her; in a way, she was me, or, at least, a part of me somehow. She was smiling. It wasn’t a smile actually.
“Pleased to meet you”, she said, or some formulaic greeting. I do not really remember. Her voice was wet and wrong and louder than it should have been. It reverberated in the tracks above and in the metal stairs, and I could taste bile in my mouth.
The other walked towards her, her hand extended in a polite gesture of salutation. I turned away then, just as I heard a yell of surprise. I kept walking as the yelling turned into the raw, throaty screams of terror.
It was the first time I heard that sound, but it would not be the last.
The screams faded as I hurried along the snow-covered streets. The stars were out, and the night had somehow gotten colder. My breath condensed in front of me in whirls that took fantastic shapes in front of my eyes, or maybe it was my imagination. At least I was close from home. And I had bought myself some time.