Wrong

 

‘…Wrong… I was…wrong…’

He shuffled along the sidewalk, slowly making his way down the same street that he had traveled many, many times before. The same road, the same town. The same people who were not actually the same people… At some point, he had stopped noticing their faces…

It was the shadows that hovered around them that caught his attention.

‘…Death…everywhere…’

The darkness clung to the living like an ethereal mist, a sheet of transparent fog that floated dispersedly above some, but others… Death wrapped itself intimately around those who were nearing its threshold, a coiled serpent of shadows, a cocoon of obscurity surrounding their souls…

The darkness was coming for them all, in the end. He saw it everywhere. Everyday. Over every single one of them.

He tried to warn them.

‘…Darkness…It is coming…’

But they couldn’t hear him. He learned that long, long ago, that the living were unable to perceive him. His words went unheard, his face went unseen. But he spoke nonetheless, perhaps out of habit more than anything else… Perhaps he had liked to speak, in his past life…

He didn’t know.

He couldn’t remember.

There were very few things that he could recall, from those days when he’d walked the earth in a body that was whole and spoken with a voice that was true.

The last thing word he’d heard still rang perfectly clear in his mind.

“Wrong.”

Warm breath and soft lips on one side of his face, and the cool, hard metal of the barrel on the other.

A deafening bang, an explosive pain that shattered his skull, and then—

Darkness.

…Had he been asked a question, before they’d pulled the trigger, and he’d been incorrect? Or had he said something, made some statement on his own that was just the wrong thing to say?

He didn’t know.

He couldn’t remember.

That was all he could recall with certainty from his living days. The last few seconds before Death swallowed him whole…and brought him to the lake.

The darkness lifted in a haze, transitioning into a familiar fog which hung heavy in the air. Moisture licked at his skin, and he breathed in a scent that filled him with nostalgia.

A canoe.

The boat was waiting for him, tied to the dock with a single, knotted rope. It was the only one, bobbing slightly in the gentle, rolling waves…

It was for him.

He had somehow just known that it was…the crossing. The darkness which had stretched out across the water seemed endless, but he knew that it was the next step, the beginning of another journey; that the boat would take him…beyond.

He wondered if that was how Death was for everyone. He didn’t think so. The canoe seemed so personal, so intimate. He had a feeling that he’d spent many days on lake like that in his past life, floating in a canoe. Maybe he’d liked fishing. Maybe he’d simply enjoyed the sensation of being surrounded by water on all sides, away from the concrete heat of the city.

He didn’t know.

He couldn’t remember.

But he could recall that alluring invitation of Death, perfectly so. He’d approached the canoe, had even reached for the rope, when—

“Wrong.”

That word.

His hand had flown involuntarily to the back of his skull. He’d felt soft, gooey tissue and fragments of bone where they shouldn’t have been.

He felt warm breath and cool metal and no, no, it wasn’t fair

He’d been so young, far too young—he’d had plans for a beautiful future, he was determined and smart and he had so much to live for, people who loved him, who needed him—

…Had he?

He didn’t know.

He couldn’t remember.

All he knew was that he’d walked away, turned his back on the canoe and headed back to shore. He’d refused to pass on, wouldn’t, not now, not ever…and when he’d looked back over his shoulder, it was to see that the boat had left without him; was inexplicably untethered and drifting off into the darkness an empty vessel…and he knew it would never come back.

He’d been in the concrete confines of the city ever since.

‘…Wrong…’

He shuffled along the sidewalk, slowly making his way down the same street that he had traveled many, many times before. The same road, the same town. The same people who were not actually the same people…

‘…The darkness…’

The same words which were an endless stream of unheard murmurings. He watched the shadows of Death hovering above the living, but not for him, never again for him… Perhaps that should have made him depressed, but it didn’t.

‘…Wrong…’

He didn’t feel anything.

‘Death…everywhere…’

Then he saw her.

A girl, a child. She was stock still in the busy street, a single, statuesque figure among the otherwise animated people, and she was staring in stunned disbelief, right at…but no…

She could see him.

When he shifted to one side, her huge eyes followed him, undeniably, irrefutably watching him as he moved.

And Death…the veil of Death which clung to her was incredibly close. It wrapped itself so tightly around her soul that he knew, he could tell—it was coming for her, soon, very soon—he needed to warn her, this impossible child—

‘Death!’ he shouted, stumbling towards her with his arm raised. She jumped at the sound, and yes, yes—she could hear him, too—

‘Death! It is coming for you! It is coming…for you all!’

She ran.

He hobbled after her as quickly as his rotten legs would carry him, but he could not reach her. She was still hot-blooded, quick and alive…and he was not.

‘The darkness!’ he screamed desperately in a hoarse, raspy voice. ‘It is coming! Death!’

He kept yelling long after she’d vanished from sight. He swung his dead limbs from side to side, chaotic and frenzied.

‘Wrong!’

His words went unheard, his face went unseen.

‘I was wrong!’

canoe

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