Day Twenty Three...

I climb the stairs.  The loft is covered in a mist of moisture, turning a bleak space into a murky stomach of belongings.  Behind the veil, I can see a desk and another tiny cot, both dripping with moisture.  I feel a trickle of sweat fall along my back as I step towards the desk which is arranged in a haphazard fashion.  Warped bits of paper are tucked between dirty shovels and gloves.  Directly on top of a mountain of clippings, scraps of paper, and leftover chewing gum bits I can see a once-beautiful brown journal.  It has a streak of blood on the front that resembles fingerprints. The grimy leather strap that was meant to hold the pages together is tattered and dripping with moisture.

With one hesitant finger I lift it open and begin sifting through the pages.  It begins in August of 1998 and ends just a few days prior to my arrival.  The handwriting grows more scraggly as time passes and is almost illegible on the final day.  At the bottom I can see that -presumably the deceased man beneath me- has gone to great pain to make his final words clear.

 Was I right?

Mark Hensley

December 12, 2010

 I flip backwards and read his first entry.

I’m completely certain now.  I saw Mrs. Warren disappear from church today.  She was sitting in the front and at communion I passed her as she was heading to her seat.  When I turned around she wasn’t in her seat.  I asked her brother where she’d gone and he said that he hadn’t seen her that day… that she was in Orlando visiting their mother.  She worked with him.  She worked with Christopher!  I wish he’d never told me about all this at Christmas.  Will I be better off knowing when they come for me?

Mark

I close the journal and move carefully down the steps, hopping around Mark as if he is a pile of cracked eggshells and I go out the door.  The dogs greet me with wagging tails.  The snow is still falling and so is the sun.  The light has already begun to dim.  How long had I been inside?  I look around and see the dogs’ paw trail leads around the shack and through a cracked door, which has a small pile of snow behind it indicating to me that the dogs have shoved it open.  Inside is a deserted diner with red patent seats at the bar and plush booths tucked against the back wall.  Though everything is melted around the refrigerator I find an industrial size bag of chips in the pantry and bring it back with me to a booth.  I’m too exhausted to search.  I disinfect my hands with sanitizing gel from my pack and sit with the feast, reading through the journal until I fall asleep across the scarlet seat of the booth.

The End

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