"Loneliness is not a product of being alone. It is the result of feeling that no one cares." -Ice Winifredd
His body shook violently as he trudged through the unfamiliar town. By then, it was pouring. Heavy buckets of rain dispensed down from the unfriendly sky overhead as yellow-white bolts of lightning danced across a darkened sky. The streets were abandoned; the sidewalks empty of pedestrians and animals, and nothing could be heard over the howling winds and roaring claps of thunder. Still Sky refused to head back. Why should he? Not even a month had gone by and he was already known as a murderer's son in the eyes of the kids in town he had yet to get to know. Was this a curse? Would his life always be like this?
With an irritated sigh, he shoved his hands into his pockets and slowed to a stop. Where would he go from here? He didn't know his way around his place. There was nobody to ask, nowhere to go where he would be welcomed rather than shunned. There was nowhere where he could belong and finally be Sky. His eyes stung with a burning sensation to cry, but still he refused. Big boys don't cry. The words echoed through his mind like a song. Did he cry when he was taken away to prison? Did he cry when he realized that he'd ruined the lives of his wife and son?
Did he ever bother to cry for anything anymore?
Sky had his doubts. Yet his mother still seemed to protect him, believe in his innocence, and deny the most obvious reasoning behind his father's acts of evil.
He didn't ever truly care about them. Only himself and all the money he had obtained by mercilessly slaughtering other people, delivering premature deaths as if he was God himself. Why? Why did this have to happen? Why couldn't anybody believe that he and his mother had known nothing about his father's dreadful plans? Why couldn't they see that his mother was no accomplice? That he was not a copy of that man?
This time, he let the tears flow, hot with rage, mixing with the cold rain dripping from his reddening face.
And if there was a God, then why did he let this happen to their family? Why couldn't it be someone else? What was his family guilty of to receive such horrible fates?
He hung his head in defeat. He was alone now. Forever doomed to be alone in a world that was far from being empty through no fault of his own. With a final grunt of anger, Sky sped off and didn't look back.
He groaned out load, eyes blinking slowly as they adjusted to the darkness around him. Where am I? He ran sticky fingers through his hair and scowled. His body felt stiff and throbbed with pain in a few places. Still, he sat up slowly and looked around. He saw trees. Lots of them, their black bodies bending at abnormal angles, leaves silver in the light of the moon. Wait. The moon? With a small grunt, he braced himself against the tree behind him and pulled himself up to his feet. He glanced down at his hands in disgust. They were covered with mud from the ground.
How long had he been out there? Better yet, where exactly was here?
"Hello?" he called out. His voice echoed through the still night air like a bell.
There was no response. Puzzled, he started forward, stumbling over overgrown tree roots and fallen branches.
"Hello?" he called again. "Can anybody hear me? I—I think I'm lost."
His question was met with silence. What now? Sky sighed in defeat. Great, he thought bitterly. Smooth move, buddy! You run away from home and now you're lost! He wiped his slimy hands on the front of his pants and continued, squinting as he navigated his way through the darkness.
He glanced at the black, featureless sky and sighed heavily. "Pretty late," he whispered. "Where in the world am I?"
He walked for what felt like an hour, looking high and low for any signs of homes, anything that could tell him how to get back in town. He found nothing. Sky groaned aloud and raked his fingers through his hair again. Think Sky, he urged himself. Where were you before this? There has to be a way out of this stupid place. He slowed to a stop and squeezed his eyes shut.
The incidents of his day flowed through his mind like a videotape, each image as vivid as the next, eclipsing one another in a hazily familiar series of events. Sky took a deep breath. He remembered being out in the neighborhood when the storm started. He was wandering around by himself, looking for anyone who could keep him company. He was disappointed because he realized that everyone was avoiding being outside when he was there. He met a girl—Chelsea—the next door neighbor who worked with his mother. She had known who they were and… who his father was. He had taken off then—angry and disappointed—to his house where he'd fought with his mother. He ran again into town where he…
He couldn't remember anything. Why couldn't he remember where he'd been? Did he hit his head? Sky reached up and ran his fingers along his scalp through his hair. He wasn't bleeding and his skull wasn't cracked open. In fact, he wasn't injured at all. Not that he could tell anyways.
Then what could it be? What happened after he ran away and awoke here—
Snap! Sky snapped his eyes open and whirled around. He didn't see anything. What was that? Adrenaline now pumped through his aching body. He took a small step forward and scanned his surroundings with his eyes.
"Hello?" he cried. "Is anyone out here? I need some help!"
He received no answer. Sky took a deep breath and continued walking. His pace had quickened and his mind whirled with a newfound wave of questions.
Was he being followed? Or did he just imagine the noise? Was it a human or animal that made that noise?
Relax! He took a deep breath to calm his breathing. It's possibly just a rabbit or something. Mom said there were a lot of animals wandering around in this town. No need to worry. But he couldn't shake the feeling of doubt that crept back into his thoughts. What if it wasn't a rabbit? What if it was something big like a bear? Or worse, what if it was some drunken hunter with a gun?
The hairs on the back of his head seemed to stand on end at the possibility. Sky sped up his pace. He kept to the shadows, ducking low behind clusters of thorny shrubs time to time, squinting out in the night for any sign of his supposed stalker. There was nothing. He sighed and threw his head back, letting his only source of illumination bath him in its pale light. How long had he been walking? His legs ached from his endless search for help. There has to be someone out here! He slammed a quivering fist into the muddy floor of the woods. How am I supposed to—
Crack! Snap! Sky froze in place. He didn't dare turn around. His blood felt frigid in his veins, his heart slamming violently against his ribcage. The sound was followed by footsteps, heavy and purposeful; no longer attempting to remain unknown to the person they followed.
Holy crap! He ducked lower in the shrubs and squinted through the leafy foliage.
Half of its figure was devoured in long shadows, but Sky could make out the big and bulky frame of his stalker. He saw the massive muscles of his arms flexing through the stretchy fabric of his dark clothing and the faint stumble along a sharp, square jaw. The rest of his face was hidden underneath a heavy black hood, obscuring the stranger's eyes from sight. A single leather belt hung low on the man's hips where a single sheathed sword swung at his side.
Twigs crunched loudly beneath his muddy boots as he approached.
He drew his sword and waited. Sky curled his fingers into the dirt beneath him. Who is the world was this man? Should he run? Should he keep quiet and hide until he leaves? Would he even leave at all? Sky held his breath. He watched in muted horror as the strange man resumed his saunter, twisting the sword expertly in his vise-like grip in a slow, circular motion.
What now? Sky curled in on himself on the ground and closed his eyes.
"K'ya!" the man suddenly called out in a deep, throaty voice. He glanced over his shoulder. "Is the one we seek nearby?"
Sky jumped at his tone. Was he talking about him? Slowly and with great effort, he brought himself up to his knees and squinted through the shrubbery once more.
As if to somehow answer his questions, a furry figure leaped out of the trees, its head bent low, a faint grumbling echoing through the air. Sky lurched back and clamped a hand over his mouth. The creature ducked his large, furry head to the ground and began to sniff. It moved slowly, placing one paw cautiously in front of the other, a thick bushy of a tail wagging actively behind him. The hooded man looked on expectantly as his hairy companion began to head in Sky's direction.
Oh no, oh no, oh no. Dread washed over him in waves as the beast moved closer, the man following close behind, swinging the sword carelessly.
Sky racked his brain for a possible solution. His body trembled and his chest tightened in fear. Is that a wolf? Am I seeing things? Who is that guy? Are they looking for me? A beast suddenly let out a long howl before it turned to its companion. The man dragged a colorless tongue over thin, white lips.
"You will not escape!" he cried and swung the sword in Sky's direction.
With a loud shout of dismay and confusion, Sky scrambled out of his hiding place and took off into the night.