Chapter 5

Moorland of Braganza, Portugal — June, Present Day

Young Simon ran like the wind on the forested hillside—he ran as fast as he could in fear of the dread that was following him. He had to get away! He just had to!

A twig snapped and Simon lurched forward after tripping on a tree—root. A wave of Portuguese obscenities escaped from his lips as he fell face-first into the mossy dirt.

Another twig snapped. This time it was closer. It was coming! It was coming! The terror made Simon's young heart began to palpate heavily from the terror swimming in his Lusitanian blood.

The forest grew eerily quiet as Simon's eyes twitched and looked around with the attitude of maniacal mind that has suddenly become unhinged. He should have listened—the innermost streak of rebellion that was so common, if not naturally inbred, within a human teenager had convinced to do otherwise. Curse his rebellious spirit! Curse it! It had gotten him into plenty of trouble already...but...now...now it was completely different. He had been warned that it would be different. He should have heeded the wise counsel from the old men who sat at one or two of the competitive cafes in the town square plaza for the Portuguese town of Braganza. Their conversation could be easily imagined—it was almost too easy to imagine what those old men would be talking about in their spare time...which was, after one stopped and pondered on these delicate matters with a certain amount of taciturnity, the better part of the typical day for a northern Portuguese, particularly one from the Braganza.

A swish of leaves...and a rustle of branches in the phantasmal wind...a mere sigh of the forest, a breath of the dead buried in the ground...the haunted imagery that played cruel tricks on young Simon's primitive and deprived imagination was too much of a creative strain that his brain was pounding from the sudden outbursts of unfulfilled adrenaline that needed to be used...that needed to be spent. He was dead...those words rang in his head.

He was dead....

But why? Why was he dead? What was there to fear within in this northern Portuguese forest other the not knowing the way? But that was just it, thought Simon with a heart full of terror.

Not knowing the way...he shouldn't have wondered into the forest. He should have listened to the set boundaries that the unwritten laws and regulations of the superstitions of Braganza had set forth and deemed to reinforce with the penalizing punishment of societal ostracism. Had he not heard the recent stories? Had he not heard how those two shepherds had simply vanished from their fields as they were guarding their precious flocks? Had he not heard how the Senhor Santos had found a bruised, wounded, dehydrated, and delirious twenty-one year old Francisco at the door-step of his shop? At that moment, the scene of Francisco's delirium caused Simon's mind to waver from that which was reality and that which was death-in-life, or a nightmare. Francisco, if the rumors were to be true, had acted like a madman the moment the door to Senhor Santos' shop-door was opened. He had scrambled on all fours to the farthest corner of the room. He then had gotten himself into a fetal position as he rocked himself to and fro, attempting to console himself with the mind of a young man who had just seen a malicious ghost. A doctor was called in but all the doctor could do was bandage the mysterious wounds on Francisco's arms, legs, chest, and faces. That was what had been odd, thought Simon.

Those wounds...

Everyone, including the local practicing doctor, was at a loss to how Francisco came about in acquiring those wounds. All that could be done for the delirious young man, who every mother and lady sympathized alike, was to lock him away. That had been weeks ago...then, suddenly, as Francisco was eating dinner in the downstairs living room, the mother turned pale as she stared behind her husband. Her husband turned around to find Francisco walking down the stairs to join them for dinner. He had returned to them—well, somewhat. His mind was still shaken by the experience that, for both apparent an unknown ones, the eldest son could not bear with himself to part with them. The only answer that the parents got was quite a cryptic message

Some things are never to be disturbed...there are many doors in this world—an ordinary individual must open thousands by thousands in his lifetime. But amongst those thousands are certain doors...those are the ONES, I tell you. Certain doors that should never be opened...”

His parents could not understand the sudden mystery that had descended not only on their once trustworthy eldest son, but also upon the family, the town of Braganza, and its surrounding countryside. And that was all that the town considered about the matter...there it was again! Thought Simon with an intense frustration. There was more of it here in this plot angle. The town did not respond to the early tales of Francisco, saying that they were only the “ravings of a youthful and horrendous madman.” The tales of a stalking ghost in the forest were the product a product of someone's vivid imagination, someone who had been toying with the idea of the legend in his or her head.

The legend...yes, it was the thing that everyone in the area was attempting to avoid as best as they could in avoiding conversation in that area. They all chose to ignore it...but the coincidence of legends tend to still scare men from off the force...men had gone down the same path as Francisco—and the initial result were men who afraid of their own shadow. They gave you a curious enveloping stare that questioned your every motive, idea, opinion, feelings, emotions, and relationship ties. Men had vanished from the local area ever since...

No! Don't think about you! Now is not the time nor the place to make such a confession as drastic life-changing as that one...not now was definitely not the place....And Simon was never able to finish that thought. For, at that precise moment, there was another rustle of the golden, brown, red, mud and clay-browned leaves that spun in an enchanting circle around the forest. The wind picked up speed as the sky overhead began to darken. A small droplet of rainwater collided with the anxious face of Simon as he stood there...hiding...

Hiding from what? He had to know—he just had to know how everything in Braganza worked. But that was just the scary part of the whole thing—THIS was what was striking fear into his fear as he crept low behind some piled logs in the forest. The forest had gotten quiet as the dying leaves of this year's bloom were whirling in midair and colliding with cold droplets of rain-water that added to the already intense atmosphere of intense horror and paranoia. What was going to hap--

And then he heard it. His blood froze over at the sound of the low ghostly moaning directly in his vicinity. Simon closed his eyes and dared not open them as he began to shake from head to foot with the sudden realization: “You could die right here—right now...with a snap of a finger, just like that!” The moaning rose in a deadly tone and pitch—it was as if the earth was moaning in pain but it was not the earth.

Simon knew perfectly well what it was...he knew it only TOO WELL. The moaning grew in intensity and, to Simon's uncontrollable horror, it was getting closer. With his eyes clenched tight, Simon let out a blood-curdling scream when a cold spirit overtook him. His skin froze at the cold touch as the scream rattled like the nearly terrified open ears staring into the demon.

With a last thump, Simon's heart gave out.

The End

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