From the playground, came something remarkable. A little duplicate of the child lying in the grass. The other little angel plopped herself ungracefully onto the grassy bed next to her sister. They were mirror images of each other.
Frost appeared to be so captivated by the scrappy child that stood in front of them he couldn’t even manage to speak. He just stood there beaming like a fool.
Her body, lean and freckled from exposure to the sun, glinted with sparkles. Kayn loved coconut sparkle tanning spray. She could see it on her clenched fists each time they flashed by her line of sight. She was a girl with a list of strange little rituals on her daily to do list. At the beginning of her run, she imagined that she did look magical, glittering in the sun, but not by the end of her run. By the end of her training, the glitter tanning spray would cause the track’s dust to stick to her whole body in a comical way. She would end up looking as though she had spent her whole afternoon rolling in it, not running on it.
Kayn allowed herself to appreciate the sun’s rays gently whispering across her skin. She experienced a feeling of pure joy that was transcendent. Kayn kicked up another cloud to outrun as she rounded the corner. Then came that pleasurable jolt of electricity that surged through her brain, ignited her soul, and set her afire with insurmountable joy. This moment in her run had always left Kayn with the sense that she had been given a gift or anointment of physical power. Her adrenaline rippled a winding path of pleasure underneath her skin.
She hit the straight stretch feeling such unimaginable, euphoric, physical ecstasy that she felt baptized by the sweat trickling down her forehead to the sides of her face. Kayn Brighton was alive in that moment in a way only a runner could comprehend. She was thankful for that moment, and every single time the experience overwhelmed her; her soul felt stronger.
Every nerve ending was humming, “Faster, Kayn, go faster.” Kayn was an athlete born to push the limits of her body, programmed to be a powerhouse. Runners were a breed of their own; they had their incredible days and their horrible days in competition. Every day on the track, trail, or wherever a runner chose to run. The act itself was always a followed by a feeling of spiritual completion.
“Don’t Call Me Baby,” by Madison Avenue was cranked in Kayn’s ears. She kept pace to the beat, feeling powerful and strong. Kayn grinned and made eye contact as she ran past her best friend Kevin, signaling her acknowledgement of his presence.
Kevin sat listening to his own music, plucking the long, green strands of grass out of the ground by their roots. Kevin glanced up from his grass picking duties as she approached, and over zealously waved at her as he displayed a giant charming toothy grin. It was a funny thing he’d done since kindergarten. It never failed to induce laughter. She acknowledged that she had seen him sitting there being a goof by shaking her head and smiling.
Kayn started walking to cool down her overheated body. Her heart began to thump and pound in her chest like an act of defiance to her now walking feet. Kayn licked the sweat from her upper lip, tasting its salty, pleasurable reward. She took her track dust covered hand and wiped her forehead to keep the stinging sweat from her eyes. Kayn wiped the sweat on her shorts noticing the streaks of dirt and wondered if she had a streak of dust across her forehead.
Kayn turned in one fluid movement to greet Kevin, whose grassy scent signaled his arrival at her side. His giant grin told her that her face was most certainly covered in dirt, but he didn’t mention it to her. He always cheered for her as if she had just won the Olympics or something equally spectacular. She smiled for she could see him cheering with no sound. The sight of him cheering to the music in her ears was more than a little bit adorable. Kayn yanked one of her earbuds out.
“Right… That’s what you say to all the guys stalking your twin sister,” he countered with a grin at the cleverly creative way of calling her sister slutty.
Kayn choked on a laugh and said, “Yes, as a matter of fact it is exactly what I say to every single one of them. I was forced to come up with one token line that I use with everyone. It just saves time, darling.”
Kevin’s face crinkled into a dimpled grin and he shook his head feigning his distaste.
She displayed a giant smile at his attempt at innuendo. Maybe she would have even been a little flattered if the conversation had been directed towards her.
Kayn took on a fake serious tone and said, “How hard can it be to arrange an intervention or a creepy exorcism or something in your honor. I would hate to have to visit my best friend in a padded cell somewhere.” She sent him a sweet, innocent look and waited for his inevitable comeback.
“You’re really very clever, Candy Kayn. You should have a comedy show or something,” he shot back at her.
“It would be hilarious if it wasn't the truth,” Kayn challenged.
The only boys who had shown an interest in Kayn were usually after her sister Chloe. Kayn, being less sophisticated, would always fall for their games. She would think, maybe this time the guy liked her. She would talk to them on the phone for a while, and then inevitably they would ask to come over to hang out or maybe do some homework together. Kayn would invite them over and right when her heart would begin to flutter with the romantic possibilities of a goodnight kiss or how incredible it would be to have an actual boyfriend, it would happen. They would make their intentions obvious by saying something like, “Because we are such good friends could you introduce me to your sister Chloe?”
Friends… an uncomplicated word, it was also a word that Kayn had begun to hate at a very young age because of her sister Chloe. That one single word had felt like the wind from a breath that would blow out every single candle she had kept lit inside of her heart her whole life to date. Kayn would be blatantly lying if she said that the constantly repeating scenario didn’t breed some resentment toward her sister. Still, she would never let it show. Not once had she ever freaked out at her sister for stealing her imaginary boyfriends or simply for being completely morally bankrupt.
She’d learned at a very young age that Chloe didn’t follow the same ethical or moral codes that most people followed. Kayn had this thing called a conscience which included guilt and a little voice in her ear that repeated until she chose to listen to it, “Don’t do it, Kayn.” She was pretty sure the voice talking to Chloe said, “Do it,” every single time and there was really no need for sentiment or morality in Chloe’s universe.
The giant self-contained universe that seemed to revolve completely around Chloe was simply amazing. One could stand with mouth agape for hours listening to the stories of horrific events that Chloe had caused during a 24-hour period of time. It was as though her sister were protected in her own little snow globe completely by herself and life surrounded her. Once in a while someone stirred up her water, but it simply revolved around her like everything else did, never really touching her or swirling her around to lose a second of her control. Chloe was completely unaffected by the world around her and stood unwavering through life’s currents.
Kevin was one person whose opinion she valued. She could vent to him, and he understood. He understood the power that her sister held. They would joke about it on a regular basis, but as soon as Chloe was in a ten-foot radius of him, he wasn't able to tell you his own name. It infuriated her to no end.
Kevin’s grandmother seemed to have a direct line to the spirit world. Nearly All of her random thoughts were more than a wee bit creepy. Sometimes his grandmother would spend hours just chatting with Kayn about her dreams. Granny Winnie was a quirky, warm, witty woman that had treasured her from day one. Kayn was a faithful member of Team Granny because she unlike the rest of the planet seemed to despise her sister Chloe. Granny Winnie couldn’t even breathe when Chloe was in the same room. Granny would pretend to gasp for oxygen or make some kind of foul stench related declaration referring to Chloe. She was believable enough to cause a perfect in her own mind Chloe to smell her own armpits. Chloe, being completely void of respect for her elders or pretty much anybody else, would refer to her as a crazy old bat or a witch. Often Granny Winnie would call Chloe out on an evil deed or two as if she could read her mind.
Strange weather we’ve been having lately, Kayn thought as she watched the clear blue sky change in a matter of moments from completely cloudless to a powder of fluffy white clouds. She could smell the scent of the fresh cut grass; it was almost overpowering to her senses. It was so potent that it was a little strange that she hadn’t noticed it until right this second.
The pair walked quietly for a second more when Kayn looked down at her feet; as she shuffled through the grass the sounds seemed to amplify. She could hear the grass rustling under her feet; it crackled loudly and whispered softly in her steps. Something feels off today. Kevin’s feet came into her line of sight. She raised her eyebrows at him and pointed to his untied shoelaces. Kevin bent over in front of her to tie up his shoes.
Kevin’s warm breath in her ear made Kayn shiver again. Everything seemed heightened. She had the strangest urge to lean over and kiss him square on the lips. She was obviously going a little bit crazy today. It must be low blood sugar or something?
“You should call up your invisible girlfriend and ask her what her name is love monkey,” she said and winked.
Kayn doubled over into a fit of giggles. She chuckled, “I honestly don't doubt that for a second.”
On occasion, random guys would break into their house and steal objects that belonged to her. In the beginning, the police thought Chloe must be doing something to bring this on herself, but after she went in for a couple interviews at the police station and full grown men couldn’t help but fawn all over her sister. They all understood what Kayn had always known.
Kevin turned and gave her a strange look that said, think about what you just said for a second, and they both broke into a fit of giggles.
A giant stinging slap followed on her spandex running short covered butt. There stood Chloe. Kayns infamous, and moderately evil twin. A living breathing cover girl commercial gracing us with her badass presence. Chloe smiled at her, and gave a slight glance acknowledging Kevins presence. He turned ten shades of red as though she had whispered something dirty in his ear. He’s completely pathetic, Kayn thought, shaking her head.
Maybe I should start wearing makeup to school, she thought. Her face was freckled and tanned from hours upon hours of training in the hot sun. In the winter time, all of her freckles went away, and her skin was porcelain white. I could look just like Chloe if I wanted to, Kayn thought, sucking in her cheeks and then plastering a giant pageant style smile across her face. She scrunched up her nose. She enjoyed being dorky, and a little bit weird. It would take a lot of effort to pull off her sister’s version of perfection. She didn’t need to be perfect. She would wither and fade if she had to live her life under a microscope. She did prefer to let her strange roam free. Kayn walked toward the shower stalls. She stopped and glanced over her shoulder at her reflection in the mirror. The conversation with her sister flashed through her memory. Chloe was feeling sick today; that’s what was going on then. Kayn quite often had sympathy illness whenever her twin wasn’t feeling one hundred percent.
Kayn turned around, pulled the plastic curtain to the shower, and leaned in to turn on the water. It began to tap dance against the bottom of the stall, and when it was just the right temperature she stepped inside. She smiled as the water beat against her weary muscles. She began to lather herself up with the nice scented pump soap. Today was her lucky day; a fresh full dispenser of soap, shampoo, and conditioner. She didn’t even have to reach down and find her own in the bottom of her gym bag. With her favorite running song still going through her mind, she started humming a few bars and then began to sing the words. Just then she heard the door open, and she became silent. She hurried through, rinsing herself off, and towel dried her hair. She ran her brush through her hair and put it back in a ponytail. As she passed by the mirror again, she wondered if Chloe ever wanted to be more like her. She quickly blew off that completely nutty idea.
Kayn was five minutes younger than her sister Chloe, but her twin acted five years older. Kayn had no voodoo powers with men; she was awkward and definitely possessed no game at all. She wondered if she asked Chloe how she did it if she would she teach her something…anything. It would be nice to have someone ask her on a date before she was eighty years old. She had to admit it bugged her that Kevin obsessed about Chloe, not that she seriously liked him or anything because that was most definitely not a good move friendship-wise; there was that ominous word again…friends.
Kayn towel dried her back again, feeling trickles of water from her still damp hair trail down her back. She stepped into her underwear and wondered why her mind kept travelling the road back to questioning her feelings for Kevin today. Kayn shook the thought out of her head and whipped her clothes back on. She grabbed her bag and hurried out the door, hoping he wasn’t too frustrated waiting for her. She forced open the door with an over-exaggerated grunting sound.
Kevin was sitting on the railing waiting patiently and looking up at the sky with his mouth agape in a totally comical way.
She shook off the anxious feeling, remembering that the last horror movie that she had watched with Kevin only days earlier had taken place at a lake. There they stood by the turn off to Lakeshore Drive. It’s all in my mind, Kayn thought. She started to laugh a little at her seriously overactive imagination.
Sure enough, they walked inside Kevin’s house to the amazing smells of his mother’s cooking. Her stomach began to grumble loudly. The delicious aroma of Kevin’s mother’s cooking filled her senses.
She glanced into the mirror and pulled the grass out of her hair letting a little smile escape as she washed her hands in the bathroom sink. She started giggling as she thought about how wrong it looked when two teenagers of the opposite sex showed up covered in grass. Well, anyone else—with them platonic wrestling would be completely normal. Kayn was sure that if her dad walked in and they were wrestling on her bed. He wouldn’t even flinch.
Kayn sat at her usual spot at the table with his family. Kevin’s family mirrored her own. They were always cracking jokes, and talking loudly about their day. She loved everything about the Smith house, from the mismatched frames filled with family photos in the dining room to the extremely outdated green shag carpet in the living room. The living room was completed with a mismatched, yet cozy, couch set with two fluffy lounging felines that could always be easily seen from the dining room table. Kayn swore they had not moved an inch in years.
Kevin’s mom gave her a bag with some fresh eggs in it for her mom. It was starting to get dark, so Kevin’s dad offered to drop her off at home. She thanked him with a huge hug as she got out of the car. The air smelled amazing, like cherry blossoms in full bloom. It must have been raining while they were eating dinner. She stepped out of the car, into a puddle, and twisted her ankle. Of course, she thought. Soaked foot, eggs and school bag in hand, she limped up the steep driveway toward the front door. The door was partially open which was not normal. However it was a little windy out and quite normal for the door to be unlocked, so maybe it was left ajar, flung open by the wind?
She turned around and noticed that Kevin’s father was driving away. Kayn felt off, apprehensive as she walked toward the door that seemed to have a life of its own. The door shifted from cracked open then almost shut again with the wind. She looked at her cell phone. It was a quarter after eight. This was obviously a prank. They had left the front door open, and entrance lights off to freak her out. Chloe was probably hiding around the corner. Practical jokes were an almost daily occurrence in the Brighton household.
It was almost dark outside. She stopped again for a second time, feeling uneasy for some reason. Her heart felt tight, and her chest felt hollow as she paused again. The surrounding giant trees made it extra dark in her yard. The slivers of light flashed through the trees as they moved in the wind.
They lived in a beautiful area but very isolated. Kayn shoved her cell back in her pocket, and pocket dialed Kevin by accident. She stepped toward the darkened doorway’s threshold and paused for a moment again before pushing the doorway completely open
Kayn barreled into the overgrown trail, forcing her way through where she instinctually remembered the trail had been. She had played in these trails as a child. She had found a place to hide a thousand times, but there was no time for strategy or thought. The crunching of leaves and twigs in the pathway behind her told her he was close; far too close to do anything but react.
Kayn slipped in the mud again, skidding yet not falling. She ignored the stinging of her knees, thrusting her body with a violent jolt as if starting a run on the track.
Kayn heard the branches crunching behind her; the dark figure’s rhythm, as steady as the rhythm of her running. He was so close behind her that she could feel his breath on her hair and neck as he panted. He was almost touching her. He was so fast, inhumanly fast; she needed a rush of adrenaline to edge her ahead. She could see lights from someone’s house peeking through the trees. She was going to make it, she thought as her bare feet pounded over the rocks and twigs slashing at her ankles and legs; she was almost there. She drove herself forward knowing she had only a half second lead from the hunter that pursued her, almost to safety…just over the creek. Her bare feet hit the small wooden bridge… almost there.
Kayn felt the elation of victory as she was about to burst through the bushes when she felt heat plunge into her back. Her eyes widened in terror as the knife plunged into her again; its blade seared a molten trail of excruciating pain through her body. A sweaty hand muffled her gasp of shock as she sunk to her knees in disbelief.
Her captor’s arms were slick with perspiration; like a python, they constricted around her neck crushing her larynx. Screaming and pleading for her life was now impossible. He continuously brought her to the brink of strangulation and then shook her awake, harshly reviving her. Kayn tried to close her eyes; maybe he would believe her to be gone. He would leave her in the trails to bleed alone, allow her to slip peacefully away, becoming one with the forest floor around her. Instead every time her eyes slipped shut she felt the slicing, searing pain of his knife again and again in her stomach and chest until her eyes opened wide with terror. The next pain stole Kayn’s breath causing blood to sputter from her mouth. She gazed ahead of her and through the trees which were glimmering in flashing flickering light; she saw a figure in the distance.
Help me, oh, God, please help me; see me, please, I’m right here, Kayn’s mind screamed. She could see his shadow on his patio through the trees in the luminescence of his porch lights; he was so close. A man was on the back porch having a cigarette.
He punched her stomach or cut her…she was unable to distinguish one kind of brutality from another…only that something was searing a hot excruciating fire through her stomach. He’s killing me…please, her soul pleaded as her vision blurred from her tears. Kayn couldn’t speak; she tried to scream; her throat crushed, the only sound she could make was a gurgling as she choked and sputtered on her own blood.
Why, why are you doing this to me? Her mind cried to the stranger who breathed quickly with joyous excitement and stimulation in her ear. She felt the competing rhythms of their pounding hearts, her back against his chest. She saw the twigs and rocks on the forest floor around her. Kayn could smell damp moss and the scent of tree sap and the sweet metallic taste of her blood. On her hands, she could feel the warm stickiness that she bled out into the dirt, trickling down her arms as it escaped from her body. Her clothing was heavily soaked in her essence that moistened the earth around her. He let her go for a second; she landed on all fours and tried to crawl away, but she couldn’t will her body to move forward. She couldn’t breathe.
In the woods lay a bleeding angel in all her glory. Her arms posed gracefully above her head, and her hair soaked in the mud, blood, and feces in which she lay. Dying, fading into the other realm, her form was christened by the rain as though the trees had begun to weep upon her for the brutality she had endured. There was someone waiting in the trails; a dark presence lingered nearby waiting for her to regain consciousness.
Kayn awoke in frigid darkness. The pain that pulsated through her seemed to recycle in waves until it began to slowly dull and become a tolerable numbness. She struggled to open and focus her eyes. She could smell a familiar scent; it smelled overpoweringly sweet but somehow like metal. Kayn could taste the sweet repulsive flavor of it in her mouth; it made her want to vomit. She was lying in mud, and she felt hot stickiness behind her. She suddenly remembered what that taste had been. It was her own blood that she could taste inside of her mouth. Kayn could not manage a single breath. Shuddering, she began to relive the brutality that she had experienced. Her mind began feeding her slivers, flashes of inhuman savagery. Her mind numb and disoriented from blood loss clicked through scattered memories from her childhood.
Help me, please, her mind pleaded into the forest through the sounds of the rain tapping the branches above where she lay. They seemed to be shielding her, and as her vision came into focus she imagined the lush green branches above as giant arms. They protected her, covering her from the elements allowing her one last peaceful moment. They are beautiful, she thought. Her mind wandered through mystical visions of the majestic cedar trees alive and somehow capable of offering her protection.
Writhing in the mud, Kayn willed her body to move; her fingers clawed at the ground around her until she was spent. She lay in stillness for a moment, feeling like a half dead animal waiting to be finished off by its hunter. She concentrated on each breath…in and out…a little air. She was alive. It felt like she was breathing through a straw and somebody had pinched the end. The streams of light from the moon that had been dancing through the dark stormy clouds had now vanished, leaving only a cold dark night with no final visions of beauty. Kayn longed for some light but was left with only the flickering of blurry dark images. She couldn’t see anything in the absence of light and began to panic again, for she could feel her grasp on her life being absorbed into the mist.
She was so cold her body gave an involuntary shudder. Kayn realized then that she was naked, completely exposed to the elements. Why was she naked? Her eyes were full of tears again; she felt instant, almost overwhelming shame. Kayn could still feel the sticky heat behind her as her blood drained from her body, soaking into the dirt. The pain in her head began to numb as the lights through the trees began to flicker again.
The dark mass of her violator suddenly appeared beside her, leaning in so close that she could smell his putrid breath, moist over her face. Every hair on her body was standing on end. The electrical power between Kayn and the man in the dark was like a charge. He ran a finger over her exposed breast and said, “You were never to be born; this situation had to be corrected.”
As her vision flickered one last time, the man was gone; it was her mother looking into her eyes. Her mother’s eyes were filled with so much love that it seemed to release her from her pain and fear as it had when she was a small child. Her mother cradled her as a baby, rocking her back and forth. She was safe now in her mother’s arms. She was at peace. Mommy, her heart sang, you’re here to save me. The warmth of her mother’s love enveloped her tortured soul. She looked into her mother’s eyes. She touched Kayn’s face and started to sing a song that she had sung to her every night when she was very small.
Just dream away and close your eyes
My love you’ll be safe until the morning
Sleeping in my heart, all through the night
Although bad dreams come to scare you
My love will scare them all away
The lights flickered, the pain went away, and her mother was holding her, singing: “Sleep, sweet sleep.”