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That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to see
-from The Garden of Prosperine by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Message to Readers

Hi! I would love any and all feedback please! Also, read pt. 1 (The Boy in Handcuffs) because pt. 2 will make a lot more sense if you do. Thanks to all! <3

The Boy in Handcuffs pt. 2

September 26, 2020


    It’s early, too early to wake Xavier again, but I can’t sleep. I stand by the crack on the walls of the house, remembering the panicked look in the boy’s eyes. Why was he so scared? Why was he surrounded by people who looked like they should be hunting down serial killers instead of shoving a teenage boy into an abandoned house? What’s happening in that house? I haven’t heard a single noise from inside the house, and the silence is pressing and dark, though I don’t know what I expect to hear. The people in suits come out in pairs every half hour or so to inexplicably stare up at the velvety-blue sky or patrol around the house, but they always go back inside. They seem to be waiting for something.
    It scares me, how uniform they are, always walking in sync, tilting their heads up at the exact same moment. X and I can’t stay here much longer. Already two patrols have come too close for comfort, peering suspiciously through the broken windows of this dilapidated old house. We’re lucky we’re on the second floor, or else we would have been found a while ago. I don’t know what would happen if they found us. Maybe we would end up like the terrified boy, handcuffed to disappear into an abandoned house, never to be seen again. A shiver makes its way down my back as I imagine again what could have happened to him. He didn’t seem particularly dangerous or threatening to me, so why? Why armoured trucks and handcuffs and people with guns and their faces in shadow?
    Somehow this boy who I only shared the briefest of glances with has wormed his way into my heart, and I can hardly bear it. I want to help him. But one glance at the armed patrol outside and I shake my head, rolling my eyes at myself. Clearly he must be a murderer or something with all this security. Why else would he be in an abandoned house deep in the countryside where there was no one else around except for two orphaned, homeless kids being chased by Social Services?
    The floorboards creak wearily as I tiptoe over to X and wake him.
    “Wake up, we need to leave now.” Before I try to rescue a handcuffed murderer with big brown eyes.
    “Why? Is Carolyn here?” His nose scrunches as he looks up at me.
    “No, but there are...well, I just think we need to leave, alright, buddy?” He nods consent and crams his frayed yellow blanket into his backpack. As I gather our cans of food I sneak another glance through the crack in the wall, though I don’t know whether it’s because I’m hoping to see the boy or not. X catches me looking and peers through the crack too.
    “Wow! Those cars are really cool! Who are those people?” He’s seen the latest patrol walking back into the house across the road.
    “Shh! Just… don’t be too loud. I don’t know who they are, but they’re probably just checking out that house. Maybe they’re going to buy it and make it look nice again.” The lie sounds weak and useless to me, especially considering the amount of weapons strapped to the patrol, but X seems to accept it and turns away. I let out my breath. Whatever these trucks and guns are for, I don’t want him mixed up in it.
    We’ve gathered our meager belongings, and I feel myself tense up as X clatters noisily down the stairs, dragging his backpack behind him. The back door that faces the dark forest is locked, but the wood crumbles easily when I push my shoulder against it. X takes my hand as we exit the threshold and enter the cool, dark woods. A half-crescent moon provides a dim light, and a slight breeze seems to urge us farther into the forest, blowing my hair in front of my face and getting it tangled in branches.
    Suddenly I have this feeling that something is about to happen. I don’t know what it is- maybe it’s too quiet, maybe it’s the breeze that blows with a sudden ferocity but then stops.
    “Get down!” I scream at X, and I thrust myself on top of him, just as a red light illuminates the whole forest, and a tremendous boom rocks the ground. Someone must be screaming over the buzzing left in my ears, and I realize that my throat is hoarse and that I am screaming and I can’t stop, but I must keep moving because it’s our house all over again. Mama and Papa stuck inside, while our sweet little colonial erupts into a blazing fireball, X and I can only watch in horror-- No, I’m hauling myself up shakily and heaving X to his feet, telling him to-- I’m only 11, X is 5, and we’re standing on the soft ashes of our parents and house weeks later-- I’m telling X to run, and I am too, wobbly and zigzagging-- little metal boxes of our parents’ ashes are handed to us by tearful aunts-- My brain feels like it’s being battered from all sides, but it feels like my eyelids aren’t glued together anymore.
    I finally notice my surroundings, even though they’re still tilting and swirling together into a green and black mess. But I don’t see a little swirl of red that’s X’s coat, and my voice wheezes out his name desperately before something collides with me. I scream as the thing rolls with me into a gully, but a warm hand covers my mouth, muffling my cries. My heart beats out one syllable X. X. X. X. and I slap and kick at the thing that’s keeping me from him, and I’m screaming and crying as darkness envelops my vision until I see and feel nothing.

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