A lake, shimmering as the night air whispers over its still surface. A woman, shivering as the night air whispers her name. A wolf, shrinking in the blackness of the night. The surface of the pool shakes as tears drip from that mother’s face. One, two, three. The wet falls slowly from her, and the water beneath lays silently waiting. It soaks up her sorrow and spreads it to the dead entombed below with ever-broadening ripples. The wolf nips briefly at the air before letting a low growl erupt from core to throat… but the woman is not afraid.
A young boy lies just beneath the surface of the pool, watching the ripples separating him from the life he once knew. The depths are eternal, the surface ever-present, torturing him no matter how deep he swims. He touches the surface from beneath, but no ripples form around his fingers. He feels the emptiness inside his chest where a heart once beat, now waterlogged like a sunken vessel. That same emptiness drives the wolf toward his prey. Canine eyes are filled with darkness, deeper than his dead heart. The mother’s heart still holds life… though what life is truly left?
Nightly she approaches the deep waters… but that is all. The trees above sing for her, a reminder of what once was. Everyone else has forgotten. Forgotten his face. Forgotten his laugh. Forgotten his voice. Forgotten her son. The mother will not forget, cannot forget, the trees prodding the deepest corners of her memory. The wolf stalks beneath those same boughs, but cannot approach. He taunts her with growls, howls, and all things fearsome, but she does not give in. Her hope remains. Her life remains.
The boy feels that hope, though the water does nothing to aid his sense of life. He cannot feel the wet around him, cannot penetrate the impassable surface, but the hope seeps through. With each tear, he sees his mother, her face downcast, black wisps of hair sticking to eyelashes. He feels her pain with the first tear, hears her voice with second, and sees her face with the third. The tears continue to flow, bringing with them messages and memories.
Little boys can die, wolves can kill as well as pools of water, but mothers can remember. Nothing can kill memories. The wolf ducks behind a tree and remembers things of his own. He remembers that day he died, remembers the bolder crushing his leg, remembers his fleeing pack. He remembers the loneliness, the trees an ever present memory of his cage. No one ever came for him. No one spared a thought when he passed, and no one spares a thought now.
“A freak accident,” he tries to tell himself. “No one even saw the stone,” but it was there… and his friends were not. This mother is his only visitor… an unwelcome intruder in his wood, unwelcome tears in his pool, unwelcome memories of her own. The woman tortures him with her sorrow, cuts him with her despair, crushes him like a mighty stone: the stone of memories that even He cannot kill.
The woman raises her head, lifts that tear-soaked mask she carries with her. She turns from the pool, raising knees from dampened ground. The boy tries to reach out again, lashing out at the water, biting the surface, scratching the face… but all he manages is memories of his own scratches. Scratches on his face. Scratches of tree branches as he ran from that house. Scratches on his once living heart as screams followed him into the trees. Scratches of dead canine claws holding the boy beneath the waves.
The boy had just wanted an escape, and Death came like a wolf to oblige. Escape from the screaming. Escape from the hitting. Escape from the fighting. Escape from the abusive memories… but memories do not die. Not even Death can kill them. Death followed the boy to the edge of the pool and pushed him. Death follows his mother now. Follows her from the water. Stalks her through the trees. Follows her to the edge of the wood. Watches her disappear into the smoke-curled house where Death takes on a living form: the form of an abusive father and husband.
The boy screams as his mother goes, tears seeping from every pore in his body, but they add nothing to the scene, they add nothing to the water, they add nothing to his pain: the pain of undying memories. The boy, giving up, sinks deeper into the lake, willing himself to die again… but Death is too busy.
Death slaps open the door in that house with more force than the strongest wind could muster. The wolf’s eyes glow from the face of the man behind them. He ushers his wife inside for all the neighbours to see. They see nothing but a family man as he hugs his wife before closing the door behind her. They see nothing but the pain of a lost child, missing the true pain beneath. They are missing the memories. Memories of one month ago are all they have: memories of the boy’s death. They are missing the memories of last week. Memories of yesterday. Memories of today.
Death lashes out at the woman, claws still dripping with the blood of his last victim. This same victim. “Where were you, woman!” The claws come across her face, and she tries not to scream. Tries not to fight. Tries to answer… but memories block her way. Memories of what she knows will happen next lock her up like a boy trapped beneath the water… a boy that shares her memories.
“The lake…” her voice comes out wet and shaky, breaking free from memory’s chains. “I was at the lake.” Quivering words.
Death shouts at her, fangs nipping the air. “The crying. The crying! THE CRYING!” He lets out a low growl, barking out the taunting words. “You sound like the child upstairs. The child that needs you more than a dead memory of a dead boy.”
But memories cannot die.
The child screams in muffled tones, and the woman calms her shaking limbs. No reply can come from the life of a woman who taunts Death with her very existence. No reply voiced. No reply heard. Wooden stairs creak under living feet, Death stalking her like a shadow from low-cupped bulbs on putrid walls. The man is one step, two steps, three behind her; but the beast beneath shimmers in the dying light on walls, rafters, and stairs.
The crying is weak, coming from within a crib, coming from beneath a pillow, coming from her baby. “No!” But she dares not voice such thoughts. Weaker, weaker, weaker still, a pulse pumps within those infant lungs… almost a memory now. The mother pulls the still form of her only child – only child left – from the wooden casing once lovingly fashioned by a father’s hands. That father is no more, but Death still haunts the halls in his shell, walks the stairs with his feet, pads across the carpeted floor on his legs.
One step. Click, on wooden stairs. Two steps. Whoosh, on mouldy carpet. Three steps. Creek. Four… Death has his paws on her. Shoulders disappear beneath his grasp, spinning her crumpling form around. The baby falls. Thud. One final cry, but not from the lips of the child. The mother screams a wetted accusation. “You killed our baby!” She lashes out at him, kicking, clawing, fighting.
“YOU DID!” The voice is enraged, slapping at her face, shaking her.
“Get away from me, you beast!” She runs from the room, tripping over her child… tripping over the memory of what once was. She reaches the stairs, and Death pushes her from behind as she gives into his will. Gives up hope. Gives up life. Each stair reminds her of what she has lost.
One stair. A little boy, no older than ten, sinks beneath the waves of a lonely lake in a lonely forest. He had been the happiness of the family, until he disappeared that day. Disappeared from a father who abused him in the dark, in secret, in the shadows. Disappeared from a mother who soon disappeared from the rest of her family in their time of need. Disappeared beneath the waves. Disappeared… but not from memories.
Two stairs. A husband missing in action, lost to the very thing that had once saved their marriage. Lost in a therapy seat. Lost to the pain. Lost to the family. Lost to his wife. Finally, lost to a bottle. Lost… but not to memories.
Three stairs. A baby in a crib crying, crying, crying. Stomach churning within its frame, longing for a mother’s milk. Longing for a mother’s touch. Longing for a mother.
Four stairs. A mother sits by a lake, tears uselessly wetting its surface. A mother will not lose her son. A mother will lose her husband. A mother will lose her baby. A mother will lose her life.
One step, two steps, three steps, four. A mother lies in a heap at the bottom of a set of stairs, the one thing she has left seeping from emptying lungs. The one thing she has left flowing out of dying veins. A wolf sulks in a lonely wood, a boy cries from beneath a lake: neither having that one thing left. But they are all wrong. One thing always remains for boy, father, baby, mother, wolf. One thing will never die.
Music (In order of appearance)Thieves of Time by Nocturn Inferi Horror_Ambient3.wav by xDimebagx
Sound Effects (all provided by Freesounds)Hard HIT in the head.aif by amsempl
man walking away indoors with leather leathery shoes footsteps foley.wav by bulbastre
Exhale.aif by carroll27
Drowning.wav by sarson
Creak.wav by Q.K.
walking on carpet.aif by MAJ061785
Ghost_FarScream02 by Vosvoy
haustuer1.wav by baujahr66
rocks fall with leaf rustle 3.wav by Halleck
Walking_In_The_Forest by nathanaelsams
Dog_howl_01.wav by CGEffex
ginger11.wav by tomc1985
tap dripping in sink.wav by odilonmarcenaro
WIND, Wind through Wheatfield.wav by Uganda
Lake Waves 2.wav by Benboncan
01-Baby_Crying_small-room.wav by poissonmort