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A long time ago, in the coldest part of winter, a strange event occured in a very ordinary town. Picture this town:
One old church, taller than all the other buildings, with a massive tower topped with a massive cross. It was pure white. Everyone took pride in the church so much that they made sure it was in the best shape, keeping the paint fresh and flawless like an angel's skin. There was a bell in that tower that rang once Wednesday and twice Sunday for service, though the church was always open, run by the preacher who lived in the upstairs room. A lost soul or two could take warm refuge in the proud, ivory fortress, sleep on one of the clean oak pews; they could feel safe, a rare relief. They could shed their lonliness as the preacher commanded gently for them to get their lives together.
No free loader, ho-bo, goliard, wanderer, run-away, wild child, rebel, misfit, freak, free spirit, or whatever the lost souls called themselves, ever stayed more than three days, not once. They all left with their heads held higher, their step a little quicker, than when they came in, with the kind face of the preacher in their hearts.
The rest of the town was small, attractive, and modest. There was an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. The number of students in each school was around 200. There was a post office, a bank, a grocery store, a few resteraunts, and a large, old outlet. If anything specific was needed, one usually had to go to the next city over. Residential areas consisted mainly of two suburb neighborhoods, a small apartment complex, and several streets of antique houses.
The weather and seasons were predictable, but not the vegetation. Everywhere there was thick grass growing cheerfully, even in winter, though more yellow in freezing temeratures. But always very thick, a constant pillow. Crimes were rare, save the occasional vandolism or petty burglary, always quickly taken care of by the faithful authorities.
All of the citizens were Christians, members of the church, a close-knit community. The town contained many ethnicticities, including a large Chinese family, Indians, and as many black faces as white. It was a beautiful, rare, even rainbow. What was even more rare about it was that the colors would mix but not collide.
This is the town of Evesbridge and over it was a thick, warm blanket of peace. Except for one particular, peculiar time. This is the story:
Our first main character is Ethan Anderson. He was for the most part an average boy. Sometimes he wandered alot and asked alot of questions which annoyed people when they couldn't answer them; but he knew people's limits and everybody generally liked him. In his seventeenth year, he was tall and handsome with brown nearly black hair. He had the face that made people look twice and speculate with wrinkled brows. Some said it was his dark hair, some said his white and pointy teeth, but most said his eyes. They were blue, strange blue, like an artist on his palet took the endless ebony and the clear cerulean and blended them together in a most dark and penetrating shade. His eyes were his weapon, sharp, cold, that can make you feel like you are very small.
This Ethan had a normal family, a nice house, average grades, and a good life. Until he met Meredith.
Meredith Trente was an excellent student. She was always busy with homework and projects and her job at a bookstore and debate meetings. She was a strong individual, with a true vision and voice, but she did not shout it out. She tried to remain unknown because she hated popularity-it wasted time. But she wasn't neutral. She believed in doing right. SHe was tenacious but not immovable; her mind she changed but for the better, to be wiser.
She had lived in Evesbridge from birth to fifth grade. Then a grandmother far away in a big city took ill and Meredith with her mother snd father went immediately to care for her. In her tenth school year, the old lady died and the family at long last moved back to the little town. All of the Evesbridge folk took a small while to reckognize them, due to their absence of half a decade. But, when they did, the Trentes recieved a warm welcome. The family was glad to see their old friends and neighbors after so many years of letterts, calls, or no communicaton at all. While Mr. and Mrs. T were open about their prolonged stay, their daughter was not. Meredith did not smile when people welcomed her back and she did not answer when anyone asked her what her grandmother or her friends or her city were like.
She had learned something from a slow death and many things from the dear person who did the dying. She was very different after the funeral and a stranger to the people of Evesbridge.
The first time Ethan saw Meredith, he was having a bad day. He couldn't get any grip in physics class and felt very stupid for overestimating himself. The girl that he had had a previous interest in would not leave him alone no matter what he did. His day seemed to be going on forever. He heard the kids in the hall and classes talking about the new girl, but he really didn't care. That is until he saw her.
He walked into his last class, sighing with relief that school was almost over. There she was, sitting in her desk, going over the sylabus, nothing at all provoking. She had chocolate brown, wavy hair and eyes the color of bronze with darker specks. Her skin was flawless, pale cream, contrasted by her rosy pink cheeks and blood red lips. Something struck him about her. She was pretty, yes, but there were several pretty girls all around, one of which he had just tossed aside. He was a bit surprised-he had not expected the new girl to be in one of his classes since she was a grade below him and also because his heart had began to race faster than he had ever felt before. The poor boy even had trouble getting to his seat: he tried not to got too fast or too slow and concentrated on not tripping, while at the same time pretending to not care if she was watching him. He sat in his seat and swallowed. For the rest of the class he starred at the back of her head, thinking of her face.
When that tortorous bell finally rang, Ethan tapped Meredith before she got out of the door.
"Are you the new girl?" he asked her.
"Yes," she said.
She began to walk and he followed.
"Welcome to Evesbridge," he said cheerfully. Meredith said nothing. Ethan started to feel a little hopless, like she was unbreakable stone. Already. She had only said one word.
"What neighborhood do you live in?" he asked.
"The antiques on Cannon Street."
"Really? Those are some of the oldest houses in this town."
"Ours was built in '28."
Meredith stopped suddenly and Ethan halted a second after, confused. Meredith's jaw clenched.
"Don't ever say that word," she said and she continued walking at the same pace as before.
"Okay...." Ethan starred at her.
The doors were at the end of the hall, the outside light shining through. They were halfway there. Ethan was looking at Meredith through the corner of his eye. He then realized something that struck him about her-the way she held her head up high and kept her posture straight. It made her seem very powerful. And she was.
Ethan struck up conversation again. "So you lived in Maryland for five years?"
"Yes," Meredith said.
"That's crazy," Ethan said. "How come you didn't just stay?"
"Because that was never the plan."
He probably felt her reluctance to talk about her old home, considered how much she must must have been missing it. Meredith looked at him sharply and said,
"Who are you?'
"Oh! I'm sorry." He stuck out his left hand, realized his mistake, and awkwardly gave her his right.
"Meredith Trente," she said slowly, eyeballing him, inspecting him.
They shook hands and continued to walk. The doors were very close and Ethan was dreading having to part with her. He had to get some kind of information out of this elusive girl.
"So why are you in a senior class?" he asked. "Strictly a senior class."
Meredith was focusing straight ahead at the door; the metal handle seemed very beautiful to her at that moment.
"Because I'm smart enough, in the book smart way."
They reached the door and she put her hand on the savior handle. Then she turned to look at him.
"I'm also people smart," she said, with her big eyes like fresh, pure ponds of melted bronze, looking into his deadly, conquered dark ones, right to his earnest intentions. She raised her brows and the corners of her blood-red lips turned in.
"Bye," she said and left. The door creaks as it closed. No nice to meet you, no see you later.
Ethan stood there confounded, stupified. No one had ever looked at him like that. Anyone who had a conversation with him would look at the floor, the wall, their hands. He could always make people uncomfortable, even disturbed with his eyes. Meredith was not afraid.
He stood there in the hall and, through the double doors, watched her slender form shrink slowly until she turned and vanished. The way she looked at him...at first he felt violated, but that baby-anger soon faded and was replaced with an utter fascination and an uncompromising devotion.
Of course we can imagine was Ethan was like in the days after he met this girl- mopey, brooding, pensive, absent, irritable, taciturn, aloof, reclusive and many other words in the descriptive English language could work. His mother, a caring woman, attempted in vain to figure out his ailment. He never gave her a straight answer and either changed the subject or slipped out of the room with a vague, lame excuse for leaving. His father, who was well known for never noticing anything, noticed that he was asking alot less questions than usual, but figured it was only a phase that would pass. The mother knew otherwise.
One night, Mrs. Anderson was awakened by the sound of footsteps. She had astonishing hearing. She heard her son walking slowly back and forth in his room, making the wood floor squek. Finally, he opened his door slowly and in the same fashion went down the hall. Very faintly she heard an opening and closing of cabinets, and then Ethan returning back to his room and closed his door.
That following morning, Mrs. Anderson, while in the kitchen cooking, heard Ethan get up and shuffle about his room, getting ready for school. When he came down and said good morning, she noticed that he looked a bit tired. Mr. Anderson had his face in the paper. Ethan did not complain of any fatigue or sickness as he ate a tiny bit, then he drove away as usual. Mr. Anderson left soon after for work.
Alone now, Mrs. Anderson went right to her son's room and looked around. She ended up finding it under the bed. On its side, in a small red puddle, was a dark, large glass bottle. The Andersons didn't keep much alcohal, except for wine. She grabbed the bottle and shook it-barely a slosh. She went to the kitchen and threw it away. Next she looked in the wine cabinet-one was missing. Despite herself, Mrs. Anderson smiled. She grabbed her keys, got in her car, and looked around town for the spot he had chosen.
There, in the parking lot of a diner, was Ethan's car. She went straight to it, slamming the door when she climed into the passenger seat. Ethan, who had been passed out on the steering wheel, jumped up and groaned. Mrs. Anderson was smart. She knew no one could through a day that hungover. She proceeded to hug him in a gush of maternal love, but he pulled away. She adjusted to pat his shoulder and smile.
"She could care less about me, Ma," he said.
Then they had a talk. Ethan told her about Meredith Trente. Mrs. A was very amused, but was careful not to show it. She kept a serious, compassionate face and explained to her son that that was simply the way over-achievers are. She told him not to go crazy over her, but that didn't mean he had to give up, either, that his behavior was rediculous. After all, that was the same way she was the same way with his father and look how happy they ended up. Later that day, Mrs. A told Mr. A about the event. They had a good laugh. Indeed, it quite provoked their reminisces of young, wild days. Neither of them considered it a serious situation.
Weeks, months passed and Meredith still had not given in. Ethan was crushed that she did not love him like he loved her, but he had gotten used to the hurt.
Miss Trente had long ago fully adjusted to her classes, the school, the town, and the people. everybody knew her, but nobody talked about her. They respected her and she respected everybody else, if they were worthy. To her, Ethan was not worthy. He was pathetic, hanging on to her every word as if she were Socrates reincarnated. He was always there pestering her, asking questions; looking at her face, mentally sorting through her every expression and remembering every feature. Often she wanted to give him a good slap and ask him why, with all the girls in the school crazy about him, did he have to love her, the only one who didn't.
Near the end of the school year, when all of the children were buzzing with suspense, Ethan was out at night with his friends. They were all foolish young men with their minds on fooolish things. They rambled on in blatant, booming voices that carried in the night. Stumbling about the sidewalk, they passed around a brown paper bag of which they all drank from. The acrid liquid made them warm and boisterous. They swung their hands high, shoved eachother, and shouted into the cold, silent air. Every subject was laughed about.Then a certain subject was mentioned and all laughter ceased.
"Are you sure you know what you're talking about?" one boy asked the other.
"Positive," he answered. "And the guy who told me was definately legite."
Ethan was scowling deeply in thought. Could what they said be true? Surely not. It was the kind of thing that only existed in legends.
His friends noticed that he had not said anything.
"So, Ethan. Whu'd'you think about it?" asked the boy who had the "legite friend."
Ethan licked his lips and said, "What do you want me to think about it?"
"Oh, well, I don't know...."
The other friend elaborated. "Do you think its true?"
They walked in silence. All that could be heard was crickets and the wind. Ethan kicked a shard of glass that skittered and tinkled as it went. He put his hands in his pockets. The other two boys waited patiently. Finally, Ethan settled with
"It's a subject to be wondered on."
The boys grunted. "Come on, man. Give a straight answer," one begged.
"Honestly, no," Ethan said bluntly. "It seems pretty unlikely."
The boy with thee "legite friend" said, “You saying you smell bull s***? I don’t speak bull s***.”
“I know that,” Ethan said, amused. “But the person you heard it from does.”
“Aw, come on man, f***. The guy that told me this wouldn’t lie to me. He’s a good guy.”
“I think you’re wrong. I think he would lie to little kids like you to make him seem he’s got connections. Though that may be flattering to you, it’s still a lie.”
“A dirty lie,” said the other boy.
The boy with the “legite friend” glared at him then said to Ethan, “I’m not a kid!...Well, technically I am, but not in a few weeks!”
He slapped his friends and began talking about what he would do when he turned eighteen. The previous subject was forgotten, but not by Ethan. When the words first came out of his friend's mouth, a thought popped up in his mind. It stayed very briefly because his reason chased it away and he could hardly believe he had thought of it .
It takes alot to break a person like Ethan, a cold, confident, critical observer and thorough thinker. For everybody there is a weakness. His was Meredith, his curse, and as the the story goes, the last time he was seen with her was on the last day of school. They both knew what college they wanted to attend and what they wanted to be. All the details are uncertain and unimportant. What is crucial is that this was his last day to talk to her, mabye forever.
He caught her on her way out. She patiently answered his questions about her university, plans for summer, career, parents, friends, job, anything relative to the last day of high school in their lives. He starred at her, quite daring, but not fearlessly. Meredtih was the only person that could make him feel fear, but she had never tried to earn that title. He gazed at her face, knowing that this was probably the last ime he would see it. For the first time in his life he wanted to break down and cry. She was going away, starting a life without him, leaving him behind forgotten, a nothing, a fly that annoyingly buzzed in her ear that she swatted away carelessly, a draft that momentarily made her shiver and then rapidly faded; a love sick man suffering from childish attachment.
They exited the building and he was still starring. They reached the curb and he was still starring. What happened next would seem small, but it was huge. Meredith looked at Ethan with a pitying, disdainful look. He saw her pail, creamy skin, shining brown hair, ruby lips, flushed cheek, and the intense, overpowering, fearless eyes that subdued his soul.
She looked at him with that mortifying expression and said, "Bye, Ethan," in a tone that told him that she really didn't care what he felt. Then she walked away.
He watched her with a look such as the audience in the fifteenth century had on their faces when they saw the end of Romeo and Juliet, live, right befor their faces, the scarlett cloth of the childrens' blood; they couldn't believe that it all ended that way. This is when the thought came back to him, icy, creeping thought their to steal his dignity. And it did.
That same night, so late that all the streets were empty and everyone was asleep, Ethan left his house, walking quickly. He noticed that there was no moon and no stars, shuddered, his head down, and walked faster. He had to do it quickly, else he should change his mind. The place that his friends told him about was there, the same door in the same ally of the same two buildings. There was no sign on the door or the two abandoned buildings. The wood door was damp, moldy, and rotting. The hinges groaned as he pushed against the heavy obstacle. Inside was a very mysterious, eerie room. It was so dark that half the contents were undistinguishable. Several candles flickered along the walls and tables, causing a fantastical dance of leaping shadows.
Ethan spotted the dark figure against the farthest wall, looking out the open window, which was very close to the figure's face. If it leaned over, its face would practically be out of the room. Ethan walked in cautiousley, looking around, a lump forming in his throat, his heart thumping to a painful forte. His hand was still on the doorknob, not sure if he should go any farther. He starred at the figure, terrified but unable to look away. The wind formed a draft from the window to the door and Ethan went to close it. The figure spoke.
"Leave it open." The voice was deep and loud and clear, identifying the figure as a man. The man got up from where he was sitting by the blank sky and headed towards the boy, saying,"Mabye it'll freshen up the timeless mustiness of this place."
Ethan could now look at the man thoroughly. He was unusually tall, taller than himself, tan, with raven blue-black hair, like a Native American. His face was stunning, with high cheekbones, straight nose, stong chin, and a smooth forehead. His eyes, Ethan thought, were like a monster's, with absolutely no iris, just huge, black pupils. He then dismissed the thought, thinking surely the candlelight was making him see things.
The man's hair was cut short, but not too short; it overlapped his face some. The candles flicked horrible shadows moving across his brown face. If he would have been seen by someone out in the daylight, he would probably be considered beautiful, but the clutching shadows and the dim room gave him a most sinister look. He was now in front of Ethan and he looked into his eyes. Ethan flinched and looked at the floor. His hands balled into fists and his face turned hot: the man was using his own tricks on him. He was also disturbed by the fact that he was sure his eyes were black.
"Well," said the man, "You're a soul that is in want." He had a sort of half simper, half sneer on his face.
"No," Ethan mumbled. "This is a situation of need."
"What was that? Speak up!"
Ethan looked the man in the face.
"I need what I seek!"
"What you seek? Well, I didn't now children talked like that anymore," said the man, smiling. "What's your name?"
Don't do it, don't do it, Ethan told himself.
"Ethan Anderson?" the man asked.
Ethan suddenly felt sick.
"How do you know that?" his voice quivered.
The man turned and walked throughout the room, picking up various things and throwing them back, causing quite a racket.
"Because I felt your thoughts, Anderson. Oh, my apologies-Ethan. I can feel when I'm thought about and by whom. I have a," that smile again, "sixth sense." He let out a thundering laugh.
Ethan watched him through narrowed eyes- he did not like him at all. He did not like the place, the hour, and most of all, he did not like why he was there, but he couldn't stop himself. The man tossed what he had in his hand which landed, by the sound of it, in glass. He didn't seem alarmed by whatever was broken and he strolled to the window, leaning on a table and gazing out as he was before, but this time, because of the man's angle, Ethan could see his face. It was deadly, a tiger eyeing its prey. He smiled sickeningly.
"There will be no wolves singing, tonight, no. Mes amis, you are silennced. Your mistress Cynthia has left you in the dark... Do you miss her light?"
Another wind, ferocious and biting, blew through the room. It kept on, sending papers flying and half the candles out. Ethan shielded his eyes while shoving mightily against the door. It closed with a boom and most of the wind stopped, but a breeze still wailed through the window. The man's head was turned, the only part of him that had moved. He grabbed the closest candle and held it up.
"Now for business," the man said.
The man scowled and said imaptiently, "I can't speak to you seriously if I can't see you."
Ethan walked, with anchors for feet, until he was only a few feet from the man. The man raised his brows.
"Well?" he prodded.
Ethan took a deep breath and said:
"Make her love me."
"Don't you already know?"
The man shook his head. "If I did, why would I ask you, omadhaun?" He huffed and began to pace while muttering to himself. He stopped.
"What is her name?"
Ethan couldn't believe he was going to do it. It was rediculous, he knew, the kind of thing that never really happens. Yet he was there; the apperation of a scene was right before his eyes. The man was still waiting.
"Boy- what.is.her.name?" His tone was growing hostile.
Ethan's heart was beating faster and faster, the candlelight leaped up, the shadows slithered, the breeze cried into the cruel night.
"Meredith Trente," Ethan said. He did it. Ethan did it.
"Your wish shall be true," the man said with finality.
"Don't-don't I have to give you something, something valuable?"
The man smiled wryly."I was just getting to that." He pointed to Ethan's class ring, a big, fat ruby. "The ring."
Ethan felt reluctant to part with it, but he gave it to the man anyway.
"When will-" Ethan began but the man cut him off.
The man held up his hand. "No more questions. It's time for you to leave."
Ethan couldn't believe it was over. He stood dumbfounded.
"Go home," the man hissed.
The sordid boy mechanically, stone-faced, walked out of the little room. Before he closed the door, he heard the man saying, "U-lv-da-le-s-gi!"
The next day, Ethan awoke with a muddled mind. Slowly, it all came back to him and he wasn't ashamed anymore, he was happy. The spellman existed; he would make Meredith his. She was his, his, his, his, his.
He went downstairs cheerfully. His parents were there with hooked arms and tragic faces. Ethan stopped. Mrs. Anderson let out a choked, little sob, then ran into the kitchen, out of sight. Mr. Anderson put his hand on Ethan's shoulder.
"I'm very sorry, son... Meredith Trente has died."
Ethan tore away from his father's gaze and he felt his world slipping away.
For a week, Ethan Anderson was not present. All he ever did was stare and sit. He didn't move or speak. His family tried to help him, but with no effect and they gradually began to panic. Nothing worked.
One night, he came back to life. There was a knock at his bedroom door. For some reason, this knock struck him and he got up to answer it. The knocking continued until he opened the door, but there was nobody there. It stopped instanly when he opened it. This happened several more times until he fell asleep at his desk, waiting for the next knock. A woman's voice called his name over and over, which he thought was himself dreaming. Then, a glass fell, shattered. He snatched himself awake.
There before him was Meredith. She looked as she always had, except with a little more pallor. Ethan turned pale and jumped out of his seat.
She looked around, perplexed.
"Meredtih, you're" Ethan said, walking to her. He noticed that she looked strange, transperant.
"Ethan. Ethan! What did you do?" she said despairingly, and her voice echoed as if she was in a large, empty room.
"What do you mean?" he asked and reached for her. He gripped nothing. Her face collapsed in sadness.
"Everything goes through me."
Ethan withdrew his hand from where it had been suspended in midair, starring at it. Meredith continued.
"Nobody listens! Nobody hears at all! Nobody sees!" Tell me why! Why is that?"
She proceeded to tread restlessly.
"What is this?" she snapped. "What is this world of which I am invisible, this dead place where people give me nothing, where I am nothing!?"
She held up her hands and said with livid, agonizing eyes, nearly a whisper, spacing out her words evenly.
"I am nothing but air."
She lowered her hands calmly but the look to kill was still on her face.
"And you," she tilted her head to the left,"are the only person that is aware of me." She took a step forward. "Now why. Is that?"
Ethan studied the form before him. There were hot tears in his eyes. He ran. When he dashed out of the door, leaving it wide open, his parents called frantically after him, but he neither stopped nor answered.
Ethan heaved against that dreadful, groaning door and entered the room. It was completely empty. The window was closed. He starred for a minute and even walked around, probably to absorb his defeat. It was very quiet, except for wind rustling through the window's cracks and the crunching of a thick layer of dust under his shoes.
"I expected to find you here again!" said a very familiar voice.
"You!" Ethan growled. Boiling anger swelled in his chest. He stomped over to the man, saying, "Who do you think you are?"
"I know who I am," the man said coldly.
Ethan noticed that the man's pupils were of an average size and surrounded by brown irises. So he had been seeing things.
"How could you do that? That's not what I asked you to do!"
"But you didn't specify very well, did you?" the man said.
Ethan raged. "You shut your Goddamned mouth! Do you realize what you've done?"
"I've done much, much worse."
Ethan paused, not expecting that.
"Not possible! You murdered an innocent girl. You're a monster!"
The man here stepped forward."Am I? Or is it you? You came to some dark place and told a stranger the name of that innocent girl, the one that you were supposed to have loved!"
Ethan whirled around and said furiously,"I did lover her! More than anybody!...And she wouldn't even listen to me...she hardly knew my name..."
"Very well," said the man. "She won't be that way anymore."
Ethan narrowed his eyes to slits and said slowly, "How do you mean?"
"Think about it," began the man, "She is a spirit. Nobody can tell she's there...Except you. You're her only relief." He smiled widely, showing most of his teeth."She'll have to love you."
The words burst out of Ethan's mouth, out of his heart, "Killer! Sick Murderer! Sneak! Liar! Monster from Hell!"
Ethan backed against the wall while shouting this, and he leaned on it when he was done, weary-worn, ruined. He put his hand on his forehead and closed his eyes tightly. He was breathing hard. He opened his eyes slowly after a few seconds.
There was the man was right in front of him, only a foot away, which should have been impossible since there had not been a sound in that short moment of blindness. The man's irises had dissappeared again. The big, black discs were huge, almost swallowing up even the retinas.
"You listen to me. You can blame me until the end of your days, but we both know that this is your fault. You were stupid, selfish, taking the easy way out. You are the moster!"
"Leave me alone!" Ethan bellowed and he sprinted out of the room.
The last time anybody saw him was at the grocery market, where he was running into the woods behind it. The dark foliage consumed him and he was never seen again. The two young adults' parents are still grieving to this day, wondering if there is any connection between such strange and close together happenings. It is an unspoken of topic in Evesbridge, an unsolved, mournful mystery.
There is one clue, though, odd and unhelpful it may be. A year after the death and the dissappearace, on the very day that Meredith died, Mr. and Mrs. Trente went to visit her grave. There, on the top of Meredith's gravestone, was Ethan's class ring, the beautiful ruby shining in the sun.