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The watery sunlight dripped through the branches of the creek-side trees.

It pooled in the dips in the sandy bank, and in the nooks and joints of a natural dam forming in one of the many twisting, winding bends. Apart from the noise of the swollen creek, and the occasional caw of the crows and groan of the trees, the creek and surrounding woods were silent. The quiet of the woods laid on everything, weighing it down as the sunlight did. The weight stayed for some time -- long enough for the liquid light to trickle from one bowl of a leaf, or dip in a log, to another. As the light began to darken and pollute, the sound of soggy footsteps crept through the trees, lifting a portion of their load and apologetically breaking the hold of the silence. Then, just like a specter, a young boy appeared, tramping through the twigs and branches. He was ill fitted for a late-water skulk through the woods: damp and soiled loafers, leading up to equally dirtied dress pants, an oversized jacket, a stiflingly starched shirt, and finished off with a hand-me-down black tie that was knotted both too short and too tight. As he came within sight of the creek, and the drift-wood dam, he paused. As he stood there, he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and his face twisted in difficult, deep thought. In the time that passed, the water-light darkened even more and, what was left of the lighter, purer light, floated up the tree trunks. Finally, it seemed as though the boy had come to a decision. He started again, but at an altered course. He bullishly forced his way through the intertwining bush-branches scratching his face and plucking up some of the thread of his jacket until he reached the beach head of the creek. Once finally clear of the foliage, he came up to the edge of the water and stopped again. This time, it was to watch sticks and leaves and the occasional bit of refuse slowly slide on down the creek. He stood there, watching the creek, but not so long as before. Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, he began rocking on his feet forward and backward, forward and backward until he shifted a little too far back, locked out his knees, and thudded down onto the sloping shore. The boy sat; quite contented to further dirty his clothes. The sudden fall, however, seemed to have jarred him out of his thinking, for his face dropped all expression, and he seemed vacantly calm. He stopped staring out onto the creek, and, instead, redirected his attention to the sand around himself. He withdrew his hands from his pockets and gently grazed the tops of the miniature dunes in a sitting, snow-angle fashion. With each creeping pass of his arms he lowered his hands, and further leveled the dunes and filled the dips. As he labored at his self-appointed beach comber task he uncovered imperfections and foreign bodies: twigs and pebbles and glass and warped cigarette butts. As he discovered each of these he would stop his work -- on both sides and, in one fluid motion, pluck the item out of the sand and toss it into the water. Only then would he return to smoothing the sand. The boy smoothed, and smoothed, and smoothed the sand until the last of the pure waterlight dripped from the highest branches, and fell into the sea of the sky. When he finished, he sat there in the middle of this realm of perfection. He sat there and looked at the contrast between the rough, dirty, natural form of the sand and his self-made and contained area. Then his hands began to clench. It started with his hands and quickly spread. His breathing became short and ragged, his hands clenched sporadically, and his eyes slammed shut as his chin began to mimic his hands.

The boy, he looked to be in pain. Not some simple, superficial pain like the faint scratches on his cheeks but a deep pain; an old pain -- the kind of pain that climbed its way out of some primordial ooze. And it seemed to have found this boy. This small, frail, unassuming boy to wrap itself around and drag back down into the deep. Now the boy struggled with it, trying, striving, to fend it off even for a moment longer. A damp, cold world grew damper. While this rail of a boy was losing an age old battle of wills, something new began to flood the woods. The din was unwanted, it was intrusive, and it was . . . gaiety. But the boy was too preoccupied to hear a pack of beasts crashing down his way. _____________________________ In the dim light it was difficult to distinguish features, but the things; they were squat and wide set. To any unfortunate passerby, it seemed as though they communicated in some base, primal tongue: hooting and shouting unintelligible gibberish. The creatures, they looked of a victorious war-party. In their arms they carried all manner of things: crates, poles, jugs, and other assorted loot. They rounded the top of the beach head both the boy and the horde unawares of each other and descended to where the driftwood dam had walled up onto the beach. As they came out of the woods, they scattered each to some preordained task. Some began ramming the poles into the sand; some, arranging the crates in a wide half-circle, facing the creek; some, dragging wood, out of the ready supply of the dam, to the center of the semi-circle. Then the creatures discovered fire. The poles they had been so haphazardly placing between the woods and around the crates burst into artificial light. Soon after, a small pile of driftwood was alight, and together with the poles they cast a large circle of man-made, orange light which threw dancing shadows on the trees and the sand and the water. In the light, the savage creatures that had been swarming through the surrounding woods became boys: hurly, burly, sparsely bearded and sparsely bathed boys. These boys, they were at that awkward stage of growth and lacked the general cynicism, lethargy, and other expected traits of the manliest of men, so they compensated with chest beating and overplaying the roles they believed they had. Luckily, for the boy for our boy the others had not noticed him in their rush to make camp in the all but blackened light. As things began to settle down to some extent the boys began to open some of their looted chests, which, in the dull, orange light, turned out to be nothing more than common coolers. Out of them came cans and bottles by the dozens and, soon enough, the all the boys were gulping, guzzling, or in some cases taking pained and disgusted sips of their respective poisons. From somewhere within the mess of coolers, light, and the unwashed masses music began and was quickly put to an uncomfortable, ear-splitting level. That music had a sinister effect. First, it bit the boy who gave it life. The venom trickled through his veins, causing him to sway from side to side. No-one noticed the sudden, serious change in the childs demeanor so the music slithered on through the rest of the group, biting each and every boy along the way.

Soon, the entire mass was either swaying or shuffling, and the talking and merrymaking had come to an end. All that was left was the viperous music entwining itself evermore thoroughly within that enclave of humanity. What happened next no-one could have foreseen. It began with the children of weaker constitutions. The venom had seeped into every artery and vein and ventricle, and as they swayed and swayed their blood-venom warmed and warmed. Then it began to smolder. Then it sparked. The boys let out a collection of whoops! and began bounding and spinning and flailing their arms about in unbelievable ways as they first spun up, towards the tree line, and then back down to just barely brush the water line. The other boys watched in amazement at the frantic antics of their companions but not for long. The flame in the younger boys leapt out of the bounding, spinning ring of fire, and into those that were before unmoved. Soon, everyone each and every last boy was a part of that living ring which now expanded down, into the water, and up, into the woods. The ring continued to grow as it went round and round and round and round. The tide of boys wound itself into and of the ring of torches. They danced along with their shadows on the sand and water and trees. The tide swelled beyond the farthest reaches of the light the world, a blazing inferno. And then it was snuffed. Somewhere, just outside the swell and ebb of the bonfire out in the cold the ring was broken. _____________________________ For the entirety of the woodland spectacle, our boy had been lost within himself. As the noise had grown, out boy had simply covered his ears reflexively rather than knowingly. So, when out of the dark came some strange boy and ours was bowled over imagine his surprise. He and the new boy laid there in the sand, not quite sure how to react. The other boys quickly came to a halt, and stared on in confusion along with the two on the ground. Everyone was silent as the music screeched on, and a silence that could only be felt filled mouths like cotton balls. It was some time before the spell was broken. Who the hell are you? the boy on the ground asked in angry, bewildered confusion. It opened a floodgate. Whos that some kid shouldnt be here first you forget to grab some light! Somebody, grab that could rat in the group of us will bring that here trouble! the group of boys babbled as some grabbed our boy, went for a light, or worried for their future. Some of the larger boys and those that believed themselves to be large grabbed our boy, and began pulling him, one way and then another, in order to be the one with the firmest

grip on him. As the burly boys roughed him up, another gaggle of boys raced each other to be the first one to retrieve some sort of light. As they got back to the bonfire, each boy snatched a torch and one particularly fool hardy boy plucked a blazing branch from the edges of the fire then they thundered back to the crowd. The gaggle minus the one with the branch arrived back at the boy around the same time. The sudden lighting blinded most of the boys, but it wasnt long before they recovered. The boys looked at ours spread thinly between two ogres of boys each wracking their brain in an attempt to place a name on our distraught boy. One of the smaller ones in the back of the crowd began to pipe up, saying hey, I know him! Hes M-----but, at that moment, the final torch-bearing boy arrived, and everything was thrown into chaos. _____________________________ The one bearing the burning branch arrived at the crowd much later than the others, and found himself outside the sea of boys who had parted to receive the others, then come together to get a look at our boy. The branch boy, however, was not so easily deterred. First he went one way, then another, but quickly came to the conclusion that there was no easy entrance to the mob so he made one. He fell back a few paces, readied himself, then bolted forward and hurled himself at the crowd in hopes of clearing the first line, and encouraging the other to move. He cleared the first line consisting of boys half his height easily, but encountered trouble with those thereafter. The second line of boys had no knowledge of the bush-boy, and, so when one of their own came hurtling out of the darkness, they attempted to flee. However, despite the singing encouragement, there were few escapes from that pre-pubescent fireball. Some of the boys attempted to fall back from the group and ash, but that plan was quickly curbed by the younger boys, who were not as swift, and most of the fleeing children went down in a mound of limbs and language. The rest of the boys specifically those set upon by the branchboy were forced forward. They, in turn, forced those ahead and so on. _____________________________ This domino effect within the crowd worked its way up to ours, and those holding him, in a fraction of a second. The wave of bodies surged toward them and frightened the larger boys causing them to forget and release ours. As soon as he was free, he was off. He ducked past a tumbling boy and scrambled over the squirming, swearing pile of bodies. The moment his feet a firmer, less fleshy earth, they dug in, and he began running towards the woods. Just as he reached the tree line, he heard a voice behind him. Grab that kid! Hes heading into the woods! Our boy ran, stumbling through the dark, as he could hear a thunder of beasts chasing him. He ran through thickets and briars and bushes. The trees and brush stretched their braches for him in the almost pitch dark. He bled as he had never bled before. Things refuse stuck like leeches to his hands and arms and face and neck. As hard as he ran, he couldnt run fast enough. With each stumble and hindered step, the creatures from the creek-side grew closer and closer. The cacophony of the running, shouting, and rending of the woods pressed on our boy, and thought he could feel a hand clawing at his collar. He tried to run harder, but the earth rose up and clouted him.

He fell. Mud and leaves filled his mouth as he viciously rolled along the ground, and the air was forced out of his lungs as he slammed into a downed tree. He laid there, choking on earth in a desperate attempt to catch his breath, as the horde overtook him. They came crashing through the dark, and, in their blind panic, they mistook him for another section of the tree. They continued on over the trunk. He laid there as they went over him; the heels rained down and forced him deeper and deeper into the muck. He tried to curl into a ball, but the blows were incessant, and he became dazed as heel after heel bounced off his head. As quickly as it had come, the horde tore off into a different part of the wood. The world began to ring. It started with an unassuming stone. The stone rested no more than a few inches from his face, and was just peering out of the trampled muck. AS he watched, the stone seemed to glow. With opaque fascination, the boy pushed himself up from the ooze and slowly reached out to take the stone. His hands covered it, but, try as he might, he couldnt close his fingers about it. In confusion, the boy reached out with his other hand and took up the stone easily. He took the faint light and held it close to his right hand in order to inspect it. What he saw wasnt his hand. What he saw was some twisted, abstract version of a hand. After awhile, the boy came to some vague conclusion and turned his attention back to the stone. He inspected it, turned it over, shook it, but it continued to glow, and continued to ring. After tapping it, he turned and knocked it against the log. At the first knock, nothing happened. But, as he continued to thump the downed tree, he noticed the stone grow a fraction brighter. Then he heard another ringing, but at a lower register. He stared first at the newly singing log, and then back to the stone as this insight slowly dawned on him. His face split into an absent smile. He leaned forward and touched the stone to a leaf, then a rock, then a branch. He continued this until everything within his reach was ringing out a note, and the stone was glowing as bright as any common, household light. The light was a calm, light blue, and its light illuminated the immediate woods turning it into some surreal landscape. Despite the intensity of the light, the boy felt no heat as the stone rested lightly in his open palm. It felt so light in fact that it felt as though nothing were there at all. As time passed, his attention turned from the stone to his immediate surroundings. His gaze slid over the area until they came to rest on a giant, ancient pine some ways away from him. The split in his face grew larger as he continued to look at the pine and began hefting the stone in is unbroken hand. Unbeknownst to him, though, was that, as he tossed the stone up, it hung in the air for a fraction of a second longer each time. Slowly, he cocked his arm back, until it was hovering just above the log he was leaning against, the he let the stone fly sending it high in the air. It lazily arced toward the pine, blazing brightly in the damp dark of the woods. Then, long after he had thrown it, the stone silently connected with the ancient tree. For a moment, the stone hovered in place just ever so slightly touching the pine. Then, together, the light and the ringing dimmed, before draining away all together. When the light blinked out, the stone fell to the woodland floor with a thud, and the darkness, which the stone had cast out, began creeping back in.

The boy sat there in bleary eyed confusion. He quickly clamored to his feet, and staggered drunkenly to where the stone had fallen. When he navigated to where he believed the stone was, he fell to his knees and began pawing through the loamy floor of the forest. After a brief search, he found it nestled on a bed of cast-off pine needles. His elation was short lived for the stone he found couldnt possibly be the one that made the world sing at a touch. This stone wasnt unique in any way. This stone was plain small even it blended into its surroundings, and it didnt as much as catch the eye. There was no way no possible stretch of the imagination that could make this puny, unassuming stone something by which to change the world. And the boy understood that the realization, crashing down within him, filled his lungs, and drowned him. They boy gritted his teeth and, in a roaring fury, he hurled the stone away from himself deeper into the woods. He forced himself to his feet, and began venting his anger onto the small branches and brush around him. Just as soon as he had regained his footing, he was back to his knees. He gasped in pain, and grasped his wrist, in an attempt to stem the throbbing surge of pain from his broken hand. With each heartbeat, the pain shot up from his hand, and into his shoulder. As he knelt there, amongst the cast off articles of the forest, he picked up the rhythm of the agony: throb-rest, throb-rest. But, as he was bowed there, he began to feel something else. As his heart beat on, the earth, ever so slightly, vibrated in sync. With each beat, the vibrations grew stronger. Then the boy noticed something else: the ground he knelt on glowed a familiar blue with each with each beat as well. He stumbled to his feet hand forgotten in frightened confusion, and, with bumbling haste, he drew back from the pulsating ground. As he fell back, he beheld an amazing sight fanned out around the pine were pulsating, blue rivulets that seemed to flow into the pine by the thousands, and they were growing brighter with every beat. The millions of blue veins fed into the base of the pine, and the unwavering vibrations sent fairyfinger streaks of blue up the trunk. But the boy was gone. _____________________________ He went crashing through the woods with a pell-mell course. He ducked under a low hanging branch, then leapt around a series of rocks that sharply jutted from the ground. He hadnt the faintest idea of his direction -- only that he was running away from the strange pine, and its uncertainty. As he tore himself from a thick wall of briars, he found himself in the thick of some hairy, seething mass. It was the horde from the creek side, but the boy forced his way through as he had with the senseless foliage. At such a close distance, the creatures were defined with even more profound detail complimented by the near pitch dark. They were the stuff of childrens nightmares; born of the dark and fed with ripened imaginations. They had fangs to bite, claws to pin, and tongues with which to burn the flesh from anothers body. They had these, and many more tools to destroy a life in its infantile bloom. The boy was well across that sea of possibilities before a bitter howl arose. The host turned as one, and it followed the boy in a nightmarish romp through the bleak and smothering dark. The boy was unaware of his childish horrors in close pursuit, and of the leering wood that grabbed at his clothing. He just simply ran, spurred on only by the simple terror he felt for the

unknown. With a final plunge of fear, he mounted a rock with a single bound and leapt clear of the wood, and his fears of uncertainty. _____________________________ He found himself awash in a sea of stars. The flanked him on all sides and the roar of existence filled his ears, and washed away any lingering thoughts. He only existed, and that was all that mattered in this stark, eternal world. Cares were superfluous additions to life easily brushed away with the back of a hand, or blown into oblivion with a poised puff of air. The only necessity to existing was living and that came naturally. In this vast expanse, potch-marked with holes in the fabric of reality, everything was forever. The only thing that couldnt last, was the moment. The stars began to spin, and they went from small specks, into great gashes in the fabric of existence. Round, and round, and round they went. At times, the gashes were replaced with a searing wall of black. The faster the void spun, the larger the wall became. Just as the black had begun to envelop this oasis, he was plunged into a burningly cold abyss. He gasped in shock, and the darkness rushed into him chocking him, and chilling him to the core of his bones. As he struggled for something to grasp some foothold of the world in this heartless vacuum he felt something rap his hand. It was a sharp, painful strike, and it was followed by many more. They came in an ever swelling multitude. Soon, the blows became heavy and forceful bouncing him about in that suffocating, crushing darkness. He could feel things giving way within himself to the strikes bone and tendon and flesh. He could feel the black warming with a heavier darkness, and he opened his mouth to scream in pain and primal terror, but one of the blows caught his scream in his throat, then ripped it away without so much as pausing to be stuck. The darkness grew heavier, and the clouts the boy felt grew, oddly, further and further away. As a fain crack across the ribs turned him, he could faintly make out a light in the distance. At such a great distance, the source of the light was hard to distinguish but he strived to do so. The harder he looked, the closer it seemed to get, and the darker the surroundings became. Then, the realization struck him like one of the manifold arms of the darkness it was that small, unassuming, special stone! Now that he knew what it was, he could begin to feel that pulsating hum. The knowledge shocked him, and the darkness swallowed him, and the light and noise blinked out.

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