THE TIME BETWEEN TWO BREATHS...

BY ELISY LINDSEY 9DGR Preface Tension crept from the dark corners of the night sky and choked up the air with stuffy humidity that clogged you re lungs. I was literally choking with apprehension. The only sound was a tedious drip, drip, drip as a thick red liquid splattered the filth caked earth, it smelt like rust and salt and it burnt my nose and filled my senses creating a nauseous atmosphere within my mind. Scared? Yes, I was terrified. But of him? No, I was scared for him.

Chapter One: Spying and Speculations D s POV Mary-Alice Taylor trod treacherously through the massive puddle on campus that had seemingly accumulated just to ruin her new Nike trainers. She cursed expletively as the dampness leaked through the pathetic material and chilled her feet. She shielded herself from the oncoming rain with a make-shift umbrella made of laminated coursework that was slowly ruining in the dampness... I d been watching this young girl for a while now; it had been humorous to watch her clumsily stumble from childhood to adolescence and soon, adolescence to my worst enemy. My observation was no longer for my own entertainment, but for my security. I had survived on this earth since before the first heartbeat, before the first sunrise, since before creation itself. I was limitless, my age undefined and unlimited. If I could age, that is. Not to mention that I m everywhere. I m like the air you breathe, like the oxygen surrounding you, but nowhere near as harmless as those tiny particles of O2, no, I m like a... a poison in the air, waiting for the right time to spring down your throat and end your life. I m a by-product, see? When god existed, I existed. And when he became the creator, I evolved and became the destroyer. He became the giver of life and my innocent self turned into the taker of life. I m no longer innocent. I m every living creature s worst fear, even in confident denial. My presence is constant and unforgiving; only a few ever escape my bone-white claws. I am feared, hated and excluded, but I m still present, not because I want to be, but because I have to be... I am the spine-chilling word that strikes fear into even the most courageous of men. I am the cold breath that breathes down your neck as your days dwindle to an end. I am your worst nightmare. I am Death. Just because I don t enjoy my job the constant thievery of perfect lives every second of every daydoesn t mean that I can deny the necessity of it in this world. Without death, living creature would just continue to exist forever; there d be too many lives and not enough to supplement them. What would happen to them after that? Would they shrivel up and just not exist ? No, they wouldn t, because death is here, it s needed and it happens. Get over it. However, prophecies (dismissed as some American-Indian magic-mushroom ramble) were forthcoming. Prophecies which told of the end of me. Not just the end of me, though, because, with the fall and destruction of death, humanity and any other living force would crumble and decease into nothing

more than dust. Creation isn t possible without destruction. And if destruction wasn t there, creation wouldn t exist and therefore, the human race would cease to ever exist. And as much as I hated these stubborn little humans, they didn t deserve to end , so I was going to fight for them. Now, back to the point, Mary-Alice played a large part in these prophecies, in fact, she was the supposed heroine. She was the saviour who single-handedly fought and defeated Death. How do I know this? The parchments, of course. The American-Indians wrote their premonitions on cow parchment as rhyming riddles. Leaving most of the myths still a mystery.
In a world of life and death, Death is the higher power, But as Life follows second with a strangled breath, It knows it will have its prevailing hour... The She But And heroine is one small girl, doesn·t believe, does with a golden pearl, a backpack inscribed M.A.T

I d read the riddle thousands of times, trying to unwind the tangled strands of words that combed out into a poem. I d tried to decode what any of it meant, to find deeper meaning within the strangely structured sentences, but only finding simple meanings. I thought it meant that my control over life was about to end and one girl with the initials M.A.T would be the one to change that. I had, perversely, stalked many young girls with those initials to no avail. All of them were plain, pathetic and... well, human. But one day, several years ago, just when I was about to give up the search for the one , I felt that familiar tingly feeling in the tips of my skeletal hands that told me someone was about to die. I followed that feeling, knowing I d have to retrieve the body and take the soul to its destined place. When I arrived at the scene, I saw a mother, a woman of about 30, waving her 5yr old daughter off to her first day of school. From the direction the deathly feeling was coming from, I knew it was the woman who was about to pass on. I watched with regret as the little girl waved to her mother for the last time before hopping on the bus to school. I couldn t bear to watch the woman die, but I knew she would, a runaway murderer waited out in her kitchen, hiding in the cupboard, scared and prone to lashing out at the least bit of surprise. When the woman opened her closet, the murderer lashed out and killed the woman. I didn t see a thing. But, the horrific thing about my job, see? Is that, I don t see it or hear it if I don t want to... but I feel it. No matter what. I felt the spark of shock when the women opened the closet and saw the man with a knife. I felt the stab in my bottom left rib as the man sunk the blade into her soft flesh. And I felt the warm tears dribble down my face as the heart spluttered to a stop. I retrieved the soul, the woman s tears now left a non-existent trail of cold tears on my face, of which I could not wipe off, for they were not mine. That s the thing, well, one of them, I, Death, am hated for taking lives. But I don t, I just get rid of the leftovers. It s humans that are the cruel ones. Stealing is the only true crime, the one humanity has learnt to master. I disposed of her soul, but felt a longing regret for the oblivious daughter. So I followed the polluted trail the bus had left and found the school where they were slowly and steadily learning how to spell four-letter words. I recognised the girl from earlier; she was hunched in the corner by herself, hugging her knees to her chest. She had no friends; all the other little girls were huddled in little groups, sharing silly secrets. I watched the small girl with intense interest. She was different from all the other little humans. She

had a karma surrounding her, one that told of purity and bravery. She was beyond the tight confines of knowledge and fact, she had faith. She was called out from lessons early. The school had received a phone call from the police and needed the daughter to be removed from lessons for questioning... I guessed they found the body. But when she, confused, lifted her small child s body from the floor, grabbing her backpack on the way up, I noticed something that felt like a slap round the face with a wet fish. Written on the back of her pink backpack, in smudged black marker pen, were the initials M.A.T. She was the one. Only five years old. But she was the one. Investigating further, I found her full name was Mary-Alice Taylor, and she was now an orphan. It has been 13 years since that day. And I was starting to lose faith in the prophecies, thinking they were lies spun to send me on a wild goose chase. But, just when I m about to quit, things start to change in Mary-Alice s life, and these things, well, I think they re more than just things. My faith in the prophecy has been renewed.

MAT s POV Having been late for class I was assigned detention. As if my day wasn t bad enough with my sodden clothes and dreary day, I later discovered that my homework, on which I d spent hours, was ruined by the rain. It was one of those days where I felt like crying. But that would solve nothing, so I turned the other cheek and held my head high. I felt the familiar and kind of homely chill the moment I stepped out of the prison and into the open world. The grey sky glowered at the land below, forbidding the sun any access to view the land. The wind was ice cold and chilling and cut my nose and cheeks like sharp blades of ice. I was a strange girl, always was, always will be. I was the odd one out, never quite fitting in. My mother died when I was small and my dad buggered off long before I can remember. I lived by myself now, I m 18, legally an adult, and therefore I can look after myself. I always have been able to, but it wasn t until now that I was allowed to. When I first moved out of the old orphanage house, I thought living by myself would be a dream, but, in reality? It s lonely as hell. And I hate every moment of it, and to be honest, I hate my place, I think it s haunted. Since I was 5 years old, I d felt the constant paranoia that someone was following me, but, when I m in an enclosed space, alone (such as my apartment) the feeling is intensified a hundred times So I spend a lot of time outside. Not with people, just, outside, in my own isolated little world. I wander a lot. Here and there. But most of the time I spend by the side of my mother s grave. A little patch of unsettled grass with a heady grey stone lazily resting above her. I talk to her and wonder if she can hear me... I haven t been to see her in a while, so, going against the screaming protests of my body telling me it s too cold, I stride head-on into the harsh wind. I walked with haste, trying to rid the sharp edge the wind cut me with. My mind stood still though, desperately trying to suppress the urge to turn my head and check to see if I was being followed; the eerie feeling was back, with just as much vigour as it had when I d been running to class this morning. I struggled against my self-preservation instincts knowing I was just being paranoid again. Sometimes I wondered if I was going a little crazy...

I reached the familiar scene of the graveyard. But night had fallen and dimmed the details in my vision. A light mist had fallen upon the graveyard, the floor was a bed of clouds with all sorts of unknowns lying underneath it. The overhanging trees stretched their bone-like claws to the ground, reaching for something that wasn t in my view. The sky was blackened and dirty from the rain that had fallen earlier, leaving no area for light to breach through. I d never seen the graveyard like this, it was a scene from a horror movie. I knelt by my mother s bed and traced my fingers along the engraved tombstone. Isabella Taylor 1980-2006 A loving mother, may she rest in peace Your mother was a wonderful person, you know? the sudden voice in the seemingly deserted area startled me to a point where I couldn t breathe. I jumped to my feet reflexively and turned my head in the supposed direction of the voice... but there was no one. The mist had risen from the floor, transforming more into an eerie fog. It hung around the corners of the graveyard, blocking any exits out of this place. Maybe I was hearing voices? No... or was I? I turned in frantic circles, desperately trying to place this voice to a person that was maybe talking to another gravestone or... or... I was at loose ends. I m over here... the voice encouraged, its tone tainted with boredom. I turned my vision to the direction the voice had come from. It was a figure, standing at the very edge of the graveyard. I couldn t see him that well, he was 7, maybe 8 metres away, but the fog prohibited me from seeing any detail. His voice had sounded so close though, like a short and sharp whisper in my ear, but he was so far away? How? Why? What? I m- I m sorry, I stuttered nervously, Umm, who are you? I was breathless by the time I d uttered the entire sentence so sucked in a shaky breath. Why, my dear, he paused momentarily, but then he was right next to me, as if he d travelled the distance between us with super-speed, then, he whispered quietly, I m your worst nightmare... My breathing halted completely and my eyes searched frantically for an escape via any of the already fog-blocked exits. W-what do you want? I whimpered. Hmm, just a few things... like... he trailed off and I found my muscles. I turned around and faced the figure. It was human. Figure smothered in a long black cloak that blocked any facial features from view. Sleeves dangled from the end of bone-structured arms... and at the end of his wrists were skeletal hands. I gasped and suppressed the urge to scream. The hands launched to my throat and placed themselves tightly around my trachea, preventing me from screaming, or even breathing. I was being strangled. Listen here, child, I know you know about the prophecy. And I m going to kill you, he spoke matter-of-factly, But, I ve watched you and don t particularly want to kill you, so there is one way out of this. Don t fulfil the prophecy and I ll let you live your life. Easy, see? Now, what do you say? I truthfully had no idea what he was talking about, my mind was focusing on trying to release his freezing hands from my throat. I- I- won t fulfil it! I struggled, promising what he wanted just so he would let go. His hands released the stronghold on my neck and I fell to the ground in exhaustion, clutching my throat as it gasped for oxygen. Cold air raced down my windpipe and sliced at my throat but my lungs burned for the oxygen that I so desperately needed to survive. The time between two breaths seemed like a century as I delayed the action of looking back up to the monster that had just tried to kill me.

Chapter Two: Dodging and defying Death D s POV I couldn t let it show. The guilt, I mean, I couldn t let this girl see the naked shock and guilt on my face. It was so human, and acting human completely destroyed my façade. I was shocked at myself, the pure fury released on this innocent was unfair and cruel and my conscience was taking the punch. I watched her on the floor. And heard her desperate gasps, her own deep breaths mingling with howls of the wind as it danced around my cloak, animating it and making it its own person.

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