The night slinks on. Clouds blot out the moon as they stroll across the sky. The wood structure creaks and groans against the force of the gale beating the tiny home. The rain pounds against the side and roof seeping through the walls and staining them a deep brown. Inside the tight space smells of mildew and soot from a long clogged fire-place. A chill seeps through the cracks and chases off any warmth in the room. Dust coats the floor and desk and stains the creaky old mattress on the wobbly old frame a pale shade of grey.
A shivering ball huddles in the corner under a thin, scratchy, grey blanket. Ash brown hair topples out from the tangle of cloth successfully obscuring a puffy, red face. The chattering of teeth is so loud that it competes with the wind. Her bones rattle with just as much force, little more than skin clinging to them at this point.
I`ve been traveling with the young woman for the past two days. She hasn`t told me where she is coming from or where she is going, hardly talks at all really. That doesn`t bother me. A lot of people out here have lives that don`t much speak about. I know more than she thinks though, small things I`ve picked up. Small things that make me sick but at the same moment make me calm.
She lifts her head. The blanket falls back sending her hair flying up in a mess of brown around a teal, velvet bow holding her hair back. I can make out her soft pink sweater and those russet-brown eyes so tinged with red I can`t help but wonder the burden she bares. Her pupils are dilated in the dim light against the flicker of our make shift lantern. She slowly stands, like a child in stature, revealing her soft pink sweater and teal skirt. Her tights are patched with soft blush lace. The lace is from my mother`s wedding dress, the last piece of my past. I had no use for it. The flop of her bow looks like rabbit ears.
She creeps along, the floor boards whining underneath. I follow her gaze to the dingy little window full of spider-webbing cracks. The large field sways at the mercy of the elements. She isn`t watching for that. I can tell by the way her pupils contract into little points that she is watching for something I will never be able to see.
I shift the weight in my palms and glance down at the two items resting half in my hands and half on my lap. I run my hand over the glossy book cover; the only sign of use is the cracks along the spine. I flip through letting the pages flutter by in their hue of yellow. I stare at the heavy little block of paper before reaching it out towards the girl. She does not even look at me.
“D-don`t you see what`s c-coming?” She stutters so softly.
I knew this was coming from the moment I met her, yet now with it so close my stomach clenches. I hold my breath and shake my head solemnly. I trace over the scratches along my arm as my body grows increasingly numb, stemming from that arm. She finally turns only a quarter of the way to face me. Heavy shadows cast across her face making her look older, wiser. I extend my other arm with the second item, catching sight of myself in the shimmering aluminum. I run my finger over the lace.
“It`s c-creeping in.” She whispers.
“I know.” I press the items towards her until she finally takes the mask in her small, bony hands.
She gently pulls the mask on shielding off my sight of those russet eyes. What now stares back at me is features of my own greasy, dirt coated face. My charcoal eyes are so empty and my hair is falling out. My teeth are all chipped and rotting. My nose is bent from many fights. The years build up and rush through me as I stare at a man I do not recognize.
I set the book down slow with but one thing heavily underlined; Fiver. She wraps the ribbon around my throat so the soft fabric brushes my skin, softer than anything else I have felt in a long time.
“I-it`s coming. I n-need to stop it.” She pulls the ribbon tight.
I nod some, and stare into my own eyes as the darkness creeps on in and everything slips away. I can never understand the burden she bears and I cannot bear it for her, but I can help.