My story and poem entries for WDC's 2017 GoT challenge.
Ten year old Cynthia Williams stood upon the grave of her arch-nemesis Sandford Jennings. The night sky was crystal clear, with thousands of stars twinkling down upon her head, and the pale moonlight bathing her blonde hair in an eerie glow. Cynthia was glad for the light, as her stomach curdled in fear at being in a cemetery at night, but it added to her fears that someone might see her.
"You're alone, you're alone, you're alone," she chanted to herself softly in an attempt to calm her nerves. There was something about a graveyard that made you feel like you were never alone. How many people were mere feet beneath the ground she stood upon?
Cynthia took a deep breath, and straightened her bunched Elsa shirt beneath her pink spring jacket. She stepped towards Sandford's gravestone, her pink sneakers scuffing through the still fresh dirt, and placed her hand upon the marble. It was smooth and cold. The dates read January 18, 2006 to June 4, 2017, and Cynthia swallowed at seeing it carved in stone before her.
Sandford had beaten her up at school countless times, even once leaving her with a black eye that she had lied to her parents about how she had received it. They had declared each other mortal enemies when Cynthia was five and Sandford was six, after she had let out a giggle when he had tripped over his own feet. She had not seen a day of peace at school since that day; at least, not until Sandford had died in a mysterious accident a week earlier. His body was found outside his house, crumpled as though it had fallen from a great height, with nothing nearby that could account for the damage done.
Cynthia knelt down upon Sandford's grave, and took off her Moana backpack, setting it in front of her. Tears poured out of her eyes as she opened the backpack and pulled out six glass jars, all the same size, that she had bought at the dollar store with her allowance earlier in the day. Memories flooded her mind, and Cynthia remembered how she had prayed to God that Sandford die so that she could finally live in peace. She received peace, at least outwardly. Inside she had been filled with intense guilt, knowing that it had all been her fault. Her friends tried to convince her that there was no way she could be responsible for such a thing, and they had almost convinced her that she had nothing to do with it. Almost.
It had been twenty-four hours earlier when the demon had appeared. He didn't look like a demon when he appeared in her room in the middle of the night. He looked like a man. Handsome and tall, with dark hair. His red glowing eyes and long flowing robes were all that gave away his true identity. He gave Cynthia a small smile when she awoke to his presence, the tips of his white fangs just barely visible.
Cynthia nearly screamed, but the sound clogged in her throat when she tried to shout, and she knew from the brightening of the glow in his eyes that it was his doing. He smiled wider.
"I have answered your prayers," he told Cynthia in a deep gravelly voice that gave her the chills. "I am Arnold, demon of vengeance." Cynthia almost laughed at what a ridiculous name for a demon Arnold was, but she was too afraid to even attempt to produce a sound of any sort, let alone laughter. "I have delivered to you all that you have asked of me. You have your vengeance. All I ask in return is for a strand of your hair."
"I didn't really want him to die," Cynthia choked out, feeling as though she could die herself.
Arnold's smile widened, the true length of his fangs flashing at her with menace. "Intentions do not matter. Only results. Sandford is dead, just as you prayed and begged for. Either you give me the payment willingly, or I will be forced to take much more than a strand of hair from you."
Tears ran down Cynthia's cheeks, and she felt as though she might vomit, but she plucked a strand of hair from her head and handed Arnold the thread of blonde that had paid for the life of a child.
Arnold took the strand, nodded at Cynthia, and vanished. No puff of smoke, no sounds, Arnold was merely there one second and gone the next. Cynthia allowed herself to cry as soon as he was gone from sight, her shoulders shaking with her sobs, and her face pressed into her pillow to mute the wrenching sounds.
Cynthia had cried herself to sleep that night, but sleep she did. Her body tossed and turned, and her nightmares filled with images of Sandford lying broken, his mother crying, and his eyes staring right into Cynthia's blackened soul. And then a white light built up, glowing brighter and brighter, until the white consumed everything, and Cynthia's dream was filled with nothingness and light.
From the whiteness came a woman's voice, one that sounded much like Cynthia's own mother. "Cynthia. You have made a grave error in your prayers. But so have we. We allowed your prayers of pain and suffering to go unanswered, and thus they have been answered by darker forces. Our redemption is your redemption. Sandford can still be saved. Go to the city public library after school tomorrow. Sandford's favourite book will show you the way. If you are truly sorry, if you truly regret Sandford's loss, you will follow the path we have laid out before you. Your salvation and his salvation are tied together into one."
When Cynthia woke up that morning, she knew that the dream had been a vision. She knew Sandford could be saved. She knew that she had to do it for him, and for herself. So that day after school, she went to Sandford's house to ask his mother about his favourite book.
Cynthia knocked upon the door with trepidation, afraid his mother would know that it was all her fault, but Mrs. Jennings opened the door with a forced sad smile, and invited Cynthia in. "Mrs. Jennings, I was wondering what Sandford's favourite book was. I know he liked to read, even if he didn't like people to know, and I just wanted to read the book to remember him."
Mrs. Jennings was clearly holding back tears as she attempted to maintain a calm demeanor, and she took a small sip of her tea. "I Want To Go Home by Gordon Korman. He's loved that book for years. It always made him laugh. I wish he could come home now."
Cynthia left Mrs. Jennings' home with tears in her eyes, and knots in her stomach. She headed straight for the children's section at the library, and over to the K shelf. A worn copy of I Want To Go Home sat on the shelf in plain view, and Cynthia grabbed it right away to check out and take home.
When she opened it up, she found a note telling her to obtain six jars of moonlit grave soil from Sandford's grave. Cynthia gathered together all of the things she needed, and made all of the plans for her midnight trip to the cemetery.
As she went to all this effort to bring Sandford back, she wondered if he would ever know all she did. She wondered if he would ever be grateful for the lengths she had gone to for him. She wondered if he would at least stop picking on her. She decided it didn't matter. As much as she would prefer it stop, as awful as being a bully was, no one deserved to die for being a childhood bully. She decided that if it all worked, but he didn't leave her alone, she would tell his mother. She was such a nice lady, and she didn't deserve to suffer the way she was. And she was probably the only one who could rein in Sandford if he couldn't learn to control his temper over petty nonsense.
And so Cynthia used the little trowel taken from her mother's front garden, and dug the loose dirt up, shoveling it into the jars as fast as she could. She didn't yet know what she was to do with the dirt, but she knew that knowledge would come to her. She could feel it in her gut.
After tightening the last of the jar lids, she added the jars back to her backpack, and hopped on her purple bike. She didn't wear a helmet, which made her nervous, but she thought the vibrant colours and reflector tape might be too much for a cemetery visit in the middle of the night. She checked all around her for people, and saw no one, and heard nothing but crickets. She pushed off from the ground, and peddled home as quickly as she could avoiding any potholes that might cause her to wipe out without her helmet.
Once she had her bike safely in her family's shed, she crawled through her first floor bedroom window, which she had left open behind her. Cynthia undressed herself for bed, leaving the backpack full of jars beneath her desk. She crawled into the bed, pulled the Wonder Woman cover around her, and sat there.
Cynthia had no clue what to do from here. The light had told her to get the book. The book told her to get the dirt. But the dirt hadn't told her anything at all. What was she supposed to do with it? She wished she was older, maybe then she would know what to do. Then a thought came to her; what if the dirt did have something to tell her? What if the dirt held the answers for the next steps?
Slipping out of bed, she headed straight for the backpack, and pulled the jars out. She twisted each of them around, watching as the dirt spun and shook inside each jar with every movement. In the third jar she saw something. Opening the lid, Cynthia reached her hand in, and pulled out a small paper, identical to the one that had told her to get the dirt.