STEVEN JERAL HARRIS
EMERALD BLUE OKIKI
Many strange things have happened to me lately, but this incident is by far the strangest of them all. There are no words to describe the sadness I feel about this abrupt and shocking misfortune. A totally innocent person, admired dearly by many people in town, was found brutally murdered on the campus grounds about a week ago. His death took the town by utter surprise, reaching national news. The victim was my beloved friend. I’ve never lost anyone dear before. Maybe that’s because I don’t know many people on a personal level.
Now, for the first time in my 19 years of life, I’m starting to feel the harsh reality of death and the effects it has on others. The people of this small town of Glenworth are left mourning and also fearful for their lives. If the murder occurred closer to the city, it wouldn’t have been so shocking. Another strange thing is nothing crazy ever happens in Glenworth, especially something like murder and also how he was murdered makes this crime so appalling. What makes everything worse for me, besides him being a friend of mine is I’m one of those unlucky few who discovered his body.
The image of his lifeless body will forever be embedded in my mind. Even before his death, he seemed to be very edgy. I knew something was bothering him, but I just couldn't figure out what. What was bothering him? He obviously knew something I didn't. Now, because of his tragic death, I may never know why he began acting so distraught. Maybe he knew someone was trying to kill him, but that doesn’t make any sense. If that was the case, he would've gone and told my uncle, Frank; who is a well-known policeman in town. Even he’s shocked about this.
He’s used to seeing dead bodies turning up in the river, but they’re from murders that typically happen in the city and surrounding counties. Fifteen years of police work is not enough to prepare him for what he saw on that dreadful day. Besides the sadness, I’m also consumed by anger knowing a killer is still out here, watching, waiting for his next helpless victim. Only pure evil can commit something so horrendous. There’s no justification for such violence, even I wouldn’t wish such death on my worst enemy.
The students and staff on campus, and some of the townspeople help create a beautiful memorial for him at the nearby park. A wooden podium is decorated with beautiful flowers and attached to the bundles of flowers are cards, giant framed photos of the victim are hanging from rods which are mounted into the wood, and lit candles of all sizes are surrounding the entire memorial. My guilt swells as I stare at the decorative pictures of him. What happened that led to his murder? This is another question I have yet gotten an answer to, and it’s tearing me apart inside. As I stand in front of this beautiful setup, constantly staring at a picture of him, I can’t stop asking myself, why? Out of all the people who could’ve been chosen, why this innocent soul? The wind starts to blow harder, so I wrap my arms around myself to keep warm. Although I’m wearing a scarf and a wool coat, it’s still no match for the bitterness of this autumn day.
The weather is brisk, the ground is cold and clammy due to raining earlier in the day, and the grey clouds are dense across the evening sky. I force myself to turn away from his memorial. I can’t keep staring at his blameless eyes much longer, it’s far too painful. Both guilt and sadness follow behind me as I tread through dampen grass. Then, out of nowhere, I hear a noise coming from the woods, the noise of twig snapping. I stop in my tracks and listen to the wind with my eyes on high alert. Seconds passes by, maybe I’m just hearing things. Just to be sure, I stand absolutely motionless and attentive for a while longer.
A mob of crows burst from the bare trees and flee across the cloudy sky. My heart jumps slightly as they abruptly scatter abroad and disappear from my sight. I shake the jitters from my head, relieving my mind from the tension, and then continue walking again. It’s all in my mind, it’s all in my mind, I think to myself for reassurance. But just to be on the safer side, I double my pace.
‘Iva.’ A distant voice calls out to me somewhere in the woods.
The uneasy feeling immediately comes back to me. It sounds like the voice of a woman in danger. The nerves in my body go haywire and the hairs on the back of my neck springs straight up.
‘Iva, please help,’ the voice calls out again.
Suddenly it hits me.
‘Mom?’ I project my voice into the woods.
‘Iva, help me please I’m badly hurt,’ my mother calls out to me again.
Immediately, I’m ravaged by fear for my mother’s life. I hurry inside the woods and look around for her with desperate eyes, but a thin mist makes it difficult to see far ahead of me; still that doesn’t stop me from running around frantically through the fog, trying my best to track her voice down.
‘Mom where are you!’ I scream into the woods.
‘Over here,’ her burdened voice calls out to me again.
I follow her cry for help, ducking under low branches, parting bare vines, and leaping over large roots protruding from the muddy soil. It doesn't take me long to find her resting sideways on the leaf covered ground.
‘I’m over here,’ she notifies me.
She’s curled into a ball wearing a long grey cloak that’s covering her entire body.
‘Mom, what are you doing out here? Are you—’ I stop speaking when I notice something eerie. My mom is a thin woman but she’s not sickly thin like this. I can see her bony spine creasing the cloak from the inside.
‘Honey, help me up.’ She cries out to me without turning.
I stop walking about 30 feet away from her, which is close enough to see clearly through the fog.
‘Please, come closer. I can’t stand,’ she groans in pain again.
An ugly feeling grows inside me all of a sudden. Then my neck gets hit with a cool sensation that makes its way down my spine, and lingers there. This is a sensation you can’t get from the chill of the wind, instead this feeling comes only when you realize something very creepy and bizarre is happening or about to happen. There’s something about this whole situation that doesn't add up.
What is going on?
My mom has no reason being out here, no reason at all. Actually, she should be at work around this time. The wind comes through the forest fiercely, disturbing everything in sight and lifts up the hood of the cloak. That stubborn eerie feeling on my spine takes over my entire body, consuming me like a raging fire.
I see a pale wrinkly head covered in thin strands of dark hair, and long ears resting on the sides of its face like a dog. Now, I’m gripped by unfathomable horror. I gasp hard and try to conceal my fear by covering my mouth. I’ve never felt so terrified in my entire life. The fear is so powerful it makes my legs weaken, causing me to stumble back a little and grabbing the side of a tree for additional support. My heart begins to pound against my chest like a drum. I’m lucky this tree is in arm’s reach, because without the extra support it provides, I think I might just faint.
‘Baby, come on, help me up,’ this thing, which is obviously not my mother, cries out again.
Extreme fear hits my bloodstream, causing me to become paralyzed temporarily.
‘You are not my mother.’ I tell it with tense words.
Suddenly, this thing stops its painful groans, as if it’s been acting the whole time. Then it slowly sits up on its bottom, facing away from me with its head still unveiled.