Despite His Darkness

Despite the darkness, he smiled.

A dusky-haired boy stood precariously beside a river occupied with inky water. He seemed to pay no mind to how it swirled violently and licked at the shore as if waiting to swallow his unfazed figure right up. A void of starless blackness stretched out behind him. It was as if he were a living, breathing part of the scene, blending in so seamlessly that one might miss him if they didn’t look close enough.

The fair girl in front of him, however, was an entirely different story.

“Come on, Leah,” His voice was steady and low as he reached out to rest his hands lightly on her shoulders, “If we follow the river, we’ll be led back to the city before sunrise.”

Leah, the girl, wasn’t so optimistic. She nodded anyway.

For the past few hours, she had been unable to free herself of the bitter guilt that taunted her relentlessly. She strongly suspected that she’d been the one to have accidentally led them away from the hiking trail. She didn’t voice her emotions, though, knowing she’d be in for a reprimanding if she shifted the blame against herself a second time.

Looking up into her friend’s dappled grey eyes, Leah couldn’t help but notice how they creased at the corners in a telltale way, involuntarily voicing his nervousness. She appreciated his feigned bravery, but the girl knew that he was only putting up the same wall he always did. It hadn’t wavered once in the months she had known him.

“Let’s go,” He said, his tone taking on an unnaturally hard edge after noticing her suspicious look.

Leah had thought the forest a marvelous place during the day, but at night, it seemed to come alive with unknown terrors and noises she had never thought possible. By straying close to Zane as she walked, the shadows seemed to recede, if only by a little.

Their long trek continued uneventfully, even as the first rays of sun peeked hesitantly over the horizon, shedding a weak blotchy pattern over the forest floor. Leah noticed the increasing clamour of the river, growing louder until it thundered with such ferocity that Leah thought she might go deaf. The steady terrain stopped suddenly at a sheer cliff. Her breath flooded out in a tidal wave of awe, but the feeling only lasted for a second.

There were no cliffs near the city.

“I think we’re going the wrong way!” She whipped around.

But Zane’s face was blank. His eyes weren’t wide like Leah’s.

He knew where they were.

Fear seized Leah, immobilising her as, faster than a viper, Zane took her by the shoulders.

He wasn’t gentle this time.

“You were a fool for ever trusting me,” Even as he said the words, his voice cracked, “Fools die.”

Then, she was weightless, hardly having registered the push.

The last thing Leah saw was her betrayer’s hardened face, framed by harsh rays.

Despite his darkness, he smiled.

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