Haunted

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saw her, in my hallway, clearer than I could see anything else. In the darkness she stood, seemingly absorbed in the shadows, as if been given life by them. Her white skin contrasting against the blacks and blues the night had painted my house, she almost shone, like the moon.  I stood frozen, wondering if she had seen me, but in the deep empty black circles where her eyes were was a glint that seemed locked on to me. I tried not to look away, but I blinked, and suddenly she was stood closer to me, her head now tilted to one side. She was smiling, but it did not look natural, as if her cheeks had been sliced open and sewed back together. Her teeth were stained black and her lips were thin, cracked and appeared to be bleeding. 

I backed away, into the living room, and when I turned around, there she was again, even closer to me, barely a foot away. She was shorter than I was but she dominated the room, her white skin and her tatted clothes glowing ethereally. And yet I could not look away.  I could hear her breathing: crackly, short and heavy. I found I could not stop staring at her. From here I saw blackened veins under her skin, and her mouth was definitely stitched. The vast emptiness where her eyes were still looked no more defined. 

She opened her mouth to speak, and the stitches tore apart. A tired groan escaped, but it sounded almost electronic. She tilted her head again and continued to groan, approaching me. I did not back away, though. She stopped when she was only two or three inches away from me.
   
   “What do you want?” I said. I kept my eyes focused on the tiny glimmers in her eyes. “I’m not afraid of you.” I was not lying.

She groaned louder, and it sounded more tortured than ever, like a piece of machinery breaking under pressure. The sound began to rattle. Rat-a-tata-ta. It became deafening, but I did not flinch. Instead I sat down. She appeared next to me, her gaze never once leaving mine. Her smile was back.

   “I was wrong,” I said. That was true. I had been wrong. I had made some very wrong choices. Choices which seemed right at the time. What I had thought to be simple supply-and-demand had torn a country apart and left countless places in ruin. I had been so very wrong. 

   “I have seen far worse than you. And that is all my fault.” In the villages, where the dead outnumbered the living and the living barely were as such, I had come. There was not much to do to change what had happened from my choices, but I tried. “I saw everyone,” I said, “and I offered everything. It had not been enough, but it was all I could do.”

   Her skin began to bleed, and her white clothes were very quickly turning a deep red. She stared at me and began to scream again and all I could do was watch her. She was close to me than ever.
I could smell the stale air of dirt on her. The sound of her machine screams filled my head. She was all I could see and, not knowing what to do, took her in my arms. She was cold, near frozen. “I’m sorry,” I said. As I held her, her screaming softened, and, at least for that very small moment, stopped. 





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