THE MALEVOLENT REBIRTH

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Chapter 3

Going to the cinema at night was a really bad idea in my opinion. But Aric and Xavier insisted and said I should feel safe with them. I couldn’t refuse, especially when it was another chance for me to spend some time with Xavier.

Unfortunately, walking down these deserted streets made me rethink my impulsive decision. Even with Xavier and Aric walking beside me, I felt so vulnerable. There was no light except the shining moon in the dark sky. There were barely any cars passing by and most of the streetlights were broken. It had been almost five months since I had taken a walk at night. I had forgotten how the streets looked in the dark.

My grandma used to tell me stories about evil presences after sunset, but I had always laughed in her face and said they were superstitions. But as I looked at the shadows around the corners and heard the silent whispers, I felt that I might have been wrong. The dark, cold night sent shivers up my spine and I trembled. Aric cast a glance at me but didn’t say anything. I felt goosebumps forming on my arms and at the same time I heard a small voice: “Shh, shh,”

“Did you hear that?” I asked Aric with a shaky voice.

“Hear what?” That came from Xavier, his green eyes shining in the moonlight.

“What is it?” Aric added.

“Oh, never mind,” I shrugged it off.

We kept walking toward our destination when I heard the same voice again. At the same time a gust of wind blew my hair into my face and I tripped into Xavier.

“Are you OK?” he asked nervously.

I nodded and rubbed my hands up and down my arms unconsciously.

“Are you cold?” Xavier asked with a hint of concern.

“No,” I replied shortly, and we kept walking.

“If you guys keep walking this slowly, we’re never going make it on time to the theatre,” Aric said begrudgingly.

“You know, maybe we should go back home. The night is giving me the creeps,” I said instead.

“Hey, it’s OK. It’s still early and we’re almost there,” added Xavier.

“Keep walking,” ordered Aric. I almost argued but something else caught my attention. I heard that voice again, but this time it murmured something like “go away, turn back.” I thought it was only my imagination, but beside me Xavier stopped and looked around uncertainly.

“Did you guys hear that?” I barely whispered. They both nodded like they were too scared to talk.

We looked around nervously. But nothing happened. The streets were as deserted as before.

“Maybe we should turn back,” Xavier whispered. My reply died in my throat when I heard a cry. It was the cry of a baby. Xavier, Aric and I looked at each other and then moved toward the cries. The reason behind the silent whispers was still a nagging thought in the back of my mind, but our full concentration was on the cries of the baby. As we kept walking, it got louder and louder. The air surrounding us got chillier. The wind was blowing my hair in every direction. My heart was beating faster every passing second, but I kept walking. I looked at Xavier and saw his fists were balled and his jaw was set. I turned around to look at my brother and saw that he had lost his stubborn composure and that he looked very much frightened, but none of us turned back.

We kept on walking and that was when I realized that we were going toward the bridge above the cemetery. “Wait!” I almost yelled.

Xavier and Aric turned to look at me. “What is it, sis?” asked Aric.

“We can’t go there, it’s the cemetery and the bridge is dangerous. We all know that,” I whispered.

Xavier looked like he was going to agree with me, but my brother talked over him. “Alexia, there is a baby out there crying, and we can’t leave him.”

“I know, but there are stories about this bridge. Some people say that dead spirits walk on it at night,” I replied stubbornly. Aric gave me the look that said I was crazy and kept walking toward the bridge. He didn’t believe in spirits or evil things at night. I looked at Xavier for support but he was already following Aric. With no choice, I ran to catch up with them and walked closely beside Xavier. When we got close to the bridge, I stopped. The bridge looked very old and brittle. The old wood was riddled with boreholes. Just when I was about to take a step back, I felt a hand close around mine. I jumped and looked down at my hand and saw that Xavier was holding it.

“Stay close to me,” he said. I nodded and all three of us stepped on the bridge. My first step was shaky. The bridge creaked under our weight. Each step we took was followed by squeaking sounds. Our steps were careful on the rickety bridge. My knees felt like they were going to give out any second. My heart hammered in my rib cage. I was trembling by my third step and Xavier squeezed my hand and I squeezed back harder. I kept looking around like I was expecting something to happen. The cry was louder now. My ears were ringing with the noise.

“A little further,” said Aric encouragingly. His back was stiff and his hands were balled in fists. I knew he was scared but he kept going. He was ahead of Xavier and me so he stepped of the bridge before us. As soon as Aric left the bridge and turned around to look at us, the cry stopped. Just like that. It stopped and everything turned quiet. Xavier and I kept walking and as we were stepping off the bridge, it started shaking violently. Aric pulled me off the bridge so fast that I didn’t have time to register what was happening. I heard Aric yell for Xavier, and I saw Xavier jumping off the bridge and landing in the mud.

“Are you OK?” I ran to Xavier’s side and helped him to his feet. He was limping, and I turned to Aric for help, but his attention was somewhere else. He was looking in the direction that we had just come. Xavier and I turned around. I let out a loud gasp. The bridge that we had been on not even two minutes ago was broken in half. There were pieces of wood everywhere.

“Oh, shit,” said Xavier. I agreed. That’s when we heard the cry again. But this time it sounded very near. We looked around and my eyes fell on the tree near the bridge. The tree was twisted and enormous with a lot of branches covered with leaves. The long branches were poking out in every direction. It looked haunted, but that was not what caught my attention. There was a baby lying under the tree, a blue blanket wrapped around him. He looked so small and fragile. And he was crying.

Aric and Xavier were staring at the baby, frozen in one spot. I took a step forward and the little baby stopped crying. I kept walking forward until I was three steps away from him. “What are we going to do with him?” I asked Aric. When he didn’t answer, I peered over my shoulder and saw he was as still as a statue and that his mouth was hanging open. Xavier had the same expression. “I asked, what are we going to do with him?” I spoke louder. Xavier’s gaze snapped to me, but it was Aric who spoke.

“We should take him to the police station.”

“The bridge is broken; how are we going get back to town?” Xavier asked. I looked at them, nodding my agreement.

“There might be a way through the forest that leads back to it. I remember mom saying that there are three cottages in the woods. So there must be a way to town from there. A path maybe.”

“Alexia, take the baby,” said Xavier. I walked toward the baby. The air around me felt frozen. I could barely breathe. There was a strange cold sensation around the base of my spine. My legs felt shaky as I stopped a foot away from the baby. My arms prickled; it felt like invisible bugs were crawling on them. The wind blew my hair in my face and I felt the chill down to my bones. I looked up at the tree and saw the thick branches waving hauntingly with an eerie sound.

Oh dear, what have we got ourselves into? I thought. I looked down at the baby and to my surprise, he was smiling at me. I reached down and picked him up in my arms. That was when I saw the round pendant around his small neck. The pendant was deep blue in colour, and it had a words imprinted on it. I didn’t recognize the language, but it seemed like an old language. “Are you going to keep standing there?” Aric’s voice broke into my thought.

“I’m coming,” I answered. I walked back to Aric and Xavier on shaky legs, but I held my chin high and kept my gaze straight ahead, not letting Aric or Xavier think that I was scared. Actually I was scared to death. I couldn’t wait to get home, slip under my warm covers and drop into a peaceful sleep, if that was even possible.

When I got to the guys, they peered over my arms to look at the baby. I didn’t dare to look down at him.

“He’s adorable,” said Xavier.

“Why would someone leave him here?” added Aric.

I passed the baby to Aric, who gave me a surprised look. “I’m not going to hold him,” I said annoyingly and just then my legs gave out, but before I could hit the ground, Xavier wrapped his arms around me. He gave me a questioning look.

“I’m fine,” I said before he could ask me anything.

“Let’s get going.” Aric’s voice broke us apart. I looked up at him and at the same time, I noticed the baby looking at me and he was still smiling. His smile sent a chill through my body. Just then Aric turned toward the dark forest just behind the cemetery and started walking, blocking the baby’s face from my view. At least I don’t have to look at him, I thought nervously. Xavier’s hand was on my elbow, and I looked up at him. He gave me an encouraging look. I smiled and we followed Aric through the forest.

The forest was very dark except for the pale light coming from the moon. We walked really quietly, trying our best not to make any noise. Aric was taking the lead while Xavier and I walked behind him, just a few feet away.

“Turn back around, leave the baby.” It was the same voice that we’d heard when we were walking toward the cries of the baby. But this time it sounded more urgent for us to walk away. I looked around to find the source of the voice, but we were surrounded by trees that looked nearly dead with their branches denuded of leaves. The force of the wind moved them jerkily against the sky, and they looked like giant arms. I felt like I was in a ghost movie.

Aric stopped so suddenly that I nearly ran into him. “Did you hear that?” he asked nervously.

“Yes,” Xavier and I responded nearly in unison.

“What do you think it was?” Xavier asked.

“I don’t know, but we can’t stop now. We have to get the baby back to the town,” I replied.

“Alexia is right. We have to hurry, and it’s getting colder,” Aric said. Before we could respond, he started walking. Xavier and I followed without further comment.

Time passed and the air around us got chillier. It was harder to see as the forest grew darker and mistier. I looked up to see that the view of the moon was blocked by the white mists that had formed around us, but The forest held a faint smell of death hanging in the chilling darkness of the night and I could see dark shadows lurking in the still air. Was it the trees or something else? I grabbed on to Xavier’s arm and he looked down at me with worried eyes. I smiled reassuringly, but I didn’t know whom I was trying to reassure. Me or him?

“Hey, guys, the baby is heavy,” Aric broke into my thoughts.

“Aric, are you trying to get rid of the baby?” I said.

“No, he’s just too scared,” added Xavier jokingly.

“Shut up, man. I’m serious,” Aric replied.

We kept walking but Aric started to struggle with the baby. “You need help?” I asked. He shook his head and kept walking. “Stubborn man,” I heard Xavier whisper. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.

“Oh, shit!”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” asked Xavier.

“I swear to God the baby keeps getting heavier by the minute,” answered Aric desperately.

“What do you want us to do?” I asked. Aric didn’t answer, but he gave me a look that most likely said I was hopeless.

We resumed walking again, but this time we were more alert as we couldn’t see anything. I tripped over a dried branch, and Xavier grabbed my elbow to prevent me from falling. Ah, this is embarrassing, I thought.

“You’re welcome,” he said teasingly. I couldn’t see him properly in the dark, but I knew he was smiling that incredible smile of his, which would have taken my breath away if I could have seen it, and if we weren’t in a forest with an abandoned baby and didn’t know where we were going.

“Thank you,” I whispered quietly.

“Don’t even mention it.”

“Xavier, can you stop flirting with my sister?” said Aric sternly, but I could hear the amusement in his voice. Xavier chuckled beside me and murmured something under his breath.

I don’t know how long we walked but I started to get tired at one point. My feet were hurting because my shoes were too tight, and I was getting really cold in my short skirt. “It’s getting cold. Aric, do you think we’re almost there? We’ve been walking for a long time now.”

“I can’t see anything, but I’m sure we’re near. The town can’t be that far.”

“Is the baby still heavy?” asked Xavier.

“Shut up, Xavier,” said Aric.

“Do you think we lost our way?” I asked, my voice shaking.

“I don’t think so. I mean we are walking to the left of the bridge. So we’ll probably reach the edge of the woods soon.”

“OK,” I replied quietly. I had a really bad feeling about this whole situation. I wished they’d listened to me when I’d told them it was a bad idea to go to the theatre at this time.

“Alexia.”

My name snapped me out of my thoughts. “What?” I asked nervously.

“Can you stop pacing out and carry the baby for me?” Aric retorted.

“Me?”

Aric gave me an angry look. But I couldn’t even bring myself to take a step toward the baby. A shiver ran up my spine, and my knees started to shake. Just thinking about the baby being in my arms was frightening. I didn’t like that baby. There was something weird about him. “Why should I?” I asked stubbornly. “Tell Xavier to do it. He hasn’t carried the baby at all,” I cast a glance at Xavier and saw him frowning at me, but I just shrugged.

“Xavier?” Aric asked.

“Fine,” his buddy almost growled. Xavier walked tentatively toward Aric. When he was close enough to see the baby who was wrapped tightly in a bundle, he frowned. “Doesn’t the baby seem taller than before?”

Aric looked down at the baby in his arms, and he also frowned deeply. “Yes, you’re right.”

“What are you guys talking about?” I stomped toward them and looked down into Aric’s arms where the bundle lay. I stared at the baby with shock. “His eyes are bigger than before too,” I whispered, but as soon as I said the word, I regretted them. He turned his head in my direction, and I got a clearer look at his eyes. They were red. I remembered clearly the first time I’d looked at him under that tree, and his eye colour had been dark as the shadow.

I gasped and took a step backward, nearly bumping into Xavier. He put his hand on my shoulder to steady me. “His eyes have changed colour,” I squeaked. “They were black before but now they’re red.” Both guys looked down and their own eyes widened.

My first thought was my nightmare. The big red eyes and fangs. “Oh my god,” I said loudly and took several steps away from Aric and the baby.

“How is that possible” Aric asked. In answer, the baby smiled and showed perfect white teeth. “Oh dear, I swear he didn’t have teeth when we first picked him up,” I said, alarmed.

“He was just a baby,” Xavier added, his voice barely a whisper.

“Guys, something is very wrong here,” I said as I fought back the urge to run. My nightmare. I was living my nightmare but this time it was a baby. A baby with teeth and red glowing eyes.

Both Aric and Xavier remained silent. Aric was frozen and holding the baby away from his body. I was surprised that he didn’t drop it. I looked up and saw that Aric was staring at the baby as if completely mesmerized by the sight. There was no fear in his eyes and he seemed calm. I took a step toward but he turned abruptly and started walking again.

“Let’s keep walking,” he ordered hoarsely. Xavier looked down at me, but I was too shocked to say anything. He took my hand and we followed Aric. That was when I noticed that he didn’t ask us again to carry the baby and he was not complaining anymore.

“Xavier, I have a bad feeling,” I whispered to him.

“Me too,” and then he added “What’s wrong with your brother?” Well, I was worried about that. Aric suddenly didn’t seem affected by the baby’s behaviour at all. “It’s like he’s hypnotized or something,” I said quietly so only Xavier heard me.

“Were you sure the baby didn’t have teeth?” He sounded curious.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure, but maybe in my haste I missed it,” I replied. He nodded as if he was not completely listening to me.

We kept walking but it was hard to see as it was very dark and the white mist covered most of the forest. “The baby looks strange,” Xavier suddenly broke the silence, but he spoke so quietly that Aric didn’t hear.

“Aric, put down the baby. Now. Please,” I yelled at him. Aric didn’t stop walking. I looked up at Xavier and saw that his face was still and his jaw clenched hard. He didn’t look frightened but instead he looked like he could take on an army of zombies.

“Aric, wait!” I called after my brother. I walked toward him and he stopped before turning around. I sucked in my breath when I noticed the change in my brother’s eyes. They looked so lifeless and their colour was dull. It stopped me abruptly in my tracks and Xavier, who was walking behind me, bent his head toward my ear and whispered, “Are you OK?” he asked.

“Aric’s eyes,” I replied instead.

His head snapped back up, and he swore. “What’s wrong with his eyes? They look different,” Xavier asked me from behind.

“Exactly.” The words barely passed through the lump that was forming around my throat.

I took a shaky stepped toward Aric and then another and another, until I was close enough to see the baby. But unfortunately, his face was covered by the blanket. I took another step toward them, reached out to move the blanket from the baby’s face and screamed,

I took a step backward. I kept screaming loudly and walking backward blindly until I tripped over a tree root and kept stumbling back until Xavier’s arm reached out and grabbed onto my shoulder before I hit the ground. I was trembling so hard that I couldn’t stay straight. Xavier hugged me, my face buried into his chest, but I kept on screaming. “Alexia, stop! What is it?” he asked fiercely. I stopped screaming and shook my head, trying so hard to clear my mind of what I had just seen, but it was impossible. Xavier grabbed my shoulders and lifted my chin so that I was staring up at him. “What is it?” he asked again.

“The baby.” I choked the word. I turned towards my brother and screamed. “Drop the damn baby, Aric. Now!” He lifted his head and looked at me. I kept my gaze averted, trying really hard to stop my uncontrollable shaking. I felt Xavier tense beside me and then he swore under his breath. He yelled something at Aric, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. My mind was fuzzy and I lost focus on Xavier, Aric and the baby. Xavier grabbed my shoulders and forced me to look at him. “Don’t you dare pass out on me.”

“I’m trying not to,” I responded faintly at the same time as Aric said, “Why are you yelling at me, Xavier?” I laid my head on Xavier’s shoulder.

“Put that thing down,” bellowed Xavier, still trying to support my body.

Just then Aric screamed so loudly that I heard the trees rustle. But I didn’t care. All I wanted was to get that scary image out of my mind. The two long incisors teeth that looked like they could tear anything. Those red bloody eyes. Those pointed ears and that evil smile. How is that possible? No, I thought fiercely. This is just a horrible nightmare. I’m going to wake up in the morning and nothing will have happened.

Xavier was still yelling, and I heard Aric respond in the same urgent voice. “Pick it up and return it to where we found it,” I heard Xavier say.

“Are you crazy?” Aric’s voice sounded much nearer. I dared lift my head from Xavier’s shoulder and look at the scene. I turned around in his arms and saw that the baby was sprawled on the ground and Aric was standing over it.

“Aric, we have to do it before something happens,” Xavier said.

“No.” I don’t know where I got the courage to speak up. “Leave that monster here. We can’t touch it. What if it does something to us?” My voice was barely a whisper. From the corner of my eyes I saw Aric nod.

“We can’t just leave it here. After all, Aric already carried it, so it only makes sense, for him to carry it back,” Xavier argued, and I could see that he was tense, his body rigid against mine.

“You’re crazy, Xavier,” Aric said. “I’m not carrying that thing.”

Just then it started crying, and it was a baby’s cry. I looked at it where it lay on the ground. It was its normal size again. The same size it was when we’d first found it. I blinked hard and tried to clear the image from my mind. I must be imagining it, I thought incredulously. But then Aric swore and Xavier said something in Spanish again. I looked back at the baby, and it was staring back at me. Not with his red eyes, but with his black normal eyes. It didn’t have pointed ears but normal ears. I stared at it blindly as it continued to cry. “It has no teeth,” I said or I thought I said. I was too confused to even hear what Xavier and Aric were arguing about. I couldn’t take my eyes off that baby. Then I saw Aric walk toward the baby, bend down and pick it up in his arms.

“What are you doing?” I shouted in my panic. I shrugged off Xavier’s arm from around my waist and started towards my brother, who was obviously crazy. Why is he holding on to that monster? I thought to myself, angrily. Xavier stopped me with his hand on my shoulder. I glared at him over my shoulder, but he only stood his ground. “Let him. We have to get the baby back to where we got it,” he said.

“What? NO!”

“Xavier is right, sis,” I heard Aric say behind me. “Let’s just put him back under that tree.”

“Let’s go,” Xavier took my arm and I gave in. We followed Aric back to the bridge. The baby cried the whole way, but there were no more transformations. After Aric placed the baby under the tree, we turned away quickly and walked in the opposite direction.

“Let’s try going to the right side of the woods. I see a faint path. We can follow it,” Aric suggested. All three of us moved in unison in that direction and started to follow the faded path.

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