(This work is being written for NaNoWriMo 2022 and is susceptible to grammatical and plot issues.)
Mylo’s feet hit the damp forest floor and he breathed in the metallic air as he raced through towering pines, straining to stay focused. He needed to remember the path to the well.
Kira’s body was delicate and limp in his arms. The bruises along her porcelain legs were purple webs under the revealing moonlight. Mylo couldn’t bring himself to look down at her.
He wouldn’t let himself cry again.
His heart thundered in his chest—a reminder that he’d survived. That he was chosen. Not his sister. It could never be her.
The air changed, running down his throat hot and sharp. He could feel the energy from the well growing stronger. Pulling him closer.
“Just a little farther,” Mylo said, his voice barely a whisper. He was promising Kira, but he was also promising himself. The forest remained dark and endless. Would he ever find the well?
His legs ached, battered from the wild brush and weak from running for so long. They began to grow heavy, sloppy in their placement. But he continued to run, his eyes trained on the darkness in front of him. His determination was the only thing keeping him sane.
“You’ve been selected,” a gravelly voice had echoed around them. Mylo couldn’t pinpoint which direction he needed to look, and even if he could, all directions looked the same. Dark green trees and dewy moss.
Kira cowered behind him, tugged at his black sweatshirt with tiny fingers. Her pure blue eyes grew wide as tears glistened in them. What had started as an innocent venture to their treehouse had turned into a nightmare.
Mylo had no idea what his “selection” meant, nor did he know why the voice beckoned him with disturbing promise. After being chased deeper into the darkness, he knew immediately that he hated this man. But somehow, he felt drawn to this mysterious, dangerous presence.
He knelt down, wrapped an arm around Kira and pulled her close. Thoughts flurried in his head, but confusion turned them into mush. Was someone playing a prank? It was pretty late in the night, and there were rumors about lost men roaming in the forest. But Mylo had always thought that was simply their mother’s deterrent from going to the treehouse their father had made for them. Maybe she wanted to scare them so they’d never come back.
“Listen to me.” Mylo steadied his voice. He had to prove to Kira that he wasn’t scared. He had to be the big brother. She blinked at him and two tears rolled to her chin. Her cheeks were bright red from the distress of everything, her eyes like two sapphires shining brilliantly in the night. She was terrified.
“We’re gonna need to be quiet, okay? I don’t know who is following us, but if he hears us, we could be. . .” His voice trailed off as Kira blinked up at him. Mylo had seen his fair share of crime films and knew that there were more than a hundred ways this night could end. He needed to give her some semblance of truth. But he also didn’t want to make her cry.
A branch snapped to their right. Somewhere near, but still in the trees.
Mylo’s chest scarcely moved as he breathed, sensing that this night was heading towards a bad end.
“Mylo,” the voice growled from the same direction. It was foreign, menacing. Not quite human.
The boy gulped back his fear and opened his mouth. “What do you want?” It came out shakier than he’d intended.
Mylo shook his head, at first slowly, and then fiercely as he pulled the child closer to him. Her tiny frame hunkered beneath his bent torso and trembled there. She gripped his shirt tighter. Mylo bit down as hot tears streamed from his eyes. He quickly blinked them away and tried to control his breathing.
“Why? Who are you?” It was then that Mylo had wished he’d been just a few years older. His voice would be deeper, his body larger, and his ability to protect his little sister stronger.
“It matters not who I am, but what I have come to do.” Something moved to accompany this haunting voice: the tall, dark silhouette of a man, matching the shape and thickness of the surrounding trees. He was cloaked, his face hidden behind a dark hood. Something long and sharp protruded from his back, reflecting the moonlight.
Mylo arrived at his destination at last: the well of St. Hughes. A monument made of pure marble, it glimmered under the light of the moon and stood erect in a large circular clearing. It was hidden so no one should find it save for the saints, who used it solely for reincarnation and immortality.
Mylo stopped, his legs shaking beneath him and threatening to collapse. He stared at the well, glistening and shining in the dark of the forest. It was as he remembered it—the same as when his father showed him years ago.
His body moved on its own, like a zombie, towards the well. Kira was light in his arms, almost as though she’d already come back to life. But her clammy, cold skin argued otherwise.
He had no choice but to trust that the well would bring her back in one piece. Sew her head back on. Put her back together. Erase her memories. Make all normal again.
Now Mylo looked at her. The cloth from his shirt absorbed much of the blood from her neck, but the dark red still stained her white dress. Her head rested on her stomach, eyes open and gray like the color of her skin. Her soft brown hair cradled her small face like a nest and tangled with the mangled skin and bone under her jaw.
Tears spilled from Mylo’s eyes. How could someone steal the life of such a young girl? She was barely six, still losing her baby teeth. She had only finished Kindergarten. Mylo’s teeth clamped together, his nostrils flaring in an effort to not scream.
After taking a deep breath and no longer resisting his tears, Mylo set her on the edge of the well so her legs swept the inside of the soft marble. He peered in and gasped at the well’s depth. How would he retrieve her later?
Footsteps. Were they coming from behind him? He listened carefully, ignoring the pounding of his heart as it threatened to reveal his location.
Panic shot into his veins, hot. He was still following them, within hearing distance. Was he not satisfied with slaying Kira? What more could he want?
Mylo’s heartbeat pounded in his throat, up to his ears, and then settled between his eyes. Time was running out. He’d have to trust the supposed magic that enchanted the well’s water. Believing in magic was normally nonsensical, but for Kira, maybe it did exist. It had to.
He tossed her head in first, then pushed her body gently. He didn’t think about the warning his father gave him about unholy blood mingling with the well’s pure spring. But his father would’ve understood. He wasn’t selfishly saving himself, he was saving someone else. Kira wasn’t ready to die yet. Her body and head both fell soundlessly into the dark abyss. Mylo didn’t hear them reach the bottom.
Mylo turned around and the man was there, waiting. His long, sharp scythe rested against his right shoulder, the blade towering just above his head. Somehow the bright metal was clean, despite the horrific offense it had committed not even thirty minutes before.
“You would rather her live the rest of her life not knowing what happened than allow her to join your father and mother in the afterlife?” He moved the scythe slightly, as though the weight of it made him uncomfortable. Though the man wore a hood, Mylo could picture a wicked smile reaching past the man’s eyes, curving in on itself like the half-eaten moon.
His mother was gone now, too.
Mylo tried not to picture the last time he saw her, just a few hours ago. She’d labored over a new pasta dish, claiming it would be her best yet. When it wasn’t, she’d pinched her eyebrows between her fingers and cursed softly. Kira had encouraged her.
Mylo pushed the thought from his mind. As far as it could go. Because if she was gone, too, then maybe it wasn’t worth saving Kira. Maybe she should join his parents.
A sound like windchimes came from the well. Mylo didn’t look to see what it meant.
The man took a smooth step closer to him. There was still plenty of distance, but Mylo’s breath hitched in his throat.
“You’re a smart boy,” the man said. The scythe shifted again, the moon gliding along the blade as it rotated. “Which is why you were chosen.”
“Chosen for what?” Mylo’s voice shook despite his effort to sound strong.
The man ignored him. “The blood on your hands wasn’t your own doing. So why do you feel guilty?”
What? Mylo’s eyebrows twitched on his forehead. And then, as though the words the man spoke were true, guilt drenched his heart. It was cold and unwelcome and foreign.
The man continued. “You feel guilt because of the life you’ve lived until now.” Mylo didn’t believe it, but somehow it felt true. “You feel worthless without your family. Without anything to protect.”
He took another step closer. Mylo froze.
“You’re wrong,” Mylo said. A tear slid over his cheek. “Kira will be back. I don’t know who you are or what you think you’re doing. But you know this is wrong. This is evil.” As Mylo spoke the words, they dissolved into the breeze. He tilted his head back to watch them join the dark clouds.
That night, the moon also seemed evil. A perfectly white grin in the terribly dark sky, the crescent was the only thing not yet ruined with the spilling of blood.
“That well is for priests,” the man said, amused. “You drink from it, not drop dead bodies into it.”
Mylo turned then, launched himself towards the well. He gripped the cold edge with his bloodstained hands and peered inside. Of course, he only saw blackness.
“If anything,” the man said from behind him, “you made it easier to dispose of the girl.”
Anger shot through Mylo’s veins as he stared deep into the dark hole. Hoping to see any sign of magic that townsfolk had rumored about it having. But still, there was nothing. It was all a lie.
Mylo balled his hands into tight fists. If the well was a farce, he had to do something. Not only for his sister, but for his parents, too. For himself. A punch would do, even if it did nothing. At least he could say he fought until his last breath.
But when he turned around, the man was right there, just feet away, with an arm extended inches from Mylo’s nose.
It took him too long to realize that the man was holding a gun.