Highly Commended Story - The Loose End of the Knot
“The Loose End of the Knot” by Adharsh Prabakaran, Akshar Arbol International School, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Adharsh was born in Chennai, India, and he spent the first 6 years of his life there, as well as 6 years in the US. He currently lives in India and he has never been much into writing until quite recently. A little less than 2 years ago, he had entered a writing competition where we had to write a letter about favourite books, and send it to the authors. It was a competition where about 1,300 people participated in and he was placed in the top 100. This was a huge confidence boost for him. Since then, even if he hasn’t written much, he always has stories in his head.
The Loose End of the Knot
Trauma for a kid should affect him, scar him for eternity. The events he went through to get here were terrifying, or it should’ve been for a boy his age. You don’t know what I mean? Well then, let's start from the beginning. It all starts with a kid, in the times of 2005, appearing into a relatively rural town named Caple Berra. Marley Winston Godfrey. He was found when a man named Hector Cruz found him sitting in the back of his truck. Marley had slightly overgrown hair and unusually pale skin. He had blue, almost, purple eyes. He looked bruised and had a flesh wound on his knee. He had a fluffy white coat with an oversized hood, and he was wearing tough denim shorts. He had giant big yellow rain boots covered with wet tracks of rain. Hector was curious about this child, so he asked, “What’s your name, son?”
“Well Marley, what’re you doing sitting on the back of my truck?”
“I don't know, just sitting, what’s your name?”
“It’s Get Off My Truck Before I Drive It Into A River! Hector for short.”
Marley slowly slouched off the side of the truck, not wanting to fight the middle-aged looking man. Hector looked...well, he had an unruly beard reaching to his chest. He had messy, spiky, hedgehog-like hair. His eyes were dark brown, looking almost black, with his pupils barely visible. He was relatively big and tall, he wasn’t overweight, but he wasn’t thin either. He was wearing a t-shirt with a coffee mug on it. Hector kneeled down to make eye contact with the boy.
He whispered to Marley, “Hey, you look hurt, kid. Follow me, I’ll patch you up.”
Marley was unsure at first, even shivering at the thought, but eventually he did step into Hector’s house. The first impression of the house to Marley was spectacular. Granted he had never seen a house before and Hector’s wasn’t exactly the cream of the crop. He had a dirty, almost sticky carpet with a huge industrial trash can leading right up to the kitchen. The kitchen had an array of knives, some striated with a strong smell of vinegar. He had a living room with a couch that could fit a nuclear family, and a moveable chair with a computer at his desk. He had an old TV broadcasting baseball. Marley ran around the place like it was heaven. Hector said, “Alright calm down you little candy bar, I need to bandage your wounds.”
Marley was compliant and sat down on the couch. The moment he did, he almost sank into it completely. It was so comfortable, yet supportive. While Marley was sitting on the couch, Hector put some bandages on his wound. Marley and Hector started talking and getting along after that. Marley was a surprisingly bright kid and was pretty well mannered, despite him looking like he just fell out of the top of an Evergreen tree. Marley was afraid that Hector would ask him why he looked the way he did, but to the opposite of his worries, he didn’t. Marley and Hector talked for hours, Hector sharing all of his life, and finally he had someone that would listen. Marley didn’t interrupt like everyone else had. He was a great listener.
Their chatting stopped when it was 8 P.M and Marley said he had to leave. Hector frowned, but Marley said, "Don’t worry yourself, you old geezer, I'll be back tomorrow!”
Hector replied, “Who are you calling geezer? Well, if you really need to go kid, then you can. I won't stop you.”
Marley smiled, and waved goodbye before leaving the house. Hector sighed, but then smiled at the thought of talking to the kid again.
As Marley slowly walked away from the house he saw a strange figure in the distance. He was standing on the sidewalk, with a flickering white light. The figure was only visible when the light occasionally would flicker on. It seemed tall. Too tall. It had long hands reaching down to its knees. It was wearing a black and grey pinstripe suit. Marley squinted at him, and realized he...no that thing was the reason he was running.
The figure had not seen him yet and was standing ominously still. Marley slowly tried to rush back to Hector’s house, at first ringing the doorbell. No answer. He tried again but faster. Not a sound of the middle-aged man came from the house. He started knocking. He knocked until his fists were red and sore. No sound of the geezer. While Marley impatiently knocked at the door, he heard an odd sound coming from behind him. Exactly behind him. When he heard the sound he stopped his knocking. His annoyance had turned to fear. His chest felt empty, feeling like it would collapse any second, his legs shaking in his boots, and body shivering. He felt something resembling a hand on his right shoulder. That’s it, Marley was in fight or flight mode and somehow he chose fight. At once he jumped backwards, putting all the weight of his body on the figure behind him. The figure fell and shouted, “Ow!”
Marley recognized the voice as Hector. Marley immediately apologized.
Hector replied with, “No worries kid, I can see how a grumpy old man sneaking up on you can spook you!”
The moment Hector said that, he was pushed so hard that Marley could feel the force, into his own garage, denting the metal door. The old man bled from his forehead, his left leg looking twisted and broken. Marley’s eyes widened as he looked up to see the figure of a 7-foot-tall skeleton in a Pinstripe suit. Now, Marley hadn’t been in school before, but he could tell this wasn’t the skeleton of a normal human. He had huge, sharp teeth, with a long skull. His eye sockets looked dead and lifeless. His fists were as big as Marley’s head, with nails that might as well be claws. His shoes were matt black, with gold trimming.
Marley stood there, staring at this monstrous skeleton. The skeleton had made the odd sound that was behind him, because that same sound was made when he moaned eerily. It was almost as if it was a scream, but too dry to make any real sound. Marley was paralysed, not being able to move, shout, or breathe. As the skeleton’s hand moved towards Marley’s head he ducked under his knees and ran as fast as he could. He ran into the woods, not looking back. He found an abandoned shed in the middle of the woods and hid in it. He locked the door with a sturdy stick he found next to the shed. He found a wrench inside of the shed and took it. He looked at the door, ready to attack if something were to break through. Suddenly, he heard it. The dry scream coming from somewhere, he peaked through the cracks of the shed, and then he realized. The dry scream of the skeleton was behind him. He couldn't even turn around and when he finally worked up enough courage to, he was met with a hard, cold hand covering his face, and his fear had ended. Blood dripped, his vision went and he couldn't think. He lay on the floor and took his final breath. The next morning, news came to Caple Berra that police found the dead bodies of Hector Cruz and an unidentified boy. Both of their heads were crushed, almost beyond recognition. Hector Cruz was found near a dented garage door, with a horribly twisted leg and a crushed head. No one knew anything about the boy, and no one ever will.
Marley gasped awake; to find himself in the shed he died in. He could not see his body, but the blood and white tape line of a dead person. It fit him just right. He tried to reach for the door of the shed, but instead he saw his hand disappear. He jumped backwards in shock and was hurled out of the back of the shed. He was extremely confused. He decided not to think too much of it. He tried to walk normally in the forest, but suddenly images of the tall, crooked, monstrous skeleton flashed in his mind and he began to run for his life. The forest flashed through him, he was phasing through the trees, until he eventually found himself on cul-de-sac. A kid around his age, maybe younger, passed him on the sidewalk. The kid looked friendly, so Marley went up to him and asked, “Where is this?”
The kid didn’t respond, his face neutral. Marley tried to ask him again but the kid didn’t respond. It was obvious that the kid wouldn't acknowledge him, so he tried to find another person. He found a young adult on his patio, drinking coffee on a rocking chair. He tried to walk up to him and ask. Usually when he tries to ask people things, he gets kicked off because they say it’s their property. Marley vaguely knew what they meant, but this time was different. The man didn’t even look at him. Marley was used to people staring at him for his, well, “unique” look. Now nobody even noticed him, much less stared at him. Marley tried to tap the adult’s shoulder, but when he did he was surprised. When Marley touched the adult’s shoulder, the fabric on his shirt did not move at all. It was as if Marley could not put any amount of weight on it. Marley, at this point was visibly upset. He was frustrated and sad that he couldn’t talk to anyone, that he couldn’t even ask them a simple question. Marley ran away, tears dripping from his eyes, with his emotions weighing him down like a ball and chain. He ran with a speed he had never run with before and he felt no tire, no loss of his stamina whatsoever. He ran until he stumbled upon the woods, but he could tell they weren’t the ones with the monster in them. He was calmed by the birds chirping, the area covered with thick foliage that seemed to be able to protect him from anything. He was relaxed and even contemplated sitting down, when he heard a twig snap from behind him. Now, Marley wasn’t very thrilled about this, since he had very bad experiences of things coming from behind him. So, he slowly turned his head to find, well, a broken twig and a boy who definitely looked younger than him. He had nougat skin, with dark brown eyes, curly hair and a blank expression.
The boy seemed like he could see Marley, since he was staring directly at him but he didn’t say anything to Marley.
Marley, a bit curious asked the boy, “Who are you?”
The boy didn’t respond but pointed behind a thick part of the woods. The boy grabbed Marley’s hand and pulled him to a tiny little hut that was constricted with thick green vines with a bed made with leaves. The boy took a small coconut, barely bigger than his hands and tossed it to Marley. Marley didn’t see this coming, so it hit him in his chest. It didn’t hurt all that much, but Marley was a bit embarrassed that a coconut thrown at him from a little boy caught him off guard. Marley picked the coconut up off the ground and threw it back, gently, to the boy. The boy threw it back and vice versa. Marley was pretty young himself, so he was enjoying this game of catch and throw. He couldn't imagine the last time he had ever played a game with anyone. The boy looked a bit tired so, he went up to the hut to lie in the leaf bed. Marley was concerned about this child so he stayed with him. While he was watching over the boy, he thought about what he went through and how happy he was that somebody finally noticed him. It was as if his life was a series of knots, most of them missing, but even if missing not lacking in memory or emotion. He felt like he had experienced this feeling many times, either in the past or perhaps even the future. While he was day dreaming, he heard a familiar dry scream.