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Frailty, The Darkshine

By:Jenika Snow

, sounds, and even smells of the forest penetrated her senses and ignited her memories of the time she used to spend there. As she pulled her car into one of the open spots, she knew she would need to get rid of the SUV so they wouldn’t find any evidence of her. She looked around the empty campgrounds and tried to remember the way she and Lizzie used to go. Grabbing as much as she could, Helina started off the way she thought looked familiar, bags in hand, fear making her move fast. She looked around at the towering trees, her skin prickling at how silent everything around her was.

An hour later, she stood in front of the same boulder she had passed four times already. She dropped her bags on the leaf-covered ground and sat down, feeling defeated. The only sound she could hear was the beating of her own frantic heart. It was as if the earth had opened up and swallowed everything that was living.

She leaned her head against the hard, cold stone and closed her eyes. She felt like screaming to the heavens. She opened her eyes again and stared at what was right in front of her. Nestled in the base of the mountain was their “secret closet.” Bushes and a sapling covered the opening, concealing it to where it was almost invisible. Helina felt a smile break across her face despite everything that had happened. She grabbed her bags and headed to her new home.

She dropped her bags as she pushed the bushes and sapling to the side and eyed the opening. It looked much smaller than she remembered, and she doubted if she could squeeze through. She dropped to her hands and knees and started to move herself into the small space. Her shoulders scraped across the jagged opening and she winced in pain. Finally, after her shoulders burned and her hands and knees were embedded with pebbles, she stood up. It was definitely smaller than she remembered, but it felt secure and safe and that was what she needed.

Walking through another opening and down the slanted earth, Helina smiled at what revealed itself. In front of her was the same bubbling natural spring that had been there so many years ago. The crystal clear water bubbled in its pureness and smelled fresh. She sat down on the naturally smooth rocks, took her shoes off, and dangled her feet in the warm water. It wasn’t the wisest thing for her to do at the time; for all she knew that monster could be waiting for her right outside the entrance. She moved her feet around in slow circles as she thought about a particular memory of Lizelle.

Lizelle had been fifteen, and she had been twelve. It was another weekend of camping and they had just snuck off to their special place. They never got into the water—were actually too afraid their parents would find out. Their mother had been so overprotective of Lizzie that it had been sickening. Now that Helina was an adult she could relate to her mother and why she felt the need to be so protective of her sick firstborn. Of course at the time that was the thing Helina hated most about her.

Helina had tried to talk Lizelle out of it because she knew how mad their mother would be if she ever found out. She remembered clear as day: Lizelle turning toward her with her big hazel eyes, the ever-present dark circles around them.

“Lina, please don’t tell mom. What if I never get the chance to feel this water? What if I die tomorrow without letting its pureness wash the dirt away?”

Helina knew Lizelle hadn’t been talking about the dirt literally, and she hated how negative her sister had become. Lizzie had stripped down to her bra and underwear as she sat on the smooth rocks and watched the churning water. She had stayed in that water for so long that when she came out her fingers and toes had looked like prunes. Even though Helina had tried to talk her out of it, she was glad her sister hadn’t listened. Lizzie had the most beautiful smile on her face, and a glow that surrounded her entire being. That had been the last time they had come to their secret spot, the last time they had gone camping.

That, of course, had been ten years ago and was now only a memory. Helina got up, put her shoes on and grabbed her things from the entrance. After making several trips to her car, she now sat on her blanket which covered the hard, cold dirt ground. The sun was starting to sink beneath the horizon and her whole body ached. She grabbed a blanket and covered her body as she lay down. Her eyelids felt heavy, and before she knew it she was asleep.

Helina woke the next morning feeling dirty and gross. She knew her hair was matted together on one side, and her mouth tasted stale. She stood and stretched, grabbing some of the toiletries she’d managed to snag in her escape and walked over to the spring. She undressed and sank into the water’s bubbly warmth, sighing in contentment and closing her eyes. Resting her back against the edge, she soaped herself clean and washed her hair. She hadn’t managed to think of shampoo or conditioner, so soap was the only thing she could use. She hated the way it made her hair feel, but she was glad she had at least remembered that much. That was, after all, the least of her worries.

After drying off and getting dressed in a clean set of clothes, she sat on her homemade pallet and debated whether or not she should even attempt to go outside. She sorted through what food she had thought of bringing, and could have screamed when the majority were canned goods.

Canned goods were perfect for her particular situation, but the fact that she hadn’t thought about bringing a can opener left her in a very difficult situation. After trying tirelessly to open a can of mixed fruit with a jagged rock, she ended up throwing the can against the wall, which only ended up making a huge dent in the steel. She sat back down, cross-legged, and grabbed a Twinkie. She was going to have to think of something, because Twinkies were just not going to cut it.

They sat high above all others, their