Cassie By Max Trottier-Chi
The girl with the short dark hair sipped the black liquid. She wished she could call it hot chocolate, she really did, but it was just an expired glob of syrup in some dirty water cooked over a fire. She rubbed her hands together and put them closer to the fire. It was kind of nice; there wasn’t a single noise but the crackling of the wood and the air blowing through the trees. She closed her eyes and pretended it was two years ago. She thought about what she missed: Her sister, her friends, going to school, she looked down at her drink, hot chocolate. She realized, those little things you didn’t notice or really thought about are the things you’ll miss the most. She threw the rest of her drink on the fire, it sizzled and steamed. The girl watched the fire die; its embers slowly fade to black, and then climbed into her tent to sleep. Tomorrow she’d go into town, she’d been in the forest for a good 2 weeks now, and she hardly had any food left. She didn’t like it in the town; they were everywhere, not like out in the woods. Sometimes, in the woods, you would think you could see one, out of the corner of your eyes, but it would just be in your mind, and other times you would actually see one, but that wasn’t most times, most times it was in your mind. The girl closed her eyes but she could not sleep; luckily, she had developed a method for when she couldn’t sleep. First she counted by threes, than fives, than sixes. Sixes were the hardest. When that didn’t work she gave up and sometimes started to imagine things that made her laugh, like comic books and cartoons, but she tried not to think about those things, because then she couldn’t sleep, and if she didn’t sleep then she would see them from the corners of her eyes, and that scared her.
She would always dream about life before. Sometimes it was a long time ago, back when life was good, and sometimes it was after it had happened, when things turned sour. This time it was when it was happening. She didn’t often dream about that. In her dream there was her, her sister, her Dad, and her Mom, all in the car. Her Dad asked if everything was packed and her mom replied “yes”. They were scared. To her left was her baby sister, Cassie. They had let her choose the baby’s name. She wished she could have chosen her own name, she would have called herself Cassie, but her name was Joan. She didn’t like that name. Her Dad drove forward.
The girl woke up with a start, and all she could think about was her name. She sat there, thinking about her name. Now nobody alive knew she was called Joan, maybe she should start saying her name was Cassie. She smiled at the thought of a new name; yes, she thought, I’ll tell everyone I’m Cassie. But who would she tell? “My name is Cassie.” She giggled as she said it “Cassie. Cassie. Cassie.”
It didn’t take long for Cassie to pack up her tent, only five minutes, she was well practiced. Every day for two years she had been packing her tent; she didn’t like to stay in the same place because Mom had said that’s how they find you. She didn’t want them to find her. Cassie ate a can of beans for breakfast, “Beans for breakfast” she said to herself, and she liked the way it rhymed. She hitched her backpack onto her back; it wasn’t that heavy or large: it had a small tent, a sleeping bag, tools, and some food.
As she walked Cassie pulled out her map, about three kilometers West of her was a town. She hoped they had food. She put the map back in her pocket and thought about her dream. She remembered the crash. They were on the road, and there were a lot of cars. Dad said everyone was trying to get out and that they should just walk, but Mom said no and then the big truck came. Cassie was only ten back then, that was two years ago, she was twelve now. Cassie smiled to herself; she would be in grade 7 now. Cassie stopped suddenly; she saw something out of the corner of her eye. She continued walking, but faster now; was it really there? She let her hand fall to her belt. Strapped firmly on it was a knife.
The blade was as long as her foot, she had measured it herself, and touching it always made her feel safer. The leaves crunched cheerfully under her feet, and, forgetting the thing in the corner of her eye, she began kicking them up in the air. The leaves were a brilliant red and yellow, the colors of fall, and reminded Cassie of Halloween. One time she had been Joan of Arc, in tribute to her name, Joan. Cassie frowned, her name was Cassie; she had to remember her name was Cassie. Cassie. Cassie. Cassie. She wondered if, had her baby sister been around she would mind switching names, but the thought of her sister made her sad. To make sure she didn’t cry Cassie counted by threes, then fives, then sixes, sixes were the hardest.
It was twelve o’clock when Cassie came upon the town, she knew because the sun was in the middle of the sky, Mom had taught her that. She was on the absolute edge of the forest, her hand on a tree, as she scanned the town. There were cars littered everywhere, but with nobody inside them, and wild plants growing this way and that. Cassie remembered when people would drive cars and cut plants, but that was a while ago. Cassie walked onto the concrete road, right to the middle, and looked about. Her eyes landed on a food store named “Cloverdale Market”, for some reason Cassie foolishly hoped they had apple pie. When she opened the doors she discovered the shop was dark and quiet. The things liked the dark. Cassie took a cautious step forward, and then another, and another. Slowly she advanced to the middle of the store where she stood alertly, as if waiting for a starting pistol to start a race. After a minute of waiting Cassie decided it was safe and began to explore the shop. In the beginning everyone had grabbed as much food as possible, so the shelves were bare, but Cassie wasn’t looking at the shelves. She looked under the tables and in the dark cracks; this was where no one looked because they were all in a hurry, rushing about. After a good while of searching Cassie had found two cans of corn and one of peaches; Cassie hadn’t had peaches in two years, she would save the peaches for later. Just before she was about to leave Cassie discovered a note, it was crumpled up and had a boot print on it, but the words were still legible.
“I left some supplies in the back room. Grab it before someone else comes along.”
Supplies, That interested Cassie; it could be some more peaches, that would be lovely! Hurriedly, Cassie tiptoed over to the back of the shop, where she saw a half open door leading to blackness; ‘That’s dark’ Cassie thought to herself, and slowly pulled her flashlight from her bag. She turned on her flashlight and its ‘click-click’ sound made her smile, if she wasn’t so scared she would probably click it a couple more times, but now wasn’t a time to goof off. With her other hand she pulled the knife from her belt, just in case, and after a deep breath she slowly pushed the door open. She shone the flashlight to one side, nothing but old boxes, then to another, more boxes. With a sigh of relief Cassie ventured further into the mysterious room, but was stopped dead in her tracks by the sound of movement. At this moment Cassie was 10 feet from the entrance, and the gentle sound of rubbing scared her. She shook with fear and slowly turned to face whatever was in the dark room with her. Her flashlights beam cut through the darkness and landed on a man-like figure, sitting leaned against the wall, facing away from her.
“Please be dead” Cassie whispered quietly, but against her wishes the figure moved. It was dressed in a t-shirt and pants; its skin was bone white and it sluggishly brought its head to an upright positon. “Please don’t be one of the things.” It stopped for a second, unmoving, and then as fast as a lightning bolt it turned its head to face her. Its face was blank, white, with no features, just blank. Cassie screamed as the figure leaped up and scrambled towards her. It pushed her into the wall, forcing her to drop her flashlight and knife, than began to claw at her. Its fingers felt hard and lifeless against Cassie’s skin, but she pushed hard against it. With a combination of adrenaline and fear she managed the push the once-man away; it went flying a couple feet back and Cassie made a leap for her knife. The creature quickly regained its posture and continued its mad grab for Cassie, but not before she had wrapped her hands around her weapon. She felt the creature pulling her towards it, closer and closer, and steadied her grip on the knife. When the thing had finally brought her into arm’s length it began to scratch at her face, searching for her eyes. With a savage scream Cassie threw the creatures arms off her and began to stab wildly into its white skin. It let out a high pitched scream, but Cassie continued to stab. She forced the creature down onto its back and stabbed and stabbed. She had to be sure it was dead, you could never be sure. Finally she stopped stabbing; she was covered head to toe in cold dark liquid. Tears welled up in her eyes and she sat there, crouched by the monster, its empty face even more lifeless than before, and didn’t move. She didn’t move for hours, and didn’t even react when she heard a warm voice behind her.
“Hey, are you alright?”
A new chapter of Cassie will be posted every week. Stay tuned!