The Kiss of Death

"Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once".

Chapter 2


by: Hyouka
That is how it all begins.

It is the night of November 1st. A cold, crisp night, on an empty street in Virginia, every house darkened in the still night but one that lights the entire drive with bright colors, throwing beams of purple and green across sleeping civilians yards, almost dimming the moon with their intensity.

And I, I am surrounded by people. Pushing and shoving their way through the pulsing crowd, screaming the lyrics to the blaring music as they lose themselves in the party. They all are older than me, taller, tanner, prettier, the age where their desks are probably covered in college pamphlets rather than useless drawings the way mine is. They pay no attention to me, the sixteen year old girl, the sheep amongst the wolves. Girls pull their hair from their ponytails and let it flow, guys flirting with them every chance they can get, all except for me, of course, being the youngest here.

Normally I wouldn’t find myself in such a striking, bold, loud, obnoxious situation, but this event is none other than my neighbors graduation party. The day she arrived at our house with the invitation was the coldest of the year so far, nearly negative even though it was only October, and the first snowfall had drifted down from the clouds, brightening the whites of her teeth as she flipped her perfect blonde ponytail and grinned flirtatiously at my dad, who still seems too young to be a father at all. She always flirts with him, which is probably the only reason he accepted the invitation.

I told my dad hundreds of times that I didn’t want to go, didn’t want to be surrounded in people so much older than me, didn’t want to run around in the dark the way I knew they would. But of course, it didn’t matter, not to him, never to him. He just looked at me, his gray eyes clouded with the same solemn, helpless look he always does his best to hide but never can, and shook his head the way he always does. My words never impact him the way they should.

“You need to make friends, Viola,” he would say, running his hand through his hair, staring down at me as I attempted to take a nap on our sofa in the living room. “Opportunities are meant to be taken.”

I didn’t listen. I never do.

“I don’t like opportunities,” I would respond blankly, closing my eyes to shut him out. “They’re openings for change.”

That conversation has been forgotten, unfortunately.

This is the reason I am here, now, crouched in a fetal position in the bathroom, ignoring the frantic pounding as some guy demands I leave so he can pee. The tiles are cold beneath my feet and my legs burn. I know I should change my position but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve no reason to. If I move they’ll hear me.

The second I saw the first couple making out in my neighbors kitchen I fled the scene and escaped down the hallway, avoiding some nerd in a Legend of Zelda t-shirt as he tried to put his arm around me, and locked myself in here, trying to shut out the noise and the ringing in my ears and the throb of the headache developing in every pore of my skull. College parties are not meant for me. I can’t stand them.

Finally, the banging on the door stops and I hear heavy footsteps as the kid runs off to pee in the backyard or something like that. Cheering erupts on the other side of the door. My curiosity begs me to stand up and leave, to see what’s going on, but I don’t. I tell my brain to shut up and put myself back in lockdown mode, refusing to move.

My neighbors voice echoes through the door. A few people stop talking to listen to her, the cheering fades slightly. The music seems to dim. Relieved by the break in the intensity, I take my hands away from my ears and stop to listen to her, wondering what could be so important that those insane people out there would shut up and listen to her for once.

“We’re gonna play murderer!” she squeals, her voice reaching a blonde-girl pitch so high I’m sure her dog pees. A new collection of cheers erupt from the crowds outside of my safe-haven toilet room.

I sit and listen for another ten minutes.

Doors open and close, the music is turned back up, but the chatter of people disappears as the crowd makes their way out the back door, squealing in anticipation, excited to play the mysterious game of tag in the dark, the game in which nobody knows who’s it unless they are.

It’s my favorite game.

I wait. I wait for the voices to finally fade into nothing. Then I finally shift my position. I slowly stand, my knees popping, my legs throbbing. Pained, I limp to the door, and click the lock so it swings open. I stare into the empty foyer.

It’s pitch-black outside. Cold envelops my bare feet as they’re wetted and cooled in the dewy November grass. Dead leaves cling to my ankles making them itch. I make my way across the yard, standing in the center, staring out as I see figures disappearing into the shadows, hiding from the enemy they don’t know.

I turn to see the lights of my neighbors house once more.

My feet move quickly.

I sprint off in the opposite direction, not towards home but towards a safe hiding place to be sure nobody spots me. The chilly air blows through my jacket and my hair, and I breathe it in, so desolate, so empty and yet full of life all at the same time, the perfect balance of fear, adrenaline, and joy spreading through my insides.

I can hear somebody begin to run behind me, their feet hitting the ground. At first I think nothing of it. Then their momentum gains. I feel them coming closer. Somebody shouts his name, loud, excited, cheering him on.

“Ben! Get her!”

He doesn’t.

I run for five minutes, in circles around the house, barrelling through the trees, weaving my way in completely unpredictable patterns, avoiding him around every corner. Ben, the boy with rusty red hair and eyes like a rat, finally stops. He falls to his knees and starts to breathe. I can hear people laughing in the trees, not at me but at him, giving up the chase after the 16-year-old, who outran him. Pitiful.

I dive my way behind my shed to breathe. It’s darker back here, the shadows thick, looming all around me, nearly tangible in the way they seem to drift like smoke around my ankles. I try to quiet myself but find it nearly impossible for more than a few seconds, as my breathing is uneven and my lungs can’t seem to get enough, a challenge through the crisp air too sharp to breathe in properly. I lean against the shed and stare up at the stars above my head. Hopefully nobody will think to look here. I’m too tired to run if they find me.

A breeze comes through.

A strange breeze.

It seems to blow right at me. Reflexively, I shiver, prepared for the cold to register and drift all the way to my toes through my jacket the way it normally would on such a cold night like this one, but it doesn’t.

The breeze-

And I must merely be imagining it-

but the breeze is warm.

I stand up straight and reach out my hand, feeling the warmth of it drift through my fingertips, cushioning them. A warm breeze? How is that even possible?

I step forward to feel it better. For half a second, it warms my entire body, fire raging through me, my ears hot, arms like silk, and I start to breathe it in.

But it fades-

It fades so very fast.

And suddenly the breeze is freezing.

Not just freezing. But ice. Ice drifting through my clothing. I shudder against it and stumble backwards, gripping at the edges of my jacket, trying to warn it away but it’s like I’m wearing a bikini, it’s like I’m naked, and the ice doesn’t stop for any sort of cloth. I can feel it between my toes, in every pore in my head, blowing through my hair, and I shiver so violently that the world goes astray for a moment and I stumble, falling against the shed, trying to catch my breath as the cold sucks the oxygen from the air around me.

I gasp as it fills the entire area I am standing in. It grows intense and I clench my teeth, gripping at my head, feeling a headache like brainfreeze flowing through my veins, infecting my entire body.

Just as I collapse, it stops.

I gasp. I breathe. My breath is lost, there is not enough oxygen in the air for me to breathe what I need. I roll to my back to the shed and curl into my jacket. It’s warmer than anything I’ve ever felt before suddenly. I reach out a hand to the worn, peeling paint on the sheds wall and carefully pick off a small flake. The feel of my nails against the wood calms me. I pick off a nice square footage of it before I can breathe again.

I sit staring up at the stars. The shadows are too dark suddenly. I don’t hear any of the other players - they’ve all fallen silent in the rush of the night, only the sound of crickets chirping to fill the silence. Only the natural, flowing breezes of the fall brush the grass, a soft, wafting sound whooshing across the night.

Only for a moment -

A moment -

And then beside me, a shadow rises.

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