The hard snow on the ground crunched gently beneath his shoes, the walk had become routine as of late. Although the cold air of a winters night chilled Terrence's entire body, he knew this uncomfortable travel would be worth it. He glanced up from the snow covered sidewalk and looked up at the library ahead of him, of course at this hour everything was closed and nobody else would be around. He continued to the building, and rested himself against the brick wall where he lit a cigarette in the cool wind. Glancing at his watch, Terrence grew slightly concerned. Muttering under his breath, he took a drag of the Marlboro cigarette slowly burning between his two fingers. It would be time for him to quit soon, he knew he had to. "Six years on the cancer is just too damn much." he would tell Cambrie every other day. He shook his head, and snapped back into reality. "Cambrie," he began whispering to himself, anxiously, "where the hell are you?" he looked around as he puffed back on the cigarette.
Time had passed, but not a lot. He shifted his head to the right as he flicked the cigarette butt into a large pile of snow, and there she was. Terrence watched her as she walked closer, her silhouette growing more human with each step she took. That beautiful red hair, god how I love it. Terrence began thinking, and within seconds he had zoned out entirely. Like the late night walks, this too was becoming a routine to Terrence, though not one he held any control over. Every night he lay awake in bed, or every morning he stand under the hot water soaking his hair from the shower head, he'd lose himself in these thoughts. Cambrie... Cambrie... they were all the same, yet all at once so very different.
"Terrence!", he heard his name called. It was her, the girl he claimed to be so madly in love with. She didn't understand it entirely, although she would always claim that she did. Terrence knew that nobody on Earth could possibly relate to the feelings which he had grown for Cambrie. "There you are." he said with a smirk on his face. He stared into her eyes, treasuring every moment until she aimed her head to the ground. "Thank you for coming." she said in her soothing and gentle voice. She's perfect... thought Terrence. Everything about her... Those eyes... Her voice, so sweet, yet so broken. And broken she was. Cambrie moved closer to Terrence, "What happened?" he began to ask her. He knew well enough that if she called him at this hour, something had happened at home, and she needed to get away. She drew closer to him again, at a distance the two of them looked as if they were one being, an overweight man or woman curiously standing outside the local library at 12:30 AM, for God knows what reason. "They're fighting again, that's all..." Cambrie began, "I just need to get some air, and clear my mind a little." She looked at Terrence, "You always seem to help me with that." she said with a slight smile. Those lips... He listened to Cambrie, as she told the short tale of her eventful night.
"My father had come home late from work," she began, "and not ten minutes before, my mum got a text saying that he had cheated on her again. As soon as he walked in the door, shit hit the fan." Terrence listened closely, picturing every detail as he listened to the girl of his dreams reflecting on everything that had happened. Not long after she shared her story, and the two spent a few moments standing together in silence, the sun began to rise. Terrence knew that cars would soon be cruising down the street, everybody in a rush to get to work, but driving more slow than ever before due to the icy roads. "You can come back with me, if you'd like." Terrence offered to Cambrie, she shook her head and politely refused while wearing her precious smile, she kissed him. "Things will only be worse if I'm gone when they wake up." she responded. Terrence brought her closer, and whispered in her ear, "I love you". The two parted ways.
Terrence opened the door to the small apartment he shared with his uncle, of course his uncle wouldn't be home at this hour. It was only 4:26 AM the last time Terrence had looked at a clock, and he knew it was too early in the morning for him to have returned from whichever motel he was screwing a whore in. Taking off his shoes, Terrence sighed at the dirt and mold forming around the edges of the black and white kitchen floor tiles. He slowly closed his heavy eyes, and made his way into the tiny bedroom he often spent his nights in. Nearly twenty-four hours had passed by now since Terrence woke up the day before, he shifted the single sized mattress he slept on and closed the blinds of the half shattered window that the sun was beginning to shine through. Before he fell asleep, Terrence pulled out a small journal from underneath the couch cushion which he used as a pillow, then scanned through the latest entry:
There are no words to explain the way I feel about her, I have sat in this room, on this dirty mattress constantly trying to express myself. It is impossible, I swear it... Cambrie is perfect, and I truly do love her. I would give my life for her if I had to, and I mean that. Sometimes things get complicated, but I know she loves me just the same. If only things at home were better for her, she'd be able to focus on this relationship, and not her family problems for a while. I know things won't be bad forever, I suppose I just need to be patient. She is worth it.
He sighed, then closed the book.
Following the closing of the book, Terrence's eyes did the same. He would soon be getting some well needed rest.
[Terrence...] The voice seemed so distant, and somehow so unreal. Terrence turned, and found himself in an empty room. There were no walls, and underneath him there appeared to be no floor. Everything surrounding him was white, as if he had become microscopic and was standing on one of the kitchen tiles back in their glory days. "Everything was much better before Richard moved in." Terrence imagined the floor tile speaking, and then snapped back into whatever sort of reality this was. [Terrence...] the voice spoke again. It was Cambrie, and Terrence knew it. The entire area around him was empty, and the sky, regardless of it seeming so limitless, was beginning to fall. The atmosphere surrounding Terrence began to shrink, he could feel it begin to suffocate him. There was not a soul around, nothing was breathing, there were no plants, no people, not an animal in sight. Screaming at the top of his lungs seemed reasonable, however the outcome showed no result. Terrence couldn't speak, and for a moment he thought perhaps he could no longer breathe. Taking slow steps, not a sound could be heard, not even from his movements. He picked up his pace, and watched with squinted eyes as something appeared before him the more he walked.
[Terrence...] he heard the voice again as the image became more and more clear. It was distant, but Terrence could make out a small man walking behind a tree, it lasted only a few seconds before the man was out of sight, and the tree turned to dust before his eyes. [Terrence...] the voice called, it was beginning to grow louder each time. He closed his eyes, hoping he would open them and be back in the run-down apartment he shared with his alcoholic uncle. Of course, nobody would be so lucky as to have that happen, Terrence especially. The brightest area in all of one's imagination suddenly became dark, pitch black. Terrence could feel himself crash to the floor with a sense of surprise and relief, he was not falling endlessly, which was his main concern as he began to lose his balance. His knee cracked against the seemingly non-existent floor, and he tried to shout in pain. Again, his body would not allow it. [Terrence...] the voice called him once more, echoing all around him. Sweating with frustration, Terrence picked himself up slowly from the floor, and began limping toward where the tree and small man had disintegrated. He could not feel a thing as he stood where they had been, nothing was different. He licked a drop of sweat that had run down toward his lips, and noticed that he could not taste the usual saltiness of it. Terrence could feel nothing here, he could hear nothing, and he could smell nothing. He glanced at his watch, the hands were moving, but at a much faster rate than normal. Terrence hadn't a clue as to where he was, but he knew that the time there went by much faster.
[Terrence... Don't give up, Terrence...]
He would have given anything to be back home in the apartment which he hated so much, watching a movie with the uncle he despised more and more as time passed. Or with Cambrie... he thought to himself, and began to panic. I need to get out of here... he would not put up with what was going on anymore, especially now that he began worrying about her. Again, he attempted to scream, this time he could hear himself, and the sound was beyond deafening. His ears rang, resulting in him collapsing to the floor yet again and injuring his other knee. His eyes closed, then opened ever so slowly. In front of him were a pair of feet, very small feet. He slowly looked up [Terrence...] and saw a balding old man. There was something most peculiar about him, but Terrence could not quite make it out. ["Greetings, friend."] the man spoke. His voice sounded just like Cambrie's, only slightly more masculine. Terrence was at a loss of words, it was strange, how he missed the ability to speak so much not five minutes before, and now that he was more than capable of speaking, he couldn't find it in him. ["I can help you, friend."] the tiny old man spoke, with very white forms of saliva around inner corners of his lips. Terrence cringed at the sight, then began moving his eyes up and down, scanning him. The little man wore a nightgown, and wore a watch on each wrist, one was brown with a lot of wear on it, Terrence assumed it must have been a century old. The other watch, pure gold, giving off the most spectacular and curious shine in a completely white world. ["If it is my help you seek, you must first -"] the little man cut off, and Terrence gasped for breath.
Despite the warm beads of sweat dripping off of his forehead and his racing heart which felt as if it might rip out of his chest any second, Terrence was fine. His eyes opened immediately after the little man's sentence was interrupted by his waking. Home, his brain said to him. Terrence looked around himself, the cockroach hostel which was his apartment was now a very welcome sight. He closed his eyes and caught his breath. "This place ain't so bad after all." he whispered to himself, mostly to check if he was able to speak in reality. Everything was normal again. Terrence rose from his mattress and stumbled toward the bathroom, it was 6:00 in the evening now, he had slept longer than he'd imagined. On his way through the kitchen which was not much bigger than his bedroom, he stumbled by his uncle who was passed out in the corner. Sighing in disappointment and frustration, Terrence shook his head and began lifting him up. "Richard, wake up." he mumbled in tiredness. There was no response. Fuck... he thought to himself, then grabbed his uncle by the shoulders and dragged him into his bedroom, although the kitchen seemed to be where he slept the most. "I'm sick of this, ya old man." Terrence said once he dropped his uncle's arms onto the rotting floor. "And weren't you supposed to get that wood replaced?" he was ultimately speaking to himself, however Terrence felt that it is best to speak to his uncle when he is asleep and not awake being drunk, "I just feel as though he may actually be listening to me when he's asleep." Terrence would tell Cambrie two years before. Cambrie...It seemed that name would cross his mind for the rest of his life, and perhaps it would.
The water began to cool, causing Terrence to open up his eyes. He had used up all of the hot water by now. I should phone her... he thought. Terrence had been debating with himself ever since he'd woken up. As he stepped out of the wet tub, he reached for his towel. His eyelids were held shut by the shampoo which had found a way into his right eyeball. Grabbing the closest towel to him, Terrence rubbed his eyes with it. The material of the towel felt unusual compared to the ones he owned, and was much smaller. The first thing that crossed his mind was that Richard had stolen some new ones from whichever motel he stayed in with a prostitute the night before. Terrence felt sick at the thought. Opening his burning eyes, he looked at the towel and dropped it in fear. "Jesus!" he shouted in horror, it was no towel at all. His mind immediately flashed back to the dream he had woken up from not long ago. He found himself staring at a tiny nightcap, resembling the one from the small old man's head perfectly. Terrence moved away from and around the nightcap in fear. "What the fuck..." he said, his voice trembling. "Richard!" he shouted, as he backed out of the bathroom completely naked. "Richard, where did this come from?!", there was no response from his uncle. Turning around, he quickly ran to his small bedroom and threw on the first pair of pants, t-shirt, jacket and socks that he could find. Terrence ran out of the apartment building in a hurry, and made his way to the nearest park where he'd spent most of his time with Cambrie.
Resting on a bench, Terrence kicked the snow in front of him as he smoked a cigarette. Nothing makes sense... he said to himself. I need to call Cambrie..., he reached inside his pocket to grab his cellphone. Feeling around, there was nothing. God damn it, she is going to be worried sick...There was no way to get the phone now, it was in the apartment, and Terrence was far too scared to go back in there. He stared at the building and got the chills as he thought about what had just happened. No chance in Hell will I go back there today...
As Terrence finished his second cigarette, he wondered what time it was. The sun was setting by now, and he was full of energy. More than anything in the world at that moment, Terrence wanted to see his girlfriend. He turned his head as he heard a group of young kids making their way toward the park. They were shitheads, Terrence remembered them from last winter. He lost himself in thought as he looked back at what the kids had done. It wasn't anything too serious, but at the time it bugged him more than anything he'd ever experienced. He shook his head, "Fuck 'em" he said out loud as he stood up and began walking toward the apartment building. "I need to get that phone."
While approaching the apartment building with a racing heart, Terrence saw something out of the corner of his eye. His heart skipped a beat, and his stomach sank. He knew what it was. The little man was outside the building, waiting for him. Stopping in his path, Terrence stared in amazement. This is impossible... he thought to himself, and swore that he was beginning to lose all bits of sanity he was holding on to. The little old man looked at Terrence, then grew a grin which didn't seem to properly fit his tiny face. [Terrence...] he could hear the same voice as in the dream, and without any control over himself, he began walking toward him.
[We're almost ready, Terrence...] the voice spoke to him, the little man began walking toward a family of evergreens, and Terrence being on autopilot continued to follow.
Terrence stared into the apparition shown before him, the little old man looked at him with an awkward yet concerned smirk. ["Do you see, my friend?"] the little man asked, his mouth did not move when he spoke. Terrence continued staring, his eyes shifting back and forth from the unpleasant little man and the apparition which was appearing from the old worn out watch on the man's one wrist. The more he looked at him, the more Terrence doubted that he was human. ["We can help her, we can do it together."] the old man told him.
It was as if Terrence had no idea what he was doing, he would later ask himself why he was with this person, and what he was thinking during the time. Why did I go with him? What the fuck was going through my head? Why couldn't I walk the other way? Why couldn't I? These were all questions he would be asking himself later that night, but by then the answers would hold no meaning.
I can't take this anymore, Terrence had what sounded like 1,000 voices running through his head, each overlapping the other, all he could make out was that. ["Do I need to show you more? Is this not enough to convince you? She needs you, Terrence!"] The old man's voice sounded hideous, angry, forceful. This was a side of him that Terrence had not yet seen... A side that he hoped to never see again. Through intimidation, as well as fear for his loved one, Terrence made up his mind. As his eyes began to fill with years, Terrence knew that the old creep was right. The more he stared at the image of Cambrie, the more he knew that he had to help her no matter what the circumstances were. He had no choice, Cambrie's black eyes and swollen cheeks made it all clear. ["She will die without your help."].
"Stop it!" Terrence screamed in agony, "I will help her! Just tell me what it is I must do!" The old man (who was beginning to look more like a very underweight dwarf) pressed his hand against the face of his watch. ["I knew you'd do the right thing, Terrence. I have never doubted you."] he told him. Taken aback by this statement, Terrence began to wonder what that meant. Has this man been watching him for quite some time? ["You are a smart boy, you truly are. Soon her problems will all be gone, her father will no longer abuse her, her mother will give her the attention she deserves. Cambrie will live a much happier life, it is all written out, Terrence. Just tell me once more that you will help this girl whom you love so much."] "I will do it. I will help her." He responded, his heart racing while his palms were sweating up a storm. "What do I have to do?" he said, holding his breath as he waited for a response.
["The solution is so simple my child, just put your hand over mine."], Terrence complied. As the miniature, strangely thin old dwarfish man placed his hand over the aged and worn watch which was not five minutes ago displaying a clear image of a black and blue Cambrie, Terrence found his right hand resting on the man's. Watching closely while being overcome with a strange feeling of weakness and a lack of space, Terrence saw the yellow nicotine stains of his fingers fade slowly, then come back brighter and thicker. His fingers grew a brief ache, and sprouted a number of hairs on each. "What is happening to me?" Terrence asked the old man as he looked toward him. His eyes seemed brighter, Terrence noticed. ["This is all a part of the process, Terrence. Everything is going to be fine. You do want to help her, right?"] The old man responded, his voice seeming stronger and more powerful than ever. "I do." Terrence lowered his head as he replied in a faint voice of shame. He had an idea as to what was happening. "This is worth it. Isn't it?" he asked the old man who was now breathing heavily. ["You have never made a wiser decision, Terrence. Trust me."]. "I do", Terrence whispered.
Terrence's chest began to ache, his heart began to beat slowly. "Am I dying?" he asked the old man, who was now beginning to look about half of his age. ["You are not dying, Terrence."] the dwarfish man replied. Why do I believe this bastard? Terrence asked himself. There was something so strange about him, something so reassuring. He couldn't help but believe that he was telling the truth. "What is your name?" Terrence asked. ["An odd yet interesting question at a time like this,"] the dwarf began, ["There are many names for me, and for those like me. Some may consider me a demon, others may consider me an angel of sorts. After all, I am saving your girlfriend's life, am I not?"] Terrence nodded, ["My ancestors call me Flagg, so I suppose that is my name. But call me what you will. I know what you think of me, I have heard the names that you've already given me in your head. I know a lot more than you think I do, Terrence. It's okay, your secrets are safe with me."].
Flagg removed his night cap and exposed a full head of young, healthy hair. His face was beginning to show a lack of age, each wrinkle Terrence once viewed was now non-existent. Terrence was feeling quite the opposite, he put his hand to his face as his entire body began to ache, a full beard had grown in, it's length began to expand at a speed which could only make Terrence believe that this was another nightmare. He looked down at his long beard, and saw the hairs begin to grey. Flagg cracked his neck, and jumped up with joy. Stretching and growing in to his new, youthful body.
"What have you done to me?" Terrence asked in fear, he couldn't help but feel a lack of energy, he no longer held the power to yell at Flagg, nor to fight him. He knew that if he even attempted to take a swing at the bastard for doing this to him, he'd fall over and have a heart attack. ["You did this, Terrence, remember? You did this for Cambrie."]. Hearing that name again made Terrence begin to cry, "I need to see her." he told Flagg. "Fuck you, fuck what you've done to me. Just let me see her!" he wanted to choke the little piece of shit. ["You're in luck, old timer."] Flagg responded. Terrence couldn't help but notice that even in Flagg's new found youth, he still was speaking to him through his mind, Flagg's lips hadn't moved a bit. Not even a twitch. "What do you mean, I'm in luck?" Terrence struggled to speak in any tone besides calm and quiet, no matter how badly he wanted to shout at the top of his lungs. ["There she is, you ungrateful old fuck."], Flagg said with a menacing grin on his face. He backed into the group of evergreens, hiding in the trees.
"Cambrie!", Terrence struggled to shout and grab her attention. He watched in pain as he saw her walking toward his apartment building. "Cambrie, it's me!" gasping for breath, he began to drag himself toward her. "Terrence!" he shouted, this time his voice strong enough. "That's who I am!" he bellowed in pain.
Cambrie looked around her as she heard an old man shouting, she could tell that the poor bastard must have been crazy, he was moving at a slow and agonizing pace. She shifted toward the apartment building's main door, and buzzed for Terrence's suite. "Come on, babe." she muttered under her breath while nervously shaking. Her face ached, and she was scared as to what Terrence would say of her black eyes and bruised face. She glanced toward the old man, and jumped in horror as he collapsed on the grass with his arm stretched out toward her. I need to help him! She thought to herself, even if this man was crazy, she couldn't leave him lying on the ground in pain. "I'm coming, mister!" she screamed toward him as she began to run. She was praying the old man was okay.
Terrence felt a spark of hopefulness as he saw his love running toward him, Oh thank you, God he thought to himself. Thank you so much! Terrence's body began to shake as terrible thoughts took over his brain. She isn't going to love me anymore, she is going to be scared, she won't recognize me, she is going to call the police on me, I'm going to go to prison, or be put into an insane asylum. She's going to run away in fear!
As Cambrie drew nearer, Terrence felt as though he was going to pass out. This was all too much for him, but she looked better than ever. Her face was healed, she was fine. The more Terrence looked at her running toward him, the healthier and happier she looked. She could smile, he knew she could smile now. Something had changed, Flagg had kept his word. Terrence and Flagg had saved her. He knew.
"Let me help you!", Terrence heard Cambrie say. Despite the pain which he was feeling, and the awful situation that he found himself in, her voice was still the most amazing sound he could hear, so gentle, so soothing, even when in her deep concern. Terrence blinked and looked up at her, she was beautiful. "Cambrie..." he faintly spoke. "I don't need your help, you owe me nothing my love." he said to her. Terrence could see the panic and fear take over the concerned look on her face. "It's me, honey. It's Terrence." he hadn't the power to convince her, nor the power to get off of the ground and try hugging her, comforting her.
"Who the fuck are you?" She whispered in horror, "What the fuck?" she stepped aside, and slowly backed away from Terrence. "How do you know the name of my boyfriend?" and although Cambrie could hear a slight resemblance to Terrence's voice in the old man's, it made no sense. This old lunatic couldn't be Terrence, that was impossible. "You leave me alone you crazy old freak!" she turned around and ran without looking back. A tear ran down Terrence's face, his heart had just broke.
["Well, you really fucked that up, didn't you?"] Terrence could hear the voice of the now young underweight dwarfish cock-sucking bastard who called himself Flagg. ["I suppose it is for the best, what did you expect anyway? How could she love an old man like you? Shit, Terrence, did you really think she'd still be with you? Did you really think a girl as beautiful as her would want to spend her life with a smelly old shithead like yourself? She's too great to be changing your shitty underwear and bathing you. Get real, man!"]. Flagg stood over Terrence who was still lying on the ground, and looked him in the eyes. Terrence could see Flagg for what he really was now.
The old, wrinkled dwarf who Flagg had been not even an hour ago was now a tall, healthy and young man. His eye colour was thick, a powerful bright blue. His hair was blond, his skin was smooth, and his voice was noble. "Who are you?" Terrence quietly weeped "Why did you do this to me? There were other solutions, I could have helped her without you, we could have been happy together!" Terrence was sobbing, causing half of his words to be inaudible. ["You're nothing but an old man, Terrence. She is happy now, and she has a very successful life ahead of her. Nothing in this world of yours is free. You wanted to see the girl happy, you wanted her problems to disappear and now they have. How greedy are you? What more do you want? You swore to yourself that all you wanted in life was for Cambrie to be happy, and now she is. You're nothing, Terrence. She'll forget about you by tomorrow, believe me. She is too good for you anyway, you did your part. These things happen, I'm sorry."]. Flagg began walking away, then stopped and turned back toward Terrence. ["You did good, child. I am very proud of you."] Flagg wandered off in the distance, in the direction that Cambrie had fled.
Terrence was alone, lying on the grass of the park he now hated.
"You may never believe this, and I do not expect you to. I am not mad, my love. I may have been angry that day when you left me in the park. I may have hated you, but only momentarily. I swore to always be there for you, I made that promise only a few months into our relationship. I stuck by you, and I was true to my word. I made you a promise, and I kept it. Something strange happened to me, and when you left me lying on the grass in the park, my heart shattered into one million fragments. I am old now, and you are still young, still beautiful, still so full of life. I want you to know that you still mean the word to me no matter how painful it was to see you leave me the way you did. Everything I did, and everything that happened was done for you, Cambrie. I hope you truly are happy, perhaps the old bastard Flagg kept his word. I won't get into details on that subject, I'm sure you've seen him around.
When I saw you beaten up, I knew that I had to do something to help you. The way everything happened seems impossible, I won't even bother. My youth is ancient history now, or so it feels to me. Though I was just your age not more than a week ago, now I struggle to write, and I can feel my last day approaching. I can hear it, there's a ticking in the wall that haunts me. My time is running out, and before I move on to the next world I feel you deserve to know that I did this for you.
I will always love you, Cambrie. For the rest of my short life, like I had promised back in my youth. I wish you the best, I know you'll make me proud. This was all worth it, I only wish I could see that smile once more."
He put the pen down on the nightstand beside him, and read over the note which was shaking in his sore old hands. Terrence felt that Cambrie should know every detail, but it was too much for him to handle. Too much for him to express, and none of it even felt real to him. Here he was though, it all happened, and his surroundings were proof. He set the note aside, next to the pen. Then closed his eyes to lose the view of the small room surrounding him. The nurses said that this was his final week, if he was lucky he'd survive another two. Seeing Cambrie however was out of the picture, they'd allow a visitor, but Terrence would lose any comfort in moving on if he saw his love once more. "Take me." he'd whisper every night, and in the corner of his eye he swore he'd seen Flagg and his menacing grin each time. "Just take me you bastard." he said to the man who had stolen his youth. ["Soon, my child."] Terrence would hear in his dreams.
On January 4th, 2013, Terrence was found deceased in his hospital bed, he had died of old age. Three nurses in the hospital reported seeing a suspicious old man leaving his room the same night that he had passed away, some swore it was a ghost, as the man seemed very far from human. Every report shared one thing in common, each nurse remembered the worn out old nightgown on the old man's head.