We tell ourselves that our children are everything to us. That their lives encompass the entire scope of our love and attention. We tell ourselves we’d do anything for them. And we did, do anything that is. We did what we had to. What we had to. We did what we did for our children, for the ones that were left, for the ones that had to live with the memory. Then we did away with the memory, as best we could. Suddenly, we too had become complicit with murder. The murder of a man, and the murder of a memory. And now the remnants of this complacency rouse themselves from the waters of the river and walk among us, placing its wailing hands upon our shoulders as it passes us by. It does not pause for us; it is already walking by. It is walking past us and returning to the place of it’s beginning. It rises up and comes for us. For our children. And we stand there like dumb beasts, stupefied.
We did not kill those children. We did not lead those boys and girls into the water, nor did we cast the man who failed to save them in after them. But we killed their memory. And we put a man in jail, when we should have focused on the specter that put the man before our wrath. On the creature that killed those children.
A child was found three days ago standing at the center of that same bridge. She had a number branded into each hand. The same number, ‘9’. She is the next product of that specter. The next in line. The seventeenth child that monster marred, but the first to be found alive. The first to be sent as a message.
Why did it wait seven years to send this message? Why choose now to begin our torment?
The denizens of Red Willow Crossing find themselves haunted. Three children have gone missing in the past month and a half, a pattern terrifyingly similar to the string of disappearances that occurred seven years past, when the town was moved to panic with each new child found lifeless and cold. But the man held responsible for those crimes already sits in prison, awaiting his execution date. To this day, he claims his innocence. As paranoia rises, the police do what they can to ease the populace’s worries, even as doubts arise as to their ability to handle the case. After all, the greatest detective the city has ever seen, Gabriel Column, has been dead for three years.
The cold seeps through every pore of the town, an unusually cold February leaving fresh snow every morning. As of late, too many tracks have stopped halfway home. As the people stalk home, cold and afraid, they cannot help but feel the deathly quiet of the town bearing down on them, as if following just behind them. What they feel is not false. There is a watcher in this town. Eyes peering out, a pair of hands steady and waiting. It walks along concrete, it walks among streetlights, it walks beneath dark, quiet waters of the river where it awaits them.
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