Loneliness

When Clarissa was very young her mother grew strange and abandoned her. She was left in the care of her aunt Miriam. For years Miriam punished Clarissa constantly. She would say horrible things about Clarissa’s mother.

“That witch didn’t deserve to marry your father,” she would tell her. “In fact, I’d question if he was your father! She was just a whore and you are nothing more than a worthless whore’s child. You are evil, for how else could your mother have gotten your father if not by witchcraft. You’re a blight on this house, not even fit to mop the floor with your hair. If you weren’t blood I’d cast you out or go sell you to the whore house to pay for all the misery you cause me!”

These were common abuses. They were constant from the moment she was put to her chores at dawn to the moment she was locked into her room at night.

One day Miriam sent Clarissa to go out to the forest on the peninsula and collect berries. Clarissa, being obedient, did not protest, even though she thought the trip was frightening. The peninsula had a reputation. People did not usually venture into those woods. There were horrible stories about people going in and never coming out again. Many parents told their children tales of a magical being that would trap lone wanders. This was to discourage adventures that might result in their being lost forever.

What Clarissa didn’t know was that Miriam had ordered one of the house servants to follow her and ensure she never returned. He was a detestable man by the named Reginald Dupree, the wretched and often drunken blacksmith of the manor. He was always filthy, unshaven, and stank of wine and the work of the day. He also had no morals and quickly agreed to kill the twelve year old for an extra month in wages.

Clarissa set off with previsions and camping supplies. It took three days to reach the forest. Reginald, of course, was never far behind her, never letting her get out of his sight.

After a few hours of searching she found a grove that was bursting with berry bushes. Hundreds of plants, all overflowing with ripe fruit. These berries were known as fairy kisses. Bright lavender berries with green crowns. Round and plump, the size of a cherry, though capable of growing much larger. Their name came from how the berry looked when bitten in half. The inner flesh was a golden yellow but the heart looked like a pair of bright blue lips bordering the red seed at its heart.

Clarissa was ecstatic. She quickly began to collect them so she could return home. She had heard stories of how the fruit looked and desperately wanted to see the kiss inside. Her innocent hands reached out and plucked a full and soft berry. As she bit through it an amazing sweetness filled her mouth. She eagerly chewed, swallowed, and examined the center of the fruit. It did look like a kiss. She placed it against her lips, kissing it, and ate the other half greedily.

One, two, five berries eaten, and all the while filling her pack. As she progressed through the grove she began to take note of how bright things had become. How present she felt in this place. The breeze came and wrapped around her. The air felt intense as she breathed in. There was something magical happening to her and she felt extremely happy.

As she reached out for another berry something grabbed her wrist, “Wha—,” Clarissa began to exclaim.

“You be good now pet,” creaked Reginald, “Miss Miriam says you gots’ta go and that I gots’ta do it. I been thinking things ‘bout you that has me seeing the preacher and makin’ confessions every Holy Day. They tells me I can sin if’n I repent when I’s dyin’. You been lookin’ like quite the fine young woman these last six months. So come on with ol’ Reggie and lets me have a double dose of sin this day!”

Reginald jerked Clarissa quickly towards him, making her drop the berries and her pack. The fairy kisses she had eaten had slowed her mind a bit and the full terror of what was happening did not take hold. As the horrific scene began to unfold time seemed to slow. She knew what sin meant, and she knew that Reginald had been looking at her lately. At last she understood that she was becoming a victim of what would be a most disturbing violation. She had to act.

Reginald’s excitement trumped his intuition. As he threw her to the ground and ripped her dress clear of her body he missed a key thing. Clarissa had noticed her salvation and was going for it; an oversized buck knife that was hanging on the old codgers hips.

While he fumbled with the rope he used for a belt she reached out quickly and clasped the knife, drew the blade, and struck. A power came over her and she began to scream in rage as she slashed at him, hitting his neck and nearly removing his head. Instantly a crimson waterfall of copper scented warmth drenched her face.

Reginald didn’t even have a chance to fight back, collapsing down onto her body, twitching, flushing her legs with warmth as his death throws loosed his bladder.

She saw all this, slowly, in shock and frightened. The hallucinogenic qualities of the berries peaked with the fresh flush of adrenaline. In this scene of terror her mind broke. She moved slowly out from under his body. Tying the ragged edges of her dress together she stared down at the old man’s body. Had anyone been there she would have been a dreadful sight. Her face, covered in blood, was smiling. She clutched the big knife with vice like fingers. She forgot all about her life and why she was there and lurked slowly off into the forest.

She wandered, covered in dry black blood and dirt, half naked, and still holding the knife. The berries still controlled her senses, making her feel like one with everything, heightening her perceptions. Eventually she happened upon another grove of berry bushes. With a compulsion not her own she ravenously consumed handfuls of the berries. She began to adjust to the effects, appreciating more and more how the world slowed and her senses awakened.

Clarissa stayed in the forest for months, learning about it, hunting small animals, and eating berries. Her mind grew sharp because of the drug in the fruit. She mapped the forest, bit by bit, and found each and every grove of fairy kisses. She loved the forest, she loved the knife, loved the taste of the blood of the animals she would hunt. She loved everything thanks to the berries.

Eventually she discovered a clearing that would become her home. It had a clear pool and she bathed in the pool, she found the water clean and delicious. There was a large cave as well, and in it she found an abandoned trappers camp. Amongst the ancient leather clothing and supplies there with many journals. They described techniques that helped him hide from the animals he hunted. They also described his experiences eating the berries. Clarissa read them all.

After a good time Clarissa went back to the grove where she had encountered Reginald. Her things were scattered but in good condition. She snacked on fruit as she collected her things.

As she approached the old man’s body she heard a whisper, “O’er here lovely. Sorry for all that before, how’s about we just be friends, right and proper?”

It was Reginald, his voice coming from deep in her mind. She walked to the bones of the old man and picked up his skull, discolored and tangled with grass and twigs. She gave it a hug.

“I think I should not be lonely anymore. I think I will love you. I think I will collect friends when they come to visit, and they will stay, because they will love me,” Clarissa said to her new friend.

At that moment Clarissa’s heightened awareness heard the sound of snapping twigs from beyond the grove. She tucked Reginald under her arm, facing him forward in case she needed his help to keep watch.

The girl and the skull hunkered back into the dim light at the edge of the grove, where the forest trees were tallest. She began moving in the ways described in the trapper’s journals, to hide from what was coming through the trees. As the moments passed she began to hear footsteps getting closer and closer. She could tell it was just one person.

“Do you see him Reginald?” she whispered at her hollow friend.

“No miss, but he’s a close one. Let’s have him be our friend,” she heard him reply.

“Oh how exciting, two friends in the same day,” she exclaimed as the figure entered the grove.

He was a tall and very skinny wearing loose fitting clothes. He had glasses on his long pointed nose. Clarissa, whose mind was beginning to adjust to the fresh infusion of berries, saw his movements slow. She studied how he walked and where he chose to fix his gaze.

As he made his way through the grove Clarissa circled behind him, silently, and began following him. As he crossed the grove he paused and knelt to examine something in the grass. After a moment he stood quickly, recoiling away from Reginald’s remains. He began to back away from the bones, coming closer and closer to Clarissa and the rest of Reginald.

“Hello!” she shouted at the man.

Startled, he let out a little shriek and turned towards the source of the voice. There was Clarissa, draped in rags, face slightly dirty, bare feet, grinning. Holding a skull under her left arm and a long blade in her right hand.

“Be quick with it dearie and bring his smile home with us to be our friend,” she heard Reginald say.

“I’m so happy you’ve come to visit. What is your name?” Clarissa asked, beginning to move towards him.

The man froze with fear. “Emil…” he barely stammered out.

“Please to meet you Emil, let’s go home.”

Clarissa leapt forward, dropping Reginald on the forest floor. She plunged the knife into Emil’s stomach with a smile.

“We can be friends, forever. I won’t be lonely anymore,” she said, warm blood flowing through her fingers as she plunged the knife over and over into his body.

There wasn’t much of a fight. Within moments the man collapsed to his knees, grasping her shoulders and staring into her face with a pale expression.

“Wh-why?” Emil gasped.

“Hush now, let’s talk when we get home,” she replied, grabbing his hair and bending his head back. The knife was sharp. As she swung at his throat a fresh splash of blood painted her cheeks.

“That’s some right fine work dearie, right fine,” she heard Reginald say, “let’s head on back and get cleaned up and have us a lovely chat.”

Grasping Emil’s head by the hair and holding Reginald under her arm she started the long walk back to her clearing, happy to have friends.

 

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