The Stream

The journey to my favourite, most sacred abode in all the city wasn’t motivated by anything positive, that’s for sure. I didn’t go during the late evening to reflect on my day, I didn’t set out during my lunch time for snacks and refreshments. Instead, I would venture out during the ever-middle of my nights, well, your nights, my days, my sleep schedule was wonky to say the least. Due to this inability to rest I found that exploration was a very effective way to exhaust myself, and so I’d venture into many different areas within the city: I peeked through the back-rows of stores, I trod very warily through construction sites, I dabbled in many public buildings such as libraries or broadcasting places, and I crept through closed roads shut down for maintenance. In much shorter terms, I explored anywhere and everywhere that enticed, mattering not if it was five steps in front of me, or glowing on the horizon.

Leeds is a beautiful city. Over seven hundred thousand humans reside there, every single one with their own dreams and aspirations. Dreams and aspirations made very apparent during any time spent in the city’s core; an almost bursting hub full of shops, students, stations, experience of any and all kinds. Some parts clean, and some dirty. Some parts booming with activity, and some eerily peaceful. Yet, even though Leeds is hyped up to be a loud, bustling, fast-moving city, there are still some very serene parts to discover. Like the stream for example. A place I’d often visit on my post-night walks where, if I was lucky enough, all would be completely silent beside the dominantly peaceful sounds of gently flowing water. This was my preferred area to reside most mornings; an enclosure surrounded by trees, bushes and other hardy walls of nature fitted with a stream straight down the middle, the remains of a mossy overlook to its left, and my wall just a few feet further.

How did I get there you may ask? Well it was just a short trek, a mile at most if I took the longer route. I began journeying there around May, just as the weeks were starting to warm up, which meant the sun would rise earlier and earlier each day. Five in the morning was a guaranteed earliest that I’d see the sun appear, so I made sure I was packed and ready by around four-thirty. A shamefully easy feat as my sleep schedule had spun itself around to a point where I’d wake up at nine in the evening to see the sun off to bed. So, what better a time for walking than one when I could greet the sun and apologise for my neglectful rest.

Coat on, headphones secured, donning a black knit hat, I’d make my way down four levels of stairs, escaping via a door to the fresh outside world, finally departing my block through a metal gate so heavy you could hear its screeches from a hundred feet away. Behind my housing complex was a type of expressway, it led a direct line from different areas outside the city to the shop-filled centre. However, at such an early time in the morning there would be not five per cent of the cars that would usually be rushing by, which meant only myself and the waking sun were present. I’d gotten around halfway into my journey when I noticed I was getting very tired, ‘well that’s normal’ you might be thinking, yes, very normal in fact, though that’s not the surprising part. As I made my way crossing a few more roads, taking a path past a church and now making my way due right away from the expressway and through rows of housing, I calculated. Thinking back, I amounted around thirty hours since I’d last slept, which was fine, I’d often remain awake for long periods of time, sleep for around 6 hours and repeat. This was my schedule and I adapted accordingly as well as anyone could. The only issue I’d repeatedly come across was management, as the hours in which I’d start to get tired always vary, it could be twenty, thirty, even thirty-five.

The tiredness had hit but I was determined to at least reach my destination, as I knew I had time before it began to have any significant effect on my ability to function. By this point I was in sight of those hardy walls that surrounded the area, I’d gone through a housing estate and back down a sloping road to a different part of the same expressway. I could’ve easily followed it all the way along, but that’s rather boring and I prefer to take different routes, particularly when visiting the same place numerous times. Noticing the sun in the air and the darkness distinguished, I’m always pushed to think about the comparison of visibility from when I started to not even forty minutes later. The light levels had gone from pitch black when leaving my home to a full-swinging daytime, allowing for a beautiful view of the overhanging trees exposing a woodland area that would eventually lead me to my destined area of tranquillity.

I entered through the opening of trees and bushes onto a narrow enclosed path, as I walked I saw to my left, beyond the thick trees was a field. Surrounded, just like me. I was fully concealed now, to either side and above I was walled in by nature. If I wanted to get out I’d have to turn back or follow even more twisting dirt paths, but I didn’t want to get out. I wanted to get in. It had been roughly an hour since I felt my lack of rest slowly creep upon me and at this point it was well on its way to having an effect, my eyes began to ache, feeling warm, and I had to keep my head down as I walked. If I didn’t, I would continuously trip on the roots of nearby trees reaching for my feet as I left them behind me. Several dozen feet beyond the departed trees a dog and its owner bounded past me in the opposite direction; foolishly I turned to observe the dog and very harshly fell onto the dry dirt beneath me. I was too tired to care and in that moment, realised rare satisfaction that I could actually feel the consequences of exhaustion, adding onto that was an even greater accomplishment. I looked up from the ground I was sprawled upon, leaning back onto my knees I witnessed it.

The stream. A perfect flowing of frothy white water, wider than the length of three cards. Above it, even the trees couldn’t hide the beauty, allowing the bright blue sky to gaze down upon the flow. Beside the stream and directly in front of me was a multi-levelled overlook, made of brick, metal railing and persistent moss. Slightly closer to me, but still in eye-shot of the stream’s grandeur was the best seat in the house, a worn brick wall which I’d rested on during every trip to this area. This was only my fourth, perhaps even my third visit to the stream and unlike all other visits, I was now exhausted. I pulled myself back onto my legs and hobbled over to the railing, still hurting slightly from the fall. Even leaning against the cold green rail, I could feel myself swaying, left to right, back and fo- I stopped myself. The last thing I wanted to do in this state was fall into a moving body of water. I kept myself awake with some movement, gliding my hand along the rail until I saw a perfectly balanced stone atop one of the joints. Before I even thought about it I’d tossed it to the stream, which in actual fact ended up releasing far too late, launching into the barren floor of the overlook’s lower deck. That was enough activity; I hurried to my wall and sat down, both legs atop it folded in like a school child ready for assembly. My red hood pulled up, headphones back into each ear, eyes to the brown ground: assorted pieces of gravel, upturns of earth in several places, leaves which had flown in from different parts of the enclosure… Now is probably a good time to explain that the wall I so helplessly fell asleep on wasn’t the easiest to see from the overlook. It was around fifty paces back, with some lucky trees stopping those on the overlook from noticing if anyone else was or wasn’t present.

My head shot up as I woke abruptly to the sound of glass shattering. Only my head moved, turning right to get a glimpse through the trees. It looked to be around six feet of a sleek, pale skinned man resting against the olive railing, both arms outstretched. What did he do to cause such a loud noise? Holding his entire body weight, I could see his hands, covered with black leather, leaving messy imprints upon the mossy rail. I wondered, had he seen me upon first entering the enclosure? If he wasn’t doing anything criminal then there’s really nothing for him to worry about, but a noise so loud that it bothered me to consciousness from all this distance created some suspicion in my mind. He wore a long black coat down to his knees, black trousers, black shoes, it was all black, everything, and it seemed so… off. I rubbed my aching eyes, god knows how long at this point, it was easily past seven AM. I settled my breathing and waited, just a little bit longer to see what could occur. Turning my head in hopes someone would be arriving, I saw only the obnoxious roots, which prepared themselves for their rise during any potential escape. Of course, escape was an option, I could have very easily hopped off my wall and made a speedy exit for the way I entered, but I was far too curious a young man. Then another ear splitting noise, this time, still legs crossed on my wall, I managed to catch a glimpse.

Arms stretched forward from his apparent throw, white dust arose from in front of him. A bag slumped over at his feet and two more glass bottles, corked and full of white powder, rolled across the brick with a scraping noise to accompany. From what I could gather, this man, dressed all in black, at seven in the morning, was throwing filled glass bottles of powder into the stream. My stream. It infuriated me, but I didn’t plan on doing much besides spectating. My assumption was that these noises came when he missed the stream and hit the lower tier of the overlook, a feeling I knew all too well. Pulling out the last two bottles, he reached back and threw, then adding the bag to the stream for good measure. Why he didn’t just throw the entire bag to begin with, I have no idea. As he turned to his right, I understood he was checking the coast, to which I slouched myself. In my direction he checked before making a brisk departure from the scene; a bizarre situation. Even from this distance, I could see the bushes on the stream’s bank were sprinkled with this substance. A quick check round the corner and the figure had vanished.  Believe it or not such an unsettling event shocked me into focus allowing me to lean over and view the lower tier for myself, it was utter devastation, besmirchment, impurification of my abode.

I pulled myself back from the rail and rushed to the overgrown stairs leading below, pushing nature to one side in an attempt to witness the damage closer. It was worse than I initially presumed. Eight bottles with caps to verify, smashed to pieces beside the stream. The powder everywhere, with… blood? The man brought no one with him, whose blood was this? I stepped once, going for another I held my foot in the air for a second of contemplation, thinking long and sensibly, I concluded: this was a crime scene that I dare not touch.

The Wolf

As the rain poured and the wind howled, a lurker, vulnerable in his light clothes became soaked to his core. Beyond the heavy downpour dark clouds busied the pitch sky, accented only by candle lit lanterns; independently illuminating the cobblestone ground and rows of dainty wooden houses. Though a ferocious wind could not harm those inside, the fathers, the mothers, the precious children, all safe. The only dangers that these petite towns would ever have to watch out for were wolves. The animal? Oh goodness no, a small dog-like creature held no such threat to this community or any other, even in a pack of ten.

A ‘wolf’ was a foul metaphor. A phrase reserved only for the most cruel, malicious, evil beings. With attitude, personality and intentions so animalistic, almost all civil folk believed them to be the reincarnation of a wolf, their life-force and will manifested into that of human flesh and bone. Our wolf was down on his luck, a creature caught between the cracks of society and looking for a way to get back on top. He didn’t plan to start up a small bakery, craft hats, or tailor fancy clothing for the local townsfolk. His scheme involved stepping on the backs of those who had trodden on and kept him down for so long. Why this was? He did not know, but using those fowl people as stepping stones would allow easy access for his bloody hands to grasp whatever he so pleased.

The wolf lived on the outskirts of the town. Well, this is what he’d say to people to try and make his residence sound nicer, ‘Oh yes, I live in a quant cottage on the outskirts of Greenwood, it’s very peaceful.’ When in actuality he lived over five hundred paces from any sign that even acknowledged the existence of Greenwood. He hated his home, it was damp, cold, insecure and lonely, he had no friends and lived in near-poverty. Though, news did travel. Through a postman or wandering pack of soldiers maybe, and if opportunity arose, the wolf would do his best to gain information, start up a conversation, or maybe just keep his ears open. Which is exactly how he came to be standing at a trail in east-Greenwood, during the night, in a heavy downpour.

A few weeks back he’d been sitting in his home poking a dwindling fire, trying to cook the last scraps of meat scrounged from the market days prior. While spinning the scraps he heard two distinct words ring through his broken window: ‘Abandoned house.’ Quickly, he sprang to his feet and stood by the door to continue his eavesdropping session.

‘You hadn’t heard?’

‘Nay?’

‘Oath, eastern-side of Greenwood, down a trail off the cobblestone houses, near the dock? House has been abandoned for months, near a year it’s just sat there ripe for browse.’

‘I, the oath?’ The second, smaller man laughed and sat down on the grass outside the beaten house. ‘You’ve known for months yet haven’t plundered nought? Fool.’

‘You’re very welcome to plunder all you wish, my friend, but there’s plenty a reason why men don’t go near that damned house.’

‘Ooooh, very scary.’ He undid his flask, ‘Right, I’ll bite… Why not?’ Sipping, he prepared for the tale.

‘I’ve not seen it me’self, but the words are always saying an enchantress resides, doing what I don’ know, protecting it perhaps. It’s a three storeyed abode and you think the only reason no one’s broken in is because it’s slightly out the way of the cosy homes, gives off a spooky feel? Something’s in there and I honestly don’t care what, you couldn’t line me pockets with enough gold to even kick in the backdoor.’

The seated man laughed, spitting water on the storyteller’s boots. ‘Alright, alright, story time’s over, we’ll continue this over a bottle later.’

At the very edge of the cobblestone path, the wolf stopped, rested against a house and sheltered himself under a wooden awning. He surveyed. No one was around during so late in the evening, especially with such heavy rain. Directly in front of him was the trail leading to the abandoned house; it was somehow well kept, even showing off an untouched wagon to its right. Surrounding it was around a hundred feet of grass, enclosed by woodland area on every side except that connecting it to Greenwood. To the east, he could see the rain had stopped in an area just beyond one of the pathways to the woods, though he had no time to hesitate in favour of his dryness. He pushed down the path, fifty paces from the house the rain slowly stopped, departing from right to left of his body. Then, as if planned, a girl skipped directly in front of him, stopping them both dead in their tracks.

A red cap, red cape, long golden hair, black boots and smile.

‘Hello mister! What are you doing out so late in the evening? And cold too!’ She spoke in a way of invincibility. As if even at night, alone, standing in front of an unknown man, she was in charge.

The wolf did nothing but look at the girl, wet hair stricken across his face.

‘Huh… You’re all wet. I’m just on my way home back to my mother, what a nice surprise to see someone out on my travels!’

‘Not bothered by the rain?’ The dry girl puzzled the wolf.

‘What rain? It’s been dryer than my grandma’s cakes all night, silly!’

He grew impatient at her seeming jokes. ‘You’re very young to be travelling alone.’

‘Ohhh, that doesn’t matter, so long as you’re quick! Didn’t you just see me skipping down that trail? I’m faster than any animal, a lion, a cheetah, even a wolf!’ She looked to her left in what seemed like a matter of urgency. ‘People call me Red, it was nice meeting you!’ Her words losing strength as she skipped away.

Checking to see if anyone witnessed what just happened, the lurker turned behind him, nothing. Then back to the girl, she was gone. A bizarre encounter indeed, paired with the even stranger occurrence that the rain had now returned. However, his confusion was short-lived; within seconds the wolf was back on track of his mission and into the mind-set of theft, or as the two men outside his house phrased it, ‘plundering.’ Wood splintered as he drove his foot through the centre of the cart’s wheel, leaving plenty of options to choose from. He slid his hand clockwise around the now broken spokes, choosing a long one and snapping it off at the remaining end. It fit perfectly in his hand, horrifically jagged on both sides and heavy enough to swing if need be.

Gliding over to the town-facing side of the house, he attempted to open the front door using a well-kept, pristine white crafting of wood with a golden handle. Grasping firmly he felt a warmth travel up his hand and through his body. He could compare it only to a fine glass of rum, or the rush before a fight. A very fitting thought in light of what was about to happen. Pure coincidence struck once more when the door breezed open with a gentle push; the house’s allure pulling the wolf in, greeting him with a peculiar experience. A home, fully furnished and well-lit with candles, brimming with warmth and an aroma of fresh bread. Yet no one was present, no one awake or in sight, no one tending to this bread. ‘Is anyone he-‘ before the words could leave his mouth, he was hit in the back with brute force. His weapon slid across the ground out of reach and he was thrown against the counter, held in place by hands around his throat. Another pair of eyes met his, they were pure white, belonging to no man. But the grip failed the attacker, allowing the wolf to throw the mindless husk off of him and crawl to his wood. Still on the ground and hearing the attacker rush closer, he spun, and using all turning momentum, impaled his foe.

You’re about to understand why we call them wolves. They’re bad people, incapable of  mercy, remorse, or any form of compassion.

Whatever this thing was, it was out of commission; but just because he could, the wolf retrieved his weapon from its stomach and beat it over the head. With two strong blows to the skull, blood poured from its eyes. Then, like a cat finished with its mouse, the wolf left the scene, uninterested, looking for the stairs which he found almost immediately near the back of this lavish home. He wandered through a living area to find another one of these husks sat in front of him, it appeared to be watching the stairs. The house was big, but not big enough that the seated sentry wouldn’t hear what had happened in the other room. The wolf banged his weapon against the wall, no response. He stepped to his side, evading the husk’s vision and ending his movement directly behind it. A non-lethal choke would have sufficed, even another swift blow of blunt force trauma to the head, but no. The wolf cocked his hands high above his head, gripping the wood in between. With a furious slam of his feet, the lumber had now entered and exited its second body in two minutes. From point A, the soft top of the skull, to point B, the bottom of the mouth. ‘You can keep that.’ He laughed, kicking the husk in the jaw, indignifying it further as its limp body slumped off the chair.

What was he even doing here anymore, quenching a bloodlust? Killing for sport? He came to plunder, yet he’d picked not a single antique, no coins, no jewellery, no silverware.

He continued up the stairs. They split into a left and right flight, both leading to opposite sides of the same landing. As he sauntered up the white carpeted stairs, he made sure his feet lingered, wiping a bloody boot on each step they encountered. At the top were two rooms, with a copy on the other side and another set of stairs around the corner. He treated his curiosity, kicking in one of the two doors to find a small room. It was filled with one husk, sleeping, flat-backed on a single bed. ‘Thank goodness you’re deaf.’ Was his only interaction with it before punching it, throwing it out of bed and treading on its throat.

At this point I’d had enough. I’d seen everything: the murders, the skipping of the child, even the overheard conversation about my ‘abandoned’ home. I blinked from the attic he’d so foolishly ignored to the bedroom.

‘You’re killing my child.’ I said from the doorway.

‘Oh, he’s already de-‘ I had no time for his audacity, I flew forward, held his arm and we returned to the attic. He let out a scream. It would appear that in our rush I’d torn his shoulder from its socket. ‘You’re quite fragile too, it seems.’

‘What in God’s name just happened? Where am I? Please, have mercy, my arm is truly broken, look!’ He flailed his arm at me.

‘I do not care for your flesh, human. And… You ask me for mercy? Mercy, that’s strange word to be used by a wolf.’ I tugged on his arm. It was visibly weak so I ripped it from the host and threw it, only to have him fall unconscious.

‘I forget how weak you people are.’ A harsh palm to the head and flick of fire to close his wound woke him.

‘What…’ He could barely talk, bless him. ‘What do you want from me, you’ve taken my arm. I am sorry. Just let me leave with my body.’

‘Your body? Oh that’s not your body anymore. There’s a reason why they call those people wolves. You people. The murderers, the thieves, the turned watchers of my home. Look, I’ll cut to the fun part and show you the end-result, the final form! The appearance that oh-so rarely accompanies the folklore of a wolf. The wolf!”

I gave another flick, his arm healed but at double the size and with black, matted fur. He grew about nine feet tall, eyes as big as saucers, fangs protruding from his disgusting mouth. You’ve heard of a werewolf, surely?

‘W’AT FE FUCK HAF YOU DONE TO ME, YOU WHORE.’

‘Strange, they’re usually obedient upon transformation, count to ten for me?’

‘I WILL KILL…’ obedience struck, ‘…One, two, three.’

‘Very good. Now, we’ll start with something simple, wolf. You enjoyed killing my watchers? My children…’ It still hurt. ‘You appear to kill brutally, yet impartially, so we’ll test your newfound loyalty since you’ll be killing for me now. The young girl in the red cap and cape, you remember her?’

A quiet snarl was his only response.

‘Find and kill her for me, I don’t care who’s affected or how it’s done. Dress up like her damned grandmother for all I care. I just want Little Red Cap dead.’

Glass, Act I.

Before so much as acknowledging the existence of the glass wall in front of him, he had already begun to evaluate the contents on the other side. A room, the same size and shape as his own, with identical furnishings, yet placed in mirror opposite positions. The other room’s table was in the furthest corner from his own and stood next to the bed, which held the only unique item between the two domains. A sheet, crumpled up, covering the pillow and half the bed.

He guessed the glass to be around three inches thick, and showing no sign of a beginning, looking into where the glass began lead only to more whiteness. No signs of screws, bearings, metal, or any type of material one would normally associate with holding this kind of structure in place. He turned, taking his focus away from the glass and noticing that all around him, everywhere he looked, no matter which spot he laid eyes on; this room was so clean, in place, the ideal words had escaped him but the environment was just… eerily satisfying. Yet he still had no idea as to where he was, how long he’d been there, or even why he’d awoken in the bed behind him. In fact, he couldn’t even recall how he came to be standing, investigating the glass.

Regardless, he looked around, starting with his own body. A glance down revealed that he was wearing an entirely plain white outfit consisting of: t-shirt and trousers which cut off at the ankle. His bare feet were cool, standing on pristine white tiles a foot wide, laid beautifully along the floor. Between them were horizontal and vertical lines indenting the ground at around an inch deep. The bed he woke up on behind him in the corner, white, the table next to it, also white. The walls which carried the same tiled and lined aesthetic as the floor, though in only a vertical fashion, were white. With the ceiling identically mimicking the floor tiles, of course being white.

On second viewing, the glass didn’t take up the entire wall it was embedded in, exploring further he found that there was one section of tile on either side of the glass. He slid a hand across – it was smooth, releasing a squeak as it passed seamlessly over the flush transition between tile and glass. A certain sense of relief came over him, he wasn’t deaf. Even though somehow feeling a cool flow of air enter the room, he had still heard nothing except a slight whirr inside his ears. He continued the mindless transition several more times, eliciting more of these oh-so grounding squeaks.

Then the sheet fell.

He noticed out the corner of his eye. The sheet rolled off the bed and hit the floor. No sound of any kind travelled to him, but what he witnessed showed more impact than any sheet could garner. Face fully pressed against the wall, he tapped, wondering what this actually was. Tap tap tap. Nothing. As he screwed up his fist he winced, it hurt. His hands were in physical pain and he had no idea why, but he used them. Thump thump thump. Again, nothing. Not only did he gain no kind of reaction from the sheet, but also from the wall. His offense had no result, not on the wall’s integrity, not on the sheet, not even on the sound spectrum. His taps and thumps did nothing for his cause except expose the current fragile state of  his body.

One last idea circled his brain before he’d turn to contemplation for a new plan. He remembered that behind him stood a table, next to his bare bed. The table’s legs were wooden, rounded, and roughly three feet high, leading to an empty platform for any items. Items he didn’t have. Which made him wonder why there was even a table here to begin with; but before he’d even reached his second thought, his hands were wrapped around two adjacent legs and he was standing in the centre of the wall. His hands ached as he gripped this table and while holding it up he felt weaker by the second.

Taking a deep breath in, he reached back and with his entire body weight moving sideways, swung the table against the glass wall. Swing one, the table hopelessly bounced back. He gained his composure and swung again. Swing two, hitting even harder, he felt the structure deteriorating in his hands, but swung again without a pause. Swing three, the frame had become bent and was shivering between his hands. In a final effort he threw what used to be a table at the glass wall. It shattered, two legs rolled into different areas of the room, the platform split into three uneven pieces and the other two legs landed in tandem on his bare feet.

Angry, frustrated and now extremely worn-out, he evaluated the situation while the ringing in his ears calmed and he caught his breath. There was no sound produced when he made contact with the glass and looking closer, he saw not a single sign of damage to the wall. Bending down, he rubbed his feet which were now red from the weight of the table legs, but as he rubbed he felt a sharp pain in his hand. While swinging the table it had splintered and left shards of wood in his palms. Harshly pulling one out, the once white wood shard was now a dark crimson, trickling blood over his white trouser leg and the now not-so pristine white tiles. Checking again, there were still several more splinters enveloped horizontally in his right palm.

But he wasn’t done.

As he picked up the two closest table legs, he scraped them along the tile to produce sound, which he found oddly satisfying. The pain in his hands was now ten-fold to what he felt earlier, but he grit his teeth and gripped the wood, bloodying it as he did so. A last ditch effort of one swing.. two swing.. three swing.. five swing.. eight swing.. ten swings later his eyes blurred and he wondered if his legs would carry the weight of his body. Without being capable of so much as looking at the possible damage caused by his soundless swings, he fell to one knee.

Hyperventilating and losing vision fast, he placed a second knee down and rested his head on the unharmed glass. Then, as he faded through states of consciousness, he could see it. The sheet was shuffling. He woke again to see it slowly inching forward, showing nothing but wrinkles in the material. Waking another few seconds later he saw hands whiter than the tile it crawled on, helping the sheet move closer to the glass. Seeing the cloth now feet in front of him, he attempted to move his stubborn body. It refused. Left eye fading, he tried desperately to keep one eye on the sheet. Through blurred vision, black nails scratched into the ground, clawing the sheet forward, a mere arm’s reach from the glass wall. Waking one final time, body completely stiff, safe only by this unforgiving glass wall.

He saw it.

Its head pressed adamantly against the opposite side of the glass. Stringy black hair draped over its ghostly-pale, ripped skin. Only two monstrously orange eyes were visible, locked directly onto his own, watching.

/End of act I.

(Glass is an original and purely recreational story idea I thought of and decided to capitalise on. Thank you for reading and remember: if you enjoyed this post, you can follow me on Twitter @GWEWriting, share it on social media or check out some of my other articles. Thank you very much, I appreciate your support!)