Chapter: Brave the Storm

Entry: Aug 1, 2007
It sat in the distance, obscured to a ghostly outline by windblown powder, listing badly to the left, an ethereal pirate-ship cursed to sink for eternity and menace these snowy seas. It looked eerie out there all by itself, and Kyle chewed his lip indecisively. There was still one remaining task, a little thing really, that sent his stomach to his feet and plied him with an acute shiver unencumbered by hint of cold. I gotta go in there!? Storm or not, his bag still held Arin's diary, with her last laments on piebald and crumbling pages. One question harried his mind even more than the nearly crippling fear of whatever malignant geist or shade jealously guarded its secrets: would there be another diary? It was a critical point, for if there wasn't, he'd obviously plumbed its depths before, though his memory belied that notion. If there was... well, that introduced even more onerous possibilities. Either way, he couldn't keep reading his journal every day without a definitive memento. Sorry Mack, them's the breaks. He pressed his body hard against the wall with his legs, alternating his weight left and right while sliding up its meager remains until he crouched defensively, having exposed himself to the still malevolent winds. But those powerful blasts were at his back, ruffling his coat loudly—Kyle wished absently for a pair of skis—easing his trek to the looming schoolhouse. Yeah, thanks. Sarcasm; like ice-cream, but far more therapeutic. It didn't take long, thankfully. The closer he came to the dirty white building, the easier the other sounds came. Smaller boards groaned while bulkier supports rumbled in agonized harmony with the assaulting currents of air; it was a symphony of opposing stresses that could only culminate with an inspiring crescendo as it triumphantly collapsed upon itself. Kyle really, really hoped that wouldn't happen during this particular storm. Then again, being off the hook would be a nice change, to no longer dangle like fat, juicy bait over a tank sporting one ravenous and temperamental pirana. A cute, fluffy, rotting, desiccated, demonic pirana. Kyle shuddered, unable to fend off similar and less appetizing mental images as his mind occupied itself, inspired by this maliciously banal landscape. Almost there, and his worst enemy was still himself. Can I get a refund on my imagination? This one only tunes into the bad channels. Nope, sorry kid. We're fresh out. But he'd finally arrived. The wind urged him on, pounding like an unrelenting surf, forcing him to resist hurtling through the front door, broken porch and railings notwithstanding. Nothing said he would remain upright in the exchange. He tried staring through the wall of flurries swirling in the crooked doorjamb, hoping to catch even a fleeting glimpse of the teacher's desk so he could avoid entering the forsaken shanty, but no such luck. The school's mostly broken windows, lack of a door, and pronounced pitch formed a gigantic mixing-bowl where nothing could escape. Snow had drifted mostly to the left wall, but several inches were pressed along the periphery by lazily flowing eddies. And the main room was a milky haze of drifting white, a veritable vat of tepid Blizzard Stew. No choice but to brave the phantoms. In he went, a quick jump and a frantic sustained scurry as he fought against the implicit tilt in the floor and the slick, frozen boards, to reach the other side where the teacher's desk haphazardly jutted from the back wall. He grabbed an edge of the antiquated bulk for support, and rabidly devoured the desktop with his eyes, seeking one morsel of evidence the diary had been there. It was so obvious he almost missed it. So obvious it was impossible, quite against the very laws of physics in fact. There was an imprint, definite and solid, with crisp lines as if cut with a newly whetted razor. It was shaped like Arin's diary, what he could remember of it—the one in his bag, so far unmolested by the elements since he rescued it—glaring back at him full of accusation. Kyle swore he could even see faint edges an inch or two above the desk, or maybe an occasional tincture of solidity as a heavier dusting sped like silk over the spectral cover hovering in that same, empty spot. Unbelieving, he stabbed his hand into the contrary serenity, only to find his fingertips resting on dry—albeit, cold and otherwise unremarkable—wood. Nothing there. Shit. Shit! The desk no longer interested Kyle in the slightest. It may as well have been a pulsating cube of tongues slithering messily among a frothy mixture of giant cockroaches and heavily-salted slugs. He hastily withdrew his hand and staggered backwards toward the door. The shock was only momentary, because when his wits finally returned in force, he turned and bolted through the door as if outrunning an impending explosion. He didn't care when he tripped over an uneven board in the outside decking, not even as he careened ungracefully into the snow. He didn't care that the wind was coming from the North, and he'd have to fight it for almost two miles to finally get home. Not one concern of curfew or homework usurped his most prevalent desire: get home, just get the hell home. So he launched himself upright, gathered his bag, checked for Arin's diary, and poured nervous and abundant energy into his legs, lurching into a hard and surprisingly effortless journey back to Tanglewood Drive. Not to say the wind had lost strength, but Kyle's conviction and urgency pumped adrenalin through him, and even if a stiff mass of sore muscles tomorrow, he'd neutered its bluster. Kyle's mind was a complete and blissful blank until the second he opened his front door and collapsed on the stairway in the foyer. He knew he'd never remember that run, but it didn't matter. Everything else, each damning and distressing detail, shone like brilliantly polished crystal.
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