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The Cleansing

by Kevin Slimmer 4 months ago in fiction

by Kevin Slimmer

The Cleansing
Photo by Craventure Media on Unsplash

There's a place where you can wash away your problems, with a simple swim. As I stand in front of the Healing Springs, I am hesitant. My heart races and I start to sweat. The anguish and pain I feel overwhelm my every thought.

Three days ago, I failed to end my pain. I stood on that bridge looking down to the water and rocks 100 feet below me, willing myself to take that step. I couldn't.

Three weeks later, I met someone. Not like that. Romance hasn't been part of my life in a very long time and is something that doesn't interest me. I struggle to lift my heavy body out of bed every day. Caring for another person is something I just can't fathom. This, someone, was just a stranger. I was sitting at a table at a local coffee shop, drinking a coffee, like I do every morning, trying to jumpstart my will to move. I was staring into the blackness of the caffeine-filled liquid when I heard a voice.

"Can I join you?"

I looked up to see a middle-aged man, wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans. He was tall and seemed to be in his late forties or early fifties. He had long black hair pulled back in a ponytail with a full black beard that hid his slender pale face. His bright blue eyes were framed by round glasses. He smiled to show his white, perfect teeth.

"I... uh... sure." I wanted to say no, but like the people pleaser I am, I didn't.

The man sat down.

By Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

"I won't take up a lot of your time, and I'm not trying to pick you up. Not that you aren't worth picking up. Forgive me, I'm rambling." The man smiled his bright smile, and then his face made an ominous transformation. He stared through me. His voice was low and serious. "You will try again and you will succeed. I have another option." He slid a folded piece of paper towards me. I looked down at it, not moving. "Go ahead, open it."

I picked it up, unfolded it, and started to read.

Go here. Bathe. Cleanse yourself. Heal. Be Reborn. Latitude: 33-21'29'' N Longitude: 081-16'14'' W

I looked up, and the man was gone. I looked down to make sure I was still holding the paper. My hands are trembling. I swiveled my head around to find the man. He was gone.

Making the decision to go was easy. What did I have to lose? My family is gone. I have no real friendships. My fiancée left me. The pain overwhelms me, my skin feels uncomfortable wrapped around my bones and muscles.

After I return to my small apartment, I enter the coordinates into Google, and it shows me Blackville, South Carolina. After some internet research, there is a place called Healing Springs that many have travelled to for its healing powers. I scoff at the ignorance of the desperate. My smugness turns quickly into empathy. I understand the need for hope, the quest for wholeness and joy. The next day I would leave.

I am alone in front of the Springs. I disrobe and stand naked, staring into the water before me. The warm summer wind wraps itself around me, almost holding me. I hesitate. A voice whispers in the air.

"Cleanse yourself. Be Reborn."

I look around, but I'm alone. I shudder as goosebumps overtake my ill-fitting skin. Doubt creeps in. The voice shrieks, "GO NOW!" The caressing wind now becomes a violent push from behind. I stumble into the Springs, landing on my hands and knees. I try and stand, but something has grabbed my ankle and is pulling me in deeper. Clawing at the ground beneath the water to no avail, I am pulled under. Blackness envelops me.

By Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

My eyes open and I am underwater in darkness. I frantically swim up towards the light above. As my body races towards the surface, I feel a sensation of something being stripped away from me. I'm leaving something behind. I'm shedding parts of me. It feels like my soul, or my inner-self, is being pulled out of me as I swim upwards. Finally, I break the surface. I swim towards the edge of the spring and collapse next to my clothes. I sleep.

When I wake, it is hours later, the sun is almost set. I put my clothes on and make my way back to my car for my long ride home. I pause on the trail to assess how I feel. Lightness has replaced the heaviness I once felt. My skin fits perfectly. But, something is wrong. There is an emptiness within me. I can hear the echo in my thoughts and with every heartbeat. I run panicked to my car, wanting to go home.

About an hour away from my dingy, lonely apartment, my eyes start to feel heavy as I drive. I blink hard and rub my eyes. After 12 hours in my car, I just want to sink into my bed. I adjust my rearview mirror to help remove the glare from the headlights behind me. A shadow stares back at me from my back seat. I slam on my brakes and pull to the right as the car behind me swerves around me with the horn blaring obscenities at me. I turn around to look into the back seat, to only find my overnight bag. Releasing a huge breath, I turn my head back, only to see the dark faceless shadow sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I try and scream, but nothing comes out. The Shadow lunges towards me as I jump backwards, hitting my back and my head on the door. I try and scream again, but again nothing. The Shadow transforms into a mist and as I inhale, the shadow enters me. The emptiness inside me is now filled.

I wake up in my bed 12 hours later. Panic consumes me as I fling the covers from me. I am naked and I feel violated. Although alone, I cover my breasts with my hands, sensing someone watching me. My head swivels, looking for any sign of an intruder. Still alone, I get out of my bed and see the clothes I was wearing on the floor. Dread overwhelms me as I pick them up to exam them. I scream and drop the blood-soaked clothes. I run into the bathroom to throw up. After my body finished purging itself, I lift myself up and look into the mirror. Dried blood surrounds my mouth. A whimper escapes my throat as I frantically scrub my face.

Dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt, I sit on my couch shaking in fear. I gnaw at my nails until I'm chewing on skin.

The man, I must find the bearded man!

I pull my long blonde hair into a ponytail, slip into a pair of sneakers, and head towards the coffee shop, hoping to find the stranger. As I walk on the sidewalk towards my destination, I notice my reflection in a storefront window. I stop. All color leaves my body. The shadow man is next to me. Without reason, I start to run. A chill shoots through my spine as a voice whispers in my ear.

"You can't run away from me."

I stop. Breathing heavily with my hands on my knees, I start to sob. A woman comes up to me and asked, "Honey, what's wrong, do you need help?"

I open my mouth to lie and tell her I'm fine, but I feel the shadow flood the emptiness again, and its voice answers her with my mouth.

"Leave me alone, BITCH!" It lifts my head and stares at her with blackened eyes and lets out a menacing cackle. She runs from me, as do the other onlookers. It leaves me again as I am back in control for now.

"What do you want from me?" I asked aloud.

In my ear, I hear that evil whisper answer, "I'm hungry." My eyes widen as the image of the blood around my mouth flashes before me. What did I eat?

I hurriedly leave before my behavior attracts the police. I make my way to the coffee shop. There is no bearded man, as I enter. I am the only customer. A large black coffee sits in front of me as I wait at the same table, the bearded man visited me a week ago. After about an hour, I stand up and leave before I attract any more attention. Avoiding looking at storefront windows, I walk home with my head down. I can feel the shadow man as I pull him along.

"I'M HUNGRY!" A voice screams in my ear. Blackness.

I wake up naked in my bed again in the middle of the night. I pounce out of bed and into the bathroom. The mirror shows the wet blood that surrounds my mouth. My clothes on the floor are wet with blood. I clean up, dress, and start pacing. Between the panic and the tears, I can hear the shadow man mockingly laugh. He is slowly taking over. Instead of walking next to me, I can feel him holding on to me as I carry him. He only enters when he's hungry, but he wants all of me.

I walk around the streets near the coffee shop, hoping to find the bearded man. The sun starts to rise, and I fear the shadow man will get hungry again. I don't think about what he is eating, but a newspaper sitting on a bench doesn't let me avoid the horror. The headline reads,

"ANOTHER STRANGE ANIMAL ATTACK KILLS FIFTH WOMAN THIS MONTH"

I read the article. It stated that five young women have been eaten by an unidentified animal. Some aren't ruling out homicide. My body purges after realizing what the blood on my face was. I wipe the vomit off my face and decide to finish what I started.

As I look down off the bridge once more, I feel better. I need to remove the evil I have allowed into this world. I step forward to jump, when the shadow man screams, "NO!" He enters me and removes me from the edge. My arms are his now, and he strikes me in the face. He slaps me and tries to scratch me, with my chewed-off nails. He is punishing me with my body. My legs are now under his control as he runs me straight into a beam. I fall. He releases me. I scream through tears, "OK! OK! I won't jump."

I gather myself. Dizziness and pain make it difficult to stand. I feel a hand help me to my feet. I turn to see who it is. The bearded man stares at me with wide eyes. "YOU!" He turns to leave. I grab him and pull. "NO! WHAT DID YOU DO!" We fall to the ground. He starts to sob.

"I'm so sorry! I'm SO sorry!"

"What did you DO?"

"I... I gave you what someone gave me, that was the only way."

"The only way for what?"

The shadow man laughs in my ear, sending shivers throughout my body. He then says, "To get rid of me." He then enters me again, but this time he lets me watch. I don't black out, I'm conscious. We are sharing my body, but he is the pilot, and I'm just a passenger. The bearded man sees my eyes turn black and tries to run. I leap into the air and land on him. With my hands, I grab his head and smash it into the concrete. I watch as the light leaves the bearded man's eyes. I then bite into his face and pull off his nose and chew. The shadow man spits it out and growls, "I hate the taste of men." He stands, wipes off my face, and puts me back in control. In shock, I walk home and sleep.

The next day I walk around knowing what I need to do. I am now able to sense a person's misery, their vulnerability. That's how the bearded man found me. I stare at people, looking for the right person. In this world, it doesn't take long to find them. He is right in front of me. I follow him until he sits down on a bench with a blueberry muffin waiting for a bus. Just staring at the muffin, his melancholy emanates from him like heat. I sit down next to him, hand him the same paper the bearded man gave me, and simply say, "This will make it go away." As he reads, I disappear into the crowd. Now I wait.

One week later, after 3 more shadow man feedings, the shadow man shares my body all the time. The police have now labeled the 8 women, brutally murdered by some psychotic cannibal. This has led the media to call the serial killer, The Cannibal. It is only a matter of time before I am caught. However, I believe that when the shadow man is in control, I don't leave my DNA behind. It's just a theory, but it's not like he is careful with my body. I don't feel anymore, I am just a vessel.

As I am about to lay down, which is mostly what I do, I feel the shadow man leave me as I exhale. One last evil cackle echoes in my head as he is expelled from me for good. What's left of me is clarity, energy, and hope. When all is said and done, the Healing Springs did heal me.

The End

fiction

Kevin Slimmer

I have worked in Human Services for over 25 years. I am married with three children, living in New York. I recently finished my first novel, The Shelter, available on Amazon.


https://www.kevinslimmerauthor.com/

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