Liz Leighton

Up the Hill

“I wish I could teleport,” I say. “This hill is far too-”

“Did you say ‘fart?” Oliver asked.

He whips his head to widen his eyes in accusation at me.

“No, you did!” He said. “You said ‘fart!”

I press my lips together and hold the scream of frustration in my mouth. I don’t even bother to blame myself for saying the words “far” and “too” in succession of one another. It’s been years of blaming myself for the sake of fairness; I am done. 

It’s the sort of summer day that people refer to as “beautiful”, but my heart yearns for the cooler temperatures of autumn. Black clouds of gnats populate the area at random. The neighborhood smells like tires. A sun sneeze loiters behind my nose and eyes. The blue raspberry syrup sky seems too low, like the ceiling of a boiler room. 

None of this I say out loud. It would be further evidence of my bad attitude. After all, he is the fun loving one. 

“Complaining is your lifeblood,” he likes to say.

I do not want to confirm this. I do not want to be negative. I swear. That said, the heat death of the universe would be a welcome change of pace.

“What’s that?” Oliver asks.

I didn’t bother to look, assuming it was another trick of his. Knowing Oliver, I would turn my head directly into a mud ball in the face or at least be treated to the sight of two homeless people fucking in public.

“I don’t know, Oliver,” I say. “What is it?”

“I-I really don’t know,” Oliver says.

His voice is like a rubber band stretched too tight. Following his gaze, a lone figure stands. Skulking in a small park across the street, it is hard to see clearly as the shade of a towering conifer veils it in darkness. Too immense to be a person, it is like an immense pile of black fabric, but the way it moves and flows is as if the wind is blowing only in the spot where it stands. Everywhere else, the air is stagnant.

“Let’s go over there,” Oliver says.

I continue to walk up the hill.

“This is why you’re depressed,” says Oliver. “You never want to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.”

“I’m not depressed,” I say.

I stride toward the ominous figure, partially to prove it, partially to get away from Oliver. As I cross the street, the acrid flavor that fills my mouth gets strong with each step until my eyes begin to water.

Oliver follows, chattering something I cannot hear. The air pressure drops as we approach. My ears pop.

In the folds of the wraithlike blackness, something resembling a face emerges. It is white and eyeless, like a theater mask. This should not happen, not during the day. Something about the world arounds me tells me that it is not actually the day, just a simulacrum of it. It isn’t night either; I have fallen into an absence of time.

What am I doing?

I turn. The look on Oliver’s face tells me not to turn back again. He’s been exsanguinated of all mirth. His eyes go waxy. He is dead before he even begins to fall to the ground.

“Oh my god…” I whisper. “This is far too-”

An ungodly croak emanates from behind me, taciturn and mephitic, as only the pure embodiment of evil can be. The sound warps and ungulates until it becomes words I can understand.

“Did you say ‘fart?” It says.

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