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PREFACE: We had to read these aloud in class. I did the voices. Well, it could've been wause.

Whispering. Murmuring. A thousand little voices beleaguering me all at once, drowning me in indescribable words and metaphors. I try to speak, but no words exit my mouth. Whispering permits talking and talking transforms into yelling until yelling becomes screaming, and such screams deafen myself and send me into a frenzy, gasping for air. Again, my attempts to speak out are futile and my opportunity to escape has vanished--or perhaps it was never really there. Screaming. Roars. Violence of the voice. I am drowning--drowning in a sea of both screams and what appears to be a mountain of crimson red flowers. Screams grow in volume, and my vision becomes black.

Crackling fire in the distance is my gateway back to reality as I hurriedly sit up from my sleeping bag and realize that I've undergone yet another nightmare--the third one this week alone. Wiping sweat off my brow, I get out of bed (if one can call this ragged and torn bedroll a bed at all) and exit my tent to investigate the crackling of the fire.

"So, ye'wake. Ye usually sleep through ‘em."

Recognizing the voice as belonging to none other than my hiking partner, I rub my eyes and take a seat across from him on a rather uncomfortably misshapen log. A fire burns intensely between us. He offers me a spoonful of beans, but I pass and, instead, answer him.

"Yeah, sorry if I was making noises again, Shaun."

"It'only gets wause, it seems. Ye always sound intensely afreyed," Shaun replied, shaking his head. "Sometimes aye try to wake ye, but you only wake up on yer own terms."

Laying both my hands on the log, I stare upwards towards the pitch black sky, currently draped in thick enough clouds that serve only to hide the brilliant stars. There is a pause, and both I and Shaun are reluctant to be the first to shatter the silence until I feel a sudden chill.

"Hah, uh, looks like this fire isn't doing its job tonight. Be right back, I'm gonna grab a blanket." I said. Shaun shakes his head once more and retorts, "Alweys thought ye were too much a babe for this trip." I grow indignant. "I'm just cold, Sean. I'm just cold. I've handled the woods so far--now let me go grab something to keep warm."

Realizing I forgot to zip up the tent after stepping out, I berate myself mentally for the lapse in judgment and promise to not forget again while I enter the tent. I place my hand onto the itchy and wool blanket that has served a double edged purpose for the past week and yank it off the sleeping bag (again, if one can call that pathetic sewn garbage such a thing). Turning around to, once again, exit the tent, I realize something was off. My eyes return to the bedroll, and I notice… something strange. Lying on the "bed" is a single crimson flower, its thorns sharp and its blood red color pure.

"Wot's takin' ye so long, huh? Ye decide to head back to bed? Y'should." Shaun calls out. I emerge from the tent with the flower gripped and answer him. "I forgot the blanket... but why don't you take a look at this?" Presenting the blood fused flower to Shaun, I awaited an answer that I knew I wouldn't like. Once again, hesitation in the air was palpable, and no man present wished to break the silence.

Moments pass until Shaun lowers his beans onto the ground and stands up to face me, beckoning me with a command, "Boy. Aye think y'better give that flower back to me."

"I know what this flower is," I retort, feeling sweat beads roll down my forehead as I realize that this confrontation may not end well. "I've seen them before in the witches' huts that we passed before. I've seen them before in the stories my father used to tell to spook me. Hell… I've been seeing them in my dreams. I know about the flowers and the curse and the fire that--"

Shaun paused. "... Why don't ye go and take a seat, boy. We better chat a bit now that the situation's… evolved." I grew ever more indignant. "I'll sit when you're body grows cold, Shaun."

Any other words I would be capable of forming were suddenly shut up when he drew a flintlock pistol from his jacket and aimed it directly towards my temple. No matter how dark it was, the gleaming silver of the pistol was a present force. His voice grew more grating as he commanded that I "sit, aye said, boy." This time, I chose to, and as I sat once more upon the incredibly uncomfortable log, I began to regret forgetting to bring the blanket with me outside.

Trees around us rustled as clouds began to dissipate and reveal the bulbous form of the moon overhead. Shaun lowered his pistol down to my chest, resting his firing hand onto his knee, and he took his seat as well, though his log appeared to look more… log-ish.

"I never should have agreed to go with you," I said. "I could've found my own way." Shaun laughed at this and replied, "Ahaha, no, boy, no ye couldn't have. Aye'm the best damned tracker of these words--of this country, even." I grit my teeth. "So you just want the treasure for yourself, huh? Maybe you're the best tracker of this country, but you're also probably a good candidate for the greediest, too."

He didn't seem to like my insult, and he raised the pistol back to eye level. "Kid, aye don't give a rat's arse if some grand wizard or a stinking hobo imparted you with the knowledge of a secret treasure trove--" he began. "Ye don't deserve it. Ye wouldn't even have a clue on what to do with all of it…" Shaun paused. "... or half of it, for that matter.

Gritting my teeth hard enough to shatter them, I yelled out louder than the screaming in my head, "So, your solution is to trick me by thinking you'll be my--my hiking partner and track down the treasure, only to steal the secret from my mind with… with this?!" I presented the crimson flower once more, and as I could tell with the way he was shaking his pistol, he knew what I intended.

I spoke up once more, cutting off whatever Shaun was about to say. "The witch spoke to both of us, Shaun. I know what this does--it steals the memories of whoever it lies upon and stores it within its nectar." Shaun readied his pistol and screamed at me to stop, but I resisted while sweat continued to drip down my forehead. "And I--I know another thing, Shaun. I know what happens when you burn these--when you destroy them."

The spit nearly flew out of his screaming and agape mouth. "Boy, I said--boy, ye just give me that damn flower and aye don't shoot ye sorry arse. Dae want to die? Here? Without the money? The treasure?" His words came in one ear and out the other, and I spoke aloud, "When you burn these… as you already know, whoever instructed the witch to curse these is to be burned all the same."

Raising his flintlock pistol towards the sky, Shaun pulled the trigger and fired, rustling the entire forest as birds awoke from their rest and scattered amongst the trees. His eyes burned more fiercely than the fire between us. "Aye won't say it again, boy. Drop. The. Flower."

The longest pause. Trees silenced. Fire crackling. A moon lighting the stage. I regretted that wizard for dooming me to this situation. Wiping the sweat one more time, I stood up and answered his demand.


Dropping the flower into the burning hell of the campfire, Shaun shrieked and pulled the trigger, hitting in the chest and completely forcing me off the log. I groaned in intense pain, but it was nothing compared to the ghoulish screaming of the criminal before me, who writhed in agony as his body deformed to ash and dust. He was there one moment, and then… he wasn't.

I dropped my chest and laid on the flat, bare ground, staring at the moon ahead. It shone so brilliantly, as if it wanted to get as clear a view of the scenario under it as possible. I cursed the wizard under my breath, and then cursed the bastard--who was now a pile of nothing--as well. My head fell to the right, and I was face to face with my tent flap--unzipped. Cursing my own name and my forgetfulness, it was the last thing I would see before I closed my eyes.