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by Chris Goodwin
I can still hear them. Oh, God.
I know they’re not there, there’s nobody there. Nobody is talking to me. Nobody is talking. Nobody.
Did I see something move? Every now and then, I fall for that one. I should have learned by now, but I– There it is again! Nothing.
I can hear them. Always.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
I live here, in the forest. Nobody comes around here. Nobody comes, except for them.
I’m getting off topic already, aren’t I?
I used to live with my wife–
I lived with my wife and daughter, until just recently. Margaret was her name. My father trapped and sold pelts, while my mother taught at the school. She taught me writing. My father traded with a man with a daughter, Margaret. She was shy. It was her father’s idea to write to each other.
The letters arrived. At first, they were very short. Maybe a page. After a time, though, she grew comfortable telling me things she’d tell nobody. I’m lying if I said I didn’t feel the same way.
Who’s there? Never-mind.
After years, I finally met her and we were in love. I assumed, at least.
Years passed, and we married. She moved to our little town.
There was a bad accident. My father didn’t make it. I took over. She didn’t like that, but she smiled anyway. And then we had our beautiful daughter.
And then I met him.
Checking my lines at the river, I looked up and there he was. Tall man, thin. Dark eyes. That smile.
Is someone at the door? No, it can’t be. No, no, I’ll check.
Ah… I knew better.
Him. Right. Sorry.
He told me things. Horrible things. “Your Margaret doesn’t love you. She doesn’t need you.”
I told him to shut up.
“The whole town thinks you’re a fool. But I can help. I can give you three wishes! Just ask!”
I asked why? He shrugged. I agreed to get him to leave. He left.
I went home early, spooked. Went home to my family.
She was there, with someone else.
“No!” I remember screaming.
We fought later. She said she was leaving with my daughter. That she didn’t need me.
And then I said it.
“I wish you needed me more than anyone ever!”
“Granted,” his voice whispered. Margaret fell, sick. She dropped our daughter to the floor. She bled, while Margaret turned white. It was–
I can’t describe it. Not thinking, I said out loud, “I didn’t want this! Make it stop! Make it stop for both of them!”
“Granted!” The voice spoke louder. His voice.
I buried them the next day, and moved away from the town. I drank. I got scared.
And I said “I wish I wasn’t alone anymore.”
And there it was. Loud. Yelling. Piercing.