Chapter 6

Banan stood only two yards away from Jon. He didnít look threatening. He didnít look agitated at all. He looked very calm, but his eyes were a hollow black that Jon recognized. Jon held his gun before him, making an effort to keep his hands from trembling.

"Will you kill me?" The boy asked blankly.

"Shouldnít I?" Jon asked, speaking slowly to keep his voice from shaking. "All those people..."

"Yes," Banan said calmly, "All those people... You killed them. Itís your fault theyíre dead."

Jonís eyebrows rose in surprise, "Me?" He repeated incredulously, "I didnít do anything!"

Banan didnít say anything.

"Why wasnít Hanna killed?" Jon asked suddenly, "In all the other murders everyone in the area was killed. But Hanna wasnít even hurt."

Banan didnít reply.

"The riddle," Jon mused, "You wanted to remind me of the riddle, didnít you? But whatís so important about the riddle?"

"Will you kill me?" Banan repeated, taking a step closer to Jon.

Jonís knuckles tightened on the gun for a moment before he let it drop in defeat. He couldnít shoot him. Not after all the time heíd spent with the boy. He was strange... but Jon didnít really believe he was a murderer. There had to be something more to it. The riddle.

"Man fears and women longs," Jon said out loud, "For child... thatís right, isnít it? Youíre the child in the riddle, Banan."

Banan didnít reply but stopped mid-step to stare at Jon. Jon continued, undaunted.

"Masked hides, plain in sight... that means the killer, whatever it is," Jon said, "It hides in plain sight and behind a mask... it hides in you."

Banan stared levelly at the man, his black eyes lifeless but still managing to look inquisitive.

"Fruit heals," Jon continued, "The apple in the cider calms the... whatever it is inside you. Bitterness rallies it to come out again. To quell the fear of death... no, not to quell fear, to quell the monster."

"The monster can be quelled by what death is afraid of." Jon faltered. What death is afraid of? That didnít make any sense. But what else could it be? What could it be? The final answer to the riddle.

Banan took another step forward, coming out of the trance like state.

"What death fears," Jon repeated desperately, trying to think of something that would fit that definition. Some clue in what the boy had said to him.

"Do you hate me, Jon?" Banan asked, his youthful face emotionless and his dark eyes empty.

"What?" Jon asked. Then it hit him. Banan took another step toward him.

"Love," Jon said. The boy frowned slightly and paused. "What death fears is love," Jon repeated confidently, "Because love is the only thing that can defeat it." Despite everything, a small smile pulled at Jonís lips, "My father read to me from that book, too."

The expression on the boyís face suddenly broke like a storm. Anger, fear, and disgust written all over the once-childish face. Suddenly the boy resembled the monster that had to have killed all those people.

"It isnít enough, Jon!" The boy howled, "It will never be enough! You will die like those you condemned!"

Jonís hand tightened on his gun again and he almost brought it up on instinct. Then he let it drop to the ground. The boy loomed closer and Jon could feel a kind of discomfort blanketing himself, like his skin was being pulled tight.

"Fine," Jon said through gritted teeth. A thin cut had appeared on both his forearms, but the stretching sensation suddenly ceased as the boy faltered again.

"If thatís what it takes to stop all of this," Jon said, "Then kill me. Kill me so the others can live. Kill me so you can live. Kill me, if that will stop this monster."

Suddenly in one painful moment Jon felt his arms rip open. More than his arms, his chest and legs. Like a child tearing her doll in half in a fit of rage. Jon cried out in pain and his legs gave out underneath him. But to his surprise the pain lingered on and eventually he was able to look outside of himself and his pain again. To notice something other than his own ragged breaths.

Banan was only three feet away from him, crouched on the ground and crying. Jon stared, completely baffled by this strange behavior. Banan wasnít the type of boy to show any emotion often, let alone to show such strong emotion at all. He was stunned.

Then the boy looked up. There was no trace of the thunderous monster that had slaughtered so many people. Nor was there any trace of the hollow-eyed, tortured boy who sat emotionlessly through everything. The boyís brown eyes were alive with emotion as tears streamed down his face. And Jon understood.

"What... what was that?" Jon asked of the boy who was a boy again.

"That... that was Death," the boy replied through gasping breaths of his own.

"But... how?" Jon asked.

"A long time ago," Banan replied, "When I was eight years old, my father came back, in a rage, as usual. I donít rightly know what happened, or why, but this force was released from me and it killed my mother. It killed my sisters. But it let him go because it was his fault. He felt no remorse for any of it and lived to an old age before finally dying.

"I was possessed from that point on. Sometimes I would be able to control myself. But I could never keep it at bay for long. It lusts after blood and death. And it feeds off the bitterness of me and the human race as a whole."

"What happened to it, now? Why did it stop?" Jon asked.

A slight smile pulled at the boyís lips. "Itís gone," he said simply.

Jon felt a relieved smile cross his own face, "For good?"

"For a time," Banan corrected, "It can never be defeated forever. But I doubt it will appear again in our lifetimes. It will need time to store enough energy to possess another body."

"And what about you?" Jon asked.

The smile slipped from the boyís face. "I donít know. I suppose Iíll die now, like everyone else. God knows Iíve lived long enough."

It was a beautiful spring afternoon in early April. Some people had returned to town, but most had stayed away. Those that were left had rebuilt what they could and burned what they had considered too damaged to repair. Jon watched silently as Hanna approached a boy, a smile on her face.

"Hello!" The three year old said happily.

The boy raised his head to look at her, soft brown eyes taking a moment to focus back on the present. A shy smile slowly reached his face, "Hi."

"Iím Hanna, remember me?" The girl asked.

The boy nodded, "I remember."

"You taught me a song," the little girl said happily, "But I forgot most of it... I just remember that last part, like you told me."

"ĎTil one would solve the riddle,

and break death of its hold."

The boy blinked, "Thatís... nice."

"Do you know any other songs?" Hanna asked, looking up at him innocently.

Slowly, the boy shook his head, "Iím sorry, I donít. My mother didnít know any songs and my sisters never sang to me."

"You have sisters?" Hanna asked, jumping in excitement.

"Yes..." The boy replied guardedly.

"Are they nice?" Hanna pressed, "Can I meet them?"

"They... donít live around here," the boy said carefully, "Theyíre all older than me, anyway."

"Oh..." Hanna looked slightly upset for a moment but she was over it quick. She looked up at the boy again, eagerly, "Whatís your name?" She asked.

"Banan," the boy answered.

The girl grinned, "Do you want to be my friend? If I learn any new songs I promise Iíll teach them to you."

Slowly, the boy smiled, "Yes," he said, "I do want to be your friend."

Hanna laughed with glee, "Yay! Letís play something!" She took the boy by the hand and began leading him down to the playground equipment.

Jon smiled.

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