It was always quiet by the river.
He found himself sitting there pretty often these days, flipping through a novel or drawing in his sketchbook. One day he’d seen a turtle in the river, sunning itself on a tire someone had littered the riverbank with. He’d drawn that. He had liked it, but not enough to show anyone.
It felt like it was going to rain. The sky was dark and the air felt heavy, as if something was lingering in it. It didn’t deter him; he’d walked home in the rain and mud before. It made him feel kind of gritty, like a real artist.
He tilted his head to the side and yawned. It was starting to get late. He ought to get home soon; his parents would be wondering where he’d gotten to. That was, if they weren’t too busy screaming at each other. Ever since his father had come home one day and found some pair of shoes that he didn’t own sitting at the foot of the stairs, it had been nothing but nonstop back and forth screaming matches.
He couldn’t take it. He didn’t want it, wanted to go back to when things had been normal; but that was a time he could hardly remember now.
But the least he could do was try to not bring any more drama into the situation. With a sigh that seemed almost too heavy for his thin frame, he rose from the riverbank and tucked his sketchbook under his arm.
He was just about to set one foot into the mud when a large white cat ran by him. He turned his head to watch it go towards the river. The cat looked familiar, almost a little bit like a cat he’d seen on some Lost Cat posters that had been hung around town. Maybe he should investigate; or maybe he was just looking for another excuse to not go home yet. Either way, he started towards the white ball of fluff with a strange sense of determination.
That was when he saw it. Far down the river, he caught a blur of movement that he couldn’t quite figure out. He let one foot linger on a rock as he turned to look. Other people didn’t usually come down here; that was one of the things he liked about it. But here they were, or here they seemed to be at least, two figures, seemingly dressed in black. They were standing near the riverbed on the far side, and he could hear the faintest sound of what seemed to be arguing but could have just been playfighting.
Something drew him to look at the scene for longer than he would have normally, with more curiosity than the annoyance that he’d usually feel at discovering other people at his favorite spot.
The cat ran by him.
The first figure dressed in black yelled something at the other, a shorter person – they both seemed to be men, as far as he could tell. A second later, he saw the silhouette of the taller man pick something up – a rock, it was a rock! – and throw it, no, bring it down, no… It collided with the second man’s head.
“You can’t have her.” The first clear words that he could make out from either one. The second man collapsed against the ground. Dead? Injured?
He didn’t know. All he knew was that he had to get out of here; maybe he needed to go get help, maybe he could help the second man – no, he just had to run. He turned on his heels, clinging to his sketchbook desperately, his breathing hitching so fast he wasn’t sure if he could make himself put the plan into action.
Then he heard someone calling his name. A familiar voice, too familiar.
He took off running until the only sound he heard was the smack of his shoes against mud and the crash of thunder in the distance.