Sandy wasn't like others. She played video games, listened to metal music, and never seemed to hang out with anyone. That is, until I talked to her one day. She was sitting beside the fence on the school playground, with her arms wrapped around her knees, trying to hide away from the world.
"Hiya!" I greeted cheerfully, still blissful with childhood naivety. She looked up at me in surprise, and my smile faded. She had a large scrape on the left side of her face, as if she had scraped her face against concrete. She was crying ever so slightly.
I consoled her, she explained to me that a mean person had hurt her, and we became fast friends. Turned out we had a lot in common, actually.
It wasn't until years later, on Sandy's thirteenth birthday, that things became strange. I called her to say happy birthday, but she didn't respond. I brushed it off as nothing, since I assumed she was probably just sleeping in; it was a Saturday, after all.
But when the time was three o'clock and she still hadn't called back, I started to worry. I headed straight to her house, noting along the way the unusual chill in the air. At one point, I swear I even saw my own breath.
Her front door was hanging agape, with one of its hinges broken. It wasn't until I reached the front door that I noticed the startling trail of blood leading inside... or outside? I couldn't determine which.
I entered the home and was overtaken by a stunning cold. My breath was clearly visible here, and there were even tiny amounts of frost lining the walls and windows. I crept deeper inside and found that the trail of blood ended leaded into Sandy's bedroom, under the door. Inside, I could hear soft sobbing.
"Sandy?" I trembled. The sobbing stopped momentarily, but picked up again within seconds.
I pushed the door open and was shocked by the stark change in temperature. Unlike the rest of the house, Sandy's room was blazing hot, and bright light emanated from it.
When my eyes finally adjusted to the brightness, I saw a terrible sight. Sandy was lying on the floor in the fetal position, crying, with a scrape on the left side of her face, just like when we had met. Blood soaked the carpet beneath her.
A dark man was standing in front of her, facing me. His face was hidden by a black mask with an irregular white pattern. He wore a white-and-black striped sweatshirt and black jeans covered in dried bloodstains.
"Brian! Please leave, you can't do anything to stop this," Sandy pleaded, wiping the mixture of tears and blood from her face. I stared, dumbfounded at the sight.
"This was meant to happen. You can do nothing to stop Sandy's transformation into another one of Us, the Giftgiver," the man's voice rumbled. A sparse amount of sick pleasure was evident in his voice, "It has been decided upon since her birth."
"W-what?!" I stammered as I dropped to my knees, overcome with depression, terror, and anger all at once.
"It happens to everyone, in one of their lives. We all become Giftgiver, part of Him. It will happen to you too, but not in this life. Live in bliss, knowing that you are safe for now," the man reiterated. Sandy continued to cry, and the light grew brighter and brighter until everything was engulfed, and all my senses became numb.
The light faded, and the heat cooled away. The room was empty except for myself. Where Sandy had once been, there was a photograph. I picked it up, and realized it was an extremely distorted version of herself. On the back of the photo was an apology:
"I'm sorry, dearest friend. I knew, but I never told you. Please don't be angry. Live in bliss, as He said. Move on. Love, Sandy."
I never heard from her again, and everyone who had known her mysteriously denied ever knowing of her presence. It was as if she'd never even existed.
Sometimes, though, when I'm alone I feel as if somebody is watching me. Like an old warmth, comfort, love. Innocence. Yet, when I dwell on it, it vanishes just as quickly as Sandy vanished from my life.