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Scream Fest By Forest Walker

Scream Fest

6

Playmate

1

0

Nine-year-old Kai and their family were embarking on a new chapter in their lives, moving to a bungalow in Quezon province. As they approached their new home, the wind blew fiercely, rustling the tall grass surrounding the property. The sound of leaves dancing in the wind filled their ears as they gazed at the house in front of them. The fence, pieced together from old wood, stood tall, but it showed signs of wear and tear. The gate, barely holding on, creaked and groaned as Kai’s father pushed it open. The house seemed to have been untouched for years, and the gate appeared as though it was begging for a much-needed rest.


Kai’s father forced smile did little to mask the disappointment etched on his face. “This is our new home,” he said, his tone flat and unconvincing.


His mother’s eyes scanned the area, taking in the sight of the tall grass and the dilapidated fence. She turned to her husband, concern written all over her face. “Will we be okay here?” she asked, her voice trembling.


Without hesitation, his father closed the gap between them and wrapped his mom in a tight embrace. Kai watched in silence, unsure of what to do or say. He had never seen his mom cry like that before.


Kai and his family began to take their few belongings from the car. They left most of their things at their old house, which they no longer owned, so they only brought what they could fit in the car. It was a sad sight for Kai when he saw that even his favorite chair was left behind.


Kai wanted to help carry things inside, but his Dad told him not to. He said that they needed to do it quickly, and he didn’t want Kai to get in the way or slow them down. Ramiel, Kai’s older brother, seemed to be upset and didn’t want to leave his school and friends. He went inside the house in a huff, while Kai decided to sit down on a rock under the lush mango tree.


As he sat there, Kai heard a rustling sound. He looked around to find where the sound came from, but he couldn’t see its source. He thought it was just the wind. Moments later, he heard it again. He automatically lifted his head and looked up. To his surprise, he saw a child around his age sitting on one of the branches of the mango tree. The child smiled at him and waved his hand, as if inviting Kai to climb the mango tree.


“Kai, go inside. That area hasn’t been cleaned yet. There might be a snake or mosquito there,” Kai’s father ordered him.


Kai felt a pang of disappointment, but he knew better than to disobey his father. “But, Papa, there’s a kid!” he protested.


His father’s face hardened. “I said, go inside!” he told Kai firmly.


Kai reluctantly turned away from the mango tree and headed inside the house. He went straight to the living room, which had a good view of the tree. He tried to search for the child from his location, but because of the dense foliage of the tree, he couldn’t tell if the child was still there.


......


The next day, Kai stepped out of the house and surveyed the surroundings. The grass was still tall, and a pile of dry leaves had accumulated in one corner. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of unease. He walked over to the mango tree and looked up at the spot where he saw the boy the day before, but there was no one there.


He sighed and turned to leave when suddenly he heard a loud shout behind him. “Boo!” The sound made him jump, and he whirled around to see the boy from yesterday. Kai was annoyed at how the boy found it funny to scare him, but he didn’t say anything. He was about to walk away when the boy invited him to climb up the mango tree. He challenged Kai to a race, and if he win, they would become friends.


Despite having lived in the city for a long time, Kai knew how to climb trees. They had a guava tree in front of their old house, and he always climbed it. So, he accepted the challenge. They positioned themselves on opposite sides of the tree, and Kai counted to three before they both started to climb. As expected, Kai was the first to reach the top. However, for some reason, the boy stopped in the middle and came back down, sitting on one of the branches.


“We’re friends now. You’re really good at climbing. You even beat me,” the boy said with a smile.


“Of course, I am. I’ve been climbing tree since I was seven,” Kai boasted, feeling proud of himself.


Kai’s days had become more lively and adventurous with his new friend. Every morning, as soon as he stepped out of the house, he would make a beeline towards the mango tree. He knew he would find the boy sitting on one of its branches, waiting for him. They would challenge each other to races, betting with anything to make their competition more exciting.


“Let’s make a bet, whoever loses has to pick a mango for the winner.”


“Let’s bet whoever loses has to climb up and down four times.”


“Whoever loses has to follow the winner’s orders for the whole day.”


One time, as they were picking the juiciest mangoes they could find, Kai couldn’t help but wonder why his parents never saw his new friend. He asked them about him once, but they only replied with a quizzical look on their faces, saying he didn’t have any friends in the area yet. They even suggested that maybe Kai was just talking to an imaginary friend, which made him feel sad and frustrated.


But Kai knew his friend was real. He could feel the rough bark of the mango tree, smell the sweet fragrance of the ripe fruits, and hear his friend’s laughter echoing around him. He never felt lonely as long as his friend was with him.


One day, Kai’s life took a turn.


He went out of the house and found the boy by the mango tree again. The boy challenged him to a race to the top of the tree, but this time he suggested they make it more interesting by betting on something more crucial.


Kai’s heart raced as he heard the boy’s words. “The loser has to die when they turn 30.” He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. He shook his head, thinking that it was just another silly bet. But the boy’s expression didn’t waver, and his eyes shone with a strange intensity that made Kai feel uneasy.


Despite his misgivings, Kai accepted the challenge. They took their positions on opposite sides of the mango tree, and the boy counted to three. As they raced to the top, Kai’s heart pounded in his chest. He couldn’t tell if he was winning or losing, and as he reached the top, he was surprised to find the boy already there, grinning from ear to ear. He had lost the bet.


Kai’s mind was reeling as he climbed back down the tree. He had never heard of such a strange bet before, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off about the boy. But when he turned around to say goodbye, the boy had vanished into thin air.


Days turned into weeks, and Kai never saw the boy again. He grew more and more convinced that the boy was just imaginary, a figment of his childhood imagination. But deep down, a tiny voice whispered to him, warning him that the boy was all too real, and that he had lost the bet in ways he couldn’t even imagine.


......


Kai was now 26 years old and had been separated from his parents for a while. He decided to visit his brother, who was now married, for a catch-up. After a few drinks, they started talking about their childhood memories. The conversation eventually led to a mango tree, and Kai’s brother began to recount a strange story that made Kai shudder.


“You know, when we were kids, I had a playmate who used to compete with me in climbing up the mango tree every afternoon. He always lost. Then one day, he just disappeared,” his brother shared.


Kai’s heart raced with excitement and trepidation as he realized that his brother was talking about the same mango tree and playmate that he had in his childhood.


“Did he make a bet with you?” Kai asked, feeling a sense of foreboding.


“Yes,” his brother answered shortly, but the way his jaw dropped at Kai’s next question was hard to miss.


“Did you bet your life and lose?” Kai asked, his voice barely above a whisper.


His brother’s silence and the way he averted his gaze told Kai everything he needed to know. It turned out that next Sunday was his brother’s thirtieth birthday.

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