Sometimes it’s good to hold to time-honored traditions. One of mine is to give y’all a snippet of something I’ve been working on. Tonight, I thought I’d share a bit of something you won’t see for a while. For now, enjoy the sneak peak!
Pressing my fists to my ears I tried vainly to drown out their screams. Flames clawed up my throat and simmered just beneath my skin, fled through my fingertips into their empty hearts.
And they burned.
The dream was so vivid that I woke with the taste of ashes on my tongue, opened my eyes to a splotched black world. Shadows loomed everywhere, made sharper by the hot flames smoking my vision.
I must be dreaming still because I had always dreamed of fire. Only in dreams did the tapestries recording my short life illuminate gold. Curtains that Mother drew together every night, stoutly guarding against the frozen walls of our castle, hung in tatters. And the flames were too greedy to stop. They leaped over stone and ate and ate at the opulence of my House Name. Our crest set into the roof of my bed was tar blackened and rained ashes over my face. The ashes burned like liquid heat, resonated with my dreams.
I gasped, shoved my bed covers away when the heat licked to mark my skin, the skin Mother was so proud of, and curled into a ball against the tall headboard.
How could I have fallen asleep? Uncommon tears leaked from my eyes, hot blooded tears, so different from what they should be. Unconsciously I rubbed my hands together, bit my lip as silent sobs betrayed me.
Utter perfection was her only requirement of herself, the world and everyone else beneath her. Expectations for her daughter, Anu were no less. And these I had failed. Betrayal had overpowered the anguish in her silver eyes the moment I wrapped my hands round her face. And the flash and burn of images of what I had done hours before left a silent scream on my lips.
I pushed the memories; beat back the images so relentlessly, until only a sheet of solid black coated my thoughts. The darkness came naturally to our kind. We avoided the heat, feared that the light would expose too many of our secrets.
Now the fire consuming my home was shining brighter than the stars they say we came from, and I cringed beneath its glare.
How could I have fallen asleep?!
Only when the flames reached me at last I truly woke up. I may deserve to let myself burn with the castle but I was too afraid, afraid of the flames inside of me, afraid of the pain and wishing so desperately I was not so different!
Ashes scarred my perfect ivory skin and healed just as quickly. If I did burn, it would be a long, slow death. Fire was the fastest means to our demise. Even though I was young, a star year old today, I feared the emptiness inside of me too much to welcome this kind of sleep. Too afraid I was to take my punishment, to live by the kind of honor Emim tried to teach me.
Emim! I yearned for him now. Without my mother-father I was truly lost. No matter that he swore to always go with and before me.
Better he had not lived to see this.
Choking on bile, smoke and tears I ignored the pulse numbing pain his proud memory inflicted. I pressed him too behind the black curtain, the one behind which I had already placed Mother. I would never take them out again.
Gasping for air made me realize how little there was left to breathe here in my tower. My only window was tall as me. It was narrow enough for me to slip through, just. During winter it was covered with a heavy wooden door. The wood kept the mountain’s storms from coating me in snow each night. Wind from the coldest and hardest winter of my years howled mournfully beyond it now. My pulse raced and with a thrust of my fist I shattered the wood and braced myself from being sucked to my death beyond.
All at once the nightmare’s chorus I’d been shutting out consumed me. The screams from my dream had returned tenfold, manifold roar of a people too feral to be human. Agony, dread, fear pushed me to the window’s broken ledge. I’d taken out some of the stone with my fist.
Smoke fled before me, caught upon the wind along with my waist length braid and nightdress. It strained to dance with the snow, to plummet into the endless abyss of the mountainside my home teetered upon. The cliff dropped into the human valley below yet from here in the dead of a night void of light seemed endless.
I forced my eyes ahead. Even as their screams begged for release, screamed my name on the stairs. Even as they broke my door to find if I were all right and couldn’t get past the fallen beams blocking their way, screamed as the fire caught up to them. I never looked back.
My blood rushed, heart pounded in my chest. The flames I had hidden away so deeply all my life glowed a single gentle ember. Once again I felt a semblance of normal, a shadow, a mask. My skin was barely warmer than the ice pelting my ash-marred brow.
Clutching the amulet with my other hand I reached deeply, searched for the something other Emim told me about.
We are different from the humans Anu, never forget this. We may resemble them but inside we are nothing alike. Make them fear you but never betray your secret…
to be continued…