Awakening

The day they led me to the water, I saw my mother go mad.

She raved and cried and clawed with all her strength at the men holding her back, her outstretched fingers contorted into talons, reaching desperately for mine. Her eyes bulged, her face so twisted with horror I barely recognized her. “My baby!” she screamed over and over again, her voice shattering, distorted by the blood roaring in my ears. “Not my baby, it’s all a mistake!”

I twisted and flailed in the grip of strong, calloused hands, straining desperately towards her, mad with terror. But the men were strong and I was weak and they hauled me away while others restrained my mother. She fought like a thing possessed, eyes rolling, spittle spraying down her chin.

But they were too many.

People in the mob around us pointed and hissed and spat at us, quickly withdrawing from reach if we came too close, eyes narrowed with hatred or rounded with fear.

I could smell the sweat of the men carrying me away, could smell my own fear oozing from my pores, feel the tears streaming down my face.

I was frightened because mother was frightened, but I didn’t understand what was happening. I knew it was bad, and I knew it was because I hadn’t learned to control what was happening to me.

It was all my fault.

***

Dear Pages,

the wise woman has given a disturbing prophecy regarding my most darling little girl. I dare not repeat it here, but I fear for her future, for what she may become. I desperately hope that what was foreshadowed will not come to pass.

I.

***

The first time it happened, it felt good, like I had swallowed warm tea on a cold day. But mother scolded me something terrible and sent me to bed without my supper. I was sad, because she was making parsley soup, which I love very much. Late that night, as I lay trying to ignore my rumbling tummy and fall asleep, I could hear mother crying quietly in the room next door. I wanted to ask her what was the matter, but I was afraid she would still be angry with me.

***

Dear Pages,

it seems the prophecies are coming true. It has happened. My little one is awakening to what she is. If someone were to find out, I fear for us both.

I.

***

Mother sat me down the next day and brushed my hair and said she was sorry she got angry, but I had frightened her and I must promise never to do it again. I hugged her tightly and kissed her on the cheek and promised I wouldn’t.

I was still thinking of the soup.

The next time I felt it begin to happen I tried so hard to stop it. I felt it change, from light and bubbly to something black and cruel that twisted hotly inside me and it hurt and burned and I cried because mother would be angry but even as I tried to squash it down it rose inside me, tearing at my insides like cold claws and Mother came running at my cries and I was unable to stop it and it happened again, but this time it was so different and it frightened me.

I was feeding the chickens when it happened. When I came to, I had blood on my hands and there were feathers everywhere.

Mother held me tightly as I sobbed. She wasn’t angry this time. She was afraid.

***

Dear Pages,

It has happened again, she is unable to control it. The first time was harmless, even beautiful, but this, I cannot even begin to describe. I am taking her to see the wise woman tomorrow. It will be a long journey, but she is the only one I can turn to.

I.

***

Mother woke me at the crack of dawn. The fields were misty and the air was still clammy and cool. We walked for a long time, mother hurrying me along even when my legs were so tired I would stumble, looking over her shoulder again and again and again.

At last, deep in the forest, we arrived at a strange, moss-covered little hut that leaned so much that I thought it must surely topple over at any moment. Out of the lopsided old hut came a lopsided old woman, with hair like dirty rags and eyes that were yellow like a cat’s.

I didn’t like her very much. She smelt strongly of herbs and rotting soil and she grabbed me by the chin as though I were a goat at the farmer’s market. She looked at my palms and stared into my eyes for a long time muttering under her stinking breath and making me dreadfully uncomfortable. She slathered me with strange smelling salves and smoked sage all over me. In the end she sang a strange song without words. It all made me very sleepy.

Late into the night she sat whispering with my mother as I played by the nearby fire. I watched the flames flicker and saw great battles and dragons dancing and witches burning.

Mother’s eyes looked very red when she came to me, but it may just have been the light of the fire. She took my hand and we began the long way home. When we arrived dawn was already breaking.

***

Dear Pages,

I do not know what to do anymore. The old woman has put a binding spell on my little one, but she says her powers are weak and my girl’s are strong, and she does not know if it will not do more harm than good.

I.

***

I was not allowed to leave the house anymore. Mother said it was because I was very ill and it would be dangerous for me and the other people if I went out. I didn’t feel ill. But mother looked so sick with worry that I promised her I’d be good and stay home until I was better.

***

Dear Pages,

It breaks my heart to keep her cooped up inside like this. Tomorrow I will get some supplies at the market and take her away. There is an old hut in the mountains, perhaps we can find shelter there.

She is a good, kind child and she does not understand what is happening to her. I do not understand what is happening to her. Why it is happening to her. I do not know how to save her. I do not know… I do not know… I do not know…

I.

***

Yesterday I got so bored, that I snuck out of the house when mother was out, to play with my best friend Tommy.

I think we had a fight, I don’t remember about what. I came home with my palms ripped and bloody. Blood on my hands, sticky all over my face, fouling my clothes. I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t speak. My face was wet and salty with blood and tears.

Tommy didn’t come home that day.

I never saw him again.

Later that day, I found a small, purple bite mark on my forearm and scratches on my neck.

***

They came for me that night.

Mother was cleaning up my scratches, hands shaking, tears falling into my lap.

They kicked down our door.

Mother tried to stop them, but they hit her and she fell to the ground, water and herbs spilling all around her.

The men grabbed me and carried me away and my mother rose like fury and ran behind us and beat them with her fists and scratched them bloody, but they shoved her away and hit her again and she fell again, but no matter how often she fell she was up again, pleading, screaming, crying, clutching desperately at my hands, trying to pull me from their grip.

More men came and they held her back. I saw one of them punch her in the gut and she suddenly slumped, lifeless, broken, like an empty sack. Her mouth worked soundlessly, a thread of drool stretching slowly to the floor.

They carried me to the sea and tied me to an old, splintered chair with rough ropes. I fought and they cuffed me around the head leaving me almost senseless and then the salt water was in my ears, my nose, my mouth, stinging my eyes, flooding my lungs. I didn’t know which way was up or down, I struggled feebly against my bonds, but the ropes held and the waves crashed and my lungs screamed for air that wasn’t there, and everything went dark, and then everything went red.

***

I came to my senses to the smell of my whole world burning.

===

This piece was written during Week 1 of Laura Jane Williams’ fabulous writing course “Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Storyteller”. Laura really helped me get over myself and just start writing, as well as providing a fantastic toolkit for improving my work. I would not be posting this stuff without her. #srsummerschool

Insignificant Detail

They saw one another from across the park.

A hesitant smile of almost-recognition, before like ghosts from different worlds, memories from different times, they passed one another by, continuing on their way.

He, engaged in conversation with a friend, roared with laughter at something and looked away.

She, distracted by a friendly dog, turned with all the joy of a small child to hold out her hand for it to sniff before it scampered on its way across the grass with a wave of its tail.

Across the vast expanse of grass, a shiver passed between them, of all that could, that should, that would have been. Paths crossing, fates interweaving, lives interlocking.

Except.

Several mornings ago, in an uncharacteristic hurry, his mother had left the house without reading her morning paper, had not seen the small advertisement for the youth exchange to Japan that might have interested her travel-hungry son.

He had scanned it briefly over his mug of hot chocolate, but it hadn’t really piqued the curiosity of his morning-muddled mind. Without his mother there to prod him, the tiny, insignificant scrap of writing was quickly dismissed from memory.

After a long day at work, his father read the paper, then threw it in the trash.

That Wednesday, she hadn’t gone to her karate session. This was highly unusual, normally she wouldn’t miss her training for the world. She was dedicated, and she was stubborn. Even when she felt unwell, she would sit on the sidelines, soaking in the atmosphere, the techniques, storing them away in her mind for next time.

Their babysitter had cancelled that morning.

This one Wednesday she had relented, unwillingly, but she had relented, to stay home and babysit her younger brother so her parents could visit a concert.

She had fidgeted all evening, her body knowing it had somewhere else to be, running through the kata forms in her mind.

Had she gone, she would not have been given the sheet of paper detailing that very same exchange, for on that very day, the co-trainer had split his knuckles while vigorously pounding them against his garage wall to “toughen them up”. Everyone else knew those open, nicotine-calloused wounds were more for show than for anything else. He thought himself very manly as he observed his ruined hands.

As he drove himself to the doctor, the piece of paper lay forgotten in the back seat.

They saw one another from across the park, and as they passed one another by, divided by green grass, laughing children and a scattering of insignificant details, they quivered with the cry of something that wanted, more than anything, to be.

Momentarily confused, he turned to look.

She did not.

***

A different, far away day, a mother opens a paper and nags her son, a girl stays stubborn and goes to training.

Just like any other Wednesday.

That weekend, they do not go to the park.

She locks her bike outside the flat where the informational evening is hosted, before ringing the bell. A few minutes later, his mother’s car pulls up outside.

===

This piece was created during Week 2 of Laura Jane Williams’ fabulous writing course “Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Storyteller”. Laura really helped me get over myself and just start writing, as well as providing a fantastic toolkit for improving my work. I would not be posting this stuff without her. #srsummerschool