Chapter One: A New Beginning
You pull the rough, sandy white towel tighter around your naked body. You shiver against the cold, cruel wind of the night, the frozen dirt numbing your feet. When will this ever end? you think, gripping the thin white cloth. The stars taunt you, so bright and free against the sky, while you wait in a line with thousands of bruised people; towel-wrapped around you, trying to get the night over with. It was Uhmund day, the day everybody in the town was getting checked by the Union. The Union was in control over everything. They told you what job you had, where you were meant to go, and what you had to do. If you had a house, or clothes, even if you were fed. Then, of course, there were the Night-raves.
The Night-raves were your worst enemy. You hated them, for their long black claws, their screams for blood, the way their black, soulless eyes stare straight through you. The wings that lifted their fat, human bodies into the air, circling the night sky, guiding you to the Uhmund leaders, plunging down and wrenching your head off if you don't obey the Union's ruthless commands. The Night-raves were the Union's little death-birds, killing the poor ones, the stupid ones, or ones who don't listen. The smart ones, like you, just grind your jaw shut, and try not to scream, tears running down your face, while they chop you, beat you, and abuse you.
You think of the reason you mostly hated the Night-raves. They used to be humans! These killing machines were biological tests on human bodies gone wrong! The Night-raves had swarmed out, killing people by the thousands, stopping only when the Union stood in their way. The Union fed them with us, and sheltered them, cared for them, and more. The Union loved their personal killing machines, the birds that left them frightened, miserable people. What evil mind wouldn't?
The line before you shifts, and you step forward, almost crying out in agony when your recently cut-off toe stumps the hard ground. Pain sears up your leg, rooting you in silent pain; while blood gushes onto the ground.
Great, you think, now I'm standing in a puddle of blood! One lone tear runs down your face, drips off your chin, and lands on your stump of a toe. A rush of pin-needles surge up your leg; and you bite your lip, drawing blood, trying not to cry out. You gaze at your foot, and realizing something that will change you forever. You heart feels like it stopped dead. You forget how to breathe, your hands dropping from the white cloth, your jaw hung-open with surprise. The toe was entirely healed, there, whole once more! The Union's whip had never landed there, ripping through the flesh, tearing open the bone, leaving behind a bloody stump! Your toe was back, and you could wiggle it!
A grin lights up your face, tearing open many cracks in the dried lips of yours, but you don't care! You just healed your toe! Maybe you won't die after-all, being eaten by the Night-raves! Your children won't be watching you getting torn to bits, your head ripped off with a sickening crunch just like your mother's had. Nor will anyone see your flesh being gulped down by black beasts!
"Get over here! Useless rats!" screams a Union lady. Her brown eyes stare straight through you, her hair pulled into a stiff brown bun; her face white; and a scar curved from her left ear, across her nose, and down to her lip. Overall, her look has no pleasing feature. You glare straight back at her, your smile dropping.
Stupid woman, you think, stupid Union. How could they treat us like this? Really, you know how they could. They feel no pain, the Union. They have no mercy for anyone. Especially children. You remember the last small child you had seen, four years ago. This child had been your baby sister, Skky.
Skky was a beautiful young girl, and she had been the age of two. She would laugh, smile; and throw pebbles in the air, letting them shower all around her. Skky had short, silky blond hair, that shone when the light hit it. Her eyes were a bright blue, large, beautiful; unique. Her face was round, and baby chubby, with rosy cheeks and a toothy grin. Any look of her could make you smile, even on the worst day by the Union.
Skky loved birds. A long time ago, we had a type of bird called vultures. Vultures had been extinct for over twenty-five dozen years, but there were still stories. Skky loved these stories, and she would actually sit and listen to them. One day, Skky had wandered off. When we eventually found her that night, she was kneeling by a rock. You remember that day perfectly well. Tears were dripping off her chin, her large eyes bright red from crying. More like sobbing. Skky had found the bones of a vulture. She couldn't even speak, she had been screaming for so long. When Skky looked at you, all you could see was pain. That day, Skky realized just who the Union was. And she hated them with her guts.
When you finally got her home, she saw a Union guard by the door of your cave. She screamed, hoarsely; and tried to kill him. The man yelled something, and it came and gone. Night-raves. They had gulped up your beautiful sister straight from the ground. She was gone. You never saw your sister again.
A whip comes sizzling through the air, landing hard across your back, tearing open the flesh, leaving you screaming out. It easily snapped you out of the flashback. The others around you ignore the common scream, heard every minute, while you double-over in pain, blood drizzling from the open skin. The frosty air hits it like a bag of ice, bringing another wave of tears. You let them come, for the first time, letting the tears nourish your beaten body. Black lights flash before your eyes; your whole body starts writhing with pin-needles.
Just like that, you slip into a new world. You are falling, falling, falling, falling, into a blackness of literally nothing.
Your whole body feels like you have been dropped from the sky. It hurts to breath, and you think you may have broken a few ribs. Like that will hurt you anyway. Your eyes feel like weights, impossible to open. You start panicking; you can't feel your body, and you can't move. The air smells different, and super easy to breath. You barely have to think about breathing, the air is so light here.
Am I in the underworld? you think, why does it hurt so badly? Slowly, you try to peel open one eyelid. Suddenly, light pours into you, and your one eye is open. With a struggle, both eyes are blinking; straining against the bright light. You can only blink, and slowly, pain is beginning to creep through your whole body. The sun is bright, brighter than you have ever seen, and to where you can actually feel the warmth seep into your skin. Where am I? I can't be at Uhmund anymore! you think with panic. You have never left Uhmund, never in your short life.
Your eyes focus onto the clear, blue sky above you. It's beautiful, you think, the clear, blue sky. I've never seen a blue sky before! The only thing at Uhmund is grayness, with smoky air and ice. It's a very polluted place. So what is here?
Something big, feathery, and black passes into your vision. It's big, lifeless black eye stares straight into yours. A scream looses itself from your throat. Your blood turns to ice, while the Night-rave looks down at your useless soul. You knew it wouldn't eat you, or you would already be dead.
"Get... away-" you struggle to whisper. The Night-rave quickly vanishes, and you close your eyes. Trying to keep your measly last meal down, and trying not to faint, you repeat in you head, it is just a dream, it is just a dream!
"I am not here to hurt you," a voice hisses out painfully. The voice had a thick grunting accent, like the words were foreign to it. Surprisingly, you believed it. "Let me help you," it replies for you, leaning into view, "accept this energy, and it will sustain you. Don't worry, I won't hurt you. I'm trying to help you." The Night-rave chirps. It's eye meets yours, when suddenly, energy flows through you. You shiver painfully with fear. This is dark magic! It has to be! you think, but let the energy fill up your emptiness.
You can breath without pain now, in fact, all of your pain seems to have disappeared. You can feel life coursing through your veins again, and a new hope feels you. You weakly push yourself into a siting position. Your hands dig into a soft mesh. You look down, and see soft green spokes coming out of the ground. You stare at fascination at the first plant you have ever seen. Grass. You remember being told stories about it by the elders. Sweet, soft grass. Extinct grass! You realize. You. Are. In. The. Past!
"Where am I?" you hiss to the Night-rave, it looks at you; and you watch as it's whole body begins to glow.
You begin to inch away, your jaw open with shock; as the Night-rave lights up like a bulb. Slowly, the feathers fall off, showing normal, human skin; and it's eyes turn round and bright blue. Hair billows from the top of it's head, and it's wings wind down into long arms. The Night-rave before you turns into a tall, strong; cute teenage boy. He stares at you, then a smile curves at his lips. "You're on Earth, a distant planet," he replies. "What's your name?" The Night-rave's voice changed into what a older boy would sound like, and the words easily flow from his mouth.
"My name... is Maley," you breath, staring at the boy. "How-" you begin, but he cuts you off.
"I don't really know. I love your name though, Ma-ley," he says, the 'Maley' rolling over his tongue sweetly. You look him over.
He's about 5'11'', with sandy blond hair that covers his ears; and he has a round face with a soft nose. He has a dimple in his left cheek. A splash of freckles cover his face; and his lips curve into a broad grin. His arms are long and thick, so are his legs, and his stomach has a six-pack. The boy before you is insanely cute, and isn't wearing any clothes, but you completely skip over that matter.
"My name is Ashton," he says, breaking your trance. You look up at him and smile. This is very weird.
"How are you not a Night-rave any more?" you ask.
"I'm still what you call a 'Night-rave', but I'm not evil. I never was. I hated living there, with the Union. I hate the Union! I hate their Uhmund days, their long whips, and mostly, I hate Night-raves! I hate how they go around eating you. It's stupid!" Ashton begins yelling. You watch him with an odd expression on your face. "What?" he asks.
"Then how come you never helped us? And why did you help me?" you ask.
"Well, I'm sure a Night-rave would rather kill me than you, so I had to wait for just the right moment. I had to make it seem like you were dead, and I was taking you to eat you in private. I had to kill some other Night-raves, kill some guards, destroy the cameras, then take you to my cave. Once there, I took you here. I had to protect you." he says, as if everything was that simple. You, never being in school, had to take a moment to figure that out; failing, then let it get pushed out of your thoughts.
"Oh," you mutter. "What is going on with my toe? Did I heal it?"
"Yes, I believe you did. That's why we need your help." Ashton simply replies. "I would answer all of your questions, but that isn't my place to."
"Just a minute ago I was a human slave, then I realize I can heal things with tears or whatever it was; then you take me here, to Earth. You used to be a bird! Now you're human!" you yell. Ashton flinches, and backs away; and you close your eyes, clenching your fists. "You've got to be kidding me." you mutter.
Footsteps approach from the left, and you open your eyes to glare at the intruder. There before you stood two men, dressed in solid green, with swords hanging from their belts.
No, you have to be kidding me, you think, swords? Seriously? This has to be the Union's greatest trick yet! Ashton stands up.
"Hello? Grant and Nark? What are you doing here?" Ashton asks the newcomers. His eyebrows raise as the fatter one reaches for his sword, but the tallest one to the left smacks his arm.
"We are here to get the girl, where is she?" The tallest one asks. His face is scrunched up like he's trying not to whip out his sword and kill Ashton. You try to flatten yourself against the ground. The fat one looks straight at you and doesn't see you.
Stupid, you think, right as Ashton spins on his heels and marches to you. Ashton's blue eyes meet yours, and he winks at you.
"She's unconscious right here. The Union put drugs in her to knock her out," Ashton yells to Nark and Grant. He waltz to you, and reaches a thick arm around your waist. You pretend to be asleep like he said, and your eyes flutter shut, trying not to laugh as Ashton's grip tightens and he lifts you from the ground. Your arms dangle in the air, while one of his arms is under the crook of your legs; and the other around your chest. You have no clue why you are letting a stranger do this to you; but he is the nicest boy you have ever met, so you let him.
"That's just too bad. I really wanted to talk to her!" the fat one whined. Ashton walks up to the taller one, who peers at you, his big blue eyes looking you over. You fight the urge to blink, and scare him. The tall one rolls his eyes and straightens.
"She's awake moron, hand her here," the tall one, Grant, says, reaching for you. You lunge, painfully, to your feet; out of Ashton's arms, and whirl to see Lark's foot in your face with a flying kick. You twist to the left, narrowly missing Lark. A quick movement in the corner of your eye shows Grant lunging for you.
To surprise him, you turn and run towards him, but the next thing you know, something grabs your left ankle. Your head smacks the ground with an ear-splitting crack, and white stars dance in your eyes. Your right shoulder throbs underneath you.
"Maley!" screams Ashton, and he grabs Lark's waist and throws him off of you. Your head is stinging, and you can barely see anything the light is so bright. The ground feels soft against your throbbing head, and your whole body is tingling again, but not in a good way.
In a flash, you see Lark collapsed on a brush, while Grant and Ashton are wrestling in the ground.
"You seething liar!You can't just do that to Maley!" Ashton hisses at Grant; his hand wrapped around his jaw. Grant was lying atop of Ashton, facing the sky, while Ashton choked him with his hand around Grant's throat; his legs pushing Grant to the ground. Ashton was just too strong and smart for Grant to escape.
"You willl ddiiie for thissssssss!" Grant screams, then his jaw hangs open as his last breath was taken. His eyes are open, staring blankly to the sky, while his body lay there; not breathing. Ashton let go of Grant, and shakily steps towards you. His nose is bleeding, and his right eyes is swelled up, while sweat drips down his face, and his hair a messy mop on his head.
"Are you okay?" he asks, sitting beside you, a soft breeze ruffling between you. You nod once, and push yourself up to the same position as his. Your head throbs, but you can see, and you have stopped shaking with fright.
"What were they?" you ask him, glancing towards Lark and Grant.
"Night-raves. I had no clue. I thought they were from the academy. I'm so sorry this happened Maley! It's all my fault," he cries to you. You raise one finger to shush him, and whip the blood off his forehead.
"Looks like you need help," you murmur, "Just relax. If I can do it after I just time-traveled, so can you." you tell him, and inch a little closer. Your hands begin to feel hot, and your cheeks flush red.
You gather a couple of fallen leaves from nearby, which you have never seen before and love ; and use them to clean Ashton. The soft leaves easily swipe away all the blood and dirt. In a few minutes, Ashton is sitting there, cleaned. You notice he is wearing clothes. That helps him be less of a stranger to you.
"How did you get clothes?" you ask. The outfit he is wearing is like the intruder's, but much softer, and prettier. It was a bright shade of orange.
"I guess they came on when I was fighting. Things like that are always happening. Protective," he grins. "You like?" You nod to him, and look down at your own body. A shocked gasp escapes your mouth.
Long, dark purple leggins stretch up to your waist, which are soft on the inside, and hard on the outside; but flexible. Your top is long-sleeved, and just the same, with a collar and ends in gloves that are cut to show your fingers. The whole outfit has shimmery swirls in stripes, which aren't too visible; so when you move you just light up. Your outfit matched Ashton's, but was much more girly.
"Wow," you breath. Ashton's brilliant blue eyes watch you, and you get comfort in them. How can a stranger make you feel this way? You feel like you have known him for years. It scares you deeply.