"Bhairavi?" a small fragile voice asked to Bhairavi's right. Though it was dark Bhairavi knew the little girl was reaching her small hand out through the bars of her cage. Bhairavi stretched as far as she could straining against the chains that bound her and grasped the small girl's outstretched hand squeezing it reassuringly.
"I'm here." Bhairavi whispered wishing she could be closer. She could sense the small girl's fear and desperately wanted to extinguish it. Angelick had only been here two years, Bhairavi on the other hand had been imprisoned and caged for five years of her life. She was like a sister to her, one of the only people that had ever accepted her and she was determined to protect the young girl from harm.
"I'm scared." Angelick whimpered when the sound of heavy footsteps drew closer. Bhairavi was aware of how weak the small girl's grip was. She was losing strength and as the years ticked by, her faith as well.
"It will be alright Angelick, you'll see. I won't let them hurt you." Bhairavi whispered wishing she could send the girl some of her strength.
Suddenly the heavy barred door that secluded the two girls from the rest of the world flung open and the lights were turned on nearly blinding Bhairavi and Angelick with their brightness.
When Bhairavi's eyes had finally adjusted to the light, she found two cruel brown eyes staring deep into her unusual golden ones. A twisted sneer formed on the grizzly man's lips cuasing the long jagged scar that stretched across the bridge of his nose and down his cheek to crinkle.
"Good morning little songbird, are you read to sing?" Letting go of Angelick's small pudgy hands Bhairavi backed away from his leering face and answered back coldly,
"I'll never sing for you." Frowning, the man turned to the two men behind him, a squirly man with a large beak of a nose and tiny rat like eyes and a hulk of a man with sharp teeth and bulging muscles. He nodded towards them and stepped away from the cage leaving Bhairavi in full view of the two men and leaving her to their mercy.
Grinning hugely the man with the large nose stepped forward cracking his knuckles. Bhairavi didn't like the glint in his eye. She knew what was about to happen and scrambled to the back of the cage in her desperate attempt to prolong the time before he reached her.
She watched him with cool, calculating eyes as he unlocked her cage door and then the chains around her legs. The moment she was released of the heavy weight he gripped her arm roughly and jerked her away from the cage and onto the cold concrete floor causing her to scrape her elbow upon impact.
Bhairavi jumped to her feet to glare at the squirly man when she felt a searing pain in her lower abdomen as the man with the bulging muscles punched her in the gut. Biting her lip she refused to cry out or fall to the floor. Instead she conjured up a pleasant memory. Something that would take her soul and heart away from that terrible place.
"My name's Angelick, whats yours?" A little girl with curly blonde hair and brilliant blue eyes asked trying her best not to cry and show her weakness on her first day enslaved. Bhairavi knew that it would be best to ignore her and ruin all chances of growing close but seeing the way the small girl's plump lip began to quiver and how her large innocent eyes filled with tears Bhairavi decided that little Angelick needed her.
"My name's Bhairavi. Theres no need to be so frightened Angelick, its not so bad here, you'll see." Bhairavi knew it was bad to lie but all she wanted was for the little girl to smile.
"Promise?" Angelick whimpered holding out her pinky between the bars for Bhairavi to grasp,
"Promise." Behairavi whispered wrapping her long slender pinky around Angelicks pudgy one.
A crushing blow landed itself on Bhairavi's jaw causing her to stagger back. She tasted the metalic taste of blood and used a shaky hand to wipe away a few drops that strayed down her chin.
"Wouldn't it be so much easier if you just sang?" asked the leader picking at his teeth lazily.
"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." Bhairavi whispered cringing as the man with the large nose clamped down hard on her arm. The man with the bulging muscles looked to the leader for confirmation letting a grin grace his lips when he nodded his consent.
Again and again punches rained down on her unprotected abdomen but still, Bhairavi did not cry out or wail. Angelick did though. She sobbed and screamed Bhairavi's name over and over again.
"Have you ever caught fire flies Bhairavi?" Angelick asked breaking the silence that had settled over them for the past two days.
"We call them a-tsi-la ga-lv-ka-we-ti-yu tsi-go-ya which means sacred bug. Theres an old story about fire flies in my village. It is said that a long time ago winter had been harsh and the spring was short. The Cherokee people were anticipating an unusually hot summer, rifled with violent storms and "twisters." They were, of course, correct!
The days were unusually arid and the sun was unrelenting. Every day, the children of the village would go to the creek and jump in to find cool, wet relief.
One day, a group of them were headed to the creek and one of the youngest children in the village begged to be allowed to go with them. The little girl, who was just four years old, begged and pleaded until her mother finally relented after making her son promise to watch over his tiny sister.
The children had fun playing in the water and chasing the animals around the meadow. Before they knew it, however, a storm sprung up around them. Black clouds rolled in quickly and thunder echoed through the sky.
The young brave rounded up his friends to prepare to lead them back to the village. However, he discovered that he could not find his little sister. He called for her and searched all around the creek and meadow. The other children helped as well but, alas, she was no where to be found.
When the rain began pouring in sheets, and the skies continued to darken, the brave rounded up the children and hurried them home. Then he ran to tell his parents what had happened.
His father and uncle joined with him to search, but the daylight was long gone, replaced by nothing but pitch-black clouds. The men lit torches for the search but because the wind and the rain was so violent, they could not keep them lit for longer than a few moments. Before long, they refused to light at all.
Calling out his daughter's name and hearing nothing in return, the young father did the only thing he felt he could do; he knelt in prayer asking the Great Spirit to help him in his quest to find his little girl.
Suddenly, just inches in front of him appeared a swarm of fireflies. They seemed to hover there as if they were trying to catch his attention. Then, suddenly they began to move forward very slowly.
Without thinking, the brave, his father and uncle sensed - - as one - - that they should follow the brightly lit bugs. So they did.
It wasn't long before the young brave recognized the trees that marked the entrance to the meadow where the creek was. "They are leading us to the creek," he cried in excitement. "They are lighting the way for us."
Sure enough, the group of bugs continued on the path to the creek, pausing briefly at its edge as if to make certain that those following understood. Once that was confirmed, they took an abrupt turn to the left and headed through the meadow.
The group continued to follow without question, through the meadow to the other side and a patch of overgrown trees. Then, they once again stopped. In between claps of thunder, the young brave thought he heard soft crying.
"Do you hear that?" he asked of his father. Everyone stopped and listened. Sure enough, soft sobs could be heard close by.
Slowly the fireflies moved forward and then swarmed in one spot forming a stunning ball of light that cut through the blackness of the storm. "She's there!" cried the young brave, as he ran forward calling his sister's name.
Sure enough, just below where the fireflies hovered was his little sister; her foot caught in between small saplings. "I couldn't get free," she cried. "I thought you would find me, so I just sat down and waited. But I fell asleep and didn't wake up until it was already dark and the storm had begun."
Her father now by her side, worked to free his tiny daughter from her would be prison. All the while the fireflies remained above their heads, lighting up the skies just enough for them to see. Then, as they had done before, they led the group back the way they came; safely depositing them in their village.
As the group turned to thank the fireflies for their help, they were amazed to watch them grow brighter and brighter and larger and larger; floating high until they settled in the now clearing skies. There they stopped and became stars of the night.
From that point forward, fireflies were highly honored by the Cherokee people. After all, who knew if they were fireflies at all; or something much more? My answer to your question Angelick is no, I have never hunted or caught fireflies. My people view it as a sin to imprison something, especially something as sacred as a firefly."
Angelick stayed silent and Bhairavi knew she was in deep thought.
"Do you think fireflies will come to our rescue? we're like that little girl who couldn't get free, do you think they'll light the way for someone to come save us?" She suddenly asked making Bhairavi's heart weigh down in sadness.
"yes." she said softly, "I believe the great spirit will send help."
"Sing!" The leader suddenly snarled enraged by her stubborness.
"I'd rather die." She spat wiping the blood from her mouth.
"NO!" Angelick screamed her sobs becoming noticably louder. "You can't take her away from me! Just sing for them Bhairavi!"
At the sound of the distressed girls desperate cries Bhairavi cracked her the strongest smile she could muster which wasn't very strong.
"Be quiet!!!" The leader snarled shoving her cage causing it to topple over. Angelick cried out in pain as the cage flipped over.
"Dont you hurt her!" Bhairavi screetched suddenly losing her calm. Her sudden strong hate didn't go unnoticed by the leader. He smirked as a sick plan suddenly formed in his head. He knew how to get Bhairavi to sing for him.
Unlocking Angelick's cage he pulled her out by her arm and threw her to the floor. Before she could jump to her feet he placed a heavy boot on her abdomen holding her down. A satisfied glint suddenly showed in his eyes as he gazed on at the defiant Bhairavi.
"If you refuse to sing songbird then I refuse to let this little girl go unharmed." A sick feeling weighed down in Bhairavi's stomach at the thought of him hurting her. Before she could make a decision however, the leader put pressure on Angelicks stomach and she screamed in pain.
Instinctivly Bhairavi raised her voice but not in song. It was in pure wrenching agony screaming along with little Angelick.
"SING!" he bellowed adding more weight to the foot pinning Angelick down.
"STOP IT!" Bhairavi wailed wishing she was not being held down so that she could help end Angelicks suffering. A snap was heard as he crushed one of Angelick's ribs and Bhairavi felt the pain of the blow as if it were her own.
Angelick wailed in pure agony and screamed louder than ever as he added more force.
Bhairavi would do anything for Angelick, she realized that now, she would even give up her pride if it meant ending Angelick's suffering. Reaching for her deepest emotion which just so happened to be pain and desperation Bhairavi lifted her voice to the heavens letting it soar. It was laced with agony and pain as with all her songs. It was the most beautiful sound they had ever heard.
Her eyes closed, her heart swelling with joy of the freedom her songs always brought her even if they were pain filled, Bhairavi sang with the sole purpose of saving Angelick. Somehow, that made it all the more beautiful.
When the gruff men threw Bhairavi back into her cage, they also threw the broken form of Angelick in with her much to Bhairavi's surprise. Bhairavi craddled the young girl's unconcious form in her arms and let her tears drip onto her face.
"I'm so sorry Angelick." she whispered stroking the girls long golden locks. Angelick twitched and her face twisted in pain. Bhairavi wanted that pained look to go away. So she picked a sweet soft lullaby she had heard a woman sing to her baby a long time ago, and began to softly sing it to Angelick. Instantly Angelick's face relaxed. Bhairavi sang the lullaby as she rocked Angelick back and forth and slowly, Bhairavi's eyes slid closed. The next time they opened they would be emotionless and she would be holding a corpse.
Angelick finally got her wish. The great spirit had granted her freedom and led her to a place where there would be no pain. When Bhairavi awoke, she would beg the great spirit to take her too.