“Aari!” The girl looked up from her readings, searching for the source of the voice that called her. She found that her candle had nearly melted down into nonexistence, with drippings of molten wax pooling on her desk.
“Yes?” She called back, blowing out the candle before it disappeared entirely.
“I can come in?” The voice said, this time closer and quieter.
“Yes,” She said, watching as her Keeper came into the room. Aari stepped closer to her desk, trying to hide the melted wax, but not before the stern woman cast a condescending glance at it. Her frown deepened, the lines around her mouth and eyes growing longer and deeper as she did so. Merriam did not like messes, of any way, shape, or form.
“I assume you have yet to prepare for bed,” She sniffed, making a facial expression that would have been far more effective on a more graceful looking woman.
“Well…I do have a few more minutes,” Aari smiled a small smile at her, although Merrian seemed not to notice.
“’Tis better to do now what might be done later,” She said, using her most frequently used expression. She had many expressions, so many that a large tome would not have been sufficient for holding them. Many of them were about work ethics and how everyone else’s was incorrect. Some of them were about how much pain she had been put through since accepting Aari as her charge.
“I was reading, though,” Aari protested.
“I would be able to read a great lot more if you would follow through on your duties,” She shook her head, a remorseful expression on her face.
“I will get ready,” Aari promised, but the older woman did not look convinced.
The girl pulled out her nightgown, laying it over the bed. She slipped off her slippers, walking in her stocking-feet.
Merriam was still frowning, but as soon as she had gotten her assurances that Aari was indeed getting ready for bed, she left.
There was hardly enough light for her to get ready, but the lanterns in the hall gave off some flickering beams that helped Aari see enough to be able to change.
She went over to the outward-facing building, the one that gave a clear view of the whole Flittere city, as well as the wall and surrounding forest. She had never been in the forest, but she didn’t know many who had, so what lay outside the safety of the city was of no importance to her. All around her were buildings, some with lights that hadn’t been extinguished yet. Her best friend lived in the Green Building, where the lights were already off. In the White Building, where Aari lived, the lamp-lighters were going through the corridors, putting out the lanterns in the whole building.
Aari crossed through her room, absently untieing the small leather string that tied the end of her braid. Around her mirror, with one corner stuck under the white, wooden frame, were small drawings of things: friends, items, and her dreams. She was almost afraid to look at the drawings of her dreams, for although those horrible nightmares never went very far away from her, the fear grew stronger as she was reminded of them.
She crawled into bed, letting her fear of sleep freeze her for a moment. She never knew the dream by heart, and yet was always caught off guard by the suddeness of it all. But one thing she felt certain of: she would never get to finish that awful dream, no matter what.
Aari ran, as quickly as the wind, through the trees, trying to avoid the monster coming after her. She knew that place, like you know a half-remembered dream, like you remember memories from long, long ago, even before you could possibly remember them. She didn’t know what she was running from, or how she had even gotten there, but she kept running, her primal instincts pushing her to move forward, even though her legs were like rocks, and her eyes were watering from twigs hitting her face. Suddenly, the trees stopped, and Aari was in a clearing. She kept running, though. She was just about to collapse in exhaustion when a woman stepped out of the trees. She was glowing, but not brightly, more in a shimmering light, like a sheen of gossamer. She came up to Aari, held her hand, and walked me over to the end of the clearing, where the earth stopped short and gave way to a gaping abyss. They both turned and stared as the monster came closer, crashing through the underbrush. The woman pushed her to a fallen log, indicating that she should hide behind it. She did, just as the monster thudded into the clearing. Aari never got to look at the monster, however, for the woman was opening her mouth to speak, seeming to draw all of the air in the clearing as she took a single breath. Then the monster lunged, grabbing her in it’s shapeless form and dropping over the cliff in a single moment.
Aari snapped up, her hair plastered to her head in a cold sweat that drenched her entire body. She stayed in bed for a moment before getting up and going over to her washbasin, doing so in more of a rhythm than a conscious action. As she splashed her face with icy water, she promised herself that she would tell Merriam everything when she woke up the next morning.
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