The sun's light filtered through the faded blue fabric of the tent, casting the still body in a veil of turquoise and sapphire. Her breathing remained the same as she woke, forcing herself to appear asleep. She did not move nor twitch, keeping careful control over the movement of her body. She listened for other signs of life; breathing, movement, anything to give away their presence. She heard no movement near her bedside, but there was plenty of other sounds that catalogued in her mind: beating, shouting voices from afar, animals. Slowly, the lids of her eyes peeled open,her gazefocusing on the unfamiliar surroundings. Sparse furniture dotted one side of the vinyl walled room, a trunk, cabinet, and a body length mirror. The thick blanket that protected her from the chill of the morning she never seen before. Her pillow did not smell of her fabric softener, the clothes she was wrapped in were not hers.
Where am I? she thought groggily as she stiffly propped her lithe frame onto her elbows, wincing as a stab of pain jolted through her arms. Looking down, she gasped at the stark white bandages that covered the tan skin of her hands and forearms. Only the tips of her fingers were visible, bluish black like the midnight sky.
She tried to recall how she came to be at this strange room, in this bed that was not hers, how she obtained these wounds, but for the life of her, she could not. She struggled, trying to will up the memory until there was a sheen of chilled sweat upon her brow and her body quivered with exhaustion.
Throwing the blanket from her body, she recoiled at the sight of her mottled legs, the angry purple bruises even more horrifying because she did not know how she got them. Panic began to set in her bones, her breathing hitching as her heart rate soared. Instinct told her to run, that she needed to get back home, but to what? Where was home and who was she?
The questions and their missing answers burned through her mind. Lurching from the bed in a rush of fabric and skin, she stood in its middle and took stock of her surroundings. Sunlight made the fabric of the tent's walls seem lighter, like she was in the middle of a underground pool. Her legs throbbed now that weight settled on them, as if someone was pulling at her muscles and tendons, stretching them like taffy. She forced herself to stand before the polished mirror, seeing the length of her body. Sliding her hands under the hem of the long t-shirt, she tugged the fabric up and over her head. The reflection in the mirror was a horror.
Blue-green eyes stared back at her, as bright as a sunlit sea, but that was strange. Her eyes used to be brown; at least, she thought they had been. Her legs were discolored, an ugly array of multicolored bruises mixed with the creamy tan of her skin. It looked as if someone had wrapped chains around her legs multiple times, leaving the spirals as proof. She tried to remember if that was what happened to her, but nothing came to mind. The nameless woman moved her eyes up from her legs across her thighs and waist, taking in account the sudden cease of bruises. The naked skin of her torso was unmarred by bruises, but thin cuts laced their way across her collarbones and shoulders. Turning her back, she examined the warm expanse of skin, showing no emotion as the whip marks stared accusing back at her.
A waterfall of light brown had been pulled back into a braid, the twists of browns and blonde something that was finally familiar to her. She ran her bandaged hands over the mesh of hair, wincing as she undid the ribbon that held it together. Slowly, she undid the plait, sighing as the silken tresses met her bare skin. The ends of it tickled the backs of her thighs, falling over her shoulders in crinkled waves.
Her hands appeared before her face. Hesitantly, she started atgauze clad fingertipsand ended at her elbows. Impatience had chipped away at her cool exterior by the time the last twirl landed at her feet.She was quiet for a long while. Time stood still, everything in the room vanishing. With one finger of her right hand, she traced the tattooed marks of her left, running from her fingertip to the knuckle. When her hands started to quake, she quit tracing them, but her eyes never left them. The intricate webbing of vines turned to flames at her wrist, and those flames turned to wolves that ran up her arms. Their paws left prints that dotted the swirls and leaves, their eerie eyes too real for her to stare at long.
Tearing her eyes from the sight and back into the nightmarish reality, she searched through the army of white furniture, trying to find the exit. After what seemed like a lifetime, but was only a few seconds, the slit in the material made itself known. Surging forward with reckless abandon of all precaution, she tore through the opening.
The light was blinding, blacking out her vision before fading back in at a painstakingly slow pace. As her eyes took their sweet time adjusting, she used her other senses, listening and feeling, smelling the air around her. It was, as everything else, instinctual, and she did it before she knew she what she was actually doing.
Beating of hammers nicked away at her ears, accompanied by the sounds of voices that quickly died to low murmurs and whispers. The ground was grass that teased the bare soles of her feet, the cold dew numbing her toes as a hint of blue sky dissolved into view. The brisk breeze smelled of sweat and manure, hay and plastic faint undertones. Finally she could see.
The first thing noticed was the massive striped tent that towered over its smaller brethren. Triangular flags were positioned at the highest peaks, multicolored sentries guarding their castle. Slowly her gaze lowered bit by bit, cataloging details all the while; the vender stands that belonged at fairgrounds, trucks with trailers hooked behind them, animals feasting on the uncut grass of a formerly empty field.
Then she noticed the people. They were the strangest bunch she had ever seen, that was certain. The horde of bodies were brightly colored, a rainbow put together by a blind man. The only thing every man, woman, and child there had in common was the blatant stares that adorned their faces. One woman held a hand to her mouth, her spiked, pink hair standing on end. Another man’s painted eyes widened, the purple irises darkening as he took in her nude form. Two children who looked no older than eight years old stepped from the mass, an emerald sheet of silk pressed between hands. With no word, the girl and boy made their way towards her step by step, careful of each advance as if she were a wounded animal. As they made their way brazenly, she took them in: white hair, dark blue eyes, the same matching body suits of black and silver. She quickly assessed them as siblings.
Carefully, the girl climbed atop her brother’s shoulders as he held the fabric. Her feet were bare, the toes painted ice blue, her body balanced perfectly upon the shoulders. As they made their way in front of her, she noticed the boy close his eyes as his gaze fell upon her stomach. The girl reached for the green fabric, pulling it around the woman’s form and attaching it at the base of the throat with a crescent pin.
“Who am I?” The woman‘s voice was hoarse, a guttural sound that was a mix of animal and human. She caught the girl’s sapphire gaze, holding it as steadily as she would anyone else’s. “Where am I?”
The child brushed her white curls from her face, smiling. “You are the Night’s huntress, his Protector.”
The girl leapt from her brother’s back, arching in the air and landing on the balls of her feet. The boy took some steps back, some ethereal sense telling him where his sister was. When he was at he side, he took her hand in his, and together they skipped away.
“What are you all doing! Get back to work.” At the masculine yells, the people scattered like roaches under a light.
As they vanished, only a man remained.
© Copyright 2017 Salem Locke. All rights reserved.
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