Thursday, 12 September 2013

Chapter 3 - Silent Shadows

A warm glow; sunshine on her face.
            Arratay laughs as the man throws her up in the air, the whoosh of air in her ears. A woman holds Susurrus' hand tightly as he drags her ahead, and the scene is perfect. The sweet nectar of summertime makes them heavy with happiness, heavy with rightness. As she falls back down, she is sure that she has never felt so complete in her life.
            Her smile dims. She cannot remember where she is, or why she is there. She's so small, how old is she? She is lost in a whirl of confusion as she spins around. The woman and the man stand together.
            "Do you remember what happens next, pet?" the woman asks. Her voice is wrong, unsure, like a memory of something half-forgotten and imagined.
            The man speaks in his half-voice. "Remember, Arratay? Can't you remember what happens next?"
            Arratay's heart drops. She knows where she is. She knows what happens next. "No!" she screams. Too late. Again.
            She is running, running towards them, towards her parents, but the sky is dark and they are already burning. Turning into dust and ashes. Falling apart. Screaming. They burn to nothing in a flutter of lashes.
            She was always too late.

* * *

Arratay gasped. It was one of those dreams that defied time, where everything happens in mere seconds. Lives end and lives ruined in a blink of the eye. She opened her clenched fist, half expecting the steel grey ash that she knew so well from her dreams, but her hands only yielded her crumpled bed sheet.
            It was a dream, just a dream. How had it gotten in, after all this time? Always waiting for her to fall asleep, for her to be vulnerable, before invading her mind. Reliving the same thing over and over again.
            She waited for her rushing heart to be steady again, hating the hysterical skipping of the beats, the way the dreams haunted her. She wasn't afraid - she had driven away the fear long ago - and she had vowed that nothing would make her feel afraid again.
            Her jaw clenched. There was no fear, only anger. To feel so right and then have it taken away from her, to have her happiness replaced by a cold regret… the dreams lied to her.
            This was her life. Waiting, haunted, for the chance to pay her debt. Her parents had given her life, had brought her into this world. And she had been too late to save them.
            But she had Susurrus. And for years, this is what they had been doing. Tracking the killer, waiting for the perfect chance to strike and punish him.
            Waiting for the Unnamed.
* * *

Arratay's lids fluttered. She became distinctly aware of her surroundings. Pillow. Blanket. Her bed. She yawned and rolled over, frowning when she saw the time. 2:54 AM. She lay quiet for a while, peering into the darkness that was only illuminated by the digital clock, numbers blinking back at her in the silence. She tried to shake off an uneasy feeling that sat at the bottom of her stomach, but it lingered like a bad aftertaste.
            A creak came from kitchen and she stiffened. Another, this time from the dining room, and she forced her mind to sharpen, brushing off her weariness like cobwebs. She crept out of her bed and hesitated as she reached for the doorknob. Her eyes narrowed and she gently pulled open the door.
            A fist of shadows hit her on the side of the head and she flew sideways, skidding across the hallway. Her mind was a kaleidoscope of colours and explosions as she groped for a weapon, too late as another wave of shadows caught her square in the stomach, throwing her against the walls. She curled up into a ball in the corner, trying to back away from the shadows. Her mind processed everything slowly, from the fact that she was being attacked to the realisation that the attacker wasn’t really an attacker at all.
            It was still dark, but somehow she felt the shadows creeping in, suffocating her. It didn’t make sense, it was impossible, but it was somehow true.
            Nobody was controlling the shadows.
            A tendril of shadow wrapped around her wrist.
            Another around her other hand.
            A last one around her neck.
            She choked and fought, kicking her legs. With every struggle, the tendrils wrapped tighter and tighter. She was going to pass out soon, she knew, and still she tried to push back, tried to free up some space between the shadow and her neck. Her head was beating like a drum, her mouth gaping for air that wouldn’t come. With her last ounce of strength, she hit her heel against the wall, emitting a weak sound that was more comparable to a tap. Still, it was enough.
            A light flicked on as Susurrus teleported in, and then Arratay was released as the shadows melted into the dark corners of the room. She collapsed and fell sideways, Susurrus catching her just in time.
            “What the hell were those,” he began, “and what the hell are they doing in our home?”
            Darkness clouded her mind, and the room swallowed itself into nothingness.