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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

“Ayelet? Ayelet wake up.”

Her eyes opened slowly. She saw the concrete floor. The brick walls, damp, dripping. A curtain did it’s best to separate her from the rest of the large, open room. Beyond it she could see people huddled around a stove, its feeble flames flickering against the oppressive darkness. She began the focus on things closer to her. The curtain was really a thread bare olive green wool blanket. The walls were covered in a similarly green moss. The floor was cracked and stained. The woman calling her from sleep had a soft face, its sagging lines suggesting it had once been full. The wrinkles around her mouth and eyes suggesting she had once, perhaps still, smiled a great deal.

“Devi?”

“Ayelet, meri jara, you are awake! You must get up, I will bring you something hot to drink.”

“How long was I asleep?” She rubbed her eyes, ran her hands through her hair, trying to grab at memories that were flying away. She had been in the woods, but before that? After that?

“Devi, where is…” She stopped, closing her eyes. Seeing. His eyes. His skin. Everything. Ayelet folded herself in half, putting her head down on her knees. Devi reached out a warm hand to her shoulder, attempting to comfort, but Ayelet moved away. Devi cleared her throat.

“You need to get cleaned up. Malcolm is waiting for you. I’ve kept him back for this long, but…well, you know Malcolm.” She smiled, and rolled her eyes, trying to attempt some sort of co-conspiracy against Malcolm, who had been his best friend, a loyal follower, a great warrior, if not quite a great mind.

Ayelet could not think of Malcolm. She played with the blood stained bracelet on her wrist, gazed as serenely as possible on the mud caked between her toes. She just wanted to sleep. To go back to a time when she hadn’t known what she knew now. When she didn’t know that he was gone. When she didn’t know who, what he was, or anything about the war, the Adumbrations, the Underground.

Ayelet had grown up away from the world, just her and her mother. And her brother, Jakob. She and Jakob would play in the seemingly endless woods and fields surrounding their small cabin. Games of non-sense, enjoying nothing more than the freedom of being together. At times they would fight, once Jakob smeared mud in Ayelet’s long, red hair, she threw mud back at him. They settled their fights together, the same way they played. There had been a time when Ayelet would have ran to her mother, crying, wanted her hair smoothed and tears wiped. Then around the age of ten or eleven, her mother began to go days without looking at her, and then would suddenly grab her by the shoulders, peering at her green eyes as if she was searching for something. It was beyond Ayelet’s grasp. She just wanted to be a child, and to play. Until Jakob was taken.

The day was hot, hotter than most. The heat radiated up from the ground, sticky and sweet, smelling of grass. The air was buzzing, vibrant and full. Jakob and Ayelet were heading down the hill their house sat on, out of the woods, across a wide field to a cool running stream. Jakob had ran ahead of her, he always sprinted to the edge of the woods, bursting from the forest as water from a dam. This day Ayelet had stopped to watch a nest of birds, craning her neck to the point of impossibility. And then something changed. At her young age, she couldn’t put a name to what it was. The air? The energy? The spin of the Earth? She was dizzy. She didn’t know. She only knew that something was different, and that she had to find Jakob. She thrust each skinny little girl leg into the ground, trying to reach them out as far as possible, to eat away at the ground between herself and the treeline. She broke out into dazzling sunlight, gasping, both from running and from this new sensation which was now baring down on her with more force than the sun.

In the field was a…she had no words for it. She had never seen any human besides her mother and Jakob, never knew anything besides the descriptions she had read in the dusty, grainy pages of the books scattered around the house. This creature was not in those volumes. It certainly had the form of a human, but its skin was translucent, its nose flat, and its eyes naught but saucers. Its long, slim, scaley limbs restrained Jakob, who was lying face down in the grass in front of it. One clawed hand traced lines into his young flesh. It stopped when it saw Ayelet. The creature began to move as if it were going to lunge at her, reaching out a hand dripping with her brother’s blood, and then quickly withdrawing it as if burned by flame. The creature made a sound, a screech, a whisper, a scream, nothing, and wrapped its arms once again around Jakob’s body, and was gone, leaving nothing but shimmering summer heat in its wake.

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