The following is not about a hero or a savior. It is not about a brave warrior or a heroic conqueror. It is the story of a human not unlike yourself. A human who was the victim of a series of accidents… as are we all.

 

The wind played a soft melody over the grassy earth, left to the care of the wild since its very inception. The air moved and hummed, rife with the life of birds and insects; here a deer, it's nose pointed towards the westerly horizon; there a herd of Qilin, their ruddy fur glimmering beneath the noontide sun. It was a groundhog that disturbed the seen first, screeching his high, shrill whistle into the blue sky, and ushering his small family down a hole. A cloud of starlings burst upwards from the meadow grasses and winged themselves towards the only evidence of civilization: a city near the eastern horizon. With a huff, the Quilin were off to greener, undisturbed grass, and all was silent. Silent, that is, until the advent of the disturbance hearkened by the rodent.

It was a girl. She was running through the waving sea of green, soundless but for her breathless panting. Something other than noise had disturbed the animals; there was a presence about the girl, dark and brooding, that was contrary to the natural. She was shaking as she ran, and it was clear her body was exhausted; she collapsed to the ground, tall grass rising to the level of her shoulders, holding all of creation at bay. A cricket landed on her shoulder before skipping away, but she stared blankly at her hands, open on her lap. They, as well as most of the rest of her body, was coated .

The girl was of age, if not only slightly younger. She was plain: Tall, full of sharp angles, and her sallow cheeks carried their share of red pimples. Her Raven hair was too short to draw up, yet too long for convenience, and impossibly stringy. Her shoulders were broad and ungraceful, and her face- long and narrow- was streaked with flecks of blood and mucus. Her eyes were appealing even after whatever ordeal she had so recently endured; they were a chilly green, like the ocean she had never seen.

She wore what was once the gown of an Ecclesial Sister: A black ankle-length dress with a white rabat. Now the lower hem was torn away below the knees, the rabat was absent, and the entire back was a fleshy mass of laceration, sweat, and scarlet flesh. Her hands were full of splinters and blisters. With one such wounded hand, she reached under her dress and withdrew a knife. It was nothing fancy or specific, as she had snatched it from the refectory in the early hours of the previous morning when her plans burst forth in blossom. It had an oak handle, and a ceramic blade beneath an oak sheath. It was used for chopping vegetables, and she could attest to its sharpness. Her heart skipped a beat as she bared the blade, and she paused. She had prepared for this moment for so long, planned it, played it through in her head. And yet, despite being prepared, she wasn't ready. She was the opposite, in fact, and began to shiver. The afternoon air was cool, her body was physically exhausted, and she longed for everything to cease. None of those were the reasons she now shook.

For years now, her individuality was what made her human. Her willingness and ability to think apart was what distinguished her from the hive mentality of the Sisters. She had made it so far, had come so close to the end… but they had broken her. She no longer knew what she was, and despaired. The pale blade was cold against her skin. The sallow dermis dimpled slightly before splitting loke an over-ripe grape. She pulled the blade across her wrist, deeper than she could stomach. The pulsing crimson stream flowed over her arm and made her dizzy. She lay on the grass, ignoring the sting of the grass in her wounds. Whatever death was, it didn't come for her. In it's stead there was numbness. She couldn't feel, and she was tired. So tired. Maybe this was death; a sleep from which you never woke. Her last thought was that her blood was very beautiful as it trickled out of her arm. She was thankful for the beauty, and a single tear leaked from her eye to join the blood.

 

 

Nearly two decades before her life blood began to pool on the meadow ground, the girl had been given a name. It was given tenderly and rescinded cruelly two years later, when her parents disappeared off the face of the planet. They left for somewhere, and never came back, leaving her with an aunt who, saddled with another young mouth to feed, quickly became destitute. After turning to the only viable source of employment, the aunt died. An upstanding member of the community found the child and took her to the Nunnery; it was never openly questioned who the child was, nor what the upstanding community leader was doing in the red light district. Instead the child was welcomed into the care of the Nunnery, and took her place alongside two-dozen other orphans from around the city.

At first, Fennia enjoyed her new life. Three times a week she was taken out to stroll the city with her peers, under the guidance of an older chaperon. She was allowed to frolic in the orchards, the lodgings were comfortable, and the nuns were kind; an old nun even taught her to read and write. Cared for as she was, the girl was unhappy; she longed to know what lay beyond the wide oaken gates in the wall of the city; all the nuns said that nothing lay beyond the city, but the girl knew this to be false. If there was nothing beyond the tall walls, why was there a gate? And from whence came the zeppelins and galleons and tankers which unloaded their wares into the broad, cobbled marketplace? They were lying to her, and that frustrated and saddened the girl. It wasn't fair.

She was caged, imprisoned behind high stone walls, exercised on a short chain, and forbidden from questioning any aspect of her existence. They said she must never ask question, but she did; she asked again and again until a sharp slap silenced her. She first tried to run when she was six years old. She made it halfway to the open gates of the nunnery before they caught her, and locked her away until she admitted the waywardness of her actions. That was the starting shot in a war of wills between the girl and the nuns, each battle more ferocious than the last. The nuns could not stifle her curiosity, and the girl had nowhere to run.

When she learned to read, and was subsequently relegated to studying the Sacred Tracts and similar tomes of spiritual nature considered fit for a religious life, the girl discovered a dusty closet in the nunnery library attic filled with novels, histories, and atlases, each more forbidden and intriguing than the last. With each iota of fact and lore she ingested about the world beyond the city walls, her desire to leave grew stronger.

When her chest was not so flat and her hips insisted on being pronounced, she was forbidden from leaving the monastery. The gates were shut to her, only she was on the wrong side. They gave her the full habit of an Ecclesial nun; she was made to sew and cook exclusively; she was taught to be ashamed of her body; her books were taken away; all the while, she was forbidden from asking questions. She realized that the noose of captivity, previously shrinking around her neck, had begun to cut into her flesh. Her rebellion took many forms, and morphed from staring absently at the peaked roofs beyond the nunnery wall, to claiming her own flesh with a blade, to abstaining from food. She refused to be a victim; without the faculty of questioning, the girl learned to watch and listen without being seen or heard. Her efforts carried her only so far; in the end they were always just a step behind, refusing her either pleasure or pain.

One slip-up revealed that she had been exploring the city nightly; the fury of the nuns was terrible, but so was the girl's indignance. She silently bore forty times from a corded whip, and was locked in the tallest of the nunnery's four towers. When she climbed down the viny trellises and proceeded to drink herself senseless in a nearby pub in the company of men who were only too eager to foot the bill, the punishment was worse than before, and she was cast into a derelict cellar beneath the nunnery chapel. She was starved and beaten for half a year in the name of piety, and in that time grew sick of her captivity and, by extension, her life. Night was no different than day; the chanting in the chapel above her was almost as unceasing as the rats swarming over her body, tussling for her meals in a match stacked against her. The girl gradually came to understand that this was it; this was the only place she had in the world, and her options were to conform or die. A week before the high point of the religious calendar, the girl came to terms with what she had to do; with the realization came an alertness and a peace such as she had never known.

They supported the girl out of her prison hole and into the orchard before the chapel. The sun caressed her face, filtered from the scorching sky by the leaves of a dozen green apple trees; It was so warm, so tender even after these many months. She wondered why she hadn't thought of this way out sooner. The summer life inspired her; Death promised a freedom that could never be revoked.

She displayed such impeccable contrition that even the abbess thought that the seeds of repentance had sprouted in her heart. The head nun was wrong; as the nunnery slept on the eve of the Feast of The Comet, the girl attempted to burn it down. The plot might have been successful, had she not let down her guard and, for the first time in her life, underestimated the nuns. At the first whiff of smoke, the abbey was alive with billowing nightgowns, elevated voices, and panic. In the hazy confusion, someone lifted the girl and carried her bodily from the smoke. She watched as the nuns formed a line of trailing nightgowns between the dormitories and the abbey pond, slowly putting out the fire she had so carefully planned. By all rights she should still be in there, a piping hot cinder on the glowing flagstones.

The sun pinked the Eastward hem of the horizon, and spread a blue blanket over a curious scene. The nuns slaked their thirst from pitchers of mead, singed but victorious. The dormitories had survived, but little within them remained. Off to the side she stood, an unmoving, emaciated skeleton, swaying slightly in the dawn light. She turned her back to the steaming heaps of ash.

The abbess stood, laughing with her sisters, and moved towards the dormitory to salvage what could saved before it was time to prepare for the celebration of the feast. Her foot dislodged something from the piles of ash. The girl smiled, realizing that it was finally about to end. She waited as they swooped on her like a murder of crows, striking, screaming, clawing, binding. She found herself back in the hell beneath the chapel, only now it was the purgatory to her heaven. She didn't fight of the rats as they nibbled at her feet; the girl sat like a corpse and waited.

 

 

The Summer Solstice, better known as the Feast of The Comet, was the height of religious frenzy in the city; it was also the biggest social event, and the most extravagant market day. Today was to be a bigger feast than any in recent memory; not only was Breol the Bard presiding over the feast at nightfall, there was to be an execution. It was abrupt and sudden, surrounded in mystery and scandal; Terribly exciting, all told. Some said the lord mayor himself was going to be there.

 

 

The girl had seen the dais before. It was adorned in garlands of marigolds, bluebells, buttercups, and a great many unnamed flowers from the meadow just beyond the city gate. The lord mayor and his lady had already taken their seats, and an eager crowd was chattering. She didn't care, only longed for the end. There was singing and chanting, overpowering incense. She felt heavy and tired, but she held fast to the restraints on either side of the upright wooden beam. To her left were the assembled; the mayor and the mother superior were in the periphery to her right. Directly ahead of the girl was the open city gate, and beyond that… nothing. Nothing but a seeming eternity of green grass and blue sky. She struggled to keep her eyes open.

The first stroke was like a lightning bolt. It came and was gone: hot, hard, and incredibly bright. She was wide awake now, and in pain. The crowd was a distant roar when the second lash came. The fabric on her back ripped, and was torn open in the next two strokes. The fifth stroke was unlike anything she had ever felt. This wasn't the corded whip she had grown to know; it was hard and biting. She turned her head enough to focus on an upraised arm, and a length of studded leather. By the fifteenth down stroke, the girl was trembling on her knees, blood spilling freely from her torn back. The abbess stepped forward, promising her swift and concise death if only she would confess. The girl spat through ragged breath, and pulled herself to her feet. She bit the top edge of the post and screamed when the next lash came. She could barely control her body, shivering, dripping as it was with every imaginable bodily fluid. Between lashes she focused on her left wrist, flexing and working it in it's restraints. She held out until the fiftieth stroke dug into her back before yanking her arm free. Whoever stood behind her gasped, but the girl didn't pause. She freed her other arm and ran. These were her streets, and she led her pursuers in circuitous routes to nowhere, with each step willing her legs to carry her one stride further. When the nuns behind her had lost interest, she ducked out the city gates, running as fast and far as she could before collapsing. And now as the darkness closed around her, her life seeping back into the land, she desired to live; but it was too late.

 

 

The girl was in a dark place; she could see and hear nothing, but felt cold stone beneath her feet. She stood- only it wasn't really standing, and began to walk- though it wasn't quite walking. She remembered the failed execution in the city; It felt years distant now. There were no wounds on her body, in fact she couldn't rightly tell if she had a body. Everything was off. She wasn't alive anymore, but this place wasn't what she wanted in death. She kept walking, aimlessly, meaninglessly. There were no stars above, but the stone ground felt too even for a cave. She could sense nothing in the darkness around her, and it came as a shock when she bumped into something solid. It didn't hurt, but it did startle her to alertness. It now felt as if she had been sleeping.

Somewhere to the left, someone called her. She didn't recognize the voice, but knew it, and was aware she must get to it's owner. She began to run, if it could be called as much. She crashed into another wall, as abrupt and painless as the first. The call came again, and her urgency increased. She could run no faster, but knew it was still not fast enough. She crashed into wall after wall of the invisible maze, violently desperate to reach the owner of the voice, for her own sake as well as theirs.

She ran until she could run no further; she collapsed, slept, and ran again. When she could run no further, she collapsed and slept. There was no time of which to lose track, so she could only run. After an eternity, the voice called out to her with a command. It told her to open her eyes. They were already open, and she tried to relay the message, but she could not speak. She struggled as she ran, trying to speak with an open mouth, bidding her gaping eyes to see. The voice grew louder, angrier, bellowing at her to open her eyes. And now it was not familiar and beckoning.

The voice became deep and loathsome. It was behind her now, overwhelming and powerful and commanding. It was chasing her, and with this realization came horror, and new desperation. She crashed into another wall, and another, and another, all the while the voice behind her growing closer. Her speed was unsustainable, and when another invisible wall met her, she collapsed. The voice towered above her, calling at her with a voice that shattered mountains. Her bones shook at it's bestial cry, and she strained her eyes to see.

Something appeared in the darkness above her, growing, spreading. It was orbicular, dark and blinding at once, and galloping towards her from the blackness above. The bright darkness crashed into her with the noise of a thousand thrown tumblers, bringing with it pain. She shut her eyes, daring not to move.

The girl felt as if there were shards of glass sticking into every surface of her body. It hurt to think, to conjecture. It was pure agony to be. Beyond her shut eyelids was a brightness, slowly diminishing in magnitude. She cracked open her eyes to see blue all around; it was the sky, blurry and upside-down, but the sky nonetheless.

 

Published by Typist In The Wind