“Before there was Wynter, there was Drena.”
Chased into Darkness
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if the clock stood still? If everyone around you aged, but you yourself stayed frozen in time? Or what about when you think you really know someone, and then one day they show you their true colors? Leaving you wondering if you could have seen the signs earlier.
I was sixteen when he turned me. I remember it, as if it was yesterday. A beautiful spring afternoon and the orange blossoms blew in the breeze. I was down by the river, filling a bucket with water when I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye.
“Riley James Thorton! Why, you scared me half to death, sneaking up on me like that!”
He smiles kissing my cheek. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’ve come to see if you were safe.”
“Safe? And why wouldn’t I be?” I say, pulling at the bucket full of river water, and setting it by my feet.
“To warn you,” he says, grabbing my hand. “Honestly, I feared I would be too late, but here you are.” He grabs the bucket in the other hand and we begin to pace up the riverbank. “Gretta has reported you and your family as witches to the council. They are coming for you, and there isn’t much time. We must hide you, and your family quickly,” he urges.
“What? But that’s impossible. I admit we use the occasional herbs to heal people yes, but to call us something as scathing as a witch; it’s preposterous. Why would Gretta do something like that? We have been friends since childhood,” I exclaim.
“I don’t know, but a mob is on the way; neighbors with torches, and pitchforks, men on horseback with swords. I raced back here as fast as I could,” he says.
Still holding onto the bucket, Riley pulls me up the steep embankment with his free hand. As we pace back to the cottage, hiding among the trees, he states, “We must be careful, that nobody sees you.” When we reach the ridgeline of the forest, out onto the grassy meadow, I see my family cottage burning. Screams can be heard from the inside. and my father is tied to a horse, with cloth stuffed in his mouth.
“No!” I scream, and begin to run towards the burning fire, but Riley grasps my arm so tight that he pulls me back into him.
“If you try to save them, you will be killed too,” he warns.
My screams must have grabbed the attention of some of the men on horseback, because I hear a person yell, “We missed one, this way!” Turning his horse towards us, they all begin to gallop our direction with swords in the air.
Taking off back through the trees, we slide down the embankment to the river. It’s too high for us to cross where we are.
“So, what now?” I ask. Fearful that I will be torched alive like my sister and mother, I push the aching thoughts from my mind and try to focus on an escape.
“This way,” Riley says, and pulls at my hand, as we run downstream along the shore of the rushing river. “It’s not far. I know where we can cross.”
Multiple shouts can be heard from behind us as we race along the torrent. ‘I’m not dressed in the proper attire to be running so fast,’ I think to myself. My slippers are soaked and my skirt dirty, with some visible tears in the fabric. I thought for sure I would fall flat on my face at any moment. Still, holding onto his hand, even though he seems to run much faster, I manage to keep up.
After a few minutes of dashing through the brush and rocks, we come to a waterfall and for a minor second, I’m hoping the chase is over. Until I hear a scream from a woman, “Kill the witch.” Followed by random others chanting, ‘Burn her,’ ‘Don’t let her get away,’ ‘Kill her.’ The voices carry through the sounds of the speeding riverbed.
“Go. Save yourself. They are after me anyway,” I say, out of breath. My heart pounds, and my chest hurts from running so fast. It’s amazing how quickly a body can lose its vigor from sprinting.
Riley grins at me. “It’s not far, my sweet.” He pulls at my hand, saying, “Hold on tight,” and before I can protest, we fly through the air, plunging to a pool of water below.
Dazed for a moment, my instinct is to swim back to the surface for air. I’m pulled away by the waist for a few seconds, underneath the water, finally surfacing, behind a waterfall. My back is against a ledge leading to a cave, and my eyes begin to focus.
It’s dark, and the only light available is the reflection of the afternoon sun bouncing off the cascading water. I see Riley, put his fingers to his lips, as to gesture not to make a sound. My body begins to relax a moment as I hear faint sounds of the mob moving away from our location.
Realizing I can rest the panic in my heart; that I’m safe, I automatically begin to think about my mother and sister. Tears stream down my cheeks, as I try to pick up the clues as to why Gretta would tell such a vicious lie.
I think of my father. Why didn’t they kill him too? My mind flashes through possibilities. How am I going to free him from the bonds of his captors? I’m cold, wet, and fear I’ll for sure catch a chill. I have a feeling we will not be leaving the protection of this cave anytime soon, so I huddle in a corner. Riley comes to share in the body heat, although he too, is just as cold.
It’s nearly nightfall by the time we leave the protection of the cave. Following Riley, we trail down a path in the opposite direction of my home.
“It isn’t far now,” I hear him whisper in my ear.
“Where are we going?” I ask. In the moonlight, I see his eyes glow red, and he smiles. Prompting me to stop pacing forward.
“What is it?” he says to me, looking confused.
“Your eyes, they are glowing…red.” And before he can answer me I feel a piercing pain in my chest. Looking down, I see blood oozing out from where an arrow has hit. Surprised by my unfortunate predicament, I fall to my knees, and drop to the ground. The pain pulsates like an ache in the head, as I wait in anticipation for death. I hear sounds in the background, while I stare off at the damp ground before me. Water trickles in the distance, and footsteps pound the dirt, followed by a shrieking scream, then gurgling as if someone is drowning in their own saliva. Moments later, silence follows. I didn’t know if the prior screams were Riley, or another helpless soul before the air becomes still. My body is paralyzed, and I feel myself drifting to sleep. It doesn’t matter now anyway. Death will come to me soon, and I shut my eyes, for I do not have the strength to keep them open.
“You shall not die today my sweet,” I hear him hiss. I feel a second pain, seep through my wrist. Like being bitten by an animal. The pain burns, as though I had scalded my hand, however it didn’t match the ache I feel within my chest. I’m too weak to open my eyes. Instead, I allow death to take me.
©2018 Emmy R Bennett Chased into Darkness