RED (Short Story)

RED

Short story by InfiniteYoungBlood

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Before anything is said I think I should make it clear that I am not looking for anyone to pity me. I actually despise the looks of pity that I receive on my travels.

Now that’s established I would like to get straight to the point. In order to do that efficiently I find it necessary you’re aware of the background of my situation. When I was eight I witnessed the deaths of my entire family, and I witnessed my village being burned to ash around me. I remember everything in sharp and agonizing details. The way the leaves fell gently over the wreckage as the fire spread; eating everything in it’s path. The way the smoke moved over the village with slow slender fingers at first, then gripped it all at once; catching my home in an iron vice. The way the building I hid in crumbled around me, the smoke in my lungs weighing me down. I remember it all so clearly. More clearly than I would like too.

Above all though I think I remember the screaming. Near deafening and of course terrifying. To a child it was a perfect depiction of Hell. I very nearly was claimed by the fire; my mother had told me to stay put, in the closet in the very back of my families shop. Though I was only a child and a very frightened one a that. Surrounded by the sounds of my village turning to nothing. I laid on the ground of our little shop, the smoke and my own tears almost blinding me, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more tired than I had in that moment. It was the sound of my mother that had kept me from slipping. She called for me over the roar of the flames and the creaks of the building and the crashes and the screams. Maybe she was just that loud or maybe it was only to me but she called to me and that was all I heard, and it was enough.

I called back to her and she was able to find me despite how weak my voice had grown at that point, my arm burned badly and the wood to high for me to get past. We ran out into the village, or she ran and I merely clung to her. It was undoubtedly the worst sight I have seen in my life. Bodies scattered- no limbs torn from their owners and strewn in a way I couldn’t tell what was what or whom was whom. I was warned not to look, my mother had tried to stop me, but by the time she was finally able to stop my wandering eyes I could barley see anything anyway. Only flashes of red and black covering my once beautiful home.

My mother ran, and I cried, and she tried to shush me but I think you should know now I have always been a very stubborn child. Though for her and because I was frightened but I wanted to be brave the way she was being brave and the way my father had been brave; I hushed myself.

I blame myself for not doing it soon enough.

The silence did not last long. It started with a howl, a sound so loud and drawn out I wondered what kind of lungs must a creature have for a sound like that, the howl could chill anyone to bone. My mother though, seemed more frightened for me than herself, and this next part is why I will never see anyone as more brave than her. This woman who had raised me for as long as she could, and continues to do so though she is no longer with me. It was no dumb luck that we came to a dead end no more than a minute after the howls had ceased. The path blocked by new wreckage, new flames, a trap.

And that is just what we were. Trapped and awaiting what I had no doubt was the same beast that had taken my home. The same beast I saw take my father. You cannot imagine the fear I felt in that moment; or the heartbreak in the next.

My mother set me on the ground and wiped my tears, shushing my quiet sobs, and she said the words I now live by.

“Be brave, even when you are sure there is no hope, and you are face to face with death. Smile, and be brave.”

I hid behind a burning door, and I saw the beast for the second time. My mother fought as bravely and as fiercely as a warrior that night. Stronger than many of the villages men. She fought until her last breath.

It was I who screamed at the sight of the wolf’s claws slashing across the flesh of her stomach, I only wanted to help. I ran from my spot behind the door, I screamed for her to be left alone, I wanted to be brave. Brave like she told me. I took the wolf’s eye as it turned to meet mine, and in return I now have a long scar across my face. My mother saved me, and I was able to run past the creature. My mother saved me, but the price for me was her life.

I blame myself for confusing bravery with recklessness.

I don’t know how long I ran for, or how far I got before I finally got away, I don’t even remember if I did get away. Truthfully. The night comes in flashes I can barley decipher.

It was my grandmother who found me. Deep in the woods with a scar across my face and my clothes torn and dirt stained. My arm was burned and my legs were cut. All in all I’m sure I looked a sight. She brought me back to her cottage, hidden in the middle of the woods where it couldn’t be found.

She brought me back to health but the scar never has fully healed.

My grandmother gave me the tools I needed to follow my mother. Teaching me to defend myself with everything from hand to hand combat to archery. She taught me to use my environment and never feel defeat in a battle no matter how close you are to losing. You can always get the upper hand.

When I was only twelve is when disaster stuck again.

I blame myself for not trusting my instincts. I was told not to trust strangers but I had been tricked.

The wolf had struck again. This time taking my grandmother from me and attempting to kill me as well by hiding and masquerading as her when I returned from my outing. This time it was a huntsmen that helped me defeat the beast.

But the thing never died.

I am now fifteen years old. I have trained nearly everyday of my life since living with my grandmother to defend myself. Although now simply defending myself if attacked is not my only goal. Now I also train to attack; to hunt.

I live by three rules, I follow two mottoes:

Rule number one) Remain silent.

Rule number two) There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness. Never cross it.

Rule number three) Never give your trust away.

Rule number four) Always trust your instincts.

“Be brave, even when you are sure there is no hope, and you are face to face with death. Smile, and be brave.”

&

“Use my environment and never feel defeat in a battle no matter how close you are to losing. You can always get the upper hand.”

I use these mistakes I’ve made in the past to strengthen me in my current mission. Find the beast that took everything from me. I will hunt it down and never stop, until it’s blood is on my hands.

The wolf took everyone and everything from me. My home, my friends, my family, my life. Now I’m going to return the favor.

My name is Red.

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