Once, there was a girl; she wasn’t beautiful, but she was certainly not ugly. She had long, brown hair which she wore in a braid behind her back. Her face was flecked with small freckles, and she had a mischievous glint in her hazel eyes.
If any other fourteen-year-old girl had been in her situation, she would have longed for the same thing as her. What she wished for was adventure and excitement; a little variety to make her opinionatedly boring life livelier. What she was unawares to was that it is inaccurate to speak of your life as a whole before it has completed its course.
She lived in a forest entitled Diskimult. There she resided alongside Heather, whom she called Mother, in a rather stony and thick tower, which stood bluntly surrounded by a sinister black iron fence that stood as tall as a common black bear stretched to its full height. Draped over the tower’s pristine windows were velvety scarlet curtains that rippled in each earth-smelling breeze, for the panes were generally left ajar. Protruding from the cylindrical structure was a fine balcony. It would have been a very admirable home if it hadn’t been in the middle of nowhere.
And in the middle of nowhere it indeed was. Audrey often wondered what lay beyond those black gates as she watched Heather leave to go on some errand, jealousy seething in her heart.
Heather quite often left on errands, in fact, leaving Audrey alone for lengthy periods of time to gloat on the balcony, or simmer inside if it rained. You might have thought that there was a high level of trust in their relationship, but the gates always stayed locked.
Only once or twice had Audrey been admitted free roam of the forest, and even then she was closely watched by their servant elf and strictly instructed not to go far. However mischievous, Audrey was not altogether disobedient (and did not want to get her privilege revoked), and so never knew of life outside of Diskimult.
An evening came when she decided to address the matter with her mother.
“Life here is boring,” she stated plainly.
Heather was a bit taken aback. “Boring! Why, Audrey, what could possibly have drawn you to such a conclusion?”
“There’s nothing to do! I mean, we’re in the middle of a forest, for goodness sake,” the girl complained. She pondered for another excuse, staring blankly out the window at the cage of her Merlin falcon, Gawain.
The falcon had appeared one gray night, when Audrey aged ten years, in the midst of a storm. Each bolt of lightning and skull-rattling strike of thunder caused the eyass to cower in fear, and he cautiously made his clumsy way to a place he was sure to be his home, though he was unsure why. His wings were soaked and therefore useless, and the pinons weren’t even experienced anyway. He shivered, cold to the bone, and soaked clean through with loneliness and sleeting rain. The confused bird slipped between two black iron bars that would have been nearly invisible to a person, but were caught by his sharp falcon-eyes. He cawed shrilly, the high frequencies cutting through the roaring night.
Inside the falcon’s destination, Audrey woke with a start. Eerily knowing she must get up and search the yard, she sprinted down the stairs, snatching her father’s leather jacket from the closet on her way out the door. The sleeves drooped past her fingertips, and the hem hung to her knees, but she insisted it above any other.
As she stepped into the yard, her bare feet sunk deep into the wet soil, but she trudged around the base of the tower, until finding the pitiful soggy heap-of-a-falcon at the north side. She stooped to the ground, the mud squelching and her knees splashing in the wet. Gently enveloping the nestling in her leather coat, she whispered, “Welcome,” and the black beady eyes shone back at her through the dark and sleet, as if saying, “Thank you.” Both drenched now, Audrey rounded the tower again and gave the falcon a home in the warm shelter. Gawain never had to live through another storm unsheltered.
Blinking herself awake from the memory, Audrey straightened and said firmly, “And I’m a girl, so you say I’m not allowed to hunt.”
Heather answered quickly, “We have an elf hired to do that. There’s no need for you to risk your hide, and I do sometimes let you hunt with your falcon.”
“But you certainly don’t approve of it, and I don’t see how my hide is being risked by slinging a squirrel. Besides, Gawain would do a lot of the work anyway.”
Heather bit her lip and shook her head. “It’s just not a ladies’ job.”
“What if I’m not a lady!” the daughter retorted.
“What if your mother wants you to be a lady?”
“What if it doesn’t matter what you say!” Audrey stood abruptly.
Heather mimicked her. “Now see here!-”
“I’m going for a walk!” Audrey interrupted before she stormed from the room haughtily.
As she scampered down the stairs, Heather called softly, “Your father wished you to be a lady.”
Pausing briefly, Audrey frowned before shrieking, “You’re lying!” and speeding the rest of the steps. She despised that Heather would use her father, whom she’d never had the chance to meet, as a position in an argument. It made her vision go red.
Audrey swung the closet door open angrily, hurling it open against the wall with a satisfying bang. As she reached inside for a jacket, a sheaf of parchment fluttered out of the pocket of a coat and it crinkled to the floor. Stooping, the girl examined the paper. It was wet with ink dribbles and a message was written in hastened shorthand on the ancient-looking material. Half not caring, and half not wanting to get her hands inky, she read in from her crouched position:
“Beware those curious who read this note
Though it may seem harmless
Soon adventure will flood your boat
And the skies will seem starless
Beware the wounded rabbit as well
In his red eyes, deception gleams
For into the white room you will fall
And see what something didn’t seem”
Audrey sniffed, assuming her mother had put it there to make up for their argument. It was confusing, “The skies will seem starless”? Will she lose her way? It didn’t seem like her mother to lose hope over little disagreements. Another thought came to Audrey’s mind of how on earth her mother could have gotten the note to the closet, as they had only had the row moments ago. Brushing the thought from mind, she shoved her hand in to reach for her old, reliable leather jacket, which now fit her closer that four years had passed. Something caught her eye. She lowered her eyebrows and knelt to peer into the gloomy bottom of the closet.
Squinting, Audrey thought she could perceive a small white form crouched far back against the dimmed corner. The figure dragged itself into the light. Audrey barely recognized it as a rabbit.
Blood swirled in its fur, matting in clumps that hung in its once-white hairs. Its nose twitched at the sight of sunlight, but did not cower nearly as much from fright but from what appeared to be pain. Suddenly, it spoke, in a harsh whisper, “Please go through, and it might save my life.”
A piercing light abruptly grew from the corner of the closet, and Audrey blinked in surprise. The creature looked up at her mournfully with its deep, red eyes.
“A gap to another dimension. You will be happier there, it is full of excitement. And it will save my life.” The animal shuddered so severely, Audrey feared it to be its last, but it repeated its request in a rasp barely perceivable, “Go for me.”
Audrey glanced at the note, snatching it into her thin fingers. It warned the opposite of the rabbit’s words. Judging the paper’s precaution to be accurate, Audrey swallowed, and forced an unsure but firm, “No.” Her eyes did not meet the rabbit’s. The girl stood, planning on leaving.
“I do not wish to intervene with whatever is going on,” she said more surely, before showing her back. It was not prime literature, but it got her point across. Before Audrey could take a step, however, a tenor voice sneered, and warm breath blew down her neck, surprising her as greatly as if she’s been stabbed in the back.
“Go, now, or I will force you,” it said.
Pivoting slowly, she shook in her boots. Red, human, yet so inhuman, eyes glared back at her, full of such evil it made her heart lurch. The pale face, with its thin nostrils, was much too close for her liking. Swallowing hard, she took a barely noticeable glance down at the note, which she had been gripping so tightly the black ink smeared into the red spots, which now showed clearly in the light. Her hand shook so violently it fell from her grasp, leaving dark red stains on the tips of her fingers. Speaking, in a harsh but barely audible tone, to the face immeasurably close to hers, she said, “You killed the author of the note.”
She spat in the man’s face. He grimaced, and drew back to his full height, now towering at least a foot above her. He drew a stained handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed the spittle from his sickly pale, hollow cheeks. Now that she had a view of more than his face and snow-white hair, she saw bloodstains on his (or what would have been) purely white suit, but no wounds on his body or tears in his clothing. His thin lips were blood-red, as well as his eyes, that gleamed with deception, their only emotion.
Glancing at the floor, Audrey saw her burgundy boots, and his white leather shoes that seemed to have stepped in blood, for brown stains were dried to the material, but that was all. No rabbit to be seen. Either the rabbit had ran, or this man. . .
“You’re that stupid rabbit and you killed the author of the note.”
He just cackled shrilly, piercing her ears. “No, dear, he is just in grave, grave pain.” He smiled menacingly, but it was immediately wiped from his face.
“Now go, for the same fate awaits you either choice you make,” he continued in a much lighter, but no less menacing tone. “If you go now, you may be able to delay your sentence for a time.” He smiled contentedly and gestured a bloodstained white glove at the gleaming passage.
Clenching her teeth in what she hoped looked like a brave way, Audrey did not think, she just stepped into the white entrance. As it closed, and she fell into the white, she heard his shrill laugh. It echoed in her head long after it was inaudible.