Prologue (Pt. I)
It wasn’t Nami’s kicking that woke Cai.
What made her sit upright was the sound of muffled footfalls on the splintering wood floor of the house.
It dawned on her that it was their mother.
Every one of her waking moments were spent pacing up and down the narrow hallway, her hands trembling and her eyes wide, her fear frosting within their depths. She would jump every time Cai called out to her, flinch whenever Nami held out her arms towards her.
Her mother’s eyes resembled the eyes of prey that knew it was being hunted.
Cai did not know who - or what - the hunter was. And she knew that her mother wouldn’t answer if she inquired.
Once silence became the only sound she could hear again, Cai let herself lay back down on the mat, ignoring the sting of the straw it was made from poking into her back. She watched her sister’s chest rise and fall from where she lay asleep beside her.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
At last, soothed by her sister’s breathing, she allowed her eyelids to fall shut.
They didn’t remain closed for long.
Her eyelids flew open when she heard the scuffing of unwelcome shoes outside the bedroom door.
Cai couldn’t tear her gaze away from it as the doorknob began to turn.
There were many things she might have done in the few seconds that the doorknob turned and the door pushed open, giving a grudging groan.
She could have pretended to be asleep. She could have woken Nami and escaped through the window. They were both small enough that they would have been able to.
That was what she should have been doing.
Instead Cai stayed frozen, chained there by her terror, watching as a stranger as dark as the night’s shadows that haunted the house set one foot inside, and then the other.
Cai couldn’t see its eyes under the hood that was pulled up over its face.
All she knew was that it was meeting her gaze with its own.
The only sound she could hear through the silence was her pulse beating through her veins like the rhythm of a distant drum.
The silence was shattered the moment it darted across the room, its footsteps like gunshots splitting through her ears. The blackened blur disappeared before her eyes and a cruel hand clapped over her mouth before she could summon her voice.
Not that a scream could save her now.
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