Under the Stars
The wind was harsh in its course through the plains. Dark clouds continued
to streak across the late afternoon sky. The dry dust that swept across the
flat land brought news of foreboding.
A man stood alone among the dry dust that cloaked his tattered clothing, his haggard face. Dirtied fingers clenched a red-stained sword, while bloodshot eyes scanned the vicinity alertly. His lips were pressed into a thin line.
At last satisfied that he was safe, he turned and swiftly walked into the nearby forest. His dark form blended readily into the dark tangle of bushes and trees. He moved stealthily through them, until he reached a small hollow created by massive tree roots protruding from the ground. He crouched before the cavernous mouth and called into the darkness.
"It is safe."
A sigh of relief could be heard. Then, tentatively, a small hand emerged from the pit. The man took the hand and pulled gently, and a young woman materialized from the darkness. He quickly encircled her waist with his arm and steadied her onto her feet. Seeing his smile, the weary-faced woman smiled back, shaking out her dark hair.
"Are they far?" she asked quietly.
The man looked around briefly before reaching out to gently remove particles of dust from the woman's hair. "Yes, they went after the fake trail. By the time it disappears, they will be too far behind to catch up with us."
The woman's tired eyes twinkled as she reached out to remove filth from his dark hair as well. The man caught her pale hand, however, and squeezed it tight. He brought her fingers to his cheek. He closed his eyes.
The soft words cast a glimmer onto the woman's gray eyes. She smiled tenderly, and her lashes lowered as she scanned her swollen belly.
He pulled her into a gentle embrace. He buried his face in her dirtied hair, closing his eyes. She smiled, and stroked his back. She sighed into his neck. His hands clutched her cloak tight.
The sun was blazing above their heads when they stopped for a rest. He quickly stripped off his cloak and laid it onto the grass, and she almost collapsed on top of it. Her breath was ragged and shallow as she closed her eyes. He stood over her, shading her with his shadow, as he looked down worriedly. There was no more water left.
"We must go into the forest," he said quietly.
She opened her eyes. "You know that our kind cannot depend on forests for protection." Her voice was weak.
He shook his head. "You will fall with exhaustion if this continues." His eyes were pleading.
She held his gaze evenly. Despite her weariness, her voice was firm. "We knew the dangers of the plains and the forest, and we chose the plains." Seeing his pained expression, she smiled weakly and held out her hand. He grasped it readily. "Do not fear for me," she whispered. "I will be well."
His gaze wandered toward her belly, resting on the roundness of it. He bit his lip. She would not be well for long.
He tore his gaze away, eyes scanning the far horizon. The desolate emptiness that rested on the other side of the world. They were alone.
They had to get to a village quickly. They had to get out of this predicament. But it seemed that there was no escape. No escape at all.
His eyes suddenly shot down, and he stared acutely toward the east. She noticed this and sat up wearily. His fingers were latched around his sword.
She sprang to her feet, and ran.
Darkness was falling by the time he made his way toward her in the woods. His form was dark, unsteady, as he groped his way through the bushes. She rose from her crouched position in a small bush, extending her hand. He grabbed it, and collapsed into her embrace. Together they crumpled onto the moss, soundless against the dark blue sky. And they remained unmoving, his head on her lap, her arms encircling his back. Gray eyes glimmered forlornly in the thick silence.
"You should not have come."
Bloody hands clenched at the rough fabric of her dress. The stars were shining overhead. Somewhere afar, a lone wolf cried to the moon.
"You should not have bound yourself to me."
She shook her head, and bent forward to pull him closer, cover him fuller. Her warm breasts enveloped his trembling head, matted with blood, her weak arms snaking around his cold bones, holding him nearer, nearer. Into the warm eternity of her embrace.
"You never should have met me."
Lacerated knuckles whitened against her knees. She continued to mutely shake her head, fiercely, desperately, as she held him close, her body enfolding his, gently rocking him back and forth, back and forth. And the chill of the darkness warmed under her touch.
He dug his head into her lap, a sob escaping his throat.
"You never should have loved me."
The stars were shining bright.