I woke to the smell of Lilacs and rain. When did it rain? Did I sleep through it?
I opened my eyes to find myself laying on the forest floor, it looked familiar. I must be near the pack village. Looking around I saw markings on near-by trees. Looks like border markings, I must be near the warrior’s outpost.
The forest around me was shimmering. Right so, I must still be in the in-between. I tried to stand but my head felt heavy and sore, the thumping made it hard for me to concentrate. The sunlight peeking through the trees wont last, the sun was setting. It would be dark soon, Tekoha said the in-between forest wasn’t safe…wait, where is she?
The tea! Right! I drank her fucking tea. D-did she drugged me? Why? I thought I could trust her…Cleo said we could trust her and she’s never wrong.
I need to get back before the sun disappears. The forest would be more dangerous at night. I took three calming breaths and tried to spirit shift, but it felt like I was being torn in half, like razors were trying to come out of my skin. My screams pierced the silent forest. Anyone or anything dangerous would know where I am now.
Movement in the woods behind me caught my attention, I turned around and tried to get into a fighting stance, but I stumbled forward and landed on knees. I looked up into the forest waiting for the on-coming attack when a mangled ghostly figure crept out into the open. Her left leg was dragging behind her, it was ripped opened, only attached by a left hip tendon. Her eyes were purple, and void of emotion. She was beyond skinny; her bones were jotting out, showing a broken collar bone.
Goosebumps appeared on me arms, my body alerting of the possible danger this creature could impose upon me
She focused on me, scanning me like she was looking for something. I could feel her looking into my very soul. Still scanning me she started creeping forward, her back leg was dragging leaves and sticks, you could hear the rustling from across the forest like it was on speaker.
Her gaze landed on my face, our eyes locked and she stopped. Realization crossed her face and she smiled.
Her smile left me floored, her jaw unhinged a little, fear invaded my stomach and I could feel the bile raising into my throat. Her face lit up with happiness. “Aiya?” … Her voice was soft but powerful. She recognized me but who was she?
“Don’t come any closer” I raised my fists to the creature and taking up a defensive stance. “Leave me alone, I don’t want any trouble”
Her faced changed quickly, it took on a look of hate and confusion. “Why would I hurt you!?” Her voice was raised to a screeching sound. “You breathe because of me!”
I stumbled forward holding my ears, my eardrums had burst. The pain shot through me like an arrow going in all directions of body. She was still screaming but I couldn’t hear the words clearly.
A coppery taste filled my mouth. I wiped it with the back of my hand. Blood…my nose was fucking bleeding. “I don’t know you! Leave me alone! Please” I yelled back.
I was now doubled over; my ears were ringing, and she was now dangerously close. She bent down slowly, a skeleton finger came into view as she tilted my chin up so we were face to face.
A look of remorse shot across her face as she placed both her hands over my ears and the ringing immediately stopped. “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you remember me” her voice returned to a soft tone.
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you bitch! I don’t know you! Who are you? What do you want?” I struggled to put my words together, my head was still thumping, my body felt like it had razors just underneath my skin, tearing me apart and my eardrums were burning. I was on the verge of passing out.
Wait… why wasn’t I healing? Cleo!? Cleo? What the hell. Why wasn’t she answering me. I went looking for, diving into my mind searching everywhere but she wasn’t there. Shit, shit, shit. This went from bad to fucking terrifying. Cleo fucking answer me.
A wolf howled. It sounded soft and distant, like it was on the other end of the forest. Fuck Cleo, where the fuck are you. I was looking in every direction now, desperate to find anything or anyone for help.
Tekoha and Cleo won’t be able to save me this time.
“Aiya, why don’t you remember me?” Her voice was soft, almost caring. “I-I have a better question, who are you?” She looked taken back by that, like it should be the most obvious thing in the world.
She removed her finger from under my chin, she froze at the sight her skeleton hand..and she smiled.
Straightening her back, she lifted her head to the shimmering clouds and closed her eyes. Her breath came out slowly as she whispered incoherent words. I strained my ears to hear her but the thumping in my head was overbearing.
The wind picked up in the distance, sending the shimmering into overload and I had to cover my eyes from the blinding sparkle.
When I reopened my eyes, her whole body had changed. She was no longer mangled… now she was beautiful. Her black hair was in a short bob, she green eyes stood out against of her pale skin and her long legs were now repaired. She looked familiar, but my brain was not functioning at full rate.
“Sorry, I often forget to hide my true form…no wonder you didn’t recognize me little one” her smile was radiant now, she reached for my hand and I took it gingerly. I stood slowly, it felt like I was standing on pins, my body was aching.
My face must have portrayed what I was feeling. “What’s wrong…wait why are you here? You shouldn’t be here without your guide, Tekoha!” she was looking around panicked now.
This lady did a full 360 turn in the 10 minutes we’ve met. One second she look liked she was going to devour me and now she was acting like a long lost aunt.
“W-wait, you know Tekoha? She drugged me… I think and lady I still don’t know you”. Now she looked at me with worry and sympathy. “Tekoha wouldn’t drug you, she never wouldn't hurt you...wait tell me how you came to be here” she said motioning her arms to the woods.
Like hell I was going to give any information to this crazy bitch but than again, she could help me.. I have no idea where Cleo or Tekoha are.
Okay, Aiya just give her enough information to get information...fuck now I’m talking to myself. I’m going insane..
“I was sitting in Tekoha’s cottage, she made me a funny tea with herbs…said it was task we needed to do and that I must trust her. I drank it and I woke up here, in pain.” She was nodding her head, listening to every word I was saying. “You’re in pain?” she asked tilting her head, searching my body for injuries.
“Yeah you busted my eardrums, remember” I tried to keep the bitchiness out of my voice but she was getting on my damn nerve. She titled her head back and laughed boisterously. "Still have that attitude I see, will sweet girl my point is. Tekoha wouldn't hurt you, the tea is probably why you ended up here and in pain, your resisting the magic she infused in it" she stated like it was obvious and I was stupid..
She grabbed onto my arm softly, trying not to cause more pain as I started swaying on my feet, the pain was becoming unbearable now. Her hands were the only thing keeping me upright..what the hell is going on!
“Sorry about that...after being here so long, my mind tends to play tricks...I’m very temperamental but I erased the pain that I caused but uh...Do you feel pain anywhere else? Tell me what you feel”. She moved her hand up my arm, to keep me from falling over as my knee caved in.
My head was really thumping now, I could barely hear what she was saying. “My head hurts…really bad. I can barely hear you over the thumping.It feels like razors beneath my skin, ripping me apart from the inside and it feels like I’m standing on thousands of pins”.
“So you said that you and Tekoha had a task but why would it be in the land of the lost, this is where lost souls come to find their peace.." She turns to look at the woods, as if the trees could give her the answers she's looking for.
"Aiya...you don’t remember me because you're blocking out memories, blocking out your peace. That is why you are here" she says softly, gesturing to our surroundings. "To find your peace” She gently puts me into a sitting position on the ground.
“What do I do? How do I remember? Can you help me?” Her face turns solemn, shaking her head "No, must find your peace on your own. It is the only way to move on or return to the in-between” she says sighing.
"Wait..Land of the lost? WHAT?! I'm not in the in-between? but it looks the same?! How did I get here? " I'm really panicking now, Cleo is missing, Tekoha is goddess knows where and I'm in an unknown strange place with an even stranger person!
“Your peace usually lies at the feet of your greatest tragedy, start there” she stands, dusting off imaginary dirt.
“My greatest tragedy? That would be the night my parents were murdered and I was taken but I’ve tried to remember, over and over! I have tried” I could feel my heart beating in my chest instead of my head now...what if I cant find my peace and I become stuck here.
“Aiya, more than your parents dying, and you being kidnapped happened that night...I should know I was there but there is something you lacked last time you tried to remember, usually when you land here you have to find the missing part” she smiled and reached into her pocket, pulling out a gold chain with a wolf carved into a beautiful green jade pendant.
“It took me awhile to find this...It can't be by coincidence that I find my daughter's locket and you on the same day.." Her voice was soft. Clasping the locket around my neck she smiled as the forest behind us was now lit up with a magnificent warm glow. "I am being called home..finally" she was crying now.
"Thank you Aiyana... I pray that you find your way home safely." She came down on her knees so we were now face to face "Tell my daughter that I think about her everyday and that I love her like the flowers love the sun..and that I ask her for our forgiveness".
She stood and started making her way to the light...she was leaving, moving on into her peace but what about me?
"Wait! I have more questions! US? Why do I need forgiveness? How dO I go home? What do I do? How did I get here? What happens if I can't make it back? Who are you? Why were you there that night? Who is your daughter?"
Still making her way to the light, she smiled and simply says.
"I am Freda Walker".