The wolf circled her, its blue eyes burning like the hottest of flames. Long canines glistened wetly in the moonlight as a deep, menacing growl rumbled in its throat. Mia’s feet were cemented to the ground, she couldn’t move, couldn’t run to get away as the creature crouched low, preparing to spring—and then the wolf was gone. In its place was a man Mia had only ever seen in Orden’s memories. There was a flash of movement and then Kairos was right in front of her.
A large hand wrapped around Mia’s neck, claw tipped fingers digging into her skin and drawing blood. Her hands flew to her throat, trying desperately to loosen the iron grip cutting off her air. Mia’s eyes ached and bulged in their sockets as Kairos lifted her off the ground, his long canines flashing in a red mouth.
“Do you see now how outmatched you are? How weak and powerless?” His words were mangled by his overlong teeth.
Mia’s lungs burned and her heart heaved. She kicked out with her legs but the action was weak. Futile. Mia retreated deep into the darkness of her mind in search of her Power—her last hope—and found nothing. There was no golden light, no glowing chain snaking through the dark. Her Power had deserted her.
Kairos laughed then, a cruel, humourless thing that made Mia’s skin crawl to hear it. His laughter grew louder as her vision blurred and darkened around the edges. It was the only sound as Mia choked and went still, her eyes rolling back.
Mia took a slow, shallow breath and opened her eyes. The room was pitch black, the hour either very late or very early, she didn’t know, or care. Mia stared up at the ceiling, her eyes sifting through the thick dark to settle on a small black whorl in the slatted pine boards above. She focused on that single point and waited for her heart to slow. A long, silent minute passed before Mia was able to unclench her hands and release the bed sheets. She sat up, drawing her knees against her chest, and wrapped her arms around her legs. Mia rested her head upon her knees, the fabric of her shift, damp with sweat, stretching uncomfortably across her back. She let out a shaky breath.
Just a dream. It was just a dream.
When sleep would not come and the room had grown stifling, Mia went in search of some fresh air. She slipped through the silent house without so much as creak of a floorboard or stair, passing through shadows and shafts of moonlight on phantom feet.
The night air held little of the day’s heat. Mia inhaled a breath—pleasantly cool and smelling of horse—as she stepped out onto the front porch. Leaving the door open behind her, Mia padded down the front steps and took a seat on the bottom stair. She gathered the hem of her shift around her legs, as she slid her arms beneath her knees and stretched her toes out in front of her. The gravel was rough. Grounding.
Mia rested her chin on her knees and stared out over the yard, painted in shades of black, white and grey, by the moon hanging heavy and full overhead. The night was clear, the stars bright. Mia lifted her eyes to the heavens and searched for a familiar constellation, any pattern she might recognize. She found nothing to remind her of home. A single tear spilled over Mia’s cheek, sliding down to her chin where it absorbed into the material of her shift. Across the yard stood the well, its rough stones pocked in the silvery light. Mia stared at it through the watery haze of more tears.
Sitting in the dark, the sounds of the night creeping in from all around, Mia wished, more than anything, for the honk of a car horn, or the hiss of hydraulics. Anything to drown out the deafening croaking of frogs. She never thought she would miss the sound of the street cleaners sweeping the gutters or the violent screeching of tires—how was it possible to miss the calls of street vendors and the scream of sirens? And yet Mia did. She missed it all with the same, deep ache that she got when she tried to recall the sound of her mother’s voice. Her father’s laugh.
If Mia closed her eyes she could still see it. The city—her city—lit by a thousand neon lights. She could smell the hot dog stand on Broadway, and see Darren prodding the sausages with a smile on his scraggly face. She could hear the sweet song of a guitar being played in the park, each delicate pluck of a string merging together into melody. It was so real—so real Mia could actually hear it—
Her eyes drifted open. The images of Manhattan vanished, the sounds and the smells—all but the guitar. The guitar kept on playing. Mia lifted her chin from her knees and cocked her head, listening. The melody was nothing she’d heard before, a series of unfamiliar notes strung together in a bittersweet pattern that wormed its way into Mia’s starved ears and wrapped itself around her soul. Her next breath was two parts pain, one sweet relief. Mia turned her head toward the source of the music, the looming dark shape of the barn, and rested her temple against the stair railing.
A long while later, after the playing had stopped, Mia rose from the stairs. Her eyes were heavy, her body stiff and cold, but her heart was a fraction lighter.