For a lot of people, it can be easy. It’s only a matter of closing your eyes and desperately praying to whatever’s out there to save you from yourself. It gets harder when you know the truth. It’s not that there’s no one out there. It isn’t even that they’re ignoring you, which is often the case. It’s more that they can’t help you, even if they wanted to. You’re on your own and there’s nothing scarier than that.
Nestled in the grass, a girl stares at the sky. Teal hair fanning behind her, body splayed out, she tries to count the stars. It’s a meaningless task but it calms her, keeps her heart in her chest. Idly plucking blades of grass, whispering “three thousand four hundred twenty two” she doesn’t feel the cold.
Closing her eyes, she hopes he doesn’t notice her. Holding her breath, she prays he doesn’t come her way. But he does. It’s unavoidable. She can feel his presence coming closer, that aura of old authority already looming over her.
Standing by her head, the sound of water echoes into the air, flowing, rushing, a thunderous force. “You’re not native to these parts…Why are you here?”
Opening her eyes, the girl wonders how much she can say before he’s satisfied. Meeting his eyes, a murky sort of brown, she whispers, “I don’t mean any harm. I’m just passing through. I’ll leave by morning.” But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
Sighing, the girl tries again. “I’m…I’m looking for something.”
“And you’ll think you’ll find it where you’re going?”
“…I don’t know.” Probably not. But even so…
She can hear him thinking behind her. The stars are silent but he isn’t. There’s water rushing, rushing, flowing at dangerous speeds. He’s dangerous. He could devour her alive. “I’ve heard of you. I don’t know how long you’ve been traveling…” How long had she been traveling? “But it’s gone on long enough. You need to go back to where you belong…You have a responsibility that needs to be upheld.”
Staring at the sky, the girl slowly nods her head yes. She can’t say no. Not to him. Her aura threatens to crumble under him. She has no choice, it’s time to go back. Counting the three thousand four hundred twenty third star, she laments that she couldn’t save herself after all.
Tangled in his furs, a boy stares blankly at the moon. Wind blowing through the ventilation trap, he struggles to control his breathing. Blue eyes wide with panic, there’s not enough air in his body.
It’s the same dream, over and over again, if it can even be called that. It always starts with his grandfather, in a field with small yellow flowers.
“You are special. You have a gift only the true heirs of this tribe have…. This is something only you can do.”
There are more words but the boy can’t remember them fully. What he remembers, what he dreams is Allrah, dead and unmoving, his mane stained with blood.
“This is what I want. You are not allowed to refuse. You need to understand…there is no going back from here.”
In his dreams, he remembers that look in their eyes, as if he were their saving grace.
“You are the hope of the people.”
It always ends with Arshad. It ends with the two of them at the edge of the tall grasses, his wrist trapped by Arshad’s grip.
“Your future was determined from the very beginning, chosen by the spirits. You never had a choice.”
Staring at the moon, the boy desperately tries to muffle all of the emotions rising in his chest. He knows all the facts. He knows who he is meant to be. After all, he has a responsibility to uphold.