I look up at the sky and take note of the setting sun. The Workers be out shortly after the sun disappears. We will be left in total darkness, and the monsters will come out to play with the Flower Girls.
My father will join his fellow Workers a little later, he always waits for us to get home first. I close my eyes as I try to calm my nerves. I start to run, I run as fast as my skinny legs will allow. I feel like the Workers are already watching me. Everyone else is safe in their homes. I’m one of the last girls out on the streets.
I’m usually there as soon as the school gates open. The girls must be worried, they must be wondering where I am. I’m hating myself right now. I speed up, gathering as much strength as possible. I live right at the end of the main road, the school sits at the beginning, it’s the first thing you see when you enter the town.
I can see the school now, in the distance I can see them standing anxiously, looking around and over their shoulders like the shadows might come to life and eat them. I won’t put that past this crazy world we live in.
“Jane!” Olive and Cass shout out my name. The sound of their voices encourages me.
Cass is holding onto her older sister. Cass is so small, much smaller than the other girls her age, her hair as red as the setting sun. I skid to a stop in front of them, they look relieved but I don’t give them a moment to ask any questions. Though one look at my bandaged hand will give them the answers they seek. I take Olive’s hand and grip it tightly, Olive takes Cass’s hand and without a word, we start to run. My legs are tired and my throat is burning. The sun is fading fast, I can feel the tears running down my face. I don’t allow myself to look at the girls.
I can hear them, the grunts of the Workers. The sounds of their heavy breathing all around us.
“I can’t run anymore!” I look down at Cass.
I don’t know where I find the strength but I bend down and pick her up. I look at Olive, she is already as tall as me and strong. I know Olive won’t give up. We push forward faster but my heart sinks as I see a line of Workers in front of our house. The sun isn’t completely set yet, how is it possible that they’re out and changed?
They are gruesome to behold, blinded bloody eyes, teeth in every direction. I wish I could shield this sight from the girls. We stop a few strides before the Workers, I hold my head up high.
“How nice of you to stay out into the night!” one Worker shouts out.
“We were just on our way home, no time to chat,” I say. I’m surprised at how even my voice is.
“Who said anything about chatting? We were just hoping to taste some of your sweet blood,” the same Worker replies.
“I don’t think we have any to spare, so if you would be so kind as to let us through. These two have a lot of homework to finish before bed,” I say.
The Workers cackle and I raise my eyebrows. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a flash, I look to my left and see nothing but the impending darkness. It’s still light enough for me to make out the outlines of the Workers but soon it will be pitch black and it will all be over for us.
“I don’t care about their homework, I don’t care about the state of your blood and I don’t care how long you keep up this banter, because all the light will be snuffed out in a few minutes and then you will be dead,” he says. I close my eyes and offer a prayer up to the sun.
“You will have to get through me first Worker,” another voice says. I look around and see a figure standing behind us. A girl. She moves slowly but deliberately. She pushes past us, her focus is on the Workers.
“You don’t look like much of a match for us girl,” the Worker says.
“You don’t know who I am,” she says. Without another word she lifts her hands up and with a few whispers, a light pours down from the heavens, too strong for my eyes. She then directs the light to the Workers and I see them burning. Their screams fill the air around us and I feel suffocated. What is this magic? Did she set them alight? Will that kill a Worker?
“It’s impossible! We killed all of you!” the Worker screams.
“Not all of us,” she says softly. The Workers turn to run, they run back to the Moon Forest, back to the darkness of their home. The girl turns to look at us.
“Run home, before they come back!” she shouts. I know that I should listen but all I can focus on are the green of her eyes, unnatural and a bit too bright. I’ve never seen eyes like hers before.
“Come on Jane!” I look at Olive and I’m brought back to the present. I look towards our house and we start running. We push through the gate and it seals behind us. We all sigh in relief but become somber when we remember the hell we have to walk into now.
I slam the door shut as we enter, I search for the courage I know I have hidden deep inside me.
“Go to your room,” I say evenly. The girls look at me in defeat. I feel that way too, completely defeated. I watch them climb the stairs and that’s when I notice the noise in the house. A rumbling noise, a kind of wild deep laughter.
“This is too good!” my father laughs out as he comes stumbling into the entrance hall. He is changed, blind and hideous. I take a deep breath.
“How did you get away?” he asks.
“Why did you do that? We could have been killed!” I shout.
I don’t wait for his reply, I turn on my heel and run up the stairs. He tries to lunge forward to catch me but I’m too quick for him. I hear him hot on my heels but the girls are holding the door open for me, I run in and we slam the door shut in his face.
Now I do what I do every night, I trace over the protective runes on our door. My mother left us some protection at least. Father is banging on the door, trying to get in but the magic has sealed it. I collapse down to the ground and look up at the shining symbols. It will lose effect when the sun comes up and I will have to redraw it tomorrow evening but it keeps us safe every night.
At least we are safe now. I look around at the girls.
“What happened Jane? Why did he do that?” Olive asks.
I don’t know how to answer. Why did he do it? It makes no sense, but when do the Workers ever make sense?
“I don’t know why he did it. He did seem a bit out of sorts this morning when I left for the meadow, he kept singing about my hair. As blue as the sky that he can’t see. I just shrugged it off. Maybe he’s sick?” I ask.
“Can they get sick?” Olive asks.
“If he is sick, I hope it’s incurable,” Cass says in between sniffs. I look down at them, guilt spreading through my chest. They don’t deserve this. Cassandra, not even ten years of age with hatred burning through her blood.
“I’m so sorry he has done this to us,” I say. I rub my eyes tiredly trying to hide my tears.
“We don’t blame you, Jane. You take care of us, you protect us from him and from all the other workers,” Olive says.
I look at Olive sadly, she has grown up too fast and Cass is following suit. They deserve so much better than this life. It is in times like these when they look to me for answers that I wish our mother was still here to take care of us. She would know what to do, but she left and now I need to take her place for these sweet scared girls. It’s been years since she left and I am still second-guessing everything I do for them. Am I doing this right? I feel like I should be doing more for them.
“I will always take care of you, I won’t let any of them get you. They will never pierce your skin or break you,” I say.
I always take the abuse, just as my mother took it for us while she was still here. I always send the girls to their room and let him do what he pleases with my body. I have never allowed him to touch them.
“Who was that girl who saved us?” Cass asks softly. Her clear blue eyes stare at me in wonder.
I think of the girl. I have the need to see her again. There are so many questions I could ask her. I have never seen anyone like her before. Could it be possible that she is one of the old ones? I shake my head, that isn’t possible. The old ones died out many centuries ago. The Workers started with the old ones, the old ones still had all of their powers. They were very connected to the sun, the old ones were blessed with the light. They could use the light of the sun for various things, the flower people were dedicated to nature and they always felt safest in silence. They listened to the flowers and their light fed the flowers. That’s what I understand of our history at least.
“What did the Worker mean when he said they had killed them all? When he saw that girl, he almost seemed scared. What was he referring to?” Olive asks.
Her question snaps me out of my thoughts and I look down at her. She is still holding Cass, her sobbing has lessened slightly. The kids don’t learn our history anymore, it is too dangerous for us to have that knowledge, which I disagree with. Knowledge is power and that is why we don’t learn anything worth knowing anymore. I didn’t get much of an education either but I try to understand. I read whatever I can get my hands on. I am clueless half the time though and I may be the smartest flower girl in Flowerside.
Flowerside is being controlled by our enemy, the Workers roam at night and in the day we are brainwashed. We tend to the gardens and the forests, we keep the crops alive and we feed them our energy. Workers have been mixing with us for the past century and that is why our powers started lessening. The light in our blood has been watered down by the dirt of the Worker.
If it is true and she is an old one then the whole town could be in danger, the Workers saw her, she fought them off. She saved three, unimportant flower girls. This could either be a very good thing or a very bad thing.
“I’m not sure what he meant by that, to be honest. There was something different about her. I’m just thankful that she saved us,” I say.
“Well, I personally want to know who she is and what she is. She managed to fight off at least ten Workers! Imagine having that power, no more abuse, and no more death. If we had that power or learned how to get it and use it, our lives could change. We could be safe,” Olive says.
She looks hungry for the power she is speaking of. I’ve never been hungry for power, I’m just hungry for food.
I look at her closely, she is a strong girl, she has the willpower and stubbornness of a Worker, and out of all three of us, she is the most like our father. She doesn’t stay in silence, she fights her teachers and her school mates. She has violence in her blood that boils. Sometimes, I fear her.
“So Olive, if you had all of that power what would you do with it?” I ask.
“I would rid the world of that scum, I would hurt them the way they have hurt us. The way they have hurt you. Look at you! He has ruined you, your body, and your soul. He has broken you. He has your heart in his hands. He cuts you and violates you! Wouldn’t you want to take revenge?” she asks.
“Is that not death too, you would just turn the tables? What use is that? This world doesn’t need more war. It needs peace, the earth cries. The Moon Forest bleeds and the sun can’t help it. We will not ease her suffering here by spilling more blood.”
“The earth doesn’t cry out for rescue! It’s her war cry! Besides, what about your suffering? What about the blood that he spills? You suffer for us every day, you have sacrificed everything and yet you don’t want to take revenge? They killed all of our men, we have no one to protect us anymore. Why are you weakening the earth by babying her nature? Why are you trying to protect her from a war we deserve to win and that she and the sun supports us in?” Olive asks.
“The flowers talk to me and the sun gives me life. If it wasn’t for the energy of my garden I wouldn’t have the will to live. The gardens heal me, I refuse to spill blood. We are not warriors, we are flower girls. We are meant to protect our earth as best as we can, with love and kindness, not by killing. I think it’s best for you to stop with this talk. Olive, it is dangerous. If someone had to hear you speaking like this, you could end up dead or worse. I will not let you put yourself in danger. So please, stop speaking of these things,” I say.
I take a deep breath and sit down next to them. I take Olive’s hand in mine and I look at her sadly. I know she means well and she just wants to help. I have heard stories of Flower Girls trying to take their lives back into their own hands. They try to learn the old ways, they try to ignite the light in them. The workers get wind of it and before they know it, they are taken to be tortured and killed.
I close my eyes as horrible images float through my mind, images of flower girls being torn and ripped, their precious blood being spilled. I shake my head and stand abruptly.
“I think it’s time you girls start on your homework. We are safe now,” I say.
I walk over to the small desk that we pushed against the window. I stare out into the pitch black of the night and all I can see is my own reflection in the glass. My eyes are dead and my face looks gaunt. I wrap my arms around myself and flinch at the pain in my hand.
I will keep them safe, I look at the runes on the door in the reflection. I made a promise, I intend to keep it.