3: A Willful Mother
She dreamt of yesterday, the night she had struck her daughter across the face. At the sound of the slap, Mylene’s eyes popped open, and she let out a gasp. Her body was covered in suet. Mylene quickly tossed her covers aside and ran to Alyssa’s room. When she opened the door and looked inside, all was silent, and no one was in there. Mylene’s face turned white and her eyes widened in fear. “I thought she would return in the night... Melingra save me, what have I done?” she thought to herself. A sudden feeling of panic took a hold on her. “I need to find her!” she declared aloud.
Mylene ran back to her chamber, her nightgown flapping behind her. She got dressed in a simple leather jacket over a woolen shirt with woolen pants tucked into her boots. Mylene did not even break her fast. She bolted out the door in search of her daughter.
The morning was very gloomy. The sun was just beginning to come up, but it did not make an appearance that day. The sky was overcast and the ceiling hung low. The air was crisp but fresh, and everything was covered in condensation due to the thick fog in the air.
Even early in the morning, the streets swarmed with people. Between the people and the fog, it would make Mylene’s search very difficult. Instead, she decided to look around her neighborhood before taking on the rest of the town. She triple checked her house to make sure Alyssa was not hidden in another room, but the house was empty. Mylene searched the store house in the backyard with no luck.
It was not long before Mylene had checked her entire neighborhood. She knocked on people’s door asking if they had seen Alyssa, but she only got the same answer from everyone she asked. Nobody had seen her daughter.
It was midday when Mylene had be-gun searching the market square. The fog had cleared, and the sun shined bright in the sky. The streets were busy with people pushing and bumping into each other. Her heart dropped. Mylene did not know how she was going to her daughter, Ruinpine is a big town. As she stepped out from the rushing mob into a clearing, Mylene spotted some of Alyssa’s old friends sitting around the market square fountain.
“My dears have any of you seen Alyssa today?” She asked the girls sitting by the fountain.
The girls broke from their conversation and looked up at Mylene with con-fused faces. “No, my lady.” answered one of the girls. “Has something happened?”
The girl’s question felt as though someone had hit Mylene in the stomach. “My daughter and I got into an argument before she fled out the door.” She would have said… but the words stuck in her mouth. “No, nothing you need to concern yourself with. I just thought you would have seen her.” She lied. Mylene did not want to get these girls involved in this mess.
“Apologies, we have not seen Alyssa today, my lady.” said the girl.
“That’s quite alright dear.” Mylene smiled a fake smile and took her leave.
Mylene decided to go see where she worked for information concerning Alyssa. When she entered the Butcher’s shop, the butcher was chopping chunks of meat on the table. He took notice of Mylene and gave one last swing of his cleaver. “Your late, woman.” he said in a bitter tone as the cleaver sliced through the last piece meat.
Carcasses hung from the ceiling on hooks all around the shop. Bears, elks, turkeys and many more are cut up and hung from hooks with a bucket underneath to catch the dripping blood. The room was warm from the fire in the hearth, which made the air stuffy and the smell was awful. Mylene had gotten used to the smell, but something about the hanging animals was unsettling today.
Mylene did not know what to say. “Was I supposed to work today?” She thought as she watched a carcass swing back and forth.
The butcher eyed her suspiciously. He walked over to her, cleaning the blood and guts off his cleaver on his apron. He was getting impatient. “Aye, are you deaf, or did you actually forget about your work?” he waved a hand in front of Mylene’s face. Then he snapped his fingers.
Mylene popped back to reality. “Sorry...” her eyes were full of confusion.
The butcher frowned. “Why are you late?”
Her heart sank. Mylene did not know what to say. “I cannot find Alyssa any-where.” She said in a weak voice. “We got in an argument last night before I slapped her across the face.” Tears welled up in Mylene’s eyes.
That took the butcher by surprise. “That is horrible.” he said. “Please, my lady, go search for your little one. Know that I would help but I cannot leave the shop unattended.” His face grew grim.
“Thank you.” She was grateful. Mylene bolted out the door, to continue her search.
Mylene decided to retrace her and Alyssa’s steps from the day before. As she was already in the market square, she decided to ask her favorite grocer if he had seen her daughter, but the old man knew nothing of Alyssa’s disappearance.
Worried beyond relief, Mylene’s search led her to Forgers Way. The Forgers Way cut out from the market square in the south western corner. It ran south then cut back east in parallel to the market square connected by a narrow path that lead back up into the square.
As Mylene passed under the archway into the Forgers Way, the heat in the air was pleasant. However, if it was summer and the sun was up as it was today, the air would be suffocating and the heat would bring on a pouring suet.
The smiths worked hard day and night at their forges that lined the street. The sounds of hammering steel filled the air and buildings that lined the way muffled the roar of the market square. Mylene found herself asking the smiths if they had seen her daughter. “Excuse me, have you seen my daughter? She is fourteen, tall, and she has long brown hair with green eyes.” She would ask. Some say that they saw her the day before, but none had seen her today. When Mylene could not get any information from them, she kindly thanked them and continued her search.
The search was becoming wearisome, and the lack of information was putting Mylene on edge. So far, retracing her steps had not helped at all. She had but one place left to look.
When she reached the end of Forgers Way, Mylene almost tripped over a wood-en sign that lay on the ground. Nobody seemed to be around at that moment. The hammering sounds had died down, and the roar of the market was still muffled by the surrounding buildings. She kneeled down to observe the sign. It read ‘Smith’s Crow’. She noticed that parts of the sign were damaged, as though someone had hammered in a nail and forcefully tore it out. She got back to her feet and looked to her right. Mylene saw an open door, and inside was an empty room with another door at the far end. Mylene raised her eyes and noticed that the sign post above the entrance was broken. The only thing hanging from the post now was a pair of broken chains where the sign once hung.
Mylene frowned. “This can’t possibly be the same shop I found Alyssa in yesterday.” She thought to herself.
She caught a glimpse of someone walking by on the other side of the street. Mylene called out. “Pardon me. What has happened to this shop? I was here just yesterday, and it was full of items.”
The only reaction Mylene received from the women standing in front of her was a very perplexed look. “That store has been deserted for many years. There could not have been anything in there.” the woman said as she turned away from Mylene.
Mylene grabbed her by the arms and pulled the women in close. “That’s not possible!” She grasped harder. “I found my daughter in there yesterday. The shop was full of equipment.” The women’s body became tense. Mylene could feel it in her grasp. “She thinks I’m crazy.” She thought to herself realizing. Mylene loosened her hold on the women’s arms and the woman immediately wiggled free. Tears began to well in Mylene’s eyes.
“Get away from me!” the women screamed. “If you don’t believe me, just go in and see for yourself.” the woman walked away at an increasing pace and then took a right down the narrow alley towards the market square.
Mylene sunk to her knees, and then she fell forward onto her hands. Tears dripped to the ground as Mylene wept for her lost daughter. “I’m so sorry I hit you. I’m sorry for everything.” She cried out loud. “But I will not give up on you.” She pushed herself to her feet and turned back towards the abandoned shop. Something was not right about that shop. Mylene could feel it in her gut.
As she entered, the wooden floor boards creaked as though they had suddenly aged a hundred years over night. Dust clouds puffed up where ever she stepped. The wall candles were so used that the wax hung nearly a foot long. One of them had a spider web attached to it and many other webs hung from the ceiling and the corners, all covered in a thick layer of dust.
The room sent a frightening chill down Mylene’s spine. She made her way to the other end of the shop, going slowly to make sure the floor boards did not break beneath her feet. When she neared the far end of the shop, she could hear a faint fluttering noise coming from the room behind the service counter. It was not like Mylene to get frightened easily, but this place was different. She knew what she had seen yesterday, and that brought on a significant sense of unease for her.
She stepped up to the door and put a hand on the knob and then pressed an ear up against the door. She could still a faint fluttering coming from inside, then came silence. Mylene held her breath and listened quietly. When a massive THUMP hit the door, Mylene jumped back and hit the service counter. With her back against the counter, Mylene stood there frozen with fear, staring at the door knob that wiggled ferociously. It was as though someone was locked inside and was trying to get out. As quick as the sounds began, they had stopped, and the room fell silent again. Moments after the silence fell, a familiar sound came from the other side of the door.
Reluctantly, Mylene stepped up to the door and pressed her ear up to it again. The sound was faint, but it was clear to her that someone or something was crying in there. A sudden burst of hope washed over Mylene. She grabbed the door know with both hands and tried to open the door, but it was locked. The crying got louder and Mylene started pounding on the door, but it just would not give.
After a while of struggling on the door, the room fell silent once again. That is when it happened; the entrance to the old shop slammed shut, and Mylene jumped where she stood. The room seemed to grow dark and bitterly cold. Mylene’s heart began to beat faster than she could count. The door knob grew ice cold in her hands and became unbearable to touch. Dread washed over her as she took a step back from the door. The room then burst into sounds. She could hear the crying, her daughter laughing and the screams of her husband dying. The light of the day was absent as the room grew darker and darker. Suddenly the door burst open with a BOOM as though someone had lit a keg of rum. A cloud of darkness sprang from the room, making it almost impossible to see. Mylene covered her eyes with her hands but peeped through the crack between her fingers. She could see the outline of someone standing in the doorway in front of her. As the shadow stepped forward, the room began to shake.
Mylene shrieked. “STOP IT!” She lowered her hands and carefully watched the approaching shadow.
Suddenly, the trembling stopped, and orb-like light emerged from the shadow. “Mother!” the shadow cried out, echoing.
The light shined brighter in front of Mylene, and the cloud of darkness cleared. She flinched and covered her eyes from the blinding light. Moments later, the light dimmed down, and a pair of arms gently embraced her. “Mother.” This time it was her daughter’s voice that whispered in her ear, but something was wrong. Her daughter’s voice seemed to echo, and her body was cold as ice.
“My child, I have been looking all over for you.” Mylene broke their embrace and froze when she saw her daughter’s face. Her daughter’s eye bulged out of her eye sockets. Her face was gaunt and lifeless as though something had drained all the blood from her body.
“Mother.” her daughter moaned.
Tears streamed down from Mylene’s eyes, down her cheeks, and dripped to the floor. “Alyssa. I’m… so sorry for… for everything.” Mylene began to sob.
“Alyssa? Who is Alyssa to you?” a voice called out.
Mylene wiped away her tears and looked up. Her eyes met an old man’s. The room was clear; the entrance door was open and in poured the daylight. Mylene barely noticed the man standing in front of her. She only turned her head this way and that way, confused. “Where is Alyssa?”
“My lady, I can assure you no one by the name Alyssa was here today.” the man declared.
That caught her attention. Mylene turned towards the man who stood on the opposite side of the counter. His eyes startled Mylene. They were black as night. The man wore a dark-grey robe with his hood down. The man was heavily aged with large wrinkles, greyish-white hair that ran around his head, and he had a bald spot on top. “What do you mean ‘no one by the name of Alyssa was here today’?” Mylene frowned.
The man seemed to ignore her question. “You are Alyssa’s mother are you not?” He circled around the counter with his long sleeves nearly dragging on the floor.
Mylene’s heart nearly broke through her chest. If this person knew anything about her daughters whereabouts, she was determined to find out. “How do you know she is my daughter?”
The man’s eyes seemed to stare into her very soul as he stopped in front of Mylene. “How!?” he laughed. “I have known you and your family from afar for many years my lady.” The old man grinned.
Mylene’s eyes grew wide and her mouth twisted in distaste. “Who are you? Where is my daughter?” She demanded sternly.
The man stood silent staring into her eyes, then, a blank expression flashed across his old face. “I cannot read you.” He smashed his fist down onto the counter top in an anger that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“What in the hell are you talking about?” Mylene clearly thought this man was insane.
The man stepped forward with amazing speed and caught Mylene by the wrist.
“Get off… your hurt…ahhh!” Her wrist felt as though it was being burnt by a branding iron.
His voice seemed to echo like thunder. “You are meddling with fate. Prophecy has been written. I cannot read your mind, but I can assure you that your journey will not have a happy ending if you cannot except the past and embrace your future. What you seek shall return, but none will be the same. You are the first that I have met that can keep me out. You have a gift, chase that instead. Do not dwell in the past.” he released her. “Follow my sign.”
Mylene was terrified. She took back her hand and held her wrist with the other hand. Her skin stung and throbbed at the touch. She turned her wrist around to find a small brand on her arm. The brand looked strange to her and yet somewhat familiar. It was a straight line with barbed tips at each end. It is almost like a drawing of an arrow with arrowheads at both ends. When she looked back up, the man had vanished. “Huh?” she was confused and frightened.
Mylene stood behind the counter holding her wrist. The shop was the same old beat up shop she had entered in the first place. She did not know what had just happened. She bolted for the door and outside she met a sunset sky.
She felt her heart start to beat faster when she noticed how dark it was getting. Mylene had been afraid of the dark of night ever since her husband had died. Mylene started getting night terrors and would always wake up in a cold suet and out of breath. For a time, she was not able to sleep anymore and would find ways to keep herself busy at night by candle light. Now, to this day, she always needed to sleep with a candle lit by her bed.
Mylene got home a few minutes be-fore the suns last light left the sky. She quickly checked Alyssa’s room in the hopes her daughter had returned, but no one was there. She was alone.
Filled with regret, the only thing she could do is undress and climb into bed. Her candle burned by her bed. As weary as she was, sleep did not come easy. When it did, she dreamt again of the night she had struck her daughter. She could hear her daughter weeping and screaming.
Mylene was kicking and flailing about in her sleep, knocking over her candle. Her dream quickly changed when the smell of smoke mixed with it. Her daughter’s screams came from the shop, from behind the counter, behind the door. The entire shop was engulfed in flames. Mylene pounded on the door at the back of the shop to get her trapped daughter out of the fire. When she tried the doorknob, her hand screamed in pain. Mylene woke up screaming to find a similar scene.
The candle had been knocked off the night table in the night and rolled over to the drapes which started the inferno. Mylene’s far wall was afire. The heat and smoke was suffocating. Coughing and eyes watering, Mylene struggled for air as she climbed out of bed. Her only thought was to gather what information she could while she could before the flames took her and the house. She stumbled to her dresser and grabbed a clump of clothes. The larder was spared from the flames for now. Mylene took the time to pack a bag of food before she bolted for the door.
Her lungs were filled with smoke, and she was coughing uncontrollably when she darted out into the night. Mylene quickly slipped on her boots and headed for the eastern gate before someone noticed what had happened.
When she reached the street of crossroads that branched to her road, Mylene looked back at her fiery home. The flames had nearly engulfed the entire house. A single tear ran down her cheek. ”I’m coming Alyssa. I will find you.” She decided then and there.
She turned her gaze away and dashed for the eastern gate and the lands beyond in search of Alyssa.