A Girl with No Name
She gazed out the window as she always did, wishing to fly away from the castle forever.
“Did you not hear what I said, woman?” her husband-to-be barked at her.
Reluctantly, she turned around and smiled her brightest, fakest smile.
“Yes, I did, my lord, but I—”
In one swift motion, he drew his sword and ran it through the stomach of the servant girl who stood before him.
The only one screaming, his bride-to-be felt tears nearly spring to her eyes at the sight of the servant girl crumbling, dead, to the floor. But she had no tears to give. She had had none for a long time.
“I told you that I could not eat salmon anymore, as I have an allergy. Were you trying to poison me through a servant?”
She shook her head.
“You are nothing without me!” he continued. “Do you understand? You have no parents, no land, not even a name. It is only out of the goodness of my heart that I am marrying you. Nobody else would.”
“Yes, my lord,” she agreed. “I am nothing.”
As the prince turned away from her once more, to address the guards, the other servant girl in the room came to stand beside her, holding a knife out of sight of the enraged prince. With a shaking hand, the girl with no name reached into her pocket and, feeling the tiny bottle inside, pulled the cork out. Doubtless, the powder was now spilling all over the inside of her pocket, but she cared not. Pinching some of the fine powder between her thumb and forefinger, she withdrew her hand and sprinkled it onto the servant’s knife. She had no idea how the girl had known about the poison, but finding out was the least of her worries.
“What have you got there?” her betrothed turned to face the remaining servant. “Let me see it! Or do you want to end up like your friend?” He pointed to the dead girl, whose unseeing eyes stared up at the ceiling.
Without warning, the servant girl raised the knife and plunged it into the man’s stomach.
“You think that can kill me?” His eyes narrowed in anger as he drew his sword once again and sliced through the servant girl’s throat.
The young woman with no name held her breath as the servant’s blood spattered onto her own grey gown. The prince stood as tall and strong as he always had, despite the terrible wound. The poisoned knife was still lodged into his stomach.
No sooner had the servant girl fallen, than the guards advanced on the woman with no name. Not wanting to die by that terrible man’s hand, she jumped over the ledge of the window and tumbled down the tower roof.
“You harlot!” the wounded prince hollered after her. “I have been trained to kill, and I will come after you!”
No sooner had he placed his foot onto the window’s ledge in preparation to jump onto the roof after her, than he clutched his chest in agony and keeled over onto the ground.
As the unnamed woman held onto the edge of the roof, she guessed that the terrible man was writhing on the floor, where she could not see him. Only the guards bending over him were visible through the window.
Turning away from whatever turmoil she had caused, she climbed down the wall. Though she had scaled dozens of walls at her old home before it had all burned down, she had never been as high above the ground as she was at that moment. She shook as she clutched each handhold, not daring to look at the ground far below.
By the time she reached the ground, it had grown dark, and she could barely see. Nevertheless, she began running as quickly as she could away from the palace. She hadn’t the faintest idea of where to go, but she could hardly wait around to be caught and hanged for murder.
No sooner had she thought of that, than she heard voices.
“Have you seen the lady of no name?” one of the prince’s guards was asking. “She murdered the prince not two hours ago.”
“She has not been this way,” an old woman was explaining.
As the woman with no name peered out from between the two trees, she noticed another group trudging through the forest to approach the guards. The man at the head of the group—if he could be called a man—hid his face behind an ornate white mask adorned with red patterns, and his black robe covered him from neck to toe, so that no skin was showing. Even his hands were covered with black gloves. Strangely enough, the band of ruffians that followed him made him look ordinary.
The gang of strange people had a blue tint to their skin, and blood was spattered all over their torn clothes. They limped after their leader, staring at nothing in particular with their vacant eyes.
Her heart pounded so loudly that she was afraid that these strange people would hear it.
“Greetings, fellow travelers,” the masked man approached the guards. The old woman scurried away into the forest.
“We are not travelers,” one of the guards began, though his voice shook with fear.
The masked man continued, in his oddly ordinary voice.
“Nevertheless, I am sure you would like to see an amusing trick!”
“We do not have time for this,” the guard insisted.
“Have you seen the lady of no name?” another of the guards spoke up.
The masked man pointed his staff at the guard who last spoke. One of the masked man’s peculiar companions limped to the guard and reached one clawed hand out. Before the guard could react, the stare-y eyed creature grasped his throat and dug its dirty nails in. The guard’s blood shot out onto the blue face of his killer, before he fell to the ground, dead.
The remaining guards drew their swords.
“Don’t worry,” the masked man assured them. “We’ll bring him back.”
Pointing his staff at the dead guard, he spoke a series of strange words. Though the still-living guards held their swords at the ready, they were too afraid to use them. Turning around, they all stared, anxiously, at the dead guard. Before their eyes, his skin took on a bluish tint, and his vacant, dead expression became a snarl. Finally, he stood up and faced his former comrades.
The woman hiding in the trees did not wait to find out what would happen next. Stepping slowly away from her hiding place, she took off at a run.
She was out of breath upon reaching the nearest village, but her fear kept her going. She proved to be too slow, however, when she found that the masked sorcerer and his undead companions were already there.
A dying woman sat on the ground, clutching her stomach. Blood seeped through her fingers from a grave wound. Crying, her young daughter ran to her side. No sooner had the dying woman wrapped her arms around her child, than one of the blue-skinned undead slashed the young girl’s stomach open. Blood spurted from her mouth as the light left her eyes.
Letting out a pitiful wail, the mother grasped the child, clutching the dead body to her.
“Don’t worry,” the masked sorcerer’s voice sounded through his mask. “We’ll just bring her back.”
In the dying mother’s arms, the child opened her bloodshot eyes, and her face took on life once again. There was another scream as the child sat up and sank her teeth into her mother’s shoulder.
The mother’s scream sent a jolt through the unnamed woman, and she backed away from the undead for a second time. She tried to walk calmly away, but was running before she knew it. She had made it halfway across the village before one of the strange walking dead people limped out from behind a tree.
Screaming, the girl turned around and stumbled to the ground. Panicking, she pushed herself to her feet and ran in the opposite direction again. Not daring to look over her shoulder, she ran towards the first open window she saw and, after a short climb up the vines, hoisted herself through it, shutting the window behind her. Once she was through, she lay on the ground on her stomach, staying as low to the ground as possible despite the fact that no one would see her through the tinted window. Despite her best efforts to calm herself, her labored breathing would not cease.
“Help me!” someone outside was screaming. “Somebody!”
When the scream was cut off, the woman with no name knew that an undead had sliced through the victim’s throat. She sank even lower to the ground.
She did not know how long she had lain on the floor of a strange bathroom with the door closed, but the noise of the ongoing slaughter had long since moved on by the time she stood up and opened the bathroom door.
She had expected the house to be eerily quiet, but she was relieved to hear the sounds of snoring a few rooms away. She crept past the room full of sleeping forms. How anyone could have slept through the sounds of murder outside was beyond her, but at least their slumber had prevented them from the fear that so many others had felt that night. And from discovering her hidden in the bathroom. The last thing she needed, she realized, was to be turned in for the Prince’s murder, which she had not thought about since her first encounter with the masked man and his undead army.
Sure that the house’s occupants were in deep slumber, she peered through the doorway. On one bed were three children. The one in the middle of her two siblings shivered violently, in the throes of either a seizure or a terrible nightmare.
The woman with no name recalled a story she had heard from one of the knights at the palace, about his daughter who suffered from nightmare seizures, an illness in which the victim suffered terrible pain in their sleep, because their nightmares were horrendous beyond their strangest waking thoughts. As children inflicted with the illness grew older, the nightmares became more bearable and the seizures less severe. This child looked to be at least ten years of age already, and would only be suffering the worst of the seizures for a few more years.
This was the first time that the woman with no name had seen the illness for herself, as opposed to simply hearing of it.
Turning away from the shivering child and her two sleeping siblings, she looked across the room at the other bed. Two adults slept soundly, their chests rising and falling as they breathed. Stepping closer to the bed, the woman with no name wondered if the two sleeping forms were men or women. They were so enveloped in their bedsheets that she had made it all the way to the side of their bed before she could see their faces. But when she did, she recognized one of them.
The knight from the king’s court looked up at her through sleepy eyes.
“What are you doing here?” he whispered.
“I’m so sorry,” the unnamed woman stammered. “I was just trying to escape the slaughter outside. I hadn’t the faintest idea that this was your house, or rather, that it was occupied at all, but I was so terrified, and—”
“What slaughter?” the knight sat up. Waking up, his wife propped herself up on one elbow next to him.
“This is the lady of no name,” the knight explained to his wife. “She is seeking refuge from…”
“This may sound utterly impossible,” the unnamed woman began, “but there is a horde of dead people newly brought to life, outside, in the village, and they are killing everyone and making them just like them. You must believe me! I saw it with my own eyes!”
“What’s happening?” one of the children sat up and rubbed her sleepy eyes.
“All of you, get into the bathroom, now!” the knight insisted.
One of the other children sat up and pointed to his sleeping sister, who still shook. “But she’s still—”
“Wake her up!” he continued to insist.
Despite the gravity of the situation, the unnamed woman found the sight of the knight in his nightclothes comical. His wife placed a hand on his shoulder as he swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“If you wake her up in the middle of one of her fits, she’ll have headaches for a week!”
“She might not have another week at all if we don’t get her to safety!”
The knight nearly sobbed as he held his head in his hands. “We will have to carry her.”
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Though it could no more be called knocking than a scream of terror could be called a song, for the knock was hurried, and so hard that the unnamed woman screamed.
“Would you like to see an amusing trick?” a voice asked from behind the door. “Your neighbors are here with me, and they want to tell you how amazing they thought it was.”
“It’s him,” the woman with no name shivered. “The stranger who commands the undead. Or whoever he is. I don’t know if he has a name.”
“Get into the bathroom!” the knight hauled his sleeping daughter out of her bed while the other two children raced to the bathroom. The woman with no name grasped the knight’s wife by the hand and dragged her to where the children were running. After them came the knight, with the still-sleeping child in his arms.
Handing the child to his wife, who was barely strong enough to carry her, the knight shut the door between himself and his family.
“Bolt it from the inside.”
“What about you?” the awake daughter wondered.
The knight did not answer.
“Wait!” his wife screamed.
The woman with no name felt her heart pounding in her chest. As she reached over his wife to bolt the door, she heard the bang of the front door being torn from its hinges and tossed aside. As the growls of the undead grew louder and louder, so did the screams of the children, including the one who was still dreaming her terrible dream.
The unnamed girl was the only one who remained silent in her terror. Even the knight was screaming on the other side of the door, and she knew him to be a brave man.
“Come back inside!” his wife was hollering. “I’m unbolting the door, so come back inside quickly!”
“No!” the woman with no name tugged her companion away from the door.
“But he’s my husband! We can’t leave him out there!” the panicking woman grasped the doorknob as the unnamed girl attempted to pry her fingers away from it.
“The undead are out there!” the unnamed girl cried. “If you open this door, they will kill us all!”
In her desperation, the struggling woman drove her elbow into the unnamed girl’s face, knocking her to the floor.
The girl did not have time to clutch her nose in agony, for her companion had already hastily unbolted the door.
The door was opened just in time for the bathroom’s occupants to see the knight, a broken vase in hand, be overrun by undead. Screaming in fear, the knight thrust his broken vase into the stomach of one of the foul creatures. Though the undead’s intestines began to spill out from the wound, it appeared not to notice its own injury. The knight uttered one final scream as the undead’s fangs tore into him.
The knight’s wife collapsed in sobbing, despite the unnamed girl’s best efforts to haul her back to her feet.
“Don’t worry.” The masked sorcerer’s voice came from nowhere in particular. “We’ll just bring him back.”
“No!” the unnamed girl had seen enough. “Don’t you dare bring him back! What you’re bringing back to life is hardly the same person, so stop it right now!”
“It would appear that one of our guests does not appreciate our trick,” the masked man was still nowhere in sight. “We will have to show it to her again.”
The girl made one more attempt to shake the broken woman beside her from her despair, but the knight’s wife—now his widow—would not budge.
As the mob of undead, who had mostly ceased to move while the masked man was speaking, finally descended upon her, the girl retreated to the bathroom, bolting the door.
Immediately following the knight’s widow’s last scream came the sound of growling on the other side of the door. The undead scratched and pounded, threatening to rip the door from its hinges as the front door had been.
“We have to get out,” she turned to the children.
The oldest child, who still lay shivering in her terrible dream, suddenly sat up and screamed. “Mama! Papa!”
The unnamed girl knelt beside the child and embraced her.
“It will be alright.”
“No it won’t,” tears sprang to the child’s eyes. “They’re dead, aren’t they? I saw it!”
The child’s brother and sister screeched as a blue-tinted arm burst through the door, making a hole in the wood. The hand then began to claw at the air.
“Get out through the window!” the unnamed girl shouted at the children as she pulled the formerly sleeping child to her feet.
Still frozen, the other two children stared in shock at the hand that protruded from the center of the closed door. A second hand burst through the wood of the door, causing both children to jump backwards.
Turning away from the formerly dreaming child, the girl with no name grasped the hands of the other two, steering them to the window. After much prompting, the children began to climb out of the window. Once they were out of sight, the unnamed girl began leading the third child after them.
No sooner had she gone to the window, than she heard a sickening crunch from outside.
“Don’t look!” she begged the child beside her, though she peered anxiously over the ledge.
Two undead were bent over the children, who lay on the ground, unmoving. A pool of blood lay underneath each of them. Behind her, three more blue hands tore through the door, grasping at the air like the previous two.
The pounding on the door increased, and the wood gave with every pound. Any second, and the door would burst open, letting the undead through.
“I know a way out,” the child said with a shaking voice. “We have to climb up to the roof! There are vines we can climb.”
“They’ll follow us!” The unnamed girl whispered.
“Then we’ll cut the vines.”
The unnamed girl turned at the sound of the door being crushed. It would break at any moment.
“Go!” she urged the knight’s daughter.
The unnamed girl watched as the child stood on the windowsill and grasped at something outside of the view of the window. Once more, she turned towards the door, anxiously anticipating the arrival of the undead.
“Come on!” the younger girl urged from outside.
Hurriedly, the unnamed girl peered out of the window. Feeling around the wall for the vines that her companion had spoken of, she stood up on the windowsill. Finally finding a vine, she clutched it and tugged on it to test its strength.
She dared not look back through the window as she heard a loud sound of wood breaking, followed by the cries of the undead.
“Climb up,” her companion urged. “Hurry!”
Pulling on the vine, the unnamed girl placed her feet on the wall and began hoisting herself upwards. She screamed as one clawed hand after another grasped at her legs, tearing the hem of her long skirt.
She knew she had made it to the top of the short climb when the knight’s daughter grasped her wrists in an effort to pull her up. Panting, the unnamed girl let go of the vine once she had hoisted herself onto the roof. Still on her hands and knees, she turned around to see her companion pulling the vines up, out of reach of the undead. Hurriedly, she crawled to the edge of the roof to join her, pulling the vines up as the undead grasped at them.
Staying out of sight, the two watched the undead for several moments before they were satisfied that their pursuers had no way of reaching them. Shivering, the unnamed girl buried her hands in the hem of her skirt. She did not know how long they had been sitting there before the undead ceased to growl, but they still dared not peer down at their pursuers until the sun began to rise. The undead had long since given up by then.
“I’m sorry about your family,” the unnamed girl turned to her companion. “I knew your father well, and he was always kind to me.”
As the knight’s daughter wiped away a tear, the unnamed girl began to wonder if she had said the right thing, or if she should have said nothing at all. Though she had lost her own family, she was surprised at how little she knew about comforting someone in a similar situation.
“Thanks,” the younger girl finally said. “The one benefit of my condition is that it steels me against terrible things that happen in reality. I have seen my family die several times, and every time, it has felt as real as it does now. I can’t quite convince myself that this isn’t just a dream.”
The unnamed girl stared into the sunrise.
“What is your name, if I may ask?”
“Gabrielle,” the knight’s daughter said. “What about you?”
“I don’t have one,” the unnamed girl looked into the sunrise.
Unsurprised, Gabrielle looked at her.
“Then are you the girl with no name that my father has talked about?”
The unnamed girl nodded.
“How can you survive without a name?” Gabrielle’s eyebrows drew together. “What do people call you?”
“Usually, they call me ‘girl,’ ‘woman,’ or ‘you there.’”
“Can’t you choose a name?” Gabrielle wondered. “The whole town seems to be dead, so you don’t have to have orphan status anymore.”
The unnamed girl smiled. To have a name would mean that she was no longer a second-class citizen. She could travel to another town and properly introduce herself to someone. To not have a name had been too much of a burden all her life.
“Could I really have a name?” she was grinning from ear to ear. “What sort of name do you think would fit me?”
“What’s a name that you like?” Gabrielle shrugged.
“I don’t know,” the unnamed girl admitted. “I have never been permitted to think about it.”
“How does Mara sound to you?” Gabrielle suggested. “Or Sasha. Or Evelyn.”
The unnamed girl nodded. “I like Mara.”
“Alright!” Gabrielle stood up. “Let’s climb back down and search for some of my father’s weapons. Then we can get out of this miserable town.”
“Gabrielle, wait!” She had never been allowed to call anyone by their name before, and a name felt strange to say aloud. “Are you sure it’s safe?”
“Of course,” Gabrielle nodded. “They must be long gone by now. And we can’t stay up here forever.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“I’ll climb down first, and if it’s all clear, I’ll holler,” Gabrielle lowered some of the vines again and climbed down into the bathroom.
“Mara, it’s all clear!”
Mara smiled at the sound of her new name. Crawling to the edge of the roof, she began climbing down.