Challenge: The Once and Always Stranger
Hello, everyone. So, I found this post to be a challenge for me. I was having a difficult time coming up with an idea for the theme of discovery, but I finally settled on writing a brief scene from one of my future books. In this scene, the main character Anna Marie has just had the childhood image of her mother shattered by the truth revealed to her in visions.
For those of you who don’t know what this is all about, you can find information on the challenge here. Also, if you like what you read please go check out my other work. You can find the stories I’ve written so far here on the blog, or on Booksie and Wattpad. (You can also follow me on twitter @ElixssamRose )Thanks again for reading.
The Once and Always Stanger
Anna collapsed in the cover of the wood at the border of the field, her dress torn by brambles. She looked back. The torches, spots of blistering light against the pitch night, were blazing along the walls. The commotion – the shouting of the guard, reached her despite the croaking toads, and the wind in the trees all around her.
She gathered herself up slowly, too afraid to so much as snap a twig even though there was no way the knights would think to find her at the edge of the forest. She’d run blind, not a thought to why she was running or where to. She only needed to be away from the confining castle and the visions plaguing her inside those walls.
She drew her knees up to her chest and buried her face in her skirts. The truth has a way of finding us, her grandmamma used to tell her. At the time she’d thought those words were a statement without any meaning or weight. She had been hardly more than six and her dreams had only shown her little things like where she’d lost her favorite river rock or what sort of surprise her mama had for her on her birthday.
She bunched the dirty fabric against her face and let out a choked sob. Why did truth have to be so cruel?
Even though the damp seeped through her skirts, and the wet air was raw against her bare hands, the vision clouded around her, more than she could handle. She gripped her knees tighter and planted her feet hard into the ground, afraid the earth would begin to swirl and the night would become the silent castle again.
It didn’t happen, but the vision stuck to her eyes lids and played over and over.
There, her mother stood in a room lit by moonlight. She was draped in a heavy green cape, the hood pulled low over her head.
No, she didn’t want to see it again. She pushed against it with the full force of her mind, but it wouldn’t leave. Now she could smell the dust on the bed quilts and the wind blowing through the window. She could hear her mother’s rustling skirts as she swooped toward the two cooing infants laying together on the bed.
The visions, all they ever did was show what couldn’t be changed.
“Why did you do it?”
Her mother’s back turned and away she walked, taking only one baby – taking Anna. But her vision didn’t show her where her mother went. That, she knew. She’d lived it, making salves and potions in the old temple under mama’s gaze and her grandmama’s wisdom. Instead, it left her in the room with her infant brother. Her cried and cried, but their mama wouldn’t even look back to him.
“How could you do it?”
She couldn’t possibly have foreseen what would happen. Not the windowless room their father would hide his remaining child in. Not the slow corroding of his soul through the years of isolation. That was for Anna herself to see. In his dark eyes, his empty smile, and in her visions.
Anna looked up toward the castle. Near every window glowed as a beacon. She used the tree at her back to help herself stand.
The mama of her memory walked barefoot through the forest, picking herbs from the dirt as if sprouting them from magic. She labored at her table, grinding, drying, and mixing flower and leaf and root into concoctions that made miracles of the sick. She hummed while she worked. Anna would lay under the table playing with the paper dolls she made for her. But, the castle showed her a woman with secret dark depths to her heart that she would never be able to fully grasp. Not in life, or in death.
The forest creaked around her. It would shelter her if she asked. She turned toward the dark wood and took a step but she saw herself self from behind, cloaked in green. The very image of her mother. The force of it staggered her and she leaned heavy against the old pine.
“I’m not my mother.”
Once, she would have found pride in the comparison.
She curled her fingers into a fist against the rough bark. Her mother’s lilting voice moved through the trees. ‘Go back,’ it said.
The wind barreled through the wood, hitting her with a force that whipped her skirts and took her breath.
The wind gusted once more, and all at once it went quiet. When she opened her eyes a swirling red mist floated before her. It had no shape other than that of a flame, but her heart gave a telling shudder at the apparition.
All at once, a surge of emotion welled inside her. Her heart grew heavy as stone. She gripped her chest and felt that it might break. Tears ran free down her cheeks and the strength shook out of her legs. The castle room flashed before her eyes, and her mother as she leaned over the infants on the bed.
‘I’m sorry.’ She felt the words. ‘Forgive me,’ over and over until she fell to her hand in the dirt and screamed.
When she looked up, the red apparition was gone, and so was the heavy feeling in her heart. Not that it felt any less broken.
“I’m not the one you should ask forgiveness from.”
The Truth has a way of finding us, her Grandmamma used to say. But it takes a strong person to face that truth, and stronger still to reveal it in others.
If her visions taught her anything it was that she couldn’t undo the damage already done. She couldn’t reach through time and make her mother stay in the castle anymore then she could change places with her brother. But, the present was real. The bruises on her legs were proof enough of that, and from the present, she could change her vision - the dreadful fears - of the future. She couldn’t undo the pain that had twisted her brother, but maybe she could stop that pain from spreading even further.
Anna hiked up her skirts and ran back toward the castle. She didn’t have much time if she hoped to stop the mountain Kingdom from crumbling.