Keep running, you light the way, I whisper to the moon, imagining freedom from the screaming in my walls. Nothing could keep me there — “NO!” behind me something pulls my hair, dragging me through the mud. Gods, what do you want?! I fight against the grip but I’m too shaky, powerless against its slippery leather gloves.
It stops, nudging me on my belly with a sharp boot. The grass beneath me is soft, cozy enough to fall asleep in. But the moon keeps me awake, taunting me with its welcoming glow of an unreachable place.
I hope I die quick.
“No no no, please!” My feet leave the ground, held by my hair, swinging like a pendulum in front of its shadowed face. “Please, no…” Something warm and soggy slithers up my nose. “Ow! STOP!” Blood spills from my nose to lips, dripping down my chin… Its fingers wrestle with my closed mouth. It wins, stabbing my throat with slender, pencil thin fingers. I bite deep, cracking one —it can’t be bone. He throws me down hard. Everything ends.
My eyes open again. It kicks me onto my back, the other holds my ankles down. Above me, glowing orange chips floating in a black hood hovers above. A claw squeezes my nose, sucking my blood, the other grips my neck and mouth… I can’t breathe! I can’t —
“Valeigh’s awake! Hey, you’re alright now. What’s happening with her eyes—can she see us?”
“Valeigh? I’m Doctor Feelshade. JD is here too.”
“I can see you…” I lied, struggling to make out their faces. My throat feels like someone jammed a rake down it. “Did you get them… the shadow people?”
Blinding sunlight streamed into the room, toasting me. JDs in fragments through a kaleidoscope of lavender, blue, and gold. Slowly, I can see him better. I feel safe when he’s around, weightless, without a worry in the world.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” JD said. He hugs me tight. Keep quiet, do you understand? he whispered in my ear.
Feelshade gives me a suspicious look. “Call me if there’s any further incident, specifically with that scar,” he says.
JD saw the doctor out. What further incident? Where’s the people who attacked me? I’m always left in the dark.
“What if those shadow people come back?” I blurt once JD returned. He sighed and sat beside me, taking my hands in his.
“Valeigh, I killed it. Remember how bad the ashes smelled when it burned?”
“No, it’s back. There were two exactly like the one you killed. It’s a part of this place!”
“I saw everything on the camera. You ran outside, slipped, and fell face first on a boulder. No one else was here. What made you run? You looked really scared… Was it the screams again?”
My flaw, a large scar from an old injury across my eyes tingles. I massage it, trying to remember, but my fingers are slick with blood.
JD calls from the yard, holding the shadow by its head. He kicks it in the back, forcing it to the ground.
“Valeigh! Stay awake… Val?”
“I’m awake…” I blink fast, wiping blood off on the blankets, but there’s none. “I’m sorry.”
“Hey, you didn’t do anything wrong, you just had an accident. Listen, I got the call, the real one this time. We’re gonna leave this place. It won’t do us any good to keep staying here, as kind as the Dark Court was to take us in.”
Years of disappointment conditioned me to live behind steel walls of impenetrable hopelessness. Accepting our doomed fate was much easier to swallow. But I notice JD’s uniform, the pitch-black standard of the Bureau. It brings out his sharp dark eyes, smooth brown skin and styled, wavy black hair.
“We’re leaving? Will we be together still?”
“Yup! Just like we prayed. And in Aeterna you’ll have every comfort — all arranged by the Bureau.”
“I don’t know, JD. This is too much right now. You’ve gotten a call before…”
“Yeah, we were denied, but it’s different now. There’s a new king.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Well, think fast, because we leave tomorrow. And uh, if you’re hungry, I got fruit melody and croissants for breakfast.”
He goes to leave, stops, but doesn’t turn around. “That’s still your favorite, right?”
“Yeah… Thanks JD.”
I fall back on my pillow as soon as he left, desperate to leave for Aeterna… But nothing good ever happened to us, so I prepared myself for disappointment.
The next day, JD knocked on my door before the sun rose. He said we’d take a plane to Aeterna, and the Bureau would pack the rest of our home. I went along with the ruse and got ready for the day.
My heart pounds when we approach the front door to leave, cradling my backpack like an infant in my arms. I turn back, a part of me wants to stay, but the screams start again. Howling from the walls, beneath the floor… I turn again, JD’s on the front lawn with bleeding knuckles, growling as he pulls the shadow head clean off. Blood shoots into the sky like a ruby geyser.
I wake up, shocked at the plush, crimson seat of the plane. I can’t remember boarding…
“I’m glad you came with me; I was ready to drag you by the hair,” JD groans. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”
He sat across from me, smiling with his honest brown eyes. I return the gesture, lasting longer than I expected, with a genuine smile for once. I want to ask about the shadow people while he’s in a good mood, but he gets upset when I bring it up, always reminding me to keep my mouth shut. Don’t talk about it. Maybe it didn’t matter.
My eyes close, soaking in the feeling of freedom. I’m weightless, and nothing of the past mattered anymore, because it was all behind us.