This is draft version 1.5 of something I wrote yesterday.
|The numbness almost hurt more than the loss itself. She knew she should feel something, anything but there was no feeling to be had. Her body and mind were both just so numb. Of course, that probably meant that it would come to her at a more inopportune time, like in the middle of the night when she was finally forced to be alone with her thoughts or trying to fall asleep. Instead, all she could do was sit quietly and hope no one else noticed how numb she had become. They were probably too lost in their own worries to notice. Thank someone for small favors. She would've said "thank God," but everything she had known was now so tattered and shattered that she wasn't even sure if "God" was the right word for it anymore.
It was hard to focus on the meal. There were too many things—too many questions—rolling around inside her brain. In fact, food was the furthest thing from her mind. That was why she didn't join the others at the long table. If she did, they would see her concern. They could read her like a book sometimes and that just made it all worse. Rather than avoiding the engagement entirely, she made a place for herself on a pillow-topped bench and watched the courtyard from one of the windows. Everything here was just so strange. Jeans and a tee didn't fit here when you were dealing with monks and shrines. Was that what they were? Monks? She had just assumed that to be the case since she had arrived. They looked like monks anyway.
She was tired, so very tired, but the noise coming from the dining hall would have kept her up anyway. There was no use trying to find sleep when she was expected to join in on the festivities. She didn't feel like celebrating though. That was a very small battle in what was sure to be a long and bloody war. Eventually, that wave of numbness gave way to a feeling that she could definitely describe—anger. She was so angry that the promises he'd made had never been kept. She had accepted his "graces" under the condition that those she loved would be safe. Their deaths burned hot in her mind and fueled her anger until it was white-hot. Why hadn't he kept his word to her? Then again, why did she actually expect him to keep his word? He was a monster, a devil. Not a drop of truth ran through his veins.
The more she thought about these things, the more she realized she'd been played. He got everything he wanted while she was the one left staring down at the shattered pieces of her life. He was free from the strife that his actions would cause. "Well, fuck him," she muttered to herself as she stood up from her comfy little place in the corner. If he was so determined to keep her wrapped around his little finger then she would do what she could to make that time as miserable as possible for him. Better to go down swinging than to die on the ground like a wounded animal.
She left the mess hall quietly, not needing anyone else along to try to convince her that she was mistaken. The chilly night air was something she would have treasured had she not been so damn angry inside. There was no space in her head for admiring the beauty of the place they had been offered as sanctuary. Instead, she had discovered a new purpose that she could be okay with. The numbness, the anger—they all pointed in one direction and she was determined to hold him accountable for all his broken promises. Running shoes on ancient stones always seemed to sound so out of place when she heard them, but now they were the starting drum beats to her own symphony of retribution. He needed to know that she would no longer be his pawn. She wouldn't play his game anymore.
One of the monks drew in a breath when she pushed past him and into one of the sacred spaces. She didn't know if he was simply surprised or alarmed, but it didn't matter. Another monk muttered something at her as she reached for one of the tall candle sticks that lined the room, but she didn't quite catch what he was saying. It may have even been in another language for all she knew. The aged brass of the candlestick was heavier than she had expected. Perhaps she was just too used to the shotty workmanship of present day items to recognize a work of true art? Well, that didn't matter right now. The weight would be more than enough for what she needed. Candlestick in hand, she moved toward the center of the room that housed this shrine—his shrine—and lobbed the heavy object straight into the mass of sacred items. The sound of the brass hitting the stone and metal artifacts was deafening in the large room. The small handful of monks there scattered as if unsure of what to do. They were supposed to honor her as the messenger of their god, but what were they to do if the messenger was destroying her own deity's shrine?
Most of the monks fled out of the stone tower and into the night, possibly trying to seek help from the others like her. They surely didn't want to be in the same space as this woman as she called down the wrath of someone so ancient and deadly. One monk did manage to muster up the courage to lunge at her as she reached for one of the larger candelabras that surrounded the shrine and threatened to swing it like a major leaguer toward the ebony-colored stone idol at it's heart. He startled her and she reeled around to swing the object at him first, an enraged scream adding power to her strike. The anger was still burning so hot and so bright inside. He wasn't going to be able to stop her alone and was probably lucky enough to escape her fury with the minor injury she inflicted. Bleeding, but not totally broken, he realized it was in his best interest to flee. Let the gods sort this mad woman out.
She turned her indignation back to the idol and swung the candelabra as fast and as hard as she could. The stone of the object was solid, some material unknown to her, but the mass of the weapon she'd chosen allowed her the force to dig deeply into the smoothness of the idol. The tip of one of the horns of the carved helm was snapped clean off and a crack travelled down the jawline of the idol, pieces of the polished stone flaking off and revealing a glittering web of crystals and rock beneath it. She hefted the heavy candelabra a second time, smashing any breakable object that came in range. Her arms were on fire, burning like the anger, but she had to appease the rage or she would never be okay.
Unfortunately for her, the third swing did not connect. She found herself seized at the throat, as if some massive hand had grabbed her and pulled her from the ground. She struggled against the invisible foe, gasping for air as she kicked at whatever held her. "I have killed men for less than this, little girl!" His voice was a growl that seemed to emanate from every edge of the room. She struggled harder as the streaks of darkness between the candlelight began to amass and crawl toward her like creatures from another dimension seeking the life-force of their prey. The ethereal blobs glooped together when they drew near each other, eventually forming a massive doppelgänger of the smaller idol at the center of the room. Minus the defacement that she had caused, of course. "Why do you test my patience?" He seemed to either not notice or not care that she could no longer breathe very well with his massive fingers wrapped about her pale neck. She would have screamed if she could, but, instead, just tried desperately not to give in to the unconsciousness that would surely come soon. "What is wrong with you?!" The voice was no longer disembodied and ink-black eyes took measure of her face.
She struggled against the titan before her and refused to bow to his superiority, even if it was clear to anyone watching that he really was her better. "You," she managed to choke out one word, but it was all she needed to say.
The ebony titan pulled her closer to examine her before thrusting her to the ground, knocking what breath she had left from her body. She would not let herself cry from the pain as she laid on the ground trying desperately to take in just one breath of air. When she finally did recover and opened her eyes, the behemoth was gone. In his place, stood a man wearing armor similar to the titan's but human-sized and without a helmet to cover most of his face. Strands of jet hair fell on either side of his face, most of it held back in a tie that she could not see, but she could plainly tell that he was struggling to keep himself calm while also trying to make any sort of sense of what she was doing.
"You. Lied. To me." That was the most she could let out. Her throat already felt bruised and the back of her head was throbbing where it made contact with the stone floor. The same could be said for other places along her body and spine.
"I... lied? To you?" The words came out in the form of a question, his voice softer and smoother than the monster that he had shown her before. Fear was his way, but it did not work when the servant didn't fear their master. It was probably best for him to take on a softer, more caring role now.
"Yes," she was still fighting the tears, because now the anger was starting to burn out. It was slowly giving way to the sadness and despair that she actually needed to feel. "You lied to me." Her voice was lowering toward whisper as she repeated it to him. He needed to know that she knew he lied. It was the only way she would feel any better.
The dark-haired man seemed to take more offense at the indication that he had lied than he had at the fact that the woman had just disturbed his hallowed ground. "I did nothing of the sort."
"You—," She coughed, not even trying to pick herself up from the floor because every part of her was nearing too tired to continue, "You swore to me that you'd protect him."
"Ah, yes." The man took a few steps forward, kneeling down a bit to allow himself to look over her better. His armor made no noise as he knelt down and his black cloak seemed to flow as if it was made of water, settling around him softly. There was a bit of a smile on his face and it might have been a pleasant one were it not for the current topic of discussion. Instead, she found it sick and disgusting. "But what better place for me to protect him than in the realm of the dead? Did I not give you what you wanted, just as I promised?"
"No!" She shook her head as she tried again to keep herself from breaking down in tears. "That's not what I wanted!" Her strained voice began to sound more and more like a frightened child.
"Are you sure?" He trailed his fingers along the side of her face and she jerked her head away. His smile became more of a smirk. "What about every time you pretended to be the grieving lover or widow? What about every time you wished to be free of him so that you could be free of your responsibilities to him?"
"Come now! Let's hear the truth!" He mocked her with a sing-song tone and that hideous smirk, caressing her face again and grabbing her chin to force her to look at him.
"It was just," she paused as she tried to find the exact words, "A horrible daydream."
"And what a sick daydream that was!" He hopped up quickly, guiding the globby shadows and directing them to raise her from the floor. He forced her to stand just so he could look her in the eye and see what it was that made her so convinced he had done her wrong. "So, tell me, who's really the monster here?" He closed the gap between them, but that smug smirk never left his face. "Is it I, the one who brings death?" He motioned toward himself as he spoke, pausing briefly to allow the question to sink in. "Or is it you, the one that fantasizes about her own loved ones perishing so that she may live out some absurd drama?"
She was absolutely speechless and this left her defeated. He'd succeeded in taking every ounce of courage from her by making her face her own horrible self. He always won and, oh, how she hated him for it. Hated him and hated herself.
"You forget that I know you." His tone was just above a whisper. "You are but a tool, a pawn in the greatest game ever played."
"I am not a pawn," she spat the words at him with pure indignation. A tiny portion of that flame reignited in her eyes and she tried to pull herself away from him and his jet-eyed gaze.
"Yes, you are." His hand wrapped around her arm and he held her in place, smoothing back some of her hair as if he was the caring father of an innocent child. She struggled against the gesture so he released her, but continued on with his explanation. "Your life is mine. You took the gift I offered and now everything you do, everything you say, is meant to exercise my will. The sooner you accept this, the sooner we can stop this annoying stand-off you choose to have with every life you live."
He spoke of her past lives so matter-of-factly, as if they were all memories to her. She had no memories of those lives other than what flashed by her in dreams and moments of deja vu. Was her soul really caught up in an eternal struggle to be free? Had she taken a bad deal and was now left to suffer the consequences for eternity? "Then take it back," she muttered, somewhat under her breath.
"What did you say?" He almost sounded stunned. That was an interesting turn. Not once in all the centuries she had lived had she ever suggested that he just take the power back.
The moment the leer left his face, she felt even more emboldened and pressed again. "Take back the gift."
He turned away and gave what almost seemed to be an uneasy chuckle, "That isn't possible."
"Well, are you a god or not?" She challenged his rules. Who said that a broken piece couldn't be removed from play? Every game had substitution rules.
"I am." She'd dinged at his pride and he knew it, "but this isn't a pact that I can break." The smile on his face was long gone. "Once the gift is given, it cannot be taken away. It's a bit of a... fail-safe."
She would've smiled if she thought she had acquired an upper hand, but she only felt even more despair. The game would never end and she would continue to be reborn into chaos. "So, you can't kill me? And you can't remove the gift? Then what power do you really have?" The truth had finally come to light. What in the world could she do now? He, of course, remained silent, his face not betraying what was surely bubbling underneath. She sensed something, but wasn't sure if she could pinpoint the exact feeling. In the end, she realized there was only one course of action that she could take. "Then, I quit." She stated her decision clearly and concisely. There was nothing left for her in this life and she didn't want to fight anymore. She was done.
Word Count: 2,761
First Draft: October 29, 2016
Inspired By: "Invalid Item" "Dialogue" and "Numbness"