Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Light... A Short Story


That’s the first thing she noticed. At first, it was just a small strand, nothing to render a second glance. She had seen the pieces of light before, but they always faded away. Still, it was something new in the darkness that surrounded her. So she watched.


The small strand began to grow. This too was nothing new. She instinctively pulled back to the corner, the deepest blackness of her dungeon. The light always grew before it was extinguished, followed by her master.

The Master.

The mere thought of him sent shivers down her spine. Sweat broke out on her forehead in spite of the dungeon’s cold. Her arms and back began to ache in anticipation of the beating and humiliation to come.

“Not again”, she whispered, pleading to the darkness. Tears fell silently down her cheeks. She watched as the light grew and waited.

But the light never stopped.

Instead, it kept growing and growing until the room was almost flooded with it. It moved throughout the dark cell, replacing the darkness with its golden rays. It stopped just in front of her, in the deepest corner.

She almost reached out to touch it, but quickly thought better. What if it was a trick?

Nothing happened for a few moments. The light stayed where it was, and so did she.

And then she saw him.

At first she thought it was her master, and she froze, trying to become invisible in what darkness remained. If she had looked closer, she would have noticed he was at least a head taller than her master. The master was really a scrawny and gangly man, yet this one was powerful and impressive with strong arms and broad shoulders.

But she didn’t. Instead, her eyes remained fixed on the ground, trying to fight off hysteria.

He began to walk closer to her, slowly, as one would approach a frightened animal.

Her hands covered her face, but she could hear the thud of his boots as he approached her. Then he stopped, and she almost fainted from fear. She expected him to grab her by the hair or neck and drag her away for another beating.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he knelt to the ground in front of her.

“Little one”, he whispered gently. His voice startled her. She was expecting a bark or a yell, but it was so… soft. Not weak, definitely strong. But there was something so… comforting about the sound of his voice. She looked up.

His hand was extended, holding something. A bottle maybe?

“Water, little one”.


Her mind struggled to comprehend the word. It had been so long since she had tasted water. Her throat used to ache at the thought, but now she was just numb. Dry and numb.

Trembling, her weak hand reached out to take the bottle, but then she pulled away. What was she doing! This had to be a trick. She tried to look around him, expecting to see her master standing in the doorway, laughing at her, the glimmer in his eye that would signal her doom.

“He’s not here anymore, little one,” he said, knowing what she was thinking.

She wrinkled her eyebrows, looking at him in disbelief. Her mind did not even begin to try comprehending what that would mean.

“It’s true. I defeated him. This is his sword and shield, covered in his blood. He is gone, and he will never hurt you again.”

When she saw the sword, her mind almost began to believe it. Her fingertips stretched and traced the seal on the sword’s handle, a skeleton wrapped in chains. She smelled the blood on the shield… a mixture of smoke and sulfur. She knew it was his because once, when she was stronger, she hit him in the cheek and drew blood. She never forgot the smell… or the beating that followed.

He offered her the bottle again, and this time she snatched it, tore open the lid, and gulped the contents.

It was so sweet, cool. She felt her mouth and throat coming to life again, as if a fire inside were being extinguished. It came so quickly that she began to cough and choke.

He took the bottle from her. “That’s ok little one, there will be more”. He smiled at her.

Then he reached out and grabbed her hand. In shock, she let him do it. Had she been thinking, she would have pulled away. Her hand was so small in his.

She could hear cloth tearing, he took out another bottle and poured it on her hand.

“Ahh!” she screamed at the burning sensation and pulled the hand away.

“It’s ok little one. It’s just a balm, medicine for your wounds. They will feel better, I promise.”

She stared at him for a moment and then at her hand. It had already begun to feel better.

Giving it back, she gritted her teeth, waiting for it to sting again. Really, compared to everything else she had faced, this sting was nothing and normally would not make her even flinch. But her nerves were raw at the moment.

After pouring the balm, he wrapped her hand in the cloth. She offered him the other hand. He smiled and repeated the process.

After bandaging her hands, he reached for her face, cupping her chin in his hand before she had a chance to react.

She couldn’t look at him. She knew there would be revulsion in his eyes, disgust. Always ugly, with a crooked mouth and nose. In fact, the master called her the Crooked One. He would take a look at the crooked face, covered in scars and bruises, and walk away. Everyone else did.

He remained there for a few moments, her chin in his hand. Willing herself to look up, she saw his face, eyebrows wrinkled in… anger! He was angry! Why?

Perhaps he had been told she was beautiful, and he was angry someone had lied.

Perhaps she was the wrong one he had come for.

 Perhaps this was some mistake.

He lifted his other hand, and she braced for the blow.

But the hand didn’t form a fist, and it didn’t find her eyes or cheeks. Instead, it rested on the top of her head, gently brushing the hair back from her face. He looked down into her eyes, and his face softened.

The anger melted away.

“I’m so sorry this happened to you little one.”

His eyes… That’s what convinced her. He was genuine, really sorry she had been wounded. His eyes were so tender, so… there was something else in them she couldn’t place, but she liked it. His eyes were safe, offering no judgment or humiliation.

He smiled at her.

“Little one, I have defeated your master. You are free. But now you have a choice to make… You can either remain here in your dungeon, or,” he paused, “You may come with me.”

Somehow she knew, deep in her soul, this decision would change everything. Her mind could not comprehend it. Her soul could not grasp the fullness of this concept, what this would mean for her…


The word had been offered to her before, dangling like jewel, only to be taken away, snatched by his mocking eyes and bruising fingers.

“You want freedom?” He would laugh at her, pulling the chains on her wrist tighter. He would toss her to the floor like a rag doll, hitting her head on the cold stone floor. And then, he would grab her hair in his hand and pull her up until his ice blue eyes met hers.

“Freedom only comes to the beautiful ones," he would hiss. "And you… stupid, ugly little whore, what would you do with it? Do you think the beautiful ones would let you join them? No… they would despise you. They would push you right back into my arms, if you hadn't run back to me already. Freedom is a price you cannot pay.”

And with that, he would release her, shaking his hands free of the pieces of hair he had pulled out. She would crawl back to her dungeon, back to the darkness, back to her pain. She would curl into a ball and wait for the blood to clot, the pain to subside, the thought of freedom to escape her mind.

She shook her head at the memory and looked around her dungeon.

The light had illuminated everything around her, and for the first time, she could see…the cobwebs and spiders along the ceiling and in the corners, the rats scurrying in and out of holes, puddles of mud and waste scattered about the floor, empty chains attached the wall, various bones here and there (how long had those been there?).

She could stay here. It was comfortable, safe. She knew the sounds and had grown numb to its scent. But did she want to? Was this freedom?

His hands had moved from her chin to her hands. He was still inspecting the bandages around her palms, studying the scars on her fingertips. She stared at him. Who was this man? Why did he want her?

He saw her filth, her rags, her wounds… what could possibly make him want to save her?

And what if she said yes? Would he now own her, have some sort of claim over her? How did she know she wasn’t just going from one dungeon to another?

Yet, in spite of the doubts that filled her mind, she knew, oh she knew, somehow, he was safe. She noticed that her breathing had slowed, become deeper. She was no longer gasping for air, trying to soothe a raw throat, panting in fear.

No, she was relaxed, her heart steady. And the hands did feel better. She wiggled her fingers, able to move without pain.

He looked up, looking into her eyes once more.

It was the eyes… they finally convinced her. There was no hint of cruelty in them, no hint of humiliation or malice. His eyes were so…protective, gentle, peaceful, safe. And she knew, he would never wound her, never destroy her, never try to break her.

In his eyes, she found home.

“Well?” he whispered.

She nodded her head.

“You must say it little one. Coming with me will be difficult for you. You will have to learn to live in freedom. But you must say it out loud.”

Taking a deep breath, she replied, “I want to be with you.”

He smiled. “Alright then, let’s go home.”

He lifted her to her feet. She stood for a moment and tried to take a step to follow… but she couldn’t and instead cried out in pain, crumpling to the floor.

This it is, she thought as she lay on the floor. He will leave. I can’t even walk out of here. And her eyes began to close, darkness looming in around her.

“Please, please”, she begged, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. “Please don’t leave me.”

She felt him beside her, kneeling down.

“Oh little one, I will never leave you.”

He scooped her into his arms, cradling her like a small child. He was warm.

They left the dungeon, it’s darkness, the cold, and walked out into the sunlight.