I see him, in my dream. His perfect face twisted in agony as the fire laps at his body. His skin bubbles and his hair burns away. I beg the fire to stop. I reach for it, for him, but I can’t stop it. My body won’t move, and I cry as he screams for me to help him.
Reality hits like a ton of bricks. I wake in a cold sweat, tears fresh on my cheeks. I hate falling asleep; I can’t control my dreams. I look around, expecting to find the charred remains of a hut. It’s perfectly intact. The old woman stirs a pot over the hearth, humming to herself. I stare at her back, perplexed.
“What troubles you, child?” she asks, without even so much as a glance.
I flinch. It’s so creepy when she does that. “You’re still here,” I answer vaguely.
The old woman laughs. “Of course I am. This is my house.”
“That’s not what I meant,” I grumble.
“I know what you meant.” She chuckles, “Do not worry, child. You are safe here.”
I don’t respond. What do I even say to that? It’s not my safety that concerns me. I glance toward the doorway, and I see the way is clear again. I size up the old woman. I could probably outrun her, even if I am a little beat up…
“My grandson will be back soon,” the woman states, almost in response to my thoughts. I narrow my eyes.
“What’s his deal? Why is he so convinced he needs to help me?”
The spoon stops stirring and she sighs. “The world is in grave danger. A darkness looms on the horizon, the likes of which has not been seen in centuries. It falls upon young folk like you, and my grandson, to protect the rest of us from such calamity.”
I purse my lips. “How exactly are we supposed to do that?”
“By not dying, for a start,” she shoots me a pointed look over her shoulder. For the first time, I see where he gets his deep brown eyes.
“Aside from that,” I sneer as I push myself up. I cradle my left arm against my stomach, shoulder throbbing. My whole body is sore, but that one is really starting to bother me.
“Do not play dumb with me, child. You have power, beyond even what our ancestors could predict. You must use that power, along with others,” she explains, as though that’s obvious.
My brain, still groggy, catches on finally. “Your grandson… is one of those others?”
“Yes,” she nods, her shoulders sag slightly. “He was always quite gifted.”
I lean back against the wall, wincing at the pain. What the hell happened that night? How long has it been since then? I have no idea what day it is anymore. The tiny hole in the roof provides little light, let alone stars or something. I grab my jacket, digging through the pockets. I find my cigarettes first, warped from being soaked and then dried. I pull one out, smooth it a little, and put the butt between my lips.
The end of the cigarette lights up as I search for the other pocket with my less sore hand. I pull out the cell phone that Kaede gave me. I press the button, and sparks leap from the device. I yelp and drop the phone in panic. It tumbles onto the carpet, screen black. So much for that…
“Is everything alright?” the distinctive deep voice of the mysterious young man fills the small hut. I pick up the cigarette that fell from my lips. A tiny hole is burnt in my pants. A small pink circle peeks through on my thigh. I can’t even feel it with all the other wounds…
“Nakotah, where have you been?” the old woman snaps. “Can’t you see this poor girl needs healing?”
He hesitates, his eyes tracing over me. “Grandmother, I don’t think she would want me to-”
“Sense,” I disagree. “I don’t need or want your… herbal remedies or whatever.”
“Herbal remedies,” the woman mocks, shaking her head. “You think so little of us. Nakotah, I smell infection. See to it.”
He crouches next to me, an apologetic smile dances across his lips. “At least let me have a look?”
I heave a sigh, but when I move to pull my shirt off, I can’t raise my arm. “Damn it…” I grumble. I glare at the shirt and the sleeve burns off. Nakotah raises an eyebrow. I shrug.
“Is that… a gunshot?” he gawks, leaning in for a closer look.
I turn my face away. “Uh… Yea.”
He frowns. “Should I even bother asking?”
“Alright,” he nods. “Well, it’s definitely infected. Hold still.”
He grabs my shoulder above and below the wound. “Ow!” I whine. “What are you…” I freeze. His hands glow. Warmth spreads across my skin, like a blanket wrapping around my arm. The pain fades away with the greenish light, leaving a fresh flower scent in the air. That’s not normal.
“How does that feel?” he asks, eyes hopeful.
I glance over him again. My mind clears enough, without the infection, and I see it as clear as day. “You’ve gotta be kidding me…” I mutter.
“I’m sorry?” Nakotah tips his head.
“You’re a Guardian… How did I miss that?” I rub my head. Was I that out of it?
“Oh, that,” he smiles. “I thought that was why you took off from the bar the other night.”
I blush. “I guess I was a little… under the influence. I just thought you were creepy.”
The old woman cackles. He shoots her a look, and she quiets to a giggle. “Perhaps I should have been more forthcoming. I’m sorry.”
“For what?” I shrug. “It doesn’t really matter.”
“It does,” he insists. “If I had, you wouldn’t have ended up in the river.”
“Or I would have, and we’d both be dead,” I sneer at him. He narrows his eyes.
“Enough you two,” the old woman claps her hands. “Nakotah, bring the girl some clean clothes.”
He sighs. “Yes, Grandmother.”
By Krystyna Yates