Take Me Home

"I've always thought you existed."

            "Not many do."

            "I know," she said. She looked dejectedly at him, he with his great wings of white and a face made by the gods themselves. And she was but a girl, shivering from the nonexistent cold with long curly black hair. He tilted his head to the side, contemplating.

"Is this what you truly want?" he asked, his voice transcendental.

            She bit her lower lip, knowing he could read her thoughts. What was her life about? What was worth living? She was tired of living. No one wanted her to be around, not her older brother, not her neighbors or her older sister. Not a single person. And mother? She was gone, taken away by her daughter's birth. No loved Dryssa. They blamed her for everything. For her mother's death, for the sickness her brother caught recently, for the shortage of food during the long, desolate winters. Everything. She was a curse on the family. A silent plague of a person set upon them for not listening to the prophet when he told the family to kill the child before she was born.

Ah yes, the prophet. How could anyone, especially Dryssa, forget about the prophet, for was it not her who condemned her? Was it not the prophet of the gods who told her father that she was the killer of mother? The prophet told father to drown the baby girl in the River of Gods for she would only further curse the family more. Adeline, her older sister, was no more than five years of age and protested. She wanted a younger sibling to boss around. She was tired of being pushed around by Rilic, the eldest of the children. Father didn't not believe that the baby killed his wife. No, she as innocent as a lamb.

Yet as time went on, Adeline had her doubts when she soon caught the Black Plague, a fatal disease that left the older girl scarred for life. She blamed her three year sister for her horrible disfigurement. Another three years later, Rilic had taken a horrible fall from his horse, snapping his bones in his left leg. He was to walk now for the rest of his living days. He struck Dryssa across the face, hard, and then proceeded to beating her. He cried out to the gods to strike his youngest sister dead, for she from him his dignity of a man. Only when he finally struck her unconscious did he stop, leaving her in the middle of the small shack like home they lived in to die. Hours later, Dryssa woke in deep pain and a searing headache. Her arm and wrist were broken, but not shattered. She curled up into a ball on the floor and wept while a nearby neighbor heard her weeping. The neighbor called the healer to have splints set for her broken limbs.

And when she was nine years of age, her brother's woman, his wife, fell ill to a sickness. Dryssa warned Rilic not to take this woman as his wife, but he did not listen to the words of his youngest sister. She was a comely woman near his own age of 21. She was pregnant with their first child. She was six months in when she fell ill. She was having strong abdominal pains very often and was falling in and out of fevers rapidly. No ointment would bring down the hot temperatures and no draught would fight the pain. The young woman cried out from her bed for her husband now. she wanted for him to have a healer to cut her open. Take the baby out of her body that way. It was causing her much pain. She cursed Dryssa from her bedside, calling that the "witch girl" cursed her and that she wanted her brother for herself. She cried out that she would have never taken ill if she never met Dryssa, that damn girl. Curse her and her decedents for the rest of eternity. Dryssa shook her head, whispering one night into the woman's ear as she slept that the child she would give birth to would be of stillborn. Five weeks after the beginning of the fever, Rilic's wife gave birth to a stillborn baby boy and nearly died herself during the birthing. One week later, Rilic's woman left him, cursing his youngest sister. She said if she stayed any longer, if would be an inevitable death sentence. Rilic was beside himself with grief. First a lost child and now his wife. It was too much for him to take. He locked himself in his room for weeks, occasionally coming out to take out his anger physically on Dryssa. Her face was bruised constantly from endless beatings.

And now at the age of fifteen, trouble in her village began to stir. Out in the forest while watching the deer pass by, Dryssa saw her father hunting for deer. It was not deer season. Deer season had passed long ago, maybe a month ago or more. Yet there he was, with his arrow notched in his bow. What was the man doing? She warned him not to go into these woods. She had an awful feeling in her stomach, as if something horrible would happen. Plus, wolves were hunting at this time of the day, this season. They attacked the village regularly nowadays.  What was he thinking? Of course she would know better than to walk vociferously. It was a beacon for wolves, that noise. Should she intervene? Most likely, nothing would happen save for a horrible chastisement and a probable beating, like always. He had still not forgiven her for the death of his wife.

As she watched her father sulk through the woods without guile, she heard the low deep-throat growl of a wild, hungry beast. Dryssa froze, her eyes wide. It was on the far side of father. How could he not hear it? If she shouted out to him, the wolf would surely charge so quickly there would be no hope for survival for her father or for herself. It was a deadly decision either way. To not warn her father would result in his death but her survival. Several seconds later, the wolf sprang from the brushes and pinned her father down on the ground with its immense weight, sinking its fangs into his shoulder. The man's cries was deafening, a shrilling cry of pain. A cry only a dying man could make. Dryssa heard herself whimper in horror as bones snapped audibly under the crunching of jaws. She could hear flesh tearing from bones mingled with her father's cry of pain, a cry that no moral man could make. It was a cry only a dying man could make. He was being eaten to death, eaten alive. Dryssa shuddered, trying to hide her eyes but she could tear her eyes from the site. Blood drenched the man she called father and the ground was well saturated in this scarlet life liquid. The wolf's muzzle was a mass of garnet, matted fur. In his last living moments, she saw her father's turn to her, meeting her violet eyes with his blue ones. His eyes widen in the fact that she was there before narrowing in contempt. He knew his life was over now and gave no struggle now. Death was in his eyes.  He probably no longer actually felt his body, or at least what was happening to it. His eyes were full of pure hatred now, as he muttered under his breath before life left an empty shell of her father behind.

            Villagers came streaming into the forest, hearing her father's screams of death. Upon sight, they killed the wolf, ending its life with an arrow through its eye. It died instantly after her brother, Rilic dashed forward and drove a crude dagger into the animal's heart. Blood squirted everywhere, adding to the already gory scene. It splattered her brother, covering his face and clothes. He didn't not care. He avenged his father's death. He fell to his knees, holding the bloody knife in his hand. He stared at the remains of his father, which was beyond recognizable. Adeline ran forward and saw what had become of her father. She shrieked and ran into the arms of her lover at the time.

            One of the villagers saw her, trying to hide in the brushes.  She was father's lover. She took Dryssa's arm in a fierce grip, digging her nails into the girl's arm. Dryssa cried out in pain, fighting to free herself. She cried to be free, sobbing in pain and horror, as the woman drew her in front of the villagers. She shook the girl, making her teeth rattle and her brain swirl.

            "Listen to me, my friends. Look who I have found in the brushes, hiding in shame! Not even willing to pay respects to her father!" the woman cried, shaking the girl harder. The villagers stared at Dryssa in disgust. The girl tried to cower away, sobbing harder now. she pleaded to be freed. No one listened to her.

"Where was she when we heard Elderic's screams for help? I tell you where she was. She was here, waiting for the perfect opportunity to kill her father! That beast was her familiar, I tell you! I know it, Elderic knew it and hell, you all know it. This girl is a witch! She killed Dunya, her mother, with her birth. And now she's killed her own father, sending her familiar upon him when he was alone in these godforsaken woods. She is a killer and a killer at heart! Murderer! Murderer!"

            The village fell into the chant, calling Dryssa a witch, a murderer, a killer of the innocent.

            She fell away from the woman's hold and ran, holding her hands over her ears. "Stop, please, stop it!" she cried, stumbling. " I didn't do it, I didn't! I'm not a killer, I'm not a murderer!"

            She fell, tripping over roots of trees. She felt branches scratch her face as she fell. She picked herself up and began to run again. Knuckling her red eyes, she tried to see ahead so she didn't trip anymore. She wanted them to stop. It was not she who killed her father, who killed her mother. Nothing she had ever done was in spite, nothing she did was with full malicious intent. She was no witch. She possessed no familiars. It wasn't her fault that the wolf had come. She had no supernatural powers over the animals of the forest. Nothing like the fabled angels of history. The angels who were said to have existed long ago but are now no more. How she wished one day an angel would come take her away from this animosity, from this hell on earth. Save me, she thought. Now, more than ever, did she want an angel to come down to rescue her.

            Suddenly, the path she ran upon came to a halt. Before her was the large lake in the heart of the forest. There was no way to run, nowhere to hide and no where to go. She couldn't swim across, she didn't know how to swim. To run along the lakeside would be mere folly. The villagers would pick her off easily with arrows. It wasn't death she feared though; it was the torture, the incessant pluming of pain. She would be slowly killed, starved or dehydrated. A slow death with an ultimate punishment of burning her living body at the stake. How many countless burnings had she attended? It did not take much to tell her what they would do to her.

            A searing pain shot right through her as a fist size rock slammed into the back of her head. She cried out in pain and staggered forward, almost falling into the lake. She fell to her knees and felt the back of her head where the rock had crashed into her. It was tender to touch, but she could feel the warm wetness of blood drip down on her neck. She turned her head, painfully with her eyebrows puckered. There she saw her brother, Rilic, a young man unrecognizable in a fit of rage. He charged at her, another rock in his hand. He chucked it at her, missing her this time by a hair.

            "You killed him," he cried out, tears streaming down his face. "You killed my father and my mother! You took from me the one woman I loved!"

            Suddenly, he tackled her, knocking her off balance. She screamed as she fell into the lake, which  was deeper than she expected to be at the shore line. Her upper body and head fell underwater. He knelt beside her fallen body and closed his hands around her fragile neck. His thumbs pressed tightly on her windpipe, cutting off her air supply. She opened her mouth to scream, but no words came out, just the air bubbles from her mouth. The water blurred her vision as she tried fruitlessly to fight him off of her. He was too strong. Slowly, she lost her will and strength to fight him off. Her lungs began to burn and her heart was frantic and shallow. Her mind felt giddy and confused. Faintly, she could hear him shouting at her.

            "Murderer! Killer! You're not my sister and you never were! You killed my real youngest sister and then killed my mother. Then you took my father from me with your fucking witch powers. You fucking witch! I hope you burn in hell!..."

            If he spoke more, she never knew. Her eyes closed and her body went limp. Her lungs no longer burned now and the giddiness in her mind was still as great as it was before. Ah death, how she welcomed it.

*~~~*

            Dryssa stood now, by the lake shore, hovering above the middle of the lake. She could see her body, pulled up on shore now and surrounded with dry twigs. Her brother was surrounded by his loved ones and Adeline. The villagers looked upon Dryssa's body with disgust and victory. The witch was finally dead. Well damn them for never thinking any better of her. Dryssa bit her lower lip. She wondered if things might have been different if she had called to her father. If she had runaway from home and prevented this entire event. If she ran away, maybe Rilic's wife would still be with him. She turned back to look at the dark haired man with wings of white before her.

            "You've seen my life, you know my pain. Take me away," she said quietly, looking down at the water shinning below her. "I have no right to ask this of you, but please, take me with you…"

            He smiled kindly down at the girl. He wiped way the tears that spilled from her violet eyes and tilted her face up toward his own. "Dryssa, dear girl, have you ever wondered why you have violet eyes, yet no other does not?"

She shook her head, gazing up into the angel's eyes, his violet eyes. She gasped.

            "Yes," he said gently. "You are not of this world, of this middle world. Your mother was my lover. You are my daughter, my Dryssa. Have you ever wondered why you could predict the future? Did you not foresee that your brother's wife would become ill, that her child would be of stillborn? That your father would not come out of these woods alive?"

            Dryssa bit her lower lip. She looked to the side, at the sight of her drowned body again. "Then am I a witch, as they say? Am I some sort of twisted creature outside of nature?"

            He shook his head. "No, you are the daughter of an angel, the fairest of all creatures in this world. Your beauty is within," he said, touching her heart very lightly.

            Dryssa jumped slightly at his touch that sent numinous sensations up her spin and through her shoulder blades. She winced as she felt a slight, quick pain on her back. When she opened her eyes again, she saw her father, her true father, smiling down at her. He gestured for her to looked behind herself. Gasping, she saw a pair of wings, shining with magic. They were beautiful, like the great wings of a swan; graceful like the wings of a dove. She opened them to their full wing span, beaming with joy, before retracting them again. Beauty within indeed. Daughter of an angel.

 "Come, it's time to go home," the angel said, holding out his hand to her. She took his hand.

            She smiled. "Yes, please, take me home."

            And then he opened his wings again and with one great wing beat, he launched himself up and together, they both rose, their wings beating in unison.. They rose quickly, the wind gently brushing her cheeks and combing through her hair. She turned her head to look down at the world one last time and watched as one of the villages, an ageing man, came forward and brought a torch to Rilic. He looked at the elderly man and nodded in thanks. Rilic stepped forward and touched the torch to her entire body before stabbing the stick into her soundless heart, as if to certify that the so-called witch was dead. Dryssa smiled. That was the old Dryssa, Dryssa the Forgotten. But this is her new life now. A life that she was meant to live. She was going home.