There was nothing but darkness and my ears filled with a quiet, unfamiliar hum. Time seemed to both stand still and pass faster than I had ever known. As a whole, I felt vacant and my thoughts seemed distant from my vessel. I felt as though I had fallen into an endless sleep with the absence of dreaming. I began to hear distant voices but couldn't tell who they belonged to or what they were saying. Even as the voices seemed to get closer I still couldn't see anything or even feel my limbs. It became clear to me that I was overhearing a discussion between very powerful voices. They seemed to be arguing about something, but they weren't speaking a language I had heard before. Out of the twelve voices I managed to distinguish, it didn't sound like any of them were able to agree with one another.
The room suddenly fell silent and the voices seemed to be in shock. A feminine voice began to speak and I felt enchanted by her words as they wrapped around me. It felt as if the atmosphere had changed; I felt warm and at home.
Another new voice laughed darkly and my homestead feeling felt threatened by his darkness.
The next new voice seemed sympathetic and fatherly but he was quickly interrupted by the voice that had formerly been leading the discussion. This interruption was louder than anything I had ever heard and I felt my being shake.
I continued to be cradled by the warmth that had fallen over me with the new voices. As the warmth increased to a more comfortable level I felt my strength returning. Instead of disembodied, I began to feel as though I was laying on a soft bed of moss.
When the booming voice finally finished, it was followed by the last new voice that was soft and unthreatening.
The formally booming voice responded in a calmer tone and it seemed as though an agreement had been reached, despite the tension in the room being at its highest.
Each of the sixteen voices then spoke in unison as if they were agreeing to some sort of verbal contract. When their chant ended, the warmth left and I felt like I was spinning out of control. Nausea overcame me and I felt a fiery pain seep through my being. When the pain reached an unbearable level, I lost consciousness.
I woke up with an excruciating headache and my body felt too heavy to lift. I forced my eyes to open for a brief second and saw burning torches and the night sky. I let my eyes rest for a while before I forced them open again to see two figures standing over a pedestal that held a laying body across from me. Between my long blinks I watched as they moved from the pedestal to another identical one beside it that supported another body. This time I heard them speak.
"This is the girl who will share our burden," spoke the first figure. I blinked again, and the strength required to open my eyes again felt like it was too much. Out of fear of blacking out again, I kept my eye closed and focused my strength on listening.
"I don't like this, Thea. I want to set them free," begged the second figure.
"I know it's hard, but all we can do is prepare them for what they must go through," Thea responded calmly.
"Her story is so grim, I can't stand the thought of adding to it. Have you looked?" Asked the second figure. There was a pause as she waited for a response. "Go on!" My curiosity sparked and I strained to open my eyes to watch as one of the figures brought her hand to the body on the pedestal. As soon as there was contact a light emitted from their direction that was too much for my half-opened eyes. Thea let out a powerful gasp and I heard what sounded like someone collapsing. "Tragic, isn't it?" The second figure proposed quietly.
"Yes, but that doesn't concern us." Thea said, as I heard her get back on her feet. "Don't try to change things that are out of your control, Acacia. You'll only get hurt." There was no hint of a threat in her voice, rather she sounded sympathetic.
I heard their footsteps as they approached another pedestal and I could tell they were getting closer to me.
"What a waste of such a beautiful youth," Thea exclaimed.
"I'm sure that was Aphrodite's thoughts as well," Acacia added. The name Aphrodite resonated with me, but when I tried to remember why, the pressure on my brain seemed to increase. In efforts to stay conscious I left the reason unknown, but not before letting out a whimper from the pain. The room fell so silent that at first I thought I had lost my battle to stay awake, the pain I felt assured me otherwise. I heard footsteps coming towards me.
"Acacia, no!" Thea scolded in an urgent whisper, the footsteps stopped.
"Are you scared of what a departed teenager will do to me?" She asked confidently. What did she mean by departed? I couldn't possibly be dead if I was experiencing this much pain. Right on cue, the pressure increased with my thoughts and I let out another whimper. Acacia's footsteps resumed, this time she seemed hurried by my pain.
"You know that's not who I worry about hurting you. We shouldn't even be up here, we could get in big trouble." Thea warned. This time I heard no hesitation in Acacia's footsteps, until she was so close that I could feel her breath against my face as she leaned over me.
"It was you, wasn't it?" She asked. I coerced my eyes open to see the blurred outline of Acacia's face. The light from the torches in the distance put a heavenly glow around her curly hair. I watched as the corners of her mouth turned up into a smile and wished I could see enough details to look into her eyes. "Now is no time for you to be awake, my prince. Return to your slumber, so we can meet." Her words spilled over me and things began to feel distant again.
"Can we go now?" Thea asked impatiently, her voice more like an echo in my head. I could feel myself slowly slipping back out of consciousness and had little energy left to fight it.
"I suppose we can wait to meet the rest of our saviours." Acacia gave in, turning to leave with Thea. The thought of Acacia leaving me had a bigger impact than I thought it would. She was the first one to acknowledge my existence in who knows how long and she seemed to have a basic understanding of what was happening to me.
I used all of my strength to open my eyes and reach for her. As my hand wrapped around her arm, she turned to me with a look of horror on her face. Before I could fully register her face, her eyes began to glow with the intense light I had formerly seen when Thea had come in contact with the resting figure across the room.
Then all at once the pain stopped and my body no longer felt heavy. At first I thought I had died, but when I opened my eyes I did it with ease and I could see clearly. I was running through the woods and it was night-time. I felt my legs jump over a log that I hadn't even had time to notice was there. I could feel my lungs burning with each inhale and knew that I must have been running for a while. When I tried to think of why I was running I felt overcome with an unknown fear and my legs pressed on, out of what I assumed was instinct. The whole experience felt like a dream because I wasn't in control of my body, but every branch that hit against my skin felt incredibly real.
I managed to trip over something in the darkness and when I recovered I found myself frantically crawling into a nearby bush. I forced my breathing to a quieter rate and I stayed still listening. I wasn't sure what I was listening for, but I knew I had no other choice. I watched as a far away light cut through the forest, getting closer to my hiding spot. The light source had slowed down and began carefully examining the forest. I could feel the fear inside of me growing and an internal struggle to stop myself from crying, but something made me feel detached from the situation. The light source began to head directly towards me and I was convinced that I had been discovered. Still, my body stayed hidden in the bush. My eyes were pressed shut to keep the tears back and I could hear footsteps crunching the leaves just in front of me.
When I opened my eyes again, there was no sign of the light anymore and I had heard the footsteps head off into the distance moments ago. To be certain of my safety I stayed silent for another few minutes before I slowly moved out of the bushes. As I rose fully to my feet I filled with confusion and worry about where I would go next. My tears became unstoppable and flowed down my cheeks as I stood alone sobbing. When my crying reached a full body state and everything felt too unbearable to stand, I heard a familiar laughter from behind me. It was not familiar in a way that made me think of funny situations, but rather of sleepless nights full of fear. I turned, to be blinded by the flashlight. I spun right back around and lunged forward; the chase was on once again. The flashlight lit the path ahead of me in a spastic fashion. When I had just begun to put distance between us I noticed the leaves and dirt beneath my feet had been replaced with rock. I halted to a stop just in time to stop myself from going over the edge of a cliff. I was so close that I managed to knock a stone off the edge and heard it splash into water below after a few moments. As I scurried further on the ledge, the light emerged from the forest.
I closed my eyes as tightly as I could, not wanting to see what came next.
"Stop!" Thea yelled, breaking my contact with Acacia. The last thing I saw was Acacia falling to her knees before I drifted into a peaceful sleep.