Once I came to, the sky was dark and the moon shone down eerily as if mocking my very being. My head throbbed and the sky seemed distorted and wrong as I slowly rose from my bed of wet grass. Zen stood under the very little light the moon provided, his back to me. My lips parted.
"Zen..?" He didn't turn. He didn't speak. It was as if he wasn't there at all. "Zen?!" I tried again. This time, I saw the silhouette shift in the darkness. And soon his golden eyes stared right back at me. There was something odd in them, something alien.
Something not human.
Just as his muscles tensed and he recoiled back, preparing to strike, the image disappeared. With a gasp I jolted awake and narrowed my eyes at my surroundings. Immediately my hand wandered to my skin, giving it a small but quick pinch. I hissed under my breath, and the image did not fade this time. A raspy, feminine chuckle rang throughout the small wooden structure I sat in. My head turned to the source.
"Now now, young man. You've barely woken up." An old woman, wearing a scarf on her head and baggy clothes on her body, grinned at me from across the room. Just as I opened my mouth to question it, the door was flung open with such force I almost sprang to my feet and ran. Zen stood at the doorway, eyes wide and hair disheveled, gasping for breath. He rushed over to me and I inched away; for the way he looked at my form sent shivers down my spine. His hands grasped my shoulders, a bit too tightly.
"Are you hurt anywhere?" His tone was demanding, and it almost sounded like animalistic growling other than words. I bit back a whimper and gazed at the wall behind him.
"I am now." I mused, and he immediately loosened his death grip on my shoulders. I quickly proceeded to massage the spot his hands had been. I inhaled, words stuck on my tongue, but thought better of it. "What happened?" Zen seemed to have been glued to the spot, his eyes getting a bit wider than when he walked in. Suddenly he looked as if he might start crying. The effect soon faded and he backed away from my form.
"You passed out." His expression hardened once more, back to his cold and vague self. I let out a sigh and lifted myself off the floor. When I didn't say anything else, that appeared to irritate him. With a grunt, he muttered his way out of the room and slammed the door. I flinched at the loud sound.
"Don't mind him, young one. He is troubled." The old woman dipped some ragged cloth into a bowl of water and squeezed it, reaching out to my face. The cool cloth eased my aching head, even if slightly. I pressed my lips together tightly.
"Do you know him?" I questioned wearily. For a long time, the woman said nothing. She merely continued to wipe my face with the cloth as if I hadn't said anything at all. With a sigh, I prepared to turn away from her when she spoke. Her voice was so hushed, I did a double take just to make sure I was hearing correctly.
"Only from the moment he came into the world." A small, pained smile stretched across her parched lips. Her gaze seemed far away. I fidgeted with my fingers in my lap. This woman had known Zen ever since he was born? Just who on earth was she?
"Are you his grandmother?" The old woman smiled at me, which looked bemused, now, and got up from the floor. Moments later, she had returned with a small wooden box of which she handed to me. Her trembling hands grasped mine, a sorrowful smile stretched across her lips, and she then retreated into the other room. The wooden box had a small golden latch keeping it closed. I swung it open, peeking inside.
A baby raven sat inside. Only a baby raven. It had been long dead but preserved. I stroked it's feathers silently, and it felt soft and smooth beneath my fingers. What could this mean? I closed the box once again and tucked it into my jacket's pocket. It fit inside like a glove.
"Let's go." Zen had somehow wandered back into the room without catching my attention, and I jumped once again, quite startled. He had a bag slung over his shoulder that had not been there prior. I got up from the blankets that entangled me and stood before him, a bit tense. Without another word, he turned and walked out.