The Lost Butterfly-a story of aliens, love and humans (1h)

Chapter 1h.

 

On the other side, Fuyuki was growing more and more concerned about the publicity around him. His talent paid well and people grew increasingly curious about the identity of the emerging artist. The fact that he was rejecting the interviews and kept secret any personal data just added to their curiosity. It was a constant game of hide-and-seek with the press; Fuyuki couldn’t come out because of his fear that his past might catch up with him and shatter his fragile happiness. He kept his anxiety and bad feelings hidden from Yoshiasu; his lover was working hard and they both cherished the moments spent together. As Angela was spending her own moments of happiness, Fuyuki turned to the only person he trusted beside his friends: detective John Harrows. He visited the detective at the police station once or twice, confessing him his fears and desperately trying to remember something useful from his past.

Things turned  bad after a few persistent journalists/paparazzi followed him and took some snapshots. The photos were published by a nationwide journal and “The Butterfly Artist” got all the publicity he didn’t need. Yoshiasu was angry; Fuyuki was still very vulnerable. They both agreed  on asking for the detective’s assistance to keep a discreet eye on their home. By the end of May, Fuyuki called the detective and complained about being stalked. For almost a week, somebody was following him; he couldn’t spot him but the feeling was strong and the young man was desperate.

The detective took him seriously but he couldn’t attend Fuyuki right at that moment,  so they agreed that he would pay a visit at home  next morning.  Arriving at the building, the detective had a bad feeling; he took the stairs two by two and found the apartment door cracked. With  the gun in one hand he stepped in cautiously; the house was empty and Fuyuki was nowhere to be seen. But the bedroom was ravaged and there were blood stains and some body fluid scattered over the bed cover. The detective called for the crime lab and then put out a phone call to Yoshiasu.

-Mr. Tanaka –he said in a restrained voice. You have to come home; I’m afraid  Fuyuki has been abducted.

***

The man at the door was Fuyuki’s worst nightmare: Father. Jack Roger was a well built, powerful man in his early sixties. A former soldier in his youth, also an amateur boxer, he was a bully. He’s been an abusive tyrant all his life and a constant tormentor for the mild and sensitive Fuyuki.

The young man’s heart sank as found himself face-to face with Father; all the horror built up and locked away in the depths of his memory washed over him and he wasn’t able to make any move. Jack Roger pushed him back to the house and slammed the door behind. He threw a short glance around then he turned his attention to Fuyuki.

-So-he said venom filling his voice. You thought you’ve escaped from me. How unwise…I saw your pretty face in the newspaper! I came as soon as possible to collect what’s mine…

Fuyuki collapsed on the bed, tears filling his eyes.

-What do you want from me?-he asked in a broken voice.

-Dress up and get back to work. You still have unpaid debts. Have you forgotten that you belong to me?

Roger pushed Fuyuki on his back and stripped away his clothes. The young man fought back but Roger slapped him hard.

-You won’t disobey me!-he hissed and forced himself upon Fuyuki.

The pain tore him from inside like a knife and Fuyuki cried out in agony. As the response was even more brutal, Fuyuki passed out.

Hours later he woke up hurt and dizzy in a dark room; he was tied to the bed. After moments of confusion memories came back forcefully; his whole body ached and his lower lip was split. The air around was stale and smelled like a cellar. He quickly guessed that the room was somewhere underground. He couldn’t do anything; at least for the moment he was helpless.

Father came and untied him, leaving him a few moments to stretch his limbs. He then grabbed him by the elbow and dragged the reluctant young man along a dimly lit corridor. They climbed a row of stairs and got…into the old house. Again and again memories came back and Fuyuki shuddered. Father pushed him in the shower, handing a set of clean clothes. Fuyuki undressed and started the water; he stood under the brisk flow and closed his eyes. Panic erupted from his inner self and he burst into tears, sobbing helplessly. Shaking wildly, he could hardly wash himself. It took him almost half an hour to calm down and get dressed. Leaving the shower he found some food set on a table but he was unable to swallow even a morsel. He hid his face in his hands, trying to scrape up some hope to survive to the oncoming ordeal.

What was about to come was  even harder to bear than before. For twenty years he  had just scarce hopes that he might be an individual and not just an object used at will for others pleasure. But now…now he was loved and he was in love. He became a PERSON, only to find himself stranded in a nightmare.

As Father walked in, Fuyuki shut his mind; he stood up and followed him at the end of the corridor. He entered, shut the door and sat on the bed. The smell around him made his body cringe. Beyond the scent of the burning incense, he could detect the well-known acrid smell of sweat and sex. He took a deep breath to calm down while the door cracked and a stranger entered the room.

Fuyuki complied with his demands avoiding to look into his face. He  shut off his spirit as the stranger took over his body.  He’d  lost the battle between his body and mind over and over again, day after day, night after night until his shattered spirit became just a shimmering light in the night of misery.

Locked up in the underground room, he cried for hours until his stomach revolted. Father forced him to eat and ended up tying him down to the bed to prevent him from killing himself.

On another location a young man was pacing up and down in his hollowed location. Space suddenly dilated around him and from one end to the other of the house there was only a void of dead silence and loneliness. For the first time of his adult life Yoshiasu was completely shattered by the sense of loss. The flat that was once his home was crushing him down with its emptiness.  He roamed around the house over and over again, touching every item that belonged to Fuyuki. He took out the drawing of “The Lost Butterfly” and watched it intently like he was trying to get in touch with his lost love.

He could barely eat but forced himself to do it in order to preserve his strength and the sharpness of his mind. He wasn’t going to give up on Fuyuki but the pain of losing him, the faceless fear of not knowing his whereabouts were cutting deep.

At night he fell into bed completely exhausted but moved on Fuyuki’s spot. He forcefully shut his eyes recalling the soothing warmth of the slender body cuddled in his arms. And he cried, broken and helpless with no one around to soothe him except maybe the faint scent of wildflowers left by his lost butterfly.

The Lost Butterfly-revised (1a)

Chapter 1a.

Yoshiasu  decided to let him rest.  He stood up and left to look for Fuyuki’s doctor. He found him in the office.

-Good day, doctor. May I ask à bit about the young man I’ve found in the park? I’ve just learned his name :Fuyuki.

The doctor was taken aback.

-How did you manage to find out his name? He wasn’t speaking to any of us, no matter how hard we tried?

-I guess he remembers me saving him. Anyway, I would love to know about his condition, if you can share with me.

The doctor looked at him thoughtfully, then sighed.

-I admit I didn’t expected such an interest from à mere stranger but since the patient seem to trust you, it’s fine with me. The detective working on his case called me previously and asked me to help you. Maybe with some conjured effort, we can crack this case and help this unfortunate youth.

-I feel some kind of responsibility for him-said Yoshiasu, sensing the disbelief in the voice of the doctor . I must confess that finding a person of my age in such a situation shook me profoundly. Can you tell me something about him?

-I can assure you that his life is not in immediate danger-said the doctor.  He has no internal injuries but he is badly bruised and most of all, there are proofs that he’s been subjected to torture and he’s been raped repeatedly. My opinion is ,that even after he recovers from his physical injuries, he’ll have problems in recovering from the constant abuse. I’ve sent my observations to the police and they are searching for those responsible for these atrocities.

Yoshiasu was shocked by the doctor’s recount ; not that he couldn’t imagine what caused the extensive bruises he had seen covering Fuyuki’s body. But hearing it delivered so bluntly just added to the horror of the facts. He stared into the nothingness for a moment, then turned to the doctor, questioningly.

-So…what happens  with him if police cannot find his relatives? Do you think he could manage by himself?

-No-said the doctor, shaking vigorously his head- I don’t think so. He’ll be probably sent to some sort of asylum. He’s a total mess for now; but recovering in a  caring and secure environment might help him to get back on track.

Yoshiasu stood up with a small sense of relief.

-Thank you for your time, doctor-he said, shaking hands. I’m going  back to him, in case he’s awakening…

Fuyuki was half dazed when Yoshiasu returned but he became alert as soon as he sensed him entering the room. He even sat up in bed and watched Yoshiasu peeling off an orange and handing it to him. Fuyuki took the fruit and stared at it just like a child who had never seen such thing before. He smelled it carefully, then gave an inquisitive look to Yoshiasu. The young analyst watched him in disbelief; Fuyuki didn’t know what an orange was. So he gently took it back, tearing up the slices. He then took a slice and bit it while handing another to Fuyuki.

The young man watched him intently, then tasted the slice of orange. The sweet-sour juice exploded in his mouth, taking him by surprise; Fuyuki made a funny face, making Yoshiasu laugh. Fuyuki swallowed the orange and laughed too; he laughed almost inaudibly but he was surely enjoying himself. The rest of the orange quickly disappeared and he whispered “thank you”. Life and color were gradually turning back to him. There was even a new spark in those incredible eyes. Yoshiasu was wondering where this out of ordinary guy could come from. He definitely wasn’t from the neighborhood; Yoshiasu had a good memory of  faces and Fuyuki wasn’t in the“data base”. Probably those who dumped him in the park thought that  it would be more difficult to identify the corpse. Yoshiasu shuddered at the thought of a lifeless body; he turned to the very much alive young man and asked him:

-Fuyuki, don’t you remember your family name or the name of a relative?

A sharp pain crossed Fuyuki’s face; he averted his eyes as he shouted:

-No!!!

He buried his face in the blanket, his body shaking as he started to cry. Shocked by the sudden change in reactions, Yoshiasu tried to calm him down; but Fuyuki curled up in fetal position and kept sobbing wildly. Yoshiasu decided to call à nurse. She came quickly.  Assessing the situation, she returned with a calming injection but things weren’t going smoothly. The sight of the nurse with the needle in her hands made Fuyuki jump. Eyes rounded in horror, he fled the bed but collapsed on the floor after a few steps. He cuddled there screaming:

-No!!! Please, don’t…don’t hurt me! I’ll do what you want! Please…-his voice trailed and ended in sobs.

Yoshiasu and the nurse were shocked. It was very clear that Fuyuki was re- living one of the previous brutal events he had been subjected to. The nurse put aside the injection and turned to Yoshiasu:

-I think it would be better if you’ll try to calm him down. He seems to trust you. I don’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on him. She silently left the room, closing the door behind her.

Yoshiasu kneeled next to Fuyuki and touched him lightly.

-Fuyuki…Fuyuki-he called in a soft voice. Listen to me. I’m here with you and I won’t let anybody hurt you. Fuyuki, can you hear me?

He gently rubbed the shaking back of the young man until the sobs subsided and then stopped. The tension eased in the curved shoulders and Fuyuki sat up slowly, turning his face towards Yoshiasu:

-I’m sorry-he whispered. Suddenly those memories came back…

Yoshiasu helped him up to his feet. They were almost the same height. Fuyuki seemed a little bit smaller and thinner than him. Yoshiasu was tall and well built with a bony structure and slender muscles. He was a good swimmer and spent most of his free time roaming the natural sceneries. Fuyuki’s body felt fragile under his firm hand but the young man was slender and gracious. Yoshiasu helped him back into the bed and sat on the rim to be closer to him.

-I am sorry for questioning you. I should have known that you had not ended up like this by accident. But you have to know that the police would ask the same from you sooner or later. They are trying to trace down the perpetrators.

Fuyuki sighed.

-I know-he murmured. But I’m not so sure that I could ever face them…-his voice trembled.

Yoshiasu grabbed his hands.

-Fuyuki, look at me!- he said. I’ll be here for you whenever you need it.

The young man raised his head and looked into his eyes. The deep violet pools were filled with pain and sadness.

-Will you?- he whispered. But…it’s too much. Why? Why would you help me?

Yoshiasu’s dark- brown eyes looked back intently.

-I cannot explain it but I KNOW that this is what I WANT. Please, let me help…

-Thank you…murmured Fuyuki and feebly squeezed Yoshiasu’s hands. As he relaxed, his eyes slowly closed and he fell asleep.

Yoshiasu watched him sleeping. With his delicate face, the black strands of hair falling around, the fragile, tortured frame Fuyuki reminded him of a butterfly with shredded, torn wings. He rose to his feet and took the road home.

The Lost Butterfly -revised. (1)

Prologue: A confession.

 

“ We were here for almost a cycle studying you from a safe distance when I had a dream. Somebody touched me, trying to wake me up. I opened my eyes and saw him. He was beautiful but looked sad.

-Release me-he whispered. Please! I’m choking…

-Who are you?-I asked in amazement.

-I’m inside you…Let me go…I need to fly…Please!

As I watched his luminous eyes I felt something moving inside me. I woke up suddenly; he was the first Child who asked to be born. It never happened before; that’s why we decided to give him this special assignment: to be born human.”

 

CHAPTER 1.

It was a mid-October morning with long streaks of chilling fog crawling over the glossy layer of dead leaves piling up under the trees. The sun was just a sick, pale spot in the twirling grey atmosphere.

The alleys of the Central Park were almost deserted; only a few courageous ones were taking on their daily routine of jogging. There were also some sleepy dog owners on a short stroll with their pets and some early workers shortening their way through the crooked shapes of the trees in the park.

Despite the desolate air of the early hour, Yoshiasu Tanaka, a 28 years old computer analyst who lived in a flat nearby, enjoyed to take a short walk before starting work. It was a moment of silent reflection spent in the middle of this priceless natural spot trapped in the core of the huge city.

Yoshiasu left the alley and walked slowly through the dense cluster of trees and bushes. He liked the soft rustle of leaves under his feet, the way the smooth brown carpet gave in under his weight, the yellow leaves swirling graciously in the autumn wind and the bitter-sweet taste of the mist in the air…He emptied his mind and let his inner self float adrift into blissful nothingness. Only his peripheral vision saved him from tripping over the dark-brown mass of dead leaves right in front of him. His foot touched something compact inside the heap of leaves and that feeling made him stop and take a closer look. It wasn’t a tree-root ‘cause it felt softer. Yoshiasu bent and cautiously scattered the leaves from the surface and …he almost fell backwards. A human hand appeared. It was a slim hand with long, delicate fingers and it looked lively. Yoshiasu swallowed hard then touched the hand. It was cold but soft; he checked further and felt the wrist hidden into the leaves. There was a faint movement under the cold skin; the heart of someone hidden in was still beating. Yoshiasu frantically pushed away the leaves, trying to dig out the buried person.

After some frenzied moments he found a badly bruised young man lying unconscious on the ground. He was alive but it looked like his life was hanging on a thread. Yoshiasu took off his coat and covered the injured young man and quickly dialed 911. He then turned back to him and tried to warm up his hands and get him back to consciousness. The young man moaned and stirred under his touch. Yoshiasu bent closer and asked him:

-Hey! Can you hear me?

He repeated his question a few times before getting any answer. Finally, the young man opened his eyes and looked into Yoshiasu’s eyes, much to the latter’s surprise. Though those eyes were clouded by pain, they had the most unusual color: a deep, velvety violet just like the petals of the forest violet in early spring. Thick black eyelashes were underlying those intent, troubled eyes. A wide purple scratch was covering almost all of his left cheek and his black hair was matted and filled with leaf scraps. There was freshly dried blood on his bruised lower lip. His clothes were torn and ripped apart, uncovering older or more recent bruises all over his body.

Yoshiasu was shocked by the extent of the injuries and of the fact that this human being was deliberately buried and left to die. He took out his handkerchief and gingerly wiped away the blood from the young’s lips and the dirt from his face. He felt him shivering under the touch.

-The ambulance will be here in any minute, hang on; you’ll be fine- he said in a reassuring voice. He then took again the young man’s hands and rubbed them to warm him up. He felt the other one gripping his hands. He looked back into his face.

-Don’t be afraid-he said and smiled. I won’t leave you.

The injured man sighed and closed his eyes. Right then the paramedics arrived and took him into their care. In a few moments the police arrived to and questioned Yoshiasu about his finding. They took pictures of the place and of the victim and agreed with Yoshiasu about a further meeting at the police station. The ambulance departed in a hurry, the sirens ripping off the seemingly peaceful atmosphere of the park. Yoshiasu slowly turned back home, his mind trying to asses the recent events.

Fortunately for him, he was very busy at work so he had to adjust to something more peaceful and tangible throughout the day. He left his office, declined some invitations for a drink and headed home. He felt exhausted and he was still shaken. He undressed and took a shower and sat on the bed with a Coke in his hand. His mind wandered back to the morning’s events…He took out his cell phone and dialed the number of the Central Hospital. He asked about the injured young man brought in during the morning. He was slowly recovering-they said-but he wasn’t speaking yet so they weren’t able to contact any relatives. No, he had no papers to indicate his identity but the police was working on the case. Yes, he could visit him if he wanted; they hoped that a familiar face could bring a breakthrough in this case. Yoshiasu thanked for the information and hung up. He lay down in his bed, fixing the ceiling while his mind wandered.

After a while he sat up again and dialed the police station number and asked to talk with the officer in charge with the young man’s case. He asked for permission to visit the victim the next day. The detective agreed, expressing the same hopes that Yoshiasu’s sighting might bring up some positive development in the victim’s behavior. The young analyst slept badly all night. Those painful, violet-blue eyes were haunting him even in his dreams. He woke up troubled and restless; only after a shower and a full mug of steaming coffee was he finally ready to begin another day. He finalized his work earlier and asked for the next day off.  He then left for the hospital. He bought a few oranges at a store and hurried up the stairs. The receptionist was aware of his coming so she helped him quickly to the “John Doe’s” reserve.

Yoshiasu saw that the young man was sleeping so he did his best not to disturb him. He put the oranges on the table next to the bed and sat on a chair and looked close at him for the first time. The young man was in his early twenties, no more than 25.  Despite the scratches and the bruises on his face, he looked handsome. It was an almost feminine beauty; an oval face with large eyes, a straight, thin nose and nicely curved pink lips. His shoulder long black hair was thick and silky and his skin, wherever was not bruised into bluish tones, looked smooth. The hands resting on the blanket were long, with delicate, mobile fingers- the hands of an artist, a musician or a painter perhaps. Resting on the hospital bed among tubes and beeping instruments he looked fragile. Yoshiasu felt a pang in his heart. He stood up and turned when he heard the young man stir in the bed. Yoshiasu turned and found itself peering into the same mesmerizing violet-blue eyes.

-Hey. You’re awake. I came to see how you are – he said. Can you speak now?-asked Yoshiasu.

The answer was a muffled, pained mumbling but it was at last a small result. Yoshiasu patted the young man’s hands and followed:

-I’m Yoshiasu. Yoshiasu Tanaka. Do you have a name? We couldn’t find any paper indicating your identity…

The young man closed his eyes for a moment and it looked like he was searching his memory for an answer; he finally opened up his eyes and whispered:

-Fuyuki…

-Hm. It’s a beautiful name and it suits you-said Yoshiasu with a smile. Is that all you can remember about yourself?

The answer was a small nod. Fuyuki closed his eyes and he fell asleep in an instant. He was still very weak and the effort of remembering his identity exhausted him easily.

Connected by the Moon-Wild Woman illustration

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

  Let me chase you under the Moon,

  Under the light of star-chandeliers!

  Your breath, like ghosts in flight,

  Fading into depths of night…

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

     Beast of beauty,

     Rolling laughter of the thundering spirit,

     Keep running

     As my shadow follows you with hungry heart!

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

     The hills and forests have frozen

     In the silence of your absence,

     Emptiness filled with sorrow

     My Secret Garden,

     While the gates have rusted

     In crimson pain.

Wild Woman, La Loba

    Come back and run with me!

    Let’s stir the wind that sleeps in the grass,

   Let’s splash the pool of shining stars,

   Let’s catch the Phoenix, bold and bright

   Before it takes flight into the light!

Wild Woman, Wild Woman

  Kin of my soul,

  Echo of my untamed inner beast,

  Wake up! Wake up!

  Dark waters of oblivion are surrounding you…

  Remember me, Wild Woman

  Never let me go…..”

Opening poem for my story, Wild Woman.

The drawing depicts the main characters: Kay and Sage. This is the first illustration I drew for the story. The Moon connecting them in a love that stretches through the corridors of Time is seen at the bottom of the drawing.

As usual, the illustration is made in color pencils and paper.

Walking a Dream-waking up in someone else’s dream (7)

Chapter 7.

 

She rushed out the door, not sure about what would be outside. After all, it wasn’t her in command in this dream. Or was she?

“ Use your imagination…:” was ringing in her head and she thought of a large, open meadow of poppies, gently sloping towards a patch of forest in the distance. In her mind, she opted for daylight, hoping that she would more easily trace Tyler running wild. Tyler was the one who embodied mindless fear and she was determined to slow him down and try to talk some sense with him.

Her feet delved into the carpet of grass and the blazing red flowers swayed aside gently, leaving her to run freely. The girl was following the hidden trail of footsteps left by the bulky man. Her mind’s eyes were constantly detecting the imprint of angry touch in the ground. Soon , she saw his dark frame with its glowing outline moving forward in short, heavy jumps. He noticed her presence after a while and stopped, turning back.

-What?!-he shouted at her. What do you want?! Why are you following me?!! You said you don’t want to remember me! Go back then and leave me alone! Aarrrgh!!!

His feral growl sent a shiver through Kai’s spine. Tyler raised his hands in despair and flames erupted from the tip of his fingers. He smashed his fist on the ground, setting the summer grass on fire, then he resumed his run. A wall of flames and choking smoke rose in the air, startling the girl. The wave of scorching heat pushed her back and she staggered and fell on her back. She summoned a rain cloud and the pouring rain extinguished the fire. Kai stood up, assessing the situation: a large , black, smoldering trail cut in the colorful meadow showed the way of Tyler. Swallowing her tears, the girl rushed to catch him from behind.

No, I don’t remember you…The one who echoes inside me has a light that I feel so close to me…But if Joren speaks the truth, I must embrace you too, Tyler because you are part of the whole of the same person!”

   I was running breathless, my heart threatening to break out of my chest and my own anger was gone. Tyler’s frightening violence wasn’t scaring anymore. I knew that I have to win his trust, no matter how crazy that might sound. That boiling rage was  in fact his vulnerability. I could see him a few steps ahead, banging and smashing trees and bushes, bringing havoc in this imaginary world. He knew I was there, close to him. If only I could read his mind….

-Tyler!-I’ve heard myself calling. Please, stop and talk to me! Help me to remember….-I pleaded, hoping to reach him.

   He turned abruptly, ready to fight me but I wouldn’t budge. I stared silently at him , holding his gaze. As the fire of madness was slowly subsiding, I recognized the dark brown eyes I knew already well. Tyler tilted his head incredulously.

-You want to remember….me?-he asked in a husky voice. His eyes narrowed in distrust. -Why would you do that?-he continued, watching me closely.

    I breathed out with a sigh. “ Don’t screw it, girl!” I thought. “ Listen to your heart!” I did.

-Because one cannot love the whole until it learns about the parts. It would be a lie and That would only lead to more pain and deception. Please, let’s stop for a moment and talk. I want to understand. I want to remember you.

      He scrutinized me for a while, fighting with his long worn mistrust, shadows running wild over his face. But his eyes were gradually clearing  and his gaze was softening, pushing back the flaming madness. His whole body was convulsing, torn apart by his inner conflict, his fist clenching, his chest heavily rising….then subsiding with painful sighs. Locked inside the fragile human frame, a wild ocean was rising with thundering noise, pummeling the shores of the tormented soul. It was an epic battle I was witnessing and all I could do was to embrace him in my mind, holding him close with all my might, hoping to make that tempest subside. It did, eventually. Tyler slumped on a heap of grass, muttering:

-The constant fights brought the marriage to an end and fragilized Jordan’s inner balance.Heshe was very much attached to her father but she was left with her mom. Over the years, the crack between child and mother deepened, growing into a dizzying depth. On the tip of that accusing finger, still haunting our host’s day and night, there’s evil determination for control, triggering each time the deep seated conflict between the two of them. I was born out of that: I am Jordan’s shield and revenge-he concluded, his voice now only faint whisper.  

 Kai watched as Tyler’s contours were fading with each word. In the end, as the echoes of the man’s voice were fading into the wind, all that was left on the heap of grass was a small, peacefully sleeping child. The girl picked him up gently and carefully moving through the sea of poppies spotted grass, she returned into the house. Joren was waiting for her in the door. She led Kai in  the hind room and they both tucked the little boy in bed. Kai placed à kiss on his forehead  before leaving.

-Sleep well, Jordie….-she murmured. You’re safe.

Early in the morning, she pensively ran her fingers through the strand of hair with burned tips.Ignited by Tyler’s anger, the flames have left a clear mark, reminding Kai that Jordan’s dream and  her reality were merging into a new one.

Walk a Dream-waking up in someone else’s dream (6)

Chapter 6.

She  wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when she looked in the mirror that morning. “Oh, nothing unusual!” -she thought. “Same old me, same sleepy eyes and messy hair…” she sighed with à tad of disappointment. She grimaced at herself and laughed off the twinge of regret.

“What were you expecting anyway? A pair of horns?”

  She splashed a generous amount of icy water on her face to get back to reality. She had too many things to do that day; there was no place of aimless dreaming and fantasies. She scrubbed her face with the towel and combed her hair, leafing in mind through her daily chores. One final trust of the comb and she was ready. She checked again her image in the mirror and froze.

-Hello, stranger!-she said. Though not so obvious for others, the changes were there. After all, she had already lost two layers of her daily armor. There was a new light in her eyes, a playful easiness in her expression and her hair was wearing the loving touch of an invisible hand. She tilted her head, assessing the changes. Tam-tadam….something…someone was beating inside her chest. The echo of a mysterious heart.  

– Hush, hush, my heart! Not now!-she whispered and hurried to dress up. Reality was claiming her for now.

   I landed at dawn, exhausted from the lengthy flight. All I could see from above was a green patch of grass. The space around was filled with a gold tinted, pink mist. The sun was greeting à new day.

-You must be tired and hungry-said the pleasant mezzo-soprano voice and a tall woman emerged before me. And you need a pair of shoes too-she added with a smile, looking at my bare feet. Come, let’s go inside!

  Inside? I followed her through the door,  the one that was opening in the wall of haze.  It was leading to a  cozy room and I slumped in a comfy chair. Moments later, my host returned ,carrying à small tray with what looked like breakfast.

-Hot chocolate and brownies for you! And these- she said, handing me à pair of shoes-I think they belong to you. Our mutual friend, the Magician left them yesterday- she added with a smile.

-By the way-she continued, I am Joren. You’re Kai, isn’t it?

-Yes…-I mumbled. Are you….like the Magician?

My question sounded utterly stupid but couldn’t find a better way to put it. Was she another “piece” of that core he was telling me in the forest? She felt so different! She was  à tall and majestic woman, with long, raven-black hair combed into an elaborate coiffure. Her skin was tanned and her high cheekbones were hinting about Native descent. She had the same dark-brown eyes as the Magician but her gaze was somehow different. Joren’s appearance was that of à protective goddess and in her eyes I was reading benevolence and wisdom.

-I am the Guardian of the core-she said simply. You can always call me when you need. Now, take your time ! I’ll be back.

 For a moment I felt like à schoolgirl and hid my embarrassment in the cup of hot drink. She left and I must have dozed off because when I woke up, the light was turning amber and I had a blanket on my knees. Then à sharp cry tore the silence, making me jump from my seat.

The girl stormed out of the room, looking for the source of the angry, loud shouts. Who was  shouting and where was Joren? She  ended up in a narrow corridor. The noise was coming behind the door of the room at the end of it.

-No!!!I am not listening anymore! Leave me alone!! This is me! This is who I am! I am not you! I am not what you want me to be!! I am who I say that I am and I had enough of you smothering me!!!

 The owner of the powerful voice was clearly upset. Joren’s calming, soft spoken words followed the shouts.

-She’s not here, my dear. You can relax. See? It was just a bad dream.

-No, no, no!!! I saw her! She was pointing her finger at me ! She was trying  to bring me to my knees as she always does! But I won’t wait till she’s catching me!

  The final sentence was shouted in thunderous voice and the door opened with à loud bang. À fiery creature rushed in the corridor, stopping before the stunned Kai. The bulky man was almost ceiling high and with his glowing, weavering contours he was the embodiment of anger. An all consuming fire was burning inside his dark-brown eyes; he looked at the girl and smirked. The flow of pain mixed with rage coming from him was overwhelming and Kai felt the hair rising on the back of her neck.

  Oh! The pain, the burning pain oozing from each crack of the shattered soul! The bitterness thickening into bile, rushing through his veins, pushing aside the warmth of the blood….She stood there, in the eye of the emotional storm emanating from him, trying to find strength and support inside herself, in that deep hidden sunny smile…He bent over her, sneering:

-So…You don’t remember me, ha?!

   À wave of dark madness rose from behind him, like à shadow, ushering away the light. Kai gazed in the eyes of the raging man, her hand pressing upon her heart. For à moment, she felt like crying, screaming and running wild but she swallowed down everything.

-If I remember someone, it’s not you!-she said .

    He growled and pushed her aside, leaving the place. Kai turned to Joren who was quietly closing the door behind her.

-What ….Who was this?

-He was the embodiment of the inner demons. He is emerging each time nightmare visits the core. He’s its reaction of defense but we must bring him back before he hurts our host! I need your help, Kai! I must stay here, trying to keep the core asleep until you bring back its fears. But be careful! He is dangerous!

 She embraced me, whispering in my ears:

“ Use your imagination and let your heart guide you!”

She slipped back into the room and closed the door.

“I will-I thought. My heart is my only compass.” I felt my armor crack, leaving another layer of my insecurities behind. I hurried to the entrance door. I had an emergency to solve.

THE PATHWAY

The pathway took off and boldly emerged from the morning mist. We were both a bit nervous as we have left the group and we were heading to an entirely different direction. I could feel the disapproving glances in my back and the murmur of reprobation was carried by the wind to my ears.

We live on a planet of pathways and roads. Each of us has a personally tailored one, a pathway both alive and active, just like the person generating it. The colorful landscapes are crisscrossed by the traces of recent or rediscovered roads; you can find anything from the narrow footpath to the large boulevards, depending on the number and the personality of the pathway-carriers that walked the surface of this special planet. I’ve spent most of my life leading my pathway side by side with others of the thousands of inhabitants of the megapolis,walking day by day between its soaring , fantastic buildings. We didn’t have too many options and we were not making much difference in the turmoil of the city. Still, living here was both safe and comfortable. Oh well, maybe a bit too comfortable for the well disguised rebels we were, me and my pathway. Few of the city dwellers had ever tried to venture outside the perimeter of the buildings. The ones that tried, usually reached the grassland and inevitably turned back in the arms of steel, concrete and glass of our town.

The grassland outside the city was stretching for miles, delving into the blurred horizon where the dark silhouette of a forest was trembling in the light. None of my friends or acquaintances had ever ventured that far. Telltales of dangerous dark depths and monstrous creatures were passed for generations from one another but I was skeptical about the truth of their content.

As I said, my Pathway was just as bored and boisterous as myself. This lukewarm anonymity was becoming tiresome for both of us, so we decided to run away without saying a word. The chosen morning proved to be a cooling early autumn one, with strands of mist crawling lazily in the streets. There were only a few people passing by, still some of them turned curiously after us. The street we had chosen was leading….nowhere, as much as they knew. But for us, it ended abruptly facing a nacreous wall of fog. We both stepped forward, brushing the high stemmed grass and shaking the dewdrops pending on their tips. The Pathway trembled in excitement under my feet and sprang ahead. We were outside the city and inside the unknown.

Moments later, the rising sun hopped higher in the sky, sipping the last scintillating drops of dew. The scenery cleared and filled with sizzling colors. Under the warm touch of the sunlight the silver-green of the grass blades was gradually turning into golden yellow, the grass-ears releasing their tiny grains to the ground while grasshoppers were caught in a frenzy of somersaults. Birds were singing in the skies and under the seemingly endless blue dome, we were running like two crazed spring-bucks. For awhile I wasn’t sure even that my feet were touching the ground as I was riding the speedy ribbon of my Pathway as he was heading towards the towering wall of the forest.

As the day was descending into afternoon, the heat of the sun tempered and the shadows of the trees were leaning more and more towards the field. It wasn’t just a shadow but a constant flow of cold breath emanating from the deep-green, almost black vegetal thick. The forest was growing taller and taller as we approached it, until its silhouette engulfed the last corner of blue sky. The spidery fingers of the trees were pushing the autumn azure away from our reach.

The Pathway stopped abruptly on the rim of the wood. It seemed impenetrable. I was baffled by the fact that I couldn’t find even a faint weed-covered trace of an old pathway passing by. Nothing. All I could see was a dense wall of huge trunks connected by the darkness between them. The canopy was sky high. Baffled and slightly uneasy, we both stopped, pondering if we should follow our way or try another way round. But the wall of vegetation seemed to stretch from left to right indefinitely; the only possible way was through the woods. And it was already getting too late to go back to the city; so we decided to trying our luck walking through the gap opened between two trees. The Pathway moved boldly forward , carrying me as we punctured the barrier of darkness.

Surprisingly there was a faint bluish light inside the forest and for a moment I felt I was under the water. What light could pass through the dense fabric of the canopy was falling in slow motion, dispersing and undulating around us. You would’ve expected a school of fish to emerge behind a tree or to catch a glimpse of a whale swimming gracefully above us.

Looking around, I realised that the forest was not shutting out only the light but it was muffling also the sounds of the outside world. Still, it wasn’t entirely silent. There was an almost imperceptible whisper, surging, receding, surging, receding like the breath of an enigmatic living creature. The more I listened to it, the more eerie it became, sending shivers down my spine. Even my Pathway was feeling nervous, its delicate senses connected to me. I took a deep breath, sending him some reassuring thoughts. Anyway, my curiosity was stronger than my fear.

We jumped over the fallen branches on the forest floor, over the moss covered trunks and the puddles of water soaked fallen leaves. I took a sip of air: it tasted bitter -sweet, like almonds. After awhile,the ground was sloping towards a shallow valley inside the woods. Here, the distance between the trees was becoming wider, lifting some of our anxiety caused by the confined space. We breathed out in relief. Confident, the Pathway sped up and soon, we made our exit into a clearing.

It was a perfect circle on the ground continued by a clear-cut hole made by invisible hands in the dome of sticks and leaves of the canopy. You could see the darkening sky filling with stars. Night was near so we decided to stop here and sleep till the next morning. The Pathway retreated and relaxed at my feet. Curled up on a heap of grass I fell asleep easily. The murmur of the forest was dimming into a lullaby and the air of the night was warm enough to rest comfortably. We were not concerned about wild beasts roaming the place; the forest was visibly devoid of any kind of animal life and you wouldn’t have expected trees to un-root themselves and move away while we sleep. I closed my eyes and drifted away with the waters of the dream….

I jumped from the ground, awakened by a sharp cry that soon turned into an ear-piercing veiling. Uncoiled from its rest, the Pathway was trembling at my feet. Above us, the Moon was turning gradually red; it was the night of the Eclipse and the installing of the Blood Moon was bringing the forest alive. In the thick, honey-like light the shadows of the trees were undulating, pushed from inside by an ancient, long forgotten rhythm, shaking their spidery fingers towards the orange glow above. Caught in the frenzy of tremor, the leaves were cascading on us menacingly. Carried by a sudden wind raised by the twist and turn of the entire forest, the torrents of leaves were pushing us aside, swirling, jumping in the air then falling again towards the forest floor in high speed, like furious vegetal dragons. As the eclipse was reaching its peak, the veiling turned into howling and the whole forest was crying out its pain and fury to the night skies, to the bloody eye of the Universe. So, my friends, if you were wondering where those mythical beasts did disappear from the forest, I tell you: they didn’t. In fact, the Beast was right here all the time, sleeping its thousand years dream. It was this particular night that brought him back to life, shaking off his moss-covered dreams, letting him once again weep over his solitude. The sorrow of the stranded alien, the Forest washed over me and I stumbled, stepping on the roots of a tree. It was slippery and I grabbed the trunk to stop my falling. The touch of bark felt like a lizard’s skin and in a split of à moment, the vegetal giant turned to me….

The Pathway saw it coming and took off , jumping ahead through trees and bushes like a bullet. I crouched and let him carry me, hoping to escape from our pursuer. We smashed into twigs, leaves, branches, thorns and shreds of moss but we kept speeding ahead. We’ve lost the count of minutes and we didn’t even realize that the night was over. The eclipse was long gone and the forest had fallen back under the thousand years enchantment. The shrubbery was thinning before us and light was reigning again beyond the rim of the woods. My faithful companion slowed down its run and we both checked each-other, trying to asses the damages. Surprisingly, we got off this harrowing adventure with only of few scratches and a slightly shaken confidence. But then, we were seeking adventures, weren’t we?

Stopping at the edge of the forest, we watched for a moment the wall of bright light outside. It was almost painful to look at it after so much time spent in the shadow. I’ve sent an encouraging smile to my Pathway and once again, he flew us ahead, puncturing the brightness. We landed on a grassy slope and rolled down chuckling. The veil of warm air was undulating in the valley below but the shimmering contours on the horizon were holding promises of new adventures. We both laughed and stretched our limbs in expectation.

The Pathway jumped forward, carrying me into the light.