Night fell upon us fast, the dark embracing us with a cold breeze. We were sitting around a bonfire in front of the cabin, watching the hypnotizing flames dance with intensity because of the breeze. The heat of the fire warmed my face and the front of my body, while my back felt cold. The conversation in the morning still itched me with curiosity. I needed to know why he didn’t know about the Catholic religion. If you think about it, it’s pretty stupid to be paranoid with that, but being in a situation where you didn’t know were where you in time and space it was quite scary itself. We were supposed to be in a time where literally the catholic church ruled everything by maintaining everyone as dumb as possible. A good way to be powerful if you ask me. Not the nicest, but you are always assured to be the more intelligent, which gives you power over everybody.
It didn’t take me long to break the silence.
“I’m sorry about what happened in the morning. I just...thought you knew.”
He didn’t look at me and just threw a stick into the fire. The stick started to burn the moment it touched the fire.
“You are forgiven. Still, I am confused to why I should have known what were you talking about.” He looked at me when he finished talking with a certain curiosity too.
I sighed and ran my hand through my hair. I needed to start simple.
“What is your religion?” I asked meanwhile I turned around to make my back face the fire. I still could see him from the corner of my eye watching me intently.
“What is a religion?”
My head snapped towards his direction. I watched him for a couple of seconds to be sure he wasn’t joking. And he wasn’t.
“Uhm...It’s when you believe in a powerful being that rules everything and...-I stopped for a few seconds to find the best words to describe it- and it has certain “rules” and practices you need to follow in order to be at peace with yourself and the god you are worshiping.”
He looked into the fire again.
“Like a creed?”
I hesitated and shook my head. “A creed its something a religion follows to follow their god.”
He watched the flames for a moment and then he talked.
“Everybody has a creed. We do not believe in gods or someone that rules over everybody just because it is more powerful. We do have a leader, the king. He is a wise person that offers protection to everybody in exchange for a working system. But that is all. He is just another part of the system.”
“In what do people believe in then?”
“In their own strength. In their own selves.” he said after thinking for a while.
I frowned in confusion and stayed in silence processing this new information.
“And everybody has this thinking?”
“As far as I know, yes. At least the people in the kingdom do.”
I was never one to judge, and to be honest, I liked their beliefs. Sometimes you don’t need god to live, you just need yourself. Even I have had my issues with my religion, but I already feel its a part of me.
Curiosity itched me and I asked about the kingdom.
“Where is this kingdom you talk about?” I asked while turning around to face the fire.
“We are in it.” he simply said still looking at the fire.
I looked around me. “I thought that if you are in a kingdom there should be people in it. I don’t see anybody.”
He chuckled. “Nobody dares to put a foot in this forest. And they are in their right minds to not do it.” He threw another stick into the fire.
I laughed. “So we are the crazy ones?”
A slight smile was on his face. “Kind of.”
There was a slight pause.
“How far are we from civilization?” My question was serious and interrupted the light-hearted moment.
“Two weeks at least.” he said with a grim expression in his face.
All my hopes went down and despair almost got me.
“Since when you don’t have company?” I asked him with caution. His mood swings were still a thing I needed to catch up with.
“Since I entered this forest.” This time he threw a stick with much more force into the fire, making some sparks fly into the night. I remembered the night we met he mention how many years ago he had stayed away from civilization.
I stayed in silence and asked the next question slowly.
“You haven’t seen another person in ten years?”
He shook his head. “I have, but not the pleasant kind you want for company.”
I was about to ask what did he mean until I remembered again the night we met. He thought I was sent by someone.
“The same guys you thought that send me.” I muttered loud enough for him to hear.
He nod and the silence we had before returned, each of us with their own thoughts.
I only had one question in my mind, and it was the same question I had had for the last days.“Where am I?”
Cassius suddenly stood up and held a hand to me.
“It’s getting late. We should go inside.”
Without replying, I took his hand and stood up. After Cassius extinguished the fire we went inside without a word to be said, again, each one in their own thoughts.
I went straight to my “bed” and put the blanket over me. Cassius was still standing up, looking outside through the window.
“Why did you escape civilization?” I asked, knowing that probably he wouldn’t answer my question.
He glanced at me, but then returned to look through the window and just shook his head. Nothing else was said and I knew answers for that question, in particular, were not coming very soon. The silence in the room drifted me to sleep and finally my head could have some rest from so many questions.
The next day I woke up way more late than the day before. The sun rays passed through the window and went straight into my face. I groaned in annoyance and tried to put the blanket over my head, but that left my feet exposed and I hated that. I sat and opened my eyes, squinting them to get used to the light. Cassius was nowhere to be seen and I just sat on the floor, wishing for a toothbrush, shampoo and a nice warm shower.
I stood up and tried to fix my wrinkled clothes. The too many sizes clothes were something I needed to fix. I reached for my hair and tried to unravel it as much as I could meanwhile I walked to the door.
The weather outside was warm, the sound of birds chirping everywhere and the beautiful colors of the forest made it look like it was a fairy tale. Except this was far from a fairytale.
The weird taste I had in my mouth for not brushing my teeth and the smell of my body was disturbing me, so I headed straight to the river not even looking around for Cassius. Walking through the woods I found myself humming to a random song.
Before being stuck there, I always listened to music in the morning, during classes, eating, and other various activities. Living without music was going to be a harsh challenge.
“My singing is going to do.” I thought with a chuckle. I arrived to the river and almost immediately I stripped until I was only left with my underwear. I hesitated into taking my underwear too and decided at the end to not do it. There was always the chance of someone seeing me naked, even if it was the slightest chance. I didn’t want to be looked not by a squirrel, not even a bear, less if it was Cassius. The single thought of it made flush mad and I went straight into the cold water to take the embarrassing thought.
The water started being deeper the farther I walked in the direction of the pond. I stopped walking when the water reached my hips. I started taking various gulps of water and then proceeded to rinse my mouth, using my finger as a toothbrush. Then I knelt until the water was at my shoulder level. I straighten up quickly due to the cold water and began to wash my face and my hair the best I could. When I felt satisfied with my personal cleaning I went to shore and just stood there under the sun rays to dry myself. I closed my eyes enjoying the warmth of the sun, being grateful that I could enjoy little things such as stand under the sun.
All of a sudden, it happened again. A shiver went down my spine and it seemed like the world had shut down. I couldn’t feel the warmth of the sun anymore nor I could hear anything. The sound of the running water and the happy birds was gone. I opened my eyes, my heart rate picking up quickly at the sensation I was being watched. The trees looked still and even the water current didn’t seem to move. I looked at the river, at the trees at the other side of the river...
Without a warning, I felt cold hands grabbing my ankles from behind, digging its nails into my flesh, throwing me to the ground with an unbelievable force. All of this in less than a second. I started being dragged through the floor with an incredible speed into the forest. I could feel the harsh floor scraping my body and all the little rocks pinching my skin. Despair and anguish started building quickly in my mind while I tried to grab onto something for dear life. Tears feel on my cheeks and I found myself shouting desperately, like it would safe my life. Adrenaline kicked in and the only thing in my mind was surviving.
My arms were wild trying to grab a tree root or something while my legs kicked at full force trying to free myself of the creature. The trees around me went like a blur, like if we were going a hundred miles per hour. My desperate shouts echoed through the forest and I cried and cried.
“No no no, please!” I pleaded to whatever it was dragging me. It’s claws dag deeper into my flesh and a whimper went through my lips at the sudden pain. I was still trying to grab something to hold on, but it was difficult since my eyes were full of tears and the dirt and dry leaves went straight into my face while it still dragged me. I dag my hands onto the ground and tried to grab the tree roots underneath until my left hand grabbed a bigger one. We stopped moving instantly and it felt like my legs were going to be ripped apart of my body at the sudden force. My right hand went to cooperate with my left hand to have more resistance, while my legs still kicked trying to hit the target. The creature gave a frustrated growl and its claws went deeper into my skin and a cry escaped my lips. And just when the root started to give in, one of my legs hit the target, leaving a painful scream from the creature that seemed out of this world.
With no hesitation at all I stood up and started running at full speed, not even daring looking back to see what attacked me. My tears wouldn’t stop flowing and all I could do was run. My legs started to give in quickly because of my wounded ankles, and the only possibility left was to hide. I went to a tree that was at my right side and tried to be still behind it. My breathing was heavy and I felt I needed more oxygen than the one that entered my lungs. I tried to listen something that would show me were the creature was, but the only thing I heard was the sound of nature again. I remained frozen still because of fear for what it seemed like an eternity, until I couldn’t hold it anymore.
I broke into sobs and whimpers no longer holding them back, slowly falling to the ground with the tree supporting my back. I started shaking in panic and it felt like I was locked in a box were there was no air. I closed my eyes and started counting in my head to relax. I opened my eyes a while later when my breathing returned to a normal state as well as my heart rate. The first thing I saw was my saw bloodied ankles. I had four claw marks in each ankle that didn’t seem to stop bleeding no matter what and the only image of it made me wince in pain. My whole body was cover in scratches and blood, since I was still in my underwear when I was dragged across the ground. I couldn’t stand up so I just sat there watching my bleeding ankles while self-pity flooded over me. The tears wouldn’t stop flowing and the only thing I wanted right there was to be home. With my mom taking care of me and my sister teasing me and making me laugh. It was hard, so hard to be lonely and miss everything you’ve ever loved. My thought drifted afterwards to the creature.
“What the hell was that?” I thought non-stop, trying to think reasonably about the situation I was currently in. With no doubt, it was a monster, nothing I had ever seen in my entire life. Never in my entire life I had been so scared.
“I need to stand up and go to the river.” I thought, hating the idea itself for making me stand up and walk. The bleeding in my ankles had ceased and it gave me a little of reassurance that at least I wasn’t dying of bleeding out, but my whole body hurt besides my ankles, so it was going to be a tough work to complete. I stood up slowly, using the tree as support and started walking carefully, supporting myself with other trees. Finding the trail my body left while being dragged wasn’t difficult, so I started following it so it will lead me to the river. I had a burning sensation in my ankles, but I knew I had to get to the river no matter what, and of course then to the cabin. That reminded me of Cassius.
“Was he looking for me? Did he hear me screaming?” All these questions were in my mind but the only thought I was giving relevance was what I was supposed to tell him. The truth? No way. He’ll probably be angry and then shout at me that he had told me that horrible deaths were waiting for me and that I should have been more careful in the first place and the list can go on and on.
I shook my head and started to worry more about getting to the river. I walked, and walked, and walked and it seemed like the trail never ended. “I was only dragged for less than two minutes, it shouldn’t have taken me more than fifteen minutes to get the river.” I though while walking when at least an hour had passed since I started following the trail. The distant sound of running water flooded my ears and my whole body was relieved. Finally, I reached the last tree to get to the river and the sound of a blade made me snap my head.
“Shit. Liberty where the hell were you?”
Cassius was at the edge of the river, raging. He put his sword back to his belt and started walking angrily towards me. My body was behind the tree and my hair covered my face, so he couldn’t see much of my state.
I gave a shaky step forward still supporting myself on the tree.He stopped in his tracks and looked at my state with a shocked look. With my free hand, I took away the hair covering my face to look at him better.
His face changed to a worried look in less than a second and that was all I needed to brake into sobs. He ran up to me and cupped my face with his right hand, his eyes looking frantically all over me. His other arm went delicately around my waist to support me. I let my head rest on his shoulder while my tears wet his shirt. He started stroking my hair while saying soothing words to calm me down. It worked and I started calming down and controlling my sobs. He took a little step back still holding me to look over my wounds. I then remembered I was in my underwear and blushed, hoping the dirt and blood would at least cover it.
“What happened?” he said softly looking at me in the eyes.
“S-something at-tacked me.”
Still looking at me in the eye, his hand brushed the hair on my forehead and delicately touch it, making me wince and realize I was also hurt there.
“What was it?” He said looking down to my legs, noticing the wounds that the claws left in my ankles.
“I don’t know.” I said shaking my head slightly, without stuttering this time.
Without another word said, he helped me walk to the river and clean my wounds. I blushed every time he helped me clean something near a “private area”.
“Liberty Moore get a hold of yourself. You’re not a hormonal teenager and he is just helping you.” I thought, well, the whole part of me not being a hormonal teenager being complete bullshit.
I sat down on the shore when I was almost cleaned up entirely, with my legs submerged in the water. I looked at the current taking all the dirt and blood away from my legs and I shakily sighed and put my arms around my waist. That morning I was happy about some warmth and sunshine. Right then I was happy I was still alive. Cassius appeared by my side and gave me a hand to take it. I took it and stood up wincing when my weight was transferred to my ankles. I walked to my clothes I had left on the ground this morning, and again with Cassius help, I put them on.
“Tell me.” I said while putting the shirt on.
He had a confused look on his face so I decided to continue.
“Tell me I told you so. Tell me I’m irresponsible and selfish and-” I stopped when both of his hands were on each side of my head, forcing me to look at him in the eye.
“Lib, it doesn’t matter. You are alive.” he said calmly, not even showing the slightest sign that he was angry.
I nodded and continued to put the pants on.
“This time I’m not asking.” he said suddenly. I looked at him in confusion, but then I was lifted from the ground, his arm going under my legs and the other one supporting my back. He was carrying me bride style.
“Not this again...” I thought, my eyes widening when I realized what he was doing. I didn’t say anything though, deep down I knew I needed the help.
The sun was setting, and I realized I had spent the whole day in the forest, when it only felt like I had been there some hours. I sighed and looked at Cassius, who looked concentrate in carrying me and walking through the now dark forest. The sound of his sword brushing his trousers as he walked made an idea pop into my head. It was crazy, yet it was the only way I could survive.
He needed to train me.