Chapter 1 - Desperation
I was born as a cursed child.
The horned birthmark that curled on my chest sparked an uproar among the village when I was born. It led to fear among the villagers that I was a spawn of demons, a messenger from hell. The local witch doctor told my parents that according to the legends, I was meant for destruction, I was meant to destroy everything that was in my way.
“She is going to kill all of us if you do not get rid of her!”
I remembered hearing this a lot, it often echoed in my dreams. As a child, my parents said I did not cry much, I was a good girl, very well-behaved, but it doesn’t matter, everyone else still wanted to get rid of me.
I was raised in a humble home. We were poor, but we could survive. I was prone to stay indoors, and I was kept away from the other children. I tried approaching them once, disobeying my parents, and like a deadly disease they would stay away, their eyes were of fear and disgust. “The demon girl,” they would say.
And of course, I regretted that decision.
The witch doctor would come up every now and then to try and persuade my parents to hand me over, so they could get rid of me in their own ways.
“She bears the mark of the Eshban, do you not know the legends?” she would ask my parents every single time she came.
What would happen if they took me away? Would I be killed? Would I be sent to the Sovereign for judgment? I didn’t know. I was too young and too afraid of my unseen future. I would crawl under my bed every time I hear someone knock on the door. Were they going to take me away this time? Will my parents break under the pressure and hand me over this time?
No matter what I do, or how well I behaved, nothing will erase that mark on my chest.
I love my parents. They gave me everything they could. They tried to help me through my early years, they tried to reason with the villagers, the witch, saying it was the story was only an old legend, but to no avail.
I was a tormented soul, plagued by endless nightmares, doubts of my fate and constant fear. I would’ve succumbed if not for my parents. Despite all the rumors, they gave me all the love they were capable of.
My dad was a very big, burly man, heavily weathered from the hard work in the coal mines, like other men in the village, he had super strength that allowed him to fully utilize his potential in the mine caves. He was a leader among the working class, and I would guess that I am merely alive due to the respect the villagers gave to my father, they had not reported my existence to the higher ranks of the Sovereign.
I remember my father well, his warm brown eyes and his thick beard that would scratch the side of my face every time he embraced me with those strong arms.
He would return home with his hands black as night from the coal he had to carry. His hands were callused and rough, but always gentle, and his broad back was stiff and strong. I would give him back massages from time to time, though my hands are small, and maybe I’m not strong enough to apply enough force to sooth his backaches, but he never complained.
He would mess up my hair every day after he comes home from work, his jolly laughter would fill up our humble home. My mum would scold him for doing that as it would cover my auburn hair with black soot, but I didn’t mind.
My dad would tell me stories to help me sleep, it had always been hard for me to sleep. He would pat my head, he would take my hand and say I was the miracle in their lives, and he would tell me how much he loved me, how much my mum loved me, no matter who I was born to be.
My mum and dad had hoped for a child for many years.
“I’m sorry I was born like this,” I would tell them before I drift into sleep’s embrace. “Sorry, I’m so sorry,” I would repeat. And they would always reply that it’s alright, and they would love me no matter what the others say.
Because I was their child.
I got my auburn hair from my mother. She was skinny and her big hair made her look even smaller. She was frail, and I knew the reason why.
She had to bear with the same stress, being lectured every single day to get rid of me, the cursed child, so to not bring misfortune to the village. She had stood her ground, she may look weak, but she is the strongest person I had ever known as she had the world on her shoulders.
She would help me braid my hair from time to time and help me get my favorite fruits whenever she could. She made my room cozy and warm to make my doomed life as livable as possible, to keep me away from harm, to keep me away from prying eyes.
My room had only a small window to allow ventilation. It was very tall and I could never reach it, though I could see the crescent moon at night where it shines serenely. The darkness calms me, and sometimes I imagine myself, as a normal teenager growing up, how I wished I could be normal.
But I am, I am normal.
It’s just a birthmark on my chest, I’m not of the devil am I?
Whenever I asked my parents regarding the legend of the mark, they would refuse to talk about it.
Nightmares haunt me every night, taking away my parents, I would scream myself awake and my parents would rush into my room. I could only cry, I cried countless tears but it doesn’t matter, tears are not going to change anything for me.
“Dear God, please don’t take away my parents, please let them live long and have a happy safe life ahead of them,” I prayed every night before I sleep. Does it sound ridiculous? For a cursed one to pray to a holy God. I don’t know, if it helps my parents then I don’t care, I would sacrifice anything for them to stay alive.
Years passed, and the knocks on the door grew more and more frequent, the duration of the discussions grew longer.
“Sir Monard, she has to go, we have fulfilled your request on letting her have a peaceful childhood and it is time,” the witch doctor said in hushed tones.
“The child cannot stay any longer, it is the Sovereign’s law to have anyone with the Eshban’s mark to be executed and disposed of, and we cannot disobey the Sovereign.”
Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I crawled under my bed, pulling my blanket down with me. I covered myself from head to toe, shivering in fear.
I need to go.
I’m going to die.
No, I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of losing my parents. They were my only ray of sunshine in this cursed life of mine. Maybe if I were to die, I would not cause so much pain to them anymore, I would not be such a burden anymore.
I cried and I cried, large beads of tears streaming down my face. When I heard my bedroom door open I cowered, I couldn’t control my body’s shivering anymore.
A familiar hand landed on my shoulder, and the blanket was lifted gently off my tear-streaked face. My father’s eyes were sad, his shoulders slouched in defeat. He gestured for me to come out from my hiding place, and I obeyed. I craved for some support, any form of support, and his embrace was more than enough.
I poured my heart and soul out in the form of tears, all these years of solitude, all these years of pain and rejection. My tears stained my father’s shirt, but he didn’t seem to mind. He hugged me tightly, and my mum took my hand in hers.
“We’re so sorry, we’re so so sorry,” she said, her tears dropped silently onto the back of my hand.
“I tried, my very best to exchange everything we had to prolong this day,” my dad choked on his words. I know he was trying not to cry.
“Dada, maybe if I were gone you and mama would be better off,” I said, gasping for air as I couldn’t breathe from my blocked nose. I wanted to be happy, I was going to be gone, my parents will be better off, I would not be a burden anymore. I would give anything, including my life for them to be alright.
“Seraphina, no,” my mother whispered, she clambered to her feet, and rushed out of the room.
Did I make her angry? I’m sorry I didn’t mean to.
I buried myself in my dad’s embrace, tears continue to fall though I willed them not to. I didn’t do anything wrong did I? I was a good girl wasn’t I? Why am I judged for just a mark on my chest?
My mother came back with a bag and she pulled me from my father’s embrace, caressing my face in her hands.
“Food, supplies, matches, a knife, everything that me and your father could find,” she said to me, trying to wipe away my train of tears. My tears continue to fall like crystals to her dismay.
“Run, as far as you can to any place you can find that you can be safe,” her words struck me like lightning. Her forehead was on mine, and she kissed my hands.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be a better mother, I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you in the end,” she whispered.
“Run dear Seraphina, please run, and never turn back,” her dark eyes shone sadly in the moonlight.
My dad heaved me up from the ground, and he untied the necklace around his neck, tying it around mine.
“Be safe my child,” he said softly. Giving me a pat on the head, messing up my hair one last time.
“And no matter what happens, do not turn back, do not come back here,” he shook me hard, making sure his words made an impact.
I stared at my parents awe-struck, I have never went out of our home before and I had no idea where to go if I were to leave. And if I do leave, what would happen to my parents?
“Why don’t we leave together?” I asked stupidly.
My mother looked away, “There is a price for everything my child, and we are willing to pay that price for your well-being,” my father’s deep voice resounded in my head. I couldn’t think straight.
My parents are not leaving with me.
“Seraphina, if you don’t leave, the Sovereign will come and take all of us away, it’s not just you, they are coming for us as well,” my father seemed to read my mind. “Run, and live long,” his voice softened.
“Please, just go, you have to go,” my mother pleaded.
She led me to the kitchen, where my father heaved open a well-hidden door behind the tiger’s hide that had been there since I was born. Gusts of wind blew onto my face and I turned back to my parents.
“Mama, Dada, I love you,” I listened to my own voice crack.
My mother hugged me, her tears hasn’t stopped, and she caressed my face and bumped my forehead gently, lingering for just a moment. It was a tradition in our village to show respect and farewell. My father did the same, and he gave me one last squeeze before pushing me into the tunnel.
“We love you too my child.”