“You were born a child of light’s wonderful secret—you return to the beauty you have always been.”
― Aberjhani, Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black
Cold overtook her and her body went numb as she fell, red beginning to stain her clothes. Grace heard the cold, cool voice of the hunter laugh as she collapsed, blood pooling up beneath her. She heard a hard, deep, strained roar full of pain and despair, and then an all too familiar voice screamed, “Grace!”
The hunter disappeared into thin air, and Grace’s vision began to tunnel, the edges turning black. She felt a strong, powerful presence next to her, the scent of a pine forest and rain washing over her, and she knew that it was him.
He scooped her up in his strong, powerful arms, and held her close to his chest, his body bent over hers. Grace whimpered and looked up, staring into a pair of deep, dark brown eyes flecked with gold. His eyes filled with tears and she raised a hand, resting it against his cheek. He leaned into her touch, closing his eyes, and hunched even more as sobs began to rack his body, growling at anyone that came near them.
“Please, Grace,” he begged, cupping her cheek with his large, powerful hand. “Please, don’t leave me.”
“It’s... fine,” Grace whispered, her voice rough and scratchy. It hurt to talk, and her vision was starting to narrow. “I’ll be okay.” Even though her body was filled with agony, and she was scared out of her mind, Grace knew that everything would be okay. The world would go on, and he would be fine.
Grace cried out as another flash of pain ripped through her core. Her eyes rolled up into the back of her head, and then she was consumed in darkness.
Pain... never-ending pain... all around her, metal and breaking bones screeched, making her ears ring.
Pain... Pain exploded all up and down her body. Broken. Breaking. Her bones were breaking. Why? Nothing wrong was happening…
Pain in her head. She had hit it against something. What? The window? The door? The... tree? Was that a tree...?
Red. Everywhere she looked, she saw red. She turned her head, crying out in pain, and her eyes widened in horror at the sight of her mother lying across a tree bough, still. Silent.
Her ears rang as the car exploded, her father still inside. Screaming as fire began to burn him slowly, eating away at his skin and hair.
Her chest hurt. She couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t she breathe? She coughed, and blood bubbled up from her mouth, spilling down the sides of her face. She moved her hand to wipe it away, and then cold fear gripped her heart.
She couldn’t move. She couldn’t breathe. Darkness overtook her.
White. She opened her eyes and saw nothing but white all around. Faces flitted in and out of sight. She called for help, then a man in white pressed a calm, gentle hand to her forehead, saying, “Shh, don’t speak. Stay absolutely still. We’re going to help you.”
She blacked out.
Regan was outside her body. She looked down at herself, horror rooting her in place. She wasn’t recognizable. She was nothing but a broken, bloody, burned husk of a human. She was dead.
The same doctor from before called the time of death and left the room. She just stood there, and nurses and doctors hustled around her and, disturbingly, through her. She was now nothing but a ghost, a hovering spirit.
May twenty eighth, 2013, at one thirty seven a.m. Regan was now officially declared dead.
Grace. She had to find Grace. Where was she?
Regan followed the doctor, feeling something swirling at her ankles. She looked down, shocked to find herself wearing a white dress with a long, flowing skirt. She was barefoot, and her skin was clean and unmarred. She moved on, the need to find her sister too strong to ignore.
She found her in the waiting room. The doctor stood a distance away, letting Grace finish giving her testimony to the cop investigating the accident.
“The first car had hit us, and we were all still dazed, especially Dad. Then... then my sister, Regan, suddenly reached over me, blood pouring out of a gash in her head, opened my door, and shoved me out, just as a huge semi-truck hit the car, right behind us where my sister was. It missed me, but drove my parents car, with them inside, off of the road and into a tree. That’s the last thing I remember before I pulled out my phone and dialed nine one one. Then, the car exploded, with Daddy still inside it…”
She choked on the words and the officer patted her shoulder, telling her it was all right. Just then, Regan’s aunt Beth and uncle Mike had arrived. They started towards her sister and when they drew close, she threw herself into their arms, sobbing.
The officer told Mike that he’d keep in touch, and then left. Upon seeing the doctor, Grace left their aunt and uncle and made her way toward him.
“Well?” She demanded. “Is Regan going to make it?”
“Ah, Grace, I hate to say this, but I think you should leave for this while I tell your family the current situation.”
She shook her head. “No, I can handle it. Just… Please, tell me. I have to know."
He just stared at her, sadness in his eyes. She stared at him and said, “She’s not going to make it, is she?”
He glanced away, unable to look her in the eye.
Regan wished she could erase that memory from her mind forever. The sight of her sister as her eyes widened when realization hit her square in the chest. She actually staggered a step back, whispering, “No... no, no, no...”
Then she fell to her knees, her hands in her hair as she pulled at it. A scream tore from her throat, echoing all over the halls of the hospital. The people behind her in the waiting room all gave her looks of pity and sorrow as she wailed, tearing out strands of her hair as she rocked back and forth on her knees on the ground. Tears flowed down her cheeks and she cried out, “No, no, please... Please, no... Regan, no! Please don’t leave me! Regan, please, come back... no... please, no.... Regan.... Wolf Girl... please, come back…”
She continued to wail and moan, tearing at her hair and clothes. She curled up on the floor, bringing her knees up to her chin as she continued to sob. No one in the room moved, and Regan found that she was crouching down on the ground, no more than three feet from her sister. She was crying as well, wailing just as Grace was. Regan longed to reach out and wrap her arms around her sister, to hug her close, but she was just a ghost. She would never be able to touch her again.
Hours passed. Grace left the hospital with Beth and Mike, a dead, faraway look in her eyes. The doctor sighed and left a while ago, heading back to make sure that Regan’s body was preserved until burial. Regan didn’t go back. She didn’t want to look at herself.
So she wandered. She roamed about the hospital, thinking back to the accident. They were crossing an intersection when a car suddenly hit them on the driver’s side, right where Regan was sitting. Then, when they stopped, they were facing the way the shadow car had come from, but by this time it had disappeared. Regan had looked back to see if she could find it, then she saw the semi coming at them at full speed. She had pushed her sister out, and then nothing but pain and red once it hit them.
Regan heard claws clicking on the ground and she turned, shocked when she saw the sight before her. A white she-wolf sat at the intersection she had just passed. She had beautiful golden eyes, just like Regan’s, and she held her head cocked to the side.
“Hello, Regan,” a voice said behind her. She spun around and found a woman standing behind her. She wore a white dress similar to Regan’s, and her wavy, black hair tumbled over her shoulders delicately.
“Who are you?” Regan asked.
“My name does not matter,” she said. “I have come to give you a choice, one that will define where you go from here.”
“What kind of choice?” she asked.
“You have much work to do,” the woman answered. “And if you choose to accept my offer, you will be able to dwell in the land of the living again.”
Regan narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “And if I don’t?”
She shrugged. “Then you wander the earth forever, a sorrow spirit, and you will wither away, but will never fade, remaining trapped in this hospital forever.”
Regan stared at her a moment, then turned back to the wolf. She looked at the woman again and said, “What’s your offer?”