A fierce wind whips at my bare skin and tangles my golden hair as I desperately look for an escape. I have never known a rage like this. Why did I do it? Why did I trust them? Dark shadows close in around me, chanting a language that I don’t understand. All I can hear is anger and betrayal.
A deafening boom thunders above me, followed by a burst of flames erupting in the spot I was standing, moments ago. Biting heat licks at my tears as I stare in horror at the towering flames before me. The hem of my white night dress starts to burn so I try to scramble away. The fire begins to close in, forcing me further backwards. I stumble on to my knees and turn with a terrified cry when I realise that there is nowhere for me to go. Nowhere for me to go except for an enormous, gaping black hole leading to who knows where.
I unfurl my wings and push myself into the air, desperately searching for a way over the fire. The chanting shadows howl at my attempt and force me back down with a forceful wind. All I can do is dig my nails into the gritty floor, begging to be spared.
Sobs rack my body as I come to terms with the choice that has been placed before me. Being swallowed by a roaring inferno or plummeting down a pitch black void is a choice that I don’t think I will ever be ready to make. A choice that is my punishment. A punishment I deserve.
“I’m sorry!” I scream at the dark shadows, but deep down I know it is too late.
I feel the skin at the end of my fingertips slice open on the stones as I am dragged backwards by the wailing wind. My legs fall over the edge of the void leaving me suspended and holding on with all the strength I have left. The noise of the shadows and the wind makes my head spin and I don’t know how much longer I can hold on.
The fire dances higher, crackling and spitting, almost knowing that its is close to its morbid goal. Why did I do it? Why did I trust them?
One more angry, ear splitting boom fills my head and pain sears through my hands. I can’t hold on. I have to let go. I try to stretch out my wings once more, to be ready, but every scrap of strength has deserted me and I finally drop into the oblivion.
My back hits the earth, knocking the breath violently from my chest. I howl in pain as my wings crumple beneath my coughing body. I try and to look where I have landed. My eyes slowly adjust to the darkness and I spot three pairs of eyes staring at me. I go into survival mode, kick my legs at the floor and push myself back against a damp wall. The staring eyes just come closer.
They belong to three guards, sneering down at me and all dressed in black. A stark contrast against my white dress. I feel like a candle in the darkness, waiting to be snuffed out.
“What do you want?” I whimper, barely recognising my own voice.
“Guards, take off her dress,” a gruff voice orders followed by cruel hands darting forward and grabbing my arms, fingertips bruising my skin and then yanking me up. My burned, white dress is ripped from my body leaving me to stand naked and shivering. Who are these people?
“Why have you left those wretched wings? Off,” the same gruff voice spits. I see a flash of silver in the darkness and I cry out with fear. My wings are sliced, mutilated beyond recognition. I have never known pain like this. Whether the emotional or physical pain of losing my wings is equally the same, I will never know. I have gone numb. They will be of no use to me anymore.
“Number.” A sharp, bite erupts on my left forearm. I struggle but the guards grip is too strong for me to break. I look down and see the number ‘185’ glaring back at me, the skin broken and bleeding where it has been brutally inked.
“Take her down to the cell,” the voice demands. All of his words sound rehearsed as though this ritual has been repeated again and again.
I am dragged and shoved down a wide corridor, whilst trying desperately to cover up my stripped body. I can hear various whispers as we pass row upon row of black, iron doors. A hand shoots out from one of the door grates, grabbing at my hair and slamming my skull on the bars. Black spots of unconsciousness flicker behind my eyes as a tongue licks the full length of my cheek. A scream escapes my lips. Thankfully, I am roughly pulled aside by the guard who is leading me but I feel blood dripping through my hair.
Shrieks and shouts are now echoing down the corridor, mixing in with my own pathetic cries for help. An iron door swings open before me and I am thrust inside a cell so hard that I fall to my knees. I scramble around to look at my captors.
“Don’t leave me in here!” I shout. “Please!”
The only thing I see as the iron door begins to close, is a pair of dark blue eyes glowing at me from the cell directly opposite. The iron door slams and I am left to sob in the darkness. Why did I do it? Why did I trust them?