It was half past 4, with little time left before daybreak.
Alone, hungry, and exhausted, Laurel was driven to keep going. The sun would rise in a few hours, and she would be unable to complete the task her grandfather had started years before.
She was the sole survivor of her family, she, and a little stray dog they called “Stay,” They were all killed following an invasion of creatures from the other side, called the Unbound, they were looking for something. Her grandfather hid her from the creatures and she watched in horror as they tortured him.
As she made her way through the dark, towards the commotion, she was scared, sad and hesitant to leave her home, the only place she had ever known. Everything was gone now, her family, her friends, her home. Destroyed in the battle.
She was reminiscing as she said her goodbyes. Of when she was young, and they would sit around the campfire and listen intently, while her grandfather told tales of when the creatures, that were called the unbound, first came to their world. He said they were capable of moving in and out of other dimensions, ravaging and taking over societies and killing anyone that would not surrender. No one could oppose them.
He had been a part of a secret army, along with the country’s finest, strongest, and smartest. They were sworn to silence about their missions. They were to hunt, and destroy the unbound, freeing the people from their rule.
During an encounter with them while he was very young, he lost his legs, saving his older brother.
His brother had been responsible for designing weapons of war and traveling devices. He had created a locket that could pierce the portal that connected the dimensions. The unbound traveled through many dimensions to claim it. They were aware this locket could destroy them, and were willing to destroy all forms of life to have it.
They had been controlling and oppressing societies since her grandfather was a young boy. After attacking a town, they would make them battle with other towns for food and water, ultimately causing the towns to turn on one another instead of standing together to fight back. No one came or went, without the knowledge and permission of the leader of the unbound. He was called Megal. Meaning large, great, grand, abnormally large.” he was vicious and vile.
Her grandfather told her, before he died, that he had hidden the locket in plain sight, at the well in the center of the town. She would need it now, to survive. He told her that placing the locket into the housing of the stone wall next to the portal, would be the only way to defeat them. In her heart, she vowed that everyone of them would pay. She kissed her grandfather goodbye, grabbed the dog and left everything she had ever loved behind.
She made her way to the hill that surrounded the town. She caught a glimpse of one of the creatures as it crossed the courtyard. It was massive, winged and had horns just above its brow. Its nails and teeth were long and sharp. They were merciless and savage as they attacked the people, she heard them growling and taunting, snarling and grunting. She cried as she heard the screams of the ones who were too weary to fight, the sounds of tearing flesh. She could smell the stench-of death. It was all around her, filling her nostrils and sticking to her throat, the taste was coppery and tingly. And she fought back the urge to throw up.
She knew that her only chance for survival was retrieving the locket at the well and placing it into the stone wall near the portal. She knew from the stories her grandfather told, that when the locket was returned to the wall, the portal would be destroyed. The unbound would be unable to survive the power that the locket would unleash.
She was looking for a way to get to the well unseen, when the small dog ran towards one of the creatures, growling and barking. She called out for Stay to come back, but it was too late. As the dog drew the attention of the creature surrounding the well, she crept through the grass and nearly made it to the well, when someone called her name. “Laurel, Laurel, please help me.” She stayed low to the ground and made her way to the voice calling her. It was the owner of the mercantile, and a fellow soldier and friend of her grandfather’s, he was in very bad shape. He looked as if he had been eaten from the inside out. She said to the man, “I am sorry, I don’t know what I can do to help you, I am not a Dr.” He took her hand a placed a key in her palm. “this will get you into the safe in my shop, in the safe is some cream, if you rub it on your skin, the creatures can’t see or smell you. It may give you enough time to escape.” She hugged the man, and he hurried to his shop. As she made her way to the back of his shop, she could see there were creatures, eating the food he had on display.
They were so occupied; they didn’t notice her. As she was turning the key of the safe, the office door slammed open, and she heard the scariest voice she had ever heard. Snarling and spitting as he screamed, “I can smell you!” She made herself as small as she could. He came around the safe and said, “I know you are here; what trick are you using to hide from me?” She had just enough time to slather the cream on before he got to her. As he bent down and slammed the safe into the wall, Stay, the little stray dog, came to her rescue again. She was biting and snipping at the massive creatures’ feet, and was so quick, he couldn’t catch her. He became even angrier and threw a chair at the dog, that sent her flying out of the office. Laurel, being invisible in every way, ran out of the door, grabbing the small dog as she went by.
As she left the building, the creature was right behind her, following the scent of the dog, who was limp and motionless in Laurel’s arms. She began to cover the dog with the cream as she ran back to the well, to retrieve the locket. The massive beast began to yell out for all the creatures to, “find her!” She scurried around the well, dodging in and out of their legs, around their feet and over the ravaged bodies, looking for the locket. Laurel noticed the shop owner pointing toward the well, and as her eyes were following the direction of his finger, the beast ripped his arm off and threw it in her direction. She let out a slight gasp, that gave her position away. She leaped out of the way and hit her head on the stone well, she wanted to cry, but the small dog began to lick her face, and she felt calm and resolved in the same instance.
Her top became entangled on a portion of the wall, and as she reached around to free herself, she noticed that it was the locket. She turned around to dislodge it and realized that the creature was, unknowingly standing directly over her. He smelled of death and dirt and drool ran off his mouth onto the ground in front of her. A fire lit in her belly and she pulled the knife her mother had given her for her hunting. She plunged it deeply into the groin of the beast. As it fell to the ground screaming, she grabbed the locket and proceeded to take the head of the beast in one swift motion.
All the tears, and fear and sadness, loss and anger were now pouring out of her body in anger and revenge. Covered in the blood of the beast, she was no longer shielded from their sight.
They yelled and screamed in horror at the death of their leader and began to charge Laurel. She put the dog over her shoulder and began to run, faster than she had ever run before. The creatures were big, which worked to her benefit, as they were slower than she was. They had become so accustomed to the peoples compliance, that they never flew, and seemed now to be unable to.
She crested the hill, nearing the portal. She paused for a moment to look at her home one last time before leaving it behind. As she turned again to run, she felt a piercing pain in her back. She fell to the ground. The dog began to nip and bark at her, but she could not move, she had been hit with an arrow. As the unbound got closer, she told the dog to run away, but it wouldn’t. Stay began to cough, sputter and gag. She was fearful it too had been hit by the arrow, while hanging over her shoulder. She heard groaning and tearing sounds, she was sure she was about to join her family in death and closed her eyes.
A bright light penetrated her eyelids and she had to look. All around her was the warmest, most beautiful sunlight and what appeared to be dandelion seeds floating in the air.
She noticed a shadow approaching her, blocking the light, and for a moment she couldn’t see anything. But she heard a voice she recognized. She rubbed her eyes to clear her vision.
“Grand uncle!?” (her grandfather’s brother) Laurel cried, “it’s you, how did you, where did you come from?” He knelt down to Laurel to help her stand, he rubbed a cream over her wound, and it was gone. She stared at him in disbelief, she noticed there was a small bunch of fur, laying on the ground by his feet. “Granduncle, where is Stay, where did the creatures go, how did you get here?”
He walked quietly to the portal wall and retrieved the locket, placing it in her hands he said. “I could not tell anyone that I was in disguise, I had been employed by the army to create a way to defeat these creatures, whatever means necessary. I knew I was unable to stop the leader on my own and take back my own form to place the locket in the wall to destroy the unbound. I needed you, and the knife your mother entrusted to you.” Laurel looked at him in disbelief, it was only a hunting knife.” He smiled softly at her, oh dear Laurel, you were too young for us to tell you everything, and we didn’t know your strengths and courage until today. The locket and knife were forged at the same time and were created to be used in unison, only together could the beasts be destroyed. You survived to save everyone else.” She cried and screamed, “save everyone? Everyone is dead!”
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He took her hand in his, as she held the locket and said, “the unbound have been bound, the dead have been freed. Let go of the past, and you will be whole.”
The wind began to blow and the seeds she had seen earlier floated around her making shapes and falling back to the ground. He sprinkled a powder over the seeds, and it began to rain.
As the rain stopped the light reappeared and she covered her eyes, when she opened them again, the portal and the wall separating town from town, imprisoning people for years, was gone
The town was destroyed, they saved who could be saved, and buried their dead. They vowed to make a better tomorrow.
It was going to be a hard journey, but with determination and hope, they concluded, the pain and loss wasn’t all bad. They once again had the ability and power, to repair, forgive and grow as a society in control of their own destiny.
And isn’t that what we all desire?
Originally published at https://vocal.media.