As promised, it's time for me to introduce my first short story! I am very nervous actually. But just as excited!
This name of the story is "Odea". I spent an entire night writing this thing between 10pm and 7am, as I had a deadline (that I forgot about) to send in a story sample for a course in creative writing that I've applied to for the autumn semester. I was exhausted when I finished. The original is in Swedish which I later translated into English.
I've had help from two great people, going through this story with me, looking at the grammar, spelling, expressions and story as a whole. Thanks a lot, to Vindu and Ken for taking your precious time with me!
I know that this story might come off as incomplete and that it might be hard to understand the purpose of some of the characters, based on the feedback from my friends and looking at it from their perspective I can see that that might be the case. There's definitely a lot of room both for improvement and for developing the story and make it "more complete".
I'm publishing it as it is now and based on the feedback I've already received and hopefully will receive later as well I will try to build on this story and make it even better.
Well, here it is, enjoy!
They walked in silence, a large eagle soaring over their heads. It gave her comfort in a way she didn’t understand. The only sound was that of bare feet stepping into shallow pools of water. Step after step, constantly in motion. They must have walked for hours, not once stopping or looking back. Keezeta carefully watched the dark silhouette of the tall, handsome man walking in front of her. He was her guide through this world between worlds, her way out of this soothing, yet terrifyingly lonely darkness. She didn’t trust him, knowing he was like her, but she knew he would take her where she wished. He owed her and she knew that he, older than the oceans, had never failed to repay a debt. So, she followed him, never doubting.
The bright moon had disappeared long ago, filling her with a void. She knew this feeling and she hated it, couldn’t nourish from it. She took a deep, silent breath and went far into the unconscious mind of the young innocent woman whose heart she now held. It was full of sorrow and loneliness and yet there was still hope. Keezeta felt disgusted. Didn’t want to feel it, to acknowledge it. How could there be any hope left after what they had done to the girl? She kept searching until she found the deep well of anger and despair she had been looking for. She fed it, fuelled it with hatred until the well started boiling and filling up, more and more until it reached the edges and poured over. Only then did Keezeta open her eyes again and when she did the void in her chest was filled with a newborn rage. She smiled, feeling the peak of her essence. She was ready to execute destruction.
The man in front of her stopped, turned around and gave her a smile that must have been as vicious as her own. He nodded and told her to come closer. She felt a cool, salty breeze on her cheeks. They where standing on a sky-high cliff, water splashing against the rocks far below. He made a motion with his hand, indicating they were there. They stared at each other for a short moment before he leaned in. He was so close that she could feel his hot breath in her ear before he opened his mouth and whispered “Jump!”.
Odea cried. Silent tears that no one saw fell down her pale cheek when she took a barefoot step forward. Then another and then one more after that. Cold, soft sand trickled between her toes. Slowly she approached the small wooden boat in front of her. She did not turn around, could not make herself look at the people who were gathered on the beach behind her staring intensely. Not yet. She felt their stare on her back as a sting of a thousand needles and she knew they followed her every movement like a hungry wolf watches its pray. She walked with her back straight and refused to acknowledge the fear, growing like a heavy stone in her chest. The boat came closer. When she reached the water’s edge, she stopped and straightened herself even more. She would let no one see her insecurity. A sudden gust of wind swept in and hit her in the back as if it also urged her to keep moving forward. Her dark curls soothingly caressed her face. Yet, the tears continued to flow, though her hand repeatedly attempted to wipe them away for good. It didn't help.
No one said anything, but she knew they were all waiting, waiting for her to step in the boat, which calmly was rocking back and forth a few meters out. Odea took a deep breath, stepped out into the autumn-cold sea water and only then did she turn around. Quietly and calmly, as if time itself had slowed down. She looked at them all, one by one. At her so-called family, at the friends she always wanted but never had, at strangers and well-known faces. She looked at men and women, old and young, even children, not even old enough to stand on their own. She looked at the forest that stretched out behind the village further up on land and on the barren, slippery rocks at the edge of the beach further ahead. She looked at the gathering of people on the beach and on the lit torches several of them held in their hands. How many had come? All? Two-thirds? Half the village? She did not know. The last daylight would disappear within a few minutes. She backed out a little, so that the water reached her knees and one last time looked at the people who now abandoned her. Who handed her to the sea that she both loved and feared at the same time. And so, she turned her back to them as they had turned their back to her all her life, and waded through the water, her legs already stiff with cold. It was already at her waist when the boat came within reach. Odea grabbed the side and raised herself over the edge and sat down in the middle. The wind grew stronger and sang its song more loudly than before. She could not hear the words that were now being chanted on the beach, but she knew exactly what it was. A sacrificial ram, as old as the mountains in the distant kingdoms she had only heard of. Because that was exactly what she was: a living offering to a higher power. To the gods of nature. Intended to die for her land, for her people. A verdict from the village elders with their closest advisors, a decision no one had appealed against or even questioned. Like always , she hadn’t had a chance.
Orphaned so early that she could not remember her parents and cared for by an aunt who never loved her together with her violent husband and wicked sons, life had not been easy for Odea. Despite endless attempts to find friends, the other children had turned away from her, many times without so much as looking at her. She never knew why. Adults had chased her away as if she were a rat digging in their garbage. The only attention she received came from the shameless men who desired the pleasant curves of the body that she had been fortunate enough to get, or maybe cursed with, in her early teens. She had found her friends in the wood crowns of the forest and had learned to distinguish each bird song and wing stroke, she had learned tenderness from the little baby fox she once found abandoned and starving in a small glade, much further into the forest than the other children had dared go. She had taken care of him and nourished him until he could manage himself. She had spent countless hours on the slippery wet rocks by the sea and got to know their every crack and structure. Nature had been good to her and taught her to be patient and kind-hearted. Eagle
She felt a jerk in the boat and knew that the line that had anchored her to land had been cut. The stream immediately caught up with the boat and brought her out to open water, faster and faster. Only wearing a thin white piece of cloth, wet and heavily resting on her skin from after wading the water, the cold was penetrating. If she did not drown first, she would undoubtedly freeze to death before the night was over. She still felt the gaze from the increasingly distant shore and knew that even when they could not see her anymore, they would stay there for a long time and look out into the darkness that would soon swallow and make her invisible to them.
And it was then, just moments before the last rays of light disappeared and gave birth to the night, that a bright light swept over her left shoulder and landed just in front of her. Surprised and frightened, she fell backwards screaming. Although it only took her a few seconds to recover, it was already too late when she realized what had just happened. A burning arrow had set the boat on fire and was now devouring the dry wood material on the inside. Instinct immediately had her look for a bucket or anything else, that could help her extinguish the fire, but there was nothing. Nothing but the fabric she wore over her ice-cold body. She quickly pulled it over her head and drenched it in water before she threw it over the arrow and the burning boat floor in front of her, but the fabric was too thin and the fire had already taken too hard.
Odea felt the terror grow tenfold within a second, as she with horror realized what was about to happen. What had already happened. It was not enough for them to put her on a boat and let her die alone as nature saw fit. It was not fast enough, it would take too long. So, they had set fire to her. They were going to force her to throw herself into the dark, deep water of sheer desperation and survival instinct, just to drown in the icy cold or she would burn. The hopelessness came over her like a punch to her face. And with that came the anger. Never had she felt so angry and so abandoned. By people, by life. She had never felt so unfairly treated. She didn't deserve this. She wanted to scream. She wanted to claw somebody’s eyes out. But she was not going to give the people who had put her here the satisfaction. Instead, she stood up, naked as when she was born, and ready to face the fate imposed upon her by others. She swayed and was close to falling when her gaze fell on a silhouette across the flames. She recognized it. A large, stately eagle sat on the front of the boat’s edge and watched her quietly. She had seen it before. It had often accompanied her from a far distance in the sky or a tree, but never this close. Odea couldn’t read the eyes that rested on her, but she could not turn away from them. They stared at each other. It gave her comfort. A strange calm came over her. Odea stood tall and smiled. Caught between the icy water and the wicked flames, she decided to burn. And so she did.
Black. Everything was black. There was no pain, just a pleasant darkness where she floated around in a timeless infinity. An empty vacuum. She was happy. There was no loneliness or fear, no injustice, no good or evil. Not even a thought. Just a silence that was older than time itself. And it spoke to her. Shrugged her from the eternally dormant sleep she had embraced.
Odea didn’t want to leave the warm, safe darkness. Didn't want to wake up. She felt a twitch in what had to be her toes and with that came an instant unpleasant need to bend her fingers. Without opening her eyes, not ready to face whatever awaited, she reluctantly began to move. It sored and ached and there was pain everywhere. She shouted frantically for the darkness that was about to let go of her; begged it to come back and wrap her in its arms again. But it didn't listen, and she was soon left by the darkness she had once feared. Left for another darkness, because when she finally opened her eyes again, everything was as black as coal. She stretched out her hands in front of her but felt nothing. Instead, she placed them on the ground. Sand. Her fingers swept over thin, cold grains. Was she back on the beach again? Had everything been a dream? But she couldn't smell the sea or the forest or the village. She was somewhere else, that she knew.
"Odea." It was no more than a whisper, but she heard it as if someone had roared her name straight into her ear. "Odea." She shot to her feet and groped at random in front of her. She remembered the horror she had forgotten in the warm comfortable darkness and was so taken aback by the fear that she thought her speeding heart would shoot out from her chest.
"Who are you? What do you want? " Her voice was strident and shaky.
A scornful laugh came from all directions. She still couldn't see her hand in front of her, but she instinctively started to run.
"Where are you going, Odea?" The voice became clearer. It sounded young and old at the same time. Horrifying and pleasant. Dangerous. It sounded infinitely dangerous.
Whoever he was, she knew she couldn't escape from him, so she stopped. Tired of running from the inevitable. "Who are you and what do you want?" she repeated, her voice steadier, colder this time.
The pitch-black darkness ceased. From nowhere she was suddenly standing under a large full moon with her feet on the surface of what looked like a large lake, with water so clear it could have been a mirror. She could distinguish silhouettes against a horizon she barely saw but she could not discern if they were tree crowns or mountain peaks.
Footsteps came from behind. Odea turned and drew a hasty breath. The most beautiful and terrifying man she had ever seen in her life, if she was even alive, stood in front of her. Well-formed strong muscles were visible on each exposed body part and she assumed that the non-visible parts followed the same pattern. What kind of clothes he wore was difficult to see in the misty moonlight other than that he had bare arms and long pants but it was obvious that the long hair, tied high on his head, was as black as the darkness that had been surrounding her just a moment ago. So were his eyes. Enchanting and deep as bottomless wells. She couldn't find a better description for them. She glanced at him and let her eyes sweep over him again as if she were not really sure what she saw. Tattoos, full of patterns and symbols that could not be of this world covered his arms and what was visible on his chest under the unbuttoned top of his shirt and further up on his neck. Even half his face was covered with the same strange art. She couldn't stop staring.
"You're not really bad yourself," he said, nodding mockingly at her. Odea became embarrassedly aware of her nakedness, that she hadn’t given a thought until now. Not even a small piece of fabric covered her. She stood completely exposed to him. He smiled spitefully at her, and even though it gave her the chills along her spine, it was the most beautiful and wicked smile she had ever seen. She was shaking and hated herself for it as this frightening stranger in front of her literally made her knees weak. Embarrassed and ridiculed, she turned around while she instinctively tried to cover her most intimate parts from him. The clear, scornful laugh echoed around her again.
"Why so shy suddenly? You have nothing to be ashamed of.” She felt his eyes scan every inch of her. He was lethal. She could feel it deep in her soul and the fear of this man was stronger than anything she had ever experienced, but his cocky mockery also aroused something else in her. "What do you want?" she snarled as threateningly as she could.
"Much better, now you don't sound like a scared kitten anymore".
From where it came she did not know, but a very fancy robe fell over her shoulders even though he had not moved as much as an inch closer. He kept talking while she tied it at her waist. "Unfortunately, I think you've misunderstood the situation. You’re the one who summoned me here, not the other way around, and I think the real question you should ask yourself is not who I am but who you are. "
Odea looked at him and didn’t know what to say. "Is this a joke?"
"I certainly hope not." he replied coldly "because if it is, then you have wasted my time and no one” - he put weight on the words - “wastes my time." A threat and a promise that made the hair on her arms stand. Silence. He looked challengingly at her.
"Am I dead?" That was the only thing she could think of. He snorted.
"It depends. You are in a place right now where neither life nor death rule. I guess you could call it a bridge between the two. If you live or die, how you move on from here is up to you.” She didn't know what to think. She looked at her hands, red and burned. "Why am I here?" She whispered, barely audible.
"You're here because the people you hoped one day would acknowledge and love you, instead set you on fire. They let you burn while they watched and desperately tried to save themselves from their own destruction. You were a sacrifice. You are here because that anger and rage you feel rising within you as we speak has been brought to life after being dormant for a very long time. You are here because you have been sleeping for much too long. You are here because you need to choose. To go back and give those people who loathed you for all those years what they deserve. You are here because you want to feed the fire that is now impatiently burning in your restless soul."
Odea stared at the man who had come so close that he was almost within reach, but she did not see him. Instead she remembered. The people on the beach, the boat, the burning arrow, the eagle and then the pain. The infinite pain. The pain that had not only burned her skin but her whole consciousness, her very essence. She had cursed them all. Wanted all of them to burn in hell with her. She had sworn over the smell of her own burned skin to come back and pledge the revenge and justice she deserved, and until then she hoped that they would be cursed by constant nightmares. She had let herself burn and she had let them all see and hear so that they would understand what was coming for them when she returned. When they least anticipated it. The beautiful predator bird had been there all the time. Hadn't left her for a moment. The clear golden-brown eyes were the last thing she had seen before the darkness swallowed her and the pain ceased.
Odea stared at the man again but saw him this time. "Who are you?" She said again. "What are you?"
He looked at her with his ravenous eyes. "My name is Rhen. You and I go a long way back. The rest is up to you to figure out."
She could have sworn his eyes became blood-red for a moment shorter than a blink. "How am I supposed to figure that out? I have never met you, never even seen you before. And you're not human, you're something else.”
He pretended to look offended. "Odea, you're hurting me. Of course, we have met before. Probably more times than you can count. But you're right in one thing. I'm definitely not human. And neither are you”.
A new silence swept over them while he eyed her from head to toe once more. Rhen slowly began to circle her. "Release her," he hissed. Do your ritual. Paint. Bring her to life again! You know you want to. "
Odea’s heart hammered so hard and fast in her chest that she could hardly breathe. "Release who? What are you talking about?"
Faster than lightning he was in front of her. He placed one hand at her lower back and the other violently gripped the hair on her neck. He pushed her towards him, bent her head and placed his lips against her ear. His hot breath sent an earthquake through her. One word left him. A name. "Keezeta".
Her feet couldn’t bear her anymore and it felt as if she was falling into a depth so far away from her own humanity that she would probably never find her way back. He held her so hard against his chest that her body never made it to the floor. Instead, she grabbed the knife that was attached to his left hip, a movement so fast that even Rhen looked surprised when she pushed it in between his ribs with as much force as she could manage. He dropped her and stumbled a few steps backwards but Odea was already there and tore out the knife that had penetrated skin and muscles as easily as if it had been melted butter in the summer heat. Rhen crouched and placed his hands on his knees in an attempt to support himself. He laughed weakly and it was obvious that it was painful. "That was faster than expected, I have to say. Couldn't you have settled for a slightly less dramatic entrance?” he muttered.
Odea barely listened. She looked at the knife and the dark red liquid dripping from it. Then she did something unimaginable, as she felt a strange desire, and brought it to her lips. She licked the blood off the cold, sharp edge. It tasted of an ancient force, older than the sea itself which she didn't even have the words to describe. She had no idea what was going on. It was as if she had no control over her own body anymore. Odea saw herself making a deep cut, first in her left palm and then in her right. Thereafter she began for herself, a completely alien ritual. She spoke in strange tongues and was humming in languages she could swear wasn’t of this world. Of her world. She saw herself drawing symbols on her arms, her belly and her face in her own blood, like the ones Rhen carried on his body.
A scream filled the moonlit place and the same eagle that had watched over her burning body in the boat landed on the water surface. Rhen straightened and pressed a hand over the open wound where the blood still flowed with a vicious speed. “She followed her all the way to this world, he said with a strained voice. Odea must be something out of the ordinary.”
The bird watched them. Odea looked straight into its golden-brown eyes one more time, that same strange calm coming over her as she had felt in the boat, before she saw herself forcefully pushing the knife into her own chest. A foreign voice came from her own lips. "Odea, my beloved, let me take over now. My name is Keezeta.” Odea didn't break the stare with the winged beauty as she fell and once again was devoured by the darkness she had gotten to know. Keezeta. Her demon had awakened.
Keezeta opened her eyes for the first time in a very long time. Sore in her body she sat up with support from her arms. The moon and the lake remained. Rhen sat watching her from a safe distance. "Welcome, he said in a tone that was both satisfied and displeased. "It’s about time you woke up. You took so long that the wound healed ages ago.” She blinked at him. "Rhen". Then she shot to her feet and took a few quick steps towards the man who was sitting on the water surface. Or was it perhaps a glass floor? She wasn't sure and she didn't care. But she could see her own reflection. She looked like Odea and yet not. What distinguished them were the eyes that now adorned the beautiful face, red as dark, shining rubies. Rhen rose slowly. Keezeta turned to him and they both stared at each other coldly.
"I hope you are here to show me the way back?" He was so much bigger than her, but she didn’t back down an inch. She wasn't afraid of him. She wasn't afraid of anything. No one and nothing would stand in her way.
He bowed ironically. "Your terrifying heart’s desire is my command, beautiful."
She smiled wickedly at him raising a hand to his cheek. The skin was warm and smooth under her long, slender fingers. She pulled him close to her. His blood had long dried on her lips. She made a show of sensually cleaning them with her tongue. He groaned hungrily when she met him. His lips where cold but soft as silk. He savagely gripped the hair on the back of her neck again and made the gap between them non-existent in less than a second and began exploring her. Keezeta burned where he touched her and when they united into one, she let herself loose completely, to the point where she forgot who she was and where she was. It wasn’t beautiful and it wasn’t sensual. It was wild and evil, it was harsh and even painful, but the passion was without comparison. When their demonic desires had been satisfied in the dark, with the eagle and the moon as their only companions, and when the two of them were panting on the shiny mirror-like surface without any clothes on, he asked, "And what now?"
She looked at him, into his ravenous eyes that turned the same deep red that adorned her own. "Take me back and I'll show you".
His evil smile grew.
Keezeta stood at the water’s edge and looked out over the beach in front of her. The smell of salt and forest struck her. A scent that was not to be the same again for a very long time in these lands. Further ahead, she could glimpse the smoke from the village and the little town beyond. Someone on the beach screamed. A young man. Probably a few years older than herself, than Odea. And it was her name he screamed when he frightened saw her stepping up on the beach. Wearing the same thin white piece of fabric, as they had dressed her in the night they all had abandoned her, sacrificed her. How long had it been? Hours? Days? Years? She had no clue. Now she was back, after wandering through worlds and defying death trying to devour her. She looked at the young man who paralyzed stared at her. It was Odea's stepbrother.
"You set her world on fire. You set her on fire. Your sweet Odea. She swore to come back. To give back what you forced on her. So here I am, fulfilling her wishes. She defied the death you so brutally sent her straight into. Now it's your turn to burn. To feel the pain of the horrifying flames that burned her. Believe me, I could feel them too and they were not pleasant. The only thing that will remain of this place is ashes, terror, and despair. So, I only have one message for you, brother of Odea, and you should hurry up and pass it on because you do not have much time. I am coming for you. Run.” And he did.
The world was burning. Flames that devoured everything in its path spread out across the land and in the middle stood a naked woman, immune to the flames, a large, beautiful eagle on her shoulder. A once good-hearted and kind girl who had grown up in a cold world without love, who had been abandoned and cast aside, sacrificed and burned. Now she was going to take this world back and make it her own. And no one was going to stop her.