A Prologue by KR Wilde
We buried her today, my brother and I. No one else from our small community cared to attend, seeing as how they’d never liked the advenis – foreigner – that suddenly appeared after the shakes. They’d all found her wild appearance and strange tattoos a silent threat to our ways of perpetual obedience. I’d found her striking. The way her dark purple hair had kissed her lower back, or how the crimson himation-like draped swags caressed her slender form into a dress like I’d never seen before. It’d even had tiny songbirds laden in gold dancing across its fabric.
But none of it had compared to the stillness I’d beheld in the advenis. She’d been like a statue in her own right. A secretly terrifying, but fragile being immune to the calculated movements my people make on a daily basis. It was as if a twitch, no, a single display of emotion would lay waste to our world like the shakes had in the Far East.
I still remember asking her about this. Why she’d never smiled, let alone cry from the hateful words my people said about her. There had to be some reason, but all the advenis had done was stare at me with dull eyes, and point at a single mark above her left breast. It’d been an infinity sign with a single slash through its middle – the symbol for eternal damnation. I’d hated her instantly for it, and we never spoke again. That was twenty sun cycles ago. Now here I stand over her unmarked grave like a hypocrite.
“Should we say something?” Sinze asks. I can feel his eyes watching me from behind, searching for any sign of emotion. My skin prickles under his gaze.
“What is there to say? She was a stranger, and nothing more,” I say flatly, but my trembling hands say otherwise. The advenis, even though she hadn’t spoken much, was like the mother I should’ve had. One who’d taught me how to read and write – skills I never knew existed – and stand up for myself amidst a controlling environment. And yet I thanked her by hating her for a mark I don’t fully understand.
Footsteps approach from behind followed by arms wrapping themselves around my neck. I glance over, and find Sinze looking back at me with somber eyes. The sadness in them nearly cracks my façade.
“Why do you do this?” He asks.
He pokes my cheek with a finger. “Pretend to be like her when you know that’s not what she would’ve wanted.”
I shrug, and look away at the once vibrant jungle now turned red desert that surrounds us. Jagged peaks scrape the sky in the distance where my people dwell. Not far from there stretches out a flat nothingness as far as the eye can see. It shimmers from the heat much like the river I once played in as a child, but that’s gone now too. It’d dried up shortly after the shakes after-effects changed our land. Now there’s no water to sustain my people, minus the small reserve kept under guard. But even that’ll be gone soon.
My fingers grip the precious archis – a rare flower – tightly before letting it fall on the advenis’ grave. Its display of soft pink acts as a reminder of the radiance she once brought into my plain world.
“Shall we go, Cypitay?” Sinze asks softly in my ear.
I scrunch my eyebrows close together. Of course, I don’t. Leaving means walking those perfectly placed roads alone while wondering if I’d ever be brave enough to go barefoot like she had. Leaving means forgetting the vibrant colors she wore amidst a sea of white. Leaving means… I stare a moment longer at the flower, it’s petals already drooping in the heat. My heart feels the same way, but I break free from Sinze’s embrace and walk towards home without a word.
Neither one of us speaks until Sinze announces our return to the main gate. From there, we make our way through the impassive crowds back to our small canaba – a wooden hut made with all right angles. It resides in the center of the community near a freshly harvested field. To some it’d be beautiful, but once the advenis had come into my life I’d found our definition of beauty highly lacking.
“There’ll be fresh bread in the morning,” Sinze says, nodding at the field.
“Like always,” I say bitterly in return, and push aside the animal skin covering the door. A stale coolness greets me as I venture down the narrow hallway, and into what used to be the advenis’ room. It bears the same stodgy décor of bleached animal furs for a blanket and rug that can be found in any room of the canaba. Somehow it’d looked better when she lived here.
“You won’t find anything in there.”
“Am I supposed to be looking elsewhere?” I ask, and look over my shoulder at Sinze standing in the doorway. His face resembles a mask – a sign of his efforts to stay strong for me – but there’s no mistaking the pain reflected in his hazel eyes. Suddenly my big brother looks significantly smaller than his six-foot frame. Like me, the advenis had taught him to read and write, but more importantly, she’d been his first love.
I half expect Sinze to say more perhaps explain what he meant earlier, but a nod towards my bedroom is all I get. He then disappears farther down the hallway. I listen to his footsteps for a moment, carefully making their way in the dark before following after.
Upon entering my room, my eyes are instantly drawn to the large book on my bed. Its pale blue cover practically screams at me, but offers no hint of its secrets.
“What is it?” I ask in a whisper.
Sinze almost smiles at the child-like wonder I hold in my voice, but instead picks up the book with the same pained look from earlier. His hands caress it reverently. “It’s her gift to you.”
My eyes widen as he transfers the book to me. “But –“
Sinze silences me by pressing his hand to my lips. “But nothing, little sister. The advenis saw me only as a boy with a silly crush on her. You’re the one she loved.” And with that, he’s gone.
I don’t know how long I stood there before finally sitting on my bed. Now that I am, I can’t get myself to open the book. I feel far too guilty for being the source of her affection. But on the other hand, I’m relieved. Is that wrong?
‘You’re the one she loved.’ Sinze’s words remind me.
I feel my muscles relax as those words breathe confidence back into me, and before it can disappear I open to the first pages of a tale I’ll never forget.
End of Prologue
This material is copyrighted by KR Wilde. Any retranscription or reproduction is illegal.