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as in Presbyterian Church in America
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Joined September 10, 2019

Message to Readers

Here's part 2! This one is two chapters, since chapter 2 is really short.

Awakening--Part 2

May 28, 2020


Chapter 2
She considers herself one of the rats. The dirt lives beneath her fingernails, her hair is greasy and matted, and her eyes are perpetually glazed, runny. They don’t work as well as they used to; she might as well be blind, here in the darkness. Her skin is stretched taut over her rib cage. Around her thin wrists and ankles are heavy chains linked to the wall behind her. She is so close to death. Tomorrow, Adder will send her out again, make her run again only to end up right back where she started.

Adder sits not far off, obscured by the darkness, laughing softly at her. He takes glee in this, seeing her in pain, knowing that her ignorance, her belief that he is still her benefactor, is the only thing that keeps her coming back every day. When she asks him “why” he simply replies that it’s just a trial of her life. He’s going to teach her something in all this, he says. He promises it’s only temporary, and she’ll emerge better than she was before.

Lies. All lies.

How did she ever get here? She doesn’t even remember now, it’s been so long. Perhaps she stole or violated one of the king’s decrees, fled into the darkness after hearing that Adder could protect her, only to find that he was just another hollow, cardboard cut-out. All the promises she ever heard, vain. All the hopes she ever had, gone. All the songs she ever sang, violently torn from her throat. She can hardly speak now.

She’s a criminal, though. No one will come for her, rescue her from her torment, not after all she’s done. Nothing can change what she is.

Chapter 3
Adder looks much more benevolent, she thinks, now that he wears a suit and tie instead of dragon scales and shines his shoes. She sits across from him at the coffee shop, her hands pressed around a steaming mug of hot chocolate as he explains his nefarious plans to her. It’s almost exhilarating, being back in “the business” again. Her eyes glow at the prospect of riches stolen from legendary kings, quests for enchanted stones, and power beyond belief. Yes, Adder can do so much more for her than just pay her rent.

“All you have to do,” he tells her, “Is steal one ruby for me, just one, and I’ll pay your rent for a year.”

She glances at him incredulously, knowing that, with Adder, there is always more to the story than he lets on, “That’s all?”
“Well, you have to steal it from a cave guarded by lions, but yes, that’s all you have to do.” Seeing her frightened face, he adds, “Besides, the hyenas will deal with the lions.”

A chill travels up her spine, “Hyenas?”

“Oh, yes. Didn’t I mention those?”

She shakes her head slowly. Not taking his eyes off her, Adder claps his hands three times. Instantly, she hears the familiar click of claws on floor tiles, smells the stench of the pack. She dares not turn around; she knows they are right behind her, drooling. She grips the tablecloth, weaving it through her fingers.

“I’ve chosen them to be your companions, your protectors,” Adder explains. “I have to make sure the job gets done right.”
Her voice squeaks as she tries to speak, “How many?”

“Five,” he says, “One for each lion at the cavern.”

Five hyenas, sent to follow her on her journey. She trembles, remembering now how they tormented her in the darkness of Adder’s lair, snapped at her when she moved even a little. Surely they remember her as well, and still hunger for her blood.

“You might as well look at them,” he tells her. “You ought to get used to them now, before you leave for the valley.”
Despite the lump in her throat, she turns in the chair and looks down upon her new companions. They look like dogs, only leaner, more bony, more ragged, and with longer necks. Hair sticks haphazardly off their gaunt frames. When they pant, they open their mouths wide, revealing a set of gleaming teeth capable of splitting bones.

She turns back to face Adder, shuddering. Taunting her, he asks, “Do you like them?”

She looks him in the eye, knows she cannot say no, and replies, “Yes. They’ll be fine.”

“Good,” he smiles. “Now, let’s get down to business. This friend of yours…”

“He rescued me from you,” there is a slight doubt to every word she speaks, a shattering. “I don’t know… Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Why not?” he inquires. He cannot lose her now, not now, when he is so close.

“It just seems like betrayal,” she responds quietly, regretfully. “I feel like I should be doing as he says, rather than just going on another quest for you. You know, to thank him.”

He shakes his head, “See, this is what I’ve been talking about. He’s bound you. You don’t owe him anything.”

“But… It just seems like…”

“The money, darling. Think about the money.”

“Right… The money,” she looks up at him and sighs. “I wish there was another way.”

“Is there?”


“Then stick with this. This is the best for you, I promise. If it’s the hyenas you’re worried about, you’ll get over it.”

She watches pedestrians pass on the street outside the window. They seem so happy, so free. If she wanted, she could walk out of the coffee shop right now and never speak to Adder again. But she needs money for the rent.

“How do I get the ruby?”

He explains it all to her. There is a valley, he says, a valley of shadows, where she must first walk if she desires to get to the cave. There are thorns and brambles, he tells her, but she’ll be fine. Besides, hyenas will watch over her. At the cave, the five lions will try to stop her from entering, but the hyenas will deal with them. She will walk through the cave and come to a stone pedestal, on which will sit a blood-red ruby.

“Careful when you pick it up,” he tells her. “You must not touch it with your bare hands, or it will burn your skin.”

But even as he recounts to her all the nuances of her journey, his mind wanders. He sees her in chains again, linked to the wall, surrounded by hyenas just waiting to devour her.

Just a little longer, he tells himself, just a little longer.


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  • May 28, 2020 - 4:52pm (Now Viewing)

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