I am the full-blooded son of the Summer Court rulers. My mother thinks I am an abomination. My father might as well think the same since he barely pays attention to me. My only friend is my father's court jester, and we only talk for a few minutes a day. I was raised by a nurse. When I was born, my mother didn't even want to hold her own son. Neither did my father. My first word was “mama,” and she looked at me in disgust and left the room.
So here I am, running through a forest with an arrow in my shoulder. It's raining, and my clothes and hair are sticking to my skin. A group of hunters thought I was a deer and shot at me. It's getting harder to breathe with every step. I don't understand why my mother hates me. If she loved me, maybe I wouldn't have gone into the woods to get away from her yelling, and maybe I wouldn't have been shot at. So, in a way, my mother caused this, caused my blood to be spilling out on the dirt underneath me.
I hate my life.
After more running, more blood spilling out, more fear of what lies ahead, I see a light. It’s night now, and this light looks more like a window on a cottage than something dangerous. I stumble through the forest to the cottage and bang on the door. An old woman opens it. She is wearing a nightgown and rubbing her eyes. I collapse into her arms and pass out.
When I wake up, the woman is standing on the other side of the room. She turns around and smiles at me, but I can see the sadness in her eyes.
“I removed the arrow, but the tip was poisoned. I fear I was too late. We will have to wait and see if your body fights it off or gives in.” She checks the thick bandage on my shoulder. “What is your name, child?”
I'm not a child. I might look 18, but I'm actually 104. “Noah.”
“Prince Noah? I’m so sorry, your highness, I didn’t-”
“It’s alright,” I interject before she can go too far. “Please, don’t call me “your highness”. Doesn’t quite fit me.”
She apologizes profusely and excuses herself, which I don’t even notice. I look around the room, wanting to be aware of my surroundings.
The bed I'm in is soft, with fluffy pillows and thick blankets. On a shelf, there's bottles and jars of medicine and herbs. There's a table with a bloody arrow on it, and something yellow on the arrowhead. It's still raining. I think about sitting out there, wet and bleeding, with nowhere to go. I look up and realize that the woman is gone. Later, she comes back in with a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. When I'm finished eating, she tells me to go to sleep. She says it will help fight off the poison. My dreams are filled with people I know. People that have died. Friends I’ve lost Every time I try to speak to them, they just turn away and ignore me.
For the next two days, I'm fine. My shoulder seems like its healing and I’m sure that my body is fighting off the poison.
But then, on the third day, everything changes. I wake up to a throbbing ache in my shoulder, and within an hour, the pain has spread to my chest. The old woman removes the bandages and there are red lines spreading out from the wound, just waiting to kill me.
I barely eat anything that day. Everything I do manage to eat just comes right back up minutes later. I feel like my entire body is burning.
Around midday, I decide that it would be a good idea to get up and go to the bathroom. Halfway there, my vision goes black and even holding onto the wall doesn’t keep me from falling to the floor.
I wake up in the same bed again. The woman is sitting next to me, looking worried.
“You passed out,” she says. “I found you laying on the floor in the hall. You have a fever and the wound is very clearly infected. I believe that the poison has taken control. I’m very sorry.”
By midnight, I can barely keep my eyes open. I feel weak and I know that I’m dying. I’m freezing cold, but my clothes and the bed sheets are soaked in sweat. The woman is holding my hand. She is my only comfort right now, when the pain from my shoulder has spread throughout my entire body.
I close my eyes for a second, and when I open them, I'm surrounded in white. The bandage is still on my arm. I take it off and move my arm around to test it. There's no pain at all, so I look up. All the people I’ve ever lost are there, smiling at me. They aren't mad, at least, they don't look mad.
“Noah. We forgive you. Come with us, and you will be loved.” They whisper.
Somehow, I still roam the land. Nobody sees me, nobody hears me. Things happened after my death. My father forgot about me three years later, which was not surprising. But the most surprising thing that happened was the day after I died. When they announced my death in the Summer Court, my mother cried. Real, genuine tears.
She cried for the son she hated but loved with all her heart in the end.