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The chef ran through the night, clutching the son of the assassinated king. He ran away from the red light, the castle set ablaze by jealous rebels. It made a mockery of the sun. The chef ran through the forest, the once green forest, I might add. Now, the lively leaves and lush green forest bed was buried under a thick layer of charcoal ash. Although the ash painted his face black, his tears cut through the soot like daggers.
He ran with purpose. He ran like a bat out of hell. He knew not to scream, for he would give the enemy the upper hand in locating him. The only sound he released other than his crackling footsteps was the expulsion of his heaving breaths. In between his huffs and puffs, he glanced down at his future king to check if he had awoken yet, but he was still unconscious.
He ran down the cobblestone roads and past the picket-fenced cow pastures until he reached his candle-lit cottage. He wasted no time getting inside and resting the young prince on a cushiony, wool couch.
“Martha! Martha, get the witch hazel and black salt!” hollered the heartbroken man. As he cried over the little boy, a plump, gold-haired woman hurried in with the supplies her husband demanded. After passing them onto him, she stood back with her hands over her mouth in awe.
“My god, Cullen! Is that the king’s boy? Cullen, tell me it’s not!” Martha screamed as she grasped onto an embroidered handkerchief, soiling it with her tears. What seemed to be a mundane evening turned out to be a disaster. The hope that was once restored was now being burned away, piece by piece, in the castle walls. Now recovering from his heartbreaking sorrow, Cullen looked to his wife with the most grief-stricken eyes the world has ever known. He uttered the words would change his life forever.
“He was. Now he’s ours.”
14 Years Later
The sky oranges to a vibrant, soft pattern, like that of a monarch butterfly. The sun is a golden coin locked in the treasury of life. It glitters and blankets everything in it’s golden hues. The peachy pastures sway with the caresses of the wind. The metallic blue oceans float and sink frequently as fish populate the aquatic void. On a hill with feather-like grass, a boy admires the scene before him. A zephyr of rose-scented air blasts through his cotton clothes and through his bronze hair. He smiles a grin of ivory pearls as the wind blesses his aura with perfumed gusts of air.
“RAYMOND APOLLO COLT! I have been calling you an hour, and I have to march all the way through the fields to bring you all the way back!” The voice had awakened Raymond from his daydream. By the time his mother was before him, he could still feel the remnants of his imagination dancing in his head. His mother had the face of a cherry, but she couldn’t muster any real anger. Her son was the embodiment of light and all that was good. For she had called him ‘Ray’; he was the light of her life.
Before she adopted, she was cursed with barrenness after she attempted to smuggle medicine from a witch doctor’s shop. She almost stole a jar of mermaid tears and a sack of glass eyeballs, but before she could escape, the doctor caught her when she tripped over her untied shoelace and the stolen goods were smashed to pieces. She begged for mercy, but it was no use, for the doctor was already reciting a latin spell to leave the poor woman childless for the rest of her life. It wasn’t until her husband came home from work with a black and blue boy that a missing piece of her life was replaced.
Martha’s son was unlike any other son in the world. As children, most boys reenact war with wooden swords and shields and learn how to tie various knots, but not Raymond. He experienced an odd interest in flowers, especially roses. He would often pick up any and every flower he saw, and admire its beauty for a few seconds. The blood red shade of the blossom, a color similar to Sunday evening wine. The sharp edge of the jade spikes. The fragility of the vulnerable petals. He admired the artistry of nature in a matter of 5 seconds, all while his peers teased and jeered at him. The girls thought he was a homosexual. But Raymond didn’t care. He had all of the earth to explore.
As Ray grew, girls started to take interest in him. In vain attempts, the pig-tailed girls would flirt with him, talk with him, and “inadvertently” pose in suggestive positions, but Ray failed to express any attraction. He didn’t think he was attractive, despite his sculpted face and his concrete muscles. Raymond pays them no mind. He simply continues to collect mason jars to store his assortment of flowers.
When Raymond finally returns home, he meets his father in the warmth of the expanse of their backyard. Trees reach to the sky like outstretched arms. The chef’s once soft eyes are sunken and lined with wrinkles. Hidden scars are peppered all over his body. Little does he know it, but his strongest assets are his hands; years and years of being an axeman hardened the hands that used to knead and bake dough for kings and queens, but times like that seem as if they never happened.
“Is your back giving you trouble again? I’ll go cut some more wood for you, Dad, let me get my gloves.” Ray says as he heads back to their cottage.
“No need, son. Have a seat. We need to talk.” Cullen pats the wood stump beside him and his son takes it eagerly. In his head, millions of ideas swirl around in a mental cyclone. Ray knows his birthday is tomorrow, but in order to make himself ‘unsuspecting’ of the current situation, he keeps a stone face. “As you now, you’re sixteenth birthday is tomorrow, and I just want to tell you how proud your mother and I are.” This confuses Ray, although he still believes that he will get some sort of magnificent gift on his birthday. Whether it be a new cart and horse, a sack of gold, or a trip to the town brothel, Ray mentally practices his ‘surprised’ face when the great reveal will be made.
“I think it’s time we had the talk.” Stated Cullen as he stood, dusting the dirt off of his worn, padded pants. Ray’s cheeks flush red as he hears the words from his father’s mouth. Not only had his birthday dreams been crushed, but he was already comfortable with his body, and he didn’t want to lose that amenity. With a painful smile crawling onto his face, Raymond stood with his father, sweat perspiring from his hands. He was determined to nip it in the bud.
“Dad, I think I know where this is going and I just want to say that I already know.” he stammered. While watching his father in a mixture of nervousness and awkwardness, Ray idly stands while Cullen disappears into the woods, and when he returns with what looks to be a cotton sheath.
Damn. I was just about to get to the good part, too.
I fold the scroll back up as I hear blood curdling screams. I shiver with unbridled disgust.
“What’s the word for that infestation of tiny creatures over there?” I ask as I scrunch my nose up. He sighs while rolling his eyes in a full 360 degree rotation. He points to the mongrels.
“Those are children. That’s a school.” He states calmly, although I sense a hint of aggression in his voice.
“Oh.” I mutter, as if I know what children are. I stare for a long, hard second. Despite the distance between the pests and I, I can sense all of the microscopic bacteria on their hairless, gummy fingertips. I start to ponder whether or not they are brainless, as they scream and yelp uncontrollably. A sharp chill climbs up my back while I contemplate whether or not the children notice Absalom and I standing by what I now know to be a fence.
“Before those mutilated offspring find their way over here and make me regurgitate my breakfast, let us resume the path we ventured previously.” I insist. I watch intently as Absalom eyes the children thoughtfully, then turns to me and nods his head in agreement. But just as I take my first step away, the horror begins.
“Are you giant? ” A high-pitched voice asked. I swiftly look behind me, but I see nothing. Then a cluster of giggles erupt out of nowhere. Now, I was almost certain I could hear the thumping of my heart beat like a drum as it rose to my ears. I swiftly turn around. No one is there, but I begin to sense new company, so I decide to investigate further. I hesitantly lift the sleeve of my cloak to see two little....children.
The heart that was climbing to my head had sunk to my stomach.
With adrenaline pumping through my veins, I lunge behind Absalom for protection as the children break into another fit of uncontrollable chuckles.
“Quick, Absalom. Strike those dolts upon the head immediately!” I scrunch my eyes in expectation, waiting for Absalom to carry out my demands. He doesn’t have to strike them, per se. He can also gut, slice, burn, lacerate, decapitate, or execute in other action involving the termination of these fleshy gremlins.
But he doesn’t move. He doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t even raise his arm in attempt to eliminate the bugs. The only vibrations in his body are the frequent beats of his pulse. I protest as to why he remains motionless and he answers with to most atrocious answer known to man.
“You were a child once.”
It takes a second or two for me process what he means.
“Balderdash! That is the most absurd thing that I’ve ever heard in my lifetime!” While experiencing a rush of negative adrenaline, I come out from behind Absalom just so he can gaze upon my rage instead of hearing it. Even though my melanated skin does not show the blood in my cheeks, I know that it is there. “You mean to tell me that I was once a children?” I can feel my voice strain when I say ‘children’.
Suddenly, a wild and wide grin appears on Absalom’s lips and his eyes crinkle up like stars. Unwanted giggles and guffaws snake out from his mouth and into my ears and those of the children.
“Child is singular. Children is plural.” He chokes out in between chuckles. I can feel the anger lines in my face dissolve and ones of confusion replace them.
This isn’t a time to joke. This is a time to be real.
“Do you really think that I have something in common with those hideous, runny-nosed, sweaty, and diseased creatures? I am Raquel Onyx Blade, daughter of the Obsidian chief, just in case you’ve have forgotten. And I ask not to be associated with these bloody b***ards. My title is too high for that.” As the words spew from my mouth, a flock of ravens find themselves on top of the nearby canopy. All of their beaks are unanimously pointed to Absalom.
I practice what I was taught. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
A pair of shrills scare the birds away. I turn to see tears and snot pouring down the faces of the children. That is when I feel my bile start to rise in my throat, but thankfully, I manage to suppress it. The children run back to their school.
It feels like a boulder has been lifted off of my shoulders. I thought the children would never leave. I can still smell them; their sticky, musty scent still lingers in my nose. But they’re gone now, and that’s all that matters.
Surprisingly, I gingerly saunter from the fence.
“Come on, Abby. Let us resume our quest.” I say as I begin to dig in my cloak pockets. When I finally find the eternity scroll, I find the section where the young prince gets swindled out of a birthday present. “Keep up, Abby. We need to be there by tomorrow night.” I hear his crunchy footstep pick up a bit and the tension in my chest subsides.
“You’re evil.” he says.