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The Endless Game
I had ghosted through the tunnels like a deadly plaque. None of the barbarian-like guards saw me, and if they did they did not see for long. My sword was like Death's whip, it hissed and cracked across mens' throats and made their blood burst like red poppy flowers. My foot would overturn a pebble and a man would die. Torches on the walls were not guides, they were beacons for me to fly to them like a moth and extinguish whatever lives were there. I had no sense of time beyond the span of seconds that it took for me to jump from one kill to the next.
Then, I was at the end of the tunnel. Blood was behind me for as far as the eye could see, and in front of me was a steel door. It was a perfect square, shiny despite the lack of light, and it was so flawless that I couldn't help but take my sword and nick its edge as I passed through the door. I heard it shut behind me with a hiss, a whisper, and all at once the metal turned cold. It felt like the gates of a prison, as cold as a dead man's beating heart, as stiff as a lover's arching back. I pried my fingers from the door before they too froze in darkness.
The way was dark at first but I knew the way. Soon the earth cave became a walled hall, and then there was another door, this one made of wood. Oak, or pine. It didn't matter, both were easy to burn. But I decided against using fire and breathed the door open. There were voices on the other side, but I did not hesitate. As soon as the door was but half an inch open I slipped through the opening and closed the door with an exhale.
Somewhere beyond my being a clock struck high noon.
I was on a walkway that ringed a square courtyard. After the darkness of the cavern, my eyes burned from the light and the green and the life. There were three men in the courtyard but they did not turn. They couldn't know I was there.
My steps went unheard by them even when I tried my hardest to be heard. I was on the right side of the courtyard in a blink of an eye and had crouched next to a collection of ceramic pots and porcelain pitchers in a bee's breath. I did not know what to look for or what to take, but I realized that my hands were picking up small pieces of paper and putting them into a jar. They looked like recipes but I could not be sure. There were always new ones to take, always o few in the jar.
Suddenly a voice cut into me. One of the men told his companions, "One moment." I turned around ever so slightly and I saw him coming towards me. He was handsome, with blond hair, and he was tall and well-built. I was afraid of him suddenly, and I hurried to fill my jar that refused to fill. The paper was like birds, they flew away as quick as butterflies. And I knew I should run but I couldn't, because my jar was not yet filled.
Then I was lifted into the air. I struggled, but then he pinned my left arm behind my back as if to break it, and he held the right arm at the elbow joint. The jar was gone, I didn't know where it had gone, and I was hopeless.
"I have guards posted all around the palace, both above and below," he hissed in my ear. His breath was hot against my neck and I felt a sudden urge in my core. I resisted the compulsion to turn around and kiss him. He continued, "So tell me," his hand began to feel around my hips and my legs for a sword or dagger, "how can a little girl like you always make it past them?"
The other two men had left, perhaps to try and find out how I had gotten in. I did not speak, I couldn't. For he could only see me as the little girl that I appeared to be, nothing more, and if I spoke he would know me for who I was, and am. The jar was gone, my sword had gone with it, and I was a petty thief once more.
It had become a game, you see, a game of dancing shadows and flickering lights. Blood was spilled but it was not his nor mine, so a game it remained. Every time he would post guards, and every time a line of those guards were dead. Every time I would take the paper and every time I would be caught. Every time, he would question me before I would get away.
At least, that's what it felt like to me. I had never remembered any of this, and yet I feel as if this game is normal, as if it has always happened, as if this game is the only thing that mattered. This man was always the same, as was I, and the cavern, and even the two men that will be welcomed by cooling blood in the earth.
I broke away from the man, as if he had let me go, and burst through a window. The world outside was open, and I had wings with which to fly.
With one great leap, I was