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Sleep Well, My Angel
I lay on the cold, hard ground, shivering from the bitter wind that beat at my body. My clothes, caked with blood and dirt, hung about my bony frame. The once-majestic black wings that grew from my shoulder blades were in tatters. Glossy ebony feathers drifted away on the wind. Seeking whatever warmth I could draw out, I huddled closer to the ground. Agony seared through my aching bones as a great gust of cold air tore at my shredded wings. Screams erupted from my mouth. New tears cascaded down my face, following the trails of tears I’d already cried.
“Why?!” I screamed, “Why me!?”
No one answered. There’s no one there to hear me, to see my pain and take it away.
“What have I done to deserve this?!” I cried out, desperately hoping for an answer.
But there was none to be heard.
My body shook with sobs as despair overtook me. Terror wrapped its icy claws around my broken heart. Would the pain ever cease? Would the fear ever disappear? Would I ever be whole again? I didn’t think so. I couldn’t see how. The same fist that had beaten me down had crushed the hope that I could ever be healed. Why bother living if it was just to be in pain? What good did it do?
I lay there, sobbing, willing myself to stop breathing, to end the pain. There was nothing left in me that cared enough to try anymore. I waited for the darkness creeping at the edges of my vision to overtake me.
And then I heard the crackle of footsteps on dry ground. At first, I was surprised to hear anything over the howling wind that pounded in my ears. Then I was curious, wondering who would be walking in this wasteland. And then, in the very corner of my broken heart, the tiny flame of hope flared back to life. Right away, it was doused as I though back to what the man had said, how I was nothing and not worth helping.
I screamed when the hand touched me, partly in surprise and partly due to the pure agony the touch brought me. It was too good, too pure. This person should not be reaching out to someone like me, a broken doll left for the garbage.
“Child, what happened?” a voice whispered, deep and caring.
Crying harder, I turned away from the voice, not wanting to speak, to spill my horrible tale.
“Shh, child,” the voice croons, “You don’t have to tell me.” Instant relief. “I already know.” Never mind.
The never-ending tears soaked the thirsty ground pressed against my face. Carefully, the speaker slid his arms under my shoulders and around my lower back. He held me in his embrace, cradling my head against his collarbone yet keeping my feet off the ground. After the initial wave of pain, leaning against him was quite comforting. His warmth seeped in my weary, broken bones, spreading throughout my entire body. His soft whispers wafted into my ears, distracting me, calming me.
“It’s alright, dear heart, don’t be frightened,” he said quietly, “I’m here, I’ve got you.”
Those words, the words I didn’t expect to hear, those words sunk through my skin to my very soul and like a summer rain washed away the guilt and worry and pain. Every piece of my broken heart was put back in its place. I shivered as he ran his fingers gently over my shredded wings and felt the bones shift back into place. Shaking my shoulders slightly, I heard the rustle of each feather as it grew back and filled each empty space.
My savior turned me around so I was facing him. His dark green eyes met mine. He seemed to be looking straight into my soul. “Now, child, are you feeling better?” I nodded. “Good.” He stepped back, allowing me room to stretch out my wings.
“Child, do you think you could do something for me?” he asked. I nodded again. Of course I could. This man just saved my life! He smiled. “I need you to deliver a message.”
I looked at him quizzically. A message? What kind of message? As if reading my thoughts he said, “I need you to go and tell people your story.” What?!
Instantly I was sucked back into those horrible memories filled with pain and hopelessness. That sinister chuckle still echoed in my mind from that tall figure that crept at the back of my mind. Why would my savior want that story told? It would just cause nightmares, paranoia…
“It would serve as a warning. People could learn to watch for that man that terrifies you so. You were not his only prey, dear heart. He has preyed on many for far longer than you have ever breathed.”
I shivered. Of course I wasn’t the Shadow Man’s only victim. He’s timeless, a great and terrible creature whose beautiful appearance has deceived many before me. But I though I was stronger; I was wrong. Even I could lose everything. He stole it all: my family, my home, my life.
Gazing up at my rescuer, I saw in his warm emerald eyes all the strength I need. He held out his hand and I took it, accepting the task he asked of me.
“I will be with you every step of the way, my angel. You shall have nothing to fear.”
I nodded. Reaching out, he touched his fingers to my eyes, causing the lids to drift shut.
“Sleep well, my angel.”
A sudden feeling of peace swept over me and I felt like I was falling. My heart pounded in my head and then all was still. Blinking, I slowly opened my eyes to find myself staring up at the bright white ceiling of a hospital room. Someone close by started shouting.
“She’s awake! Come quick! She’s back!”
I felt hands brushing across my arm and forehead and a familiar face appeared in my vision. A huge grin was painted across its face and bright blue eyes sparkled with excitement. My heart lifted as I realized I was looking back at my mother for the first time in the two months. Two months since the Shadow Man came into my life and took everything, even my consciousness, from me. I was back.
And I had a mission.