In the beginning, there were two.
In the end, there were none.
“It’s too damn bright.”
The sun shone through like a golden necklace against the trees’ pine edges, grazing against the forest’s leafy dome. It broke through the atmosphere of the world as it tore away until it could shatter across the land to give light and warmth to all those who desired it, yet there were always those that didn’t want it. There were those who cast it away. They dwelled within the cold dark nights and graced in their own inner demons.
On the edge of the rough forest, near the city’s border, was a twenty six year old man named Zane sitting in the grass. His legs were sprawled out in front of him as he held a pan with venison contents over a red fire. The man had a dark, olive tone that brushed his skin and silver hair that dripped down to his chin in an unruly manner with a small braid below his left ear that fell to his shoulder. His eyes were a shade of brown that was as light as bread though the clothes he bore were much darker. The shirt that clung to his body to show his broad chest and shoulders held a dark brown tone. His baggy pants that dropped to his boots were no exception, being as close to black as they could be.
Despite the beauty of the nature that surrounded his lonely soul, a dull glaze tinted over his eyes whenever he looked away from the food and at his surroundings. Cooking the meat seemed to be the only thing that interested the man, the only thing that could free him from a savage world.
As the sizzling from the pan seemed to end in a halt, the man reached over with a spatula and dug it under the meat’s flesh, flipping it over to reveal its newly browned side. Though the aroma that cloaked the atmosphere around him already had given the forest a ravenous smell, a new, delicious aroma seeped in becoming stronger and stronger until Zane could hear his own stomach growl.
Rudely, his stomach was cut off by the sounds of men yelling.
Screams and yells formed by rage and anger echoed throughout the forest, jumping from trunk to trunk until anybody near could hear it. The man in the grass stayed in his place, calmly listening to their cries of frustration though their words were inaudible. Whether they were a threat or not, the man didn’t know, but his curiousity outweighed his self-preservation. He rarely saw many strangers occupying the forest.
Except for a few, hardly any humans would enter the forest, especially in broad daylight. Most were fearful of the forests because they were where the most dangerous creatures of all lived, witches. Witches were like humans but there was something different about them. Unlike humans, witches had special abilities, magic to some, that allowed them to control the world around them. They were able to manipulate and bend the impossible until they formed the possible. Fortunately, they are unable to learn any more magic. They are born with one ability and stuck with it for the rest of their lives but they could always expand it, always evolve.
Because of the threat they posed, humans were wary of the witches and kept them at bay. They separated their lands to be distant from the witches, making it illegal for the witches to cross over without a pass. Passes were mainly given out to the merchant witches that would travel across the lands to sell goods. Yet after some time, even they weren’t allowed through. The humans were still able to pass through to the witch land though and kept taking more and more of their land. Not long after, the witches fell into a famine and the only way to get food was through the human exporters who charged an enormous amount of money for it. Eventually, fed up with it, the witches attacked a merchant unprovoked and started the Great War.
The witches were clearly stronger with their inhuman abilities, but the humans outnumbered them, and their technology was more advanced, leaving the two groups of people matched. Finally, the Witch Queen and the Human King concluded that the only winner of the war would be death. They decided to create a peace treaty allowing witches and humans to live amongst each other…ending the ten-year war.
The treaty was a promise of peace but in truth, the world was full of broken promises. Since the humans had already made their cities on fertile land, the witches migrated towards the cities. Humans still outnumbered the witches and they still believed them to be inferior and dangerous. Because of their fear and hatred, they treated the witches differently. They would remind them of the danger they posed and deny them the same privileges as the humans. And in seeing their mistreatment, the witches soon fled into the forests or they turned to crime. Many stayed in the cities, unable to leave their new homes or simply too scared. The other’s, the witches that fled, created clans. These clans contained the runaway witches and allowed them to all live together in the forest without the fear of humans.
In the cities, the witches were outnumbered, but in the forests, the humans lost their advantage. And as the control of power shifted over, the humans disliked their odds, so they stayed away from the forests. Of course, there were those few that didn’t and thanks to his times of coming into the forest, the man was able to narrow down the most likely people to come into categories. The first category consisted of hunters. For those that didn’t own animal farms or wished for more exotic meat, they would come into the forest to hunt the wildlife that roamed through. The hunters were the most skilled and the most equipped of the categories to come into the forest. However, these men yelling as they tore through the bushes, making sure every animal knew of their presence, did not seem like hunters to him.
The second category was the foreigners. These people were those from another country, either as tourists or new immigrants. They were able to live a lifestyle different from their own, they didn’t know the threat that the forest contained. Other countries had different treatments of witches. In some countries, the witches were in charge. The noisy men had no accents, and their words were native, he didn’t believe they were foreigners.
Then there was the third category, the drunks. Too incapable to think straight, drunks would regularly come into the forest. They knew full well about the dangers but were too incapacitated to really care about them. Sometimes they would show off and risk their lives doing so. It took the man a minute to try and decipher the alcohol in their voices but after enough time, he was able to put the group of men into the drunken category. They weren’t too drunk to pass out and become a feast for those that terrorized the forest, but they were enough to be willing to come in.
As Zane decided to ponder the different options of why they could be mad, something else came to distract him.
Mumbling, mumbling filled with cusses, echoed from the forest and complained about how the ‘idiots’ weren’t supposed to follow them there. Typically, the man wouldn’t have been too worried by a voice, but the sound was a lot closer than he would’ve liked.
Carefully, he moved his hand to the hilt of his sword, ready for danger but not hoping for it. Fighting was his past; he didn’t want it to be his present.
He watched as a woman emerged through the trees, his fingers hovering around his hilt. She was the strangest looking woman he had ever seen but gorgeous. Horrifyingly gorgeous was the best way to put it. She was skinny and small but still a bit roughed up. Long purple hair dripped down to her lower back and bangs that fell to her chin but was pushed to the side to only hide the left half. Yet the right half of her face didn’t seem any less normal than what the left could have been. On her visible cheek were three, black swirls printed to form a triangle. At first, the man believed them to have been tattoos but as he stared at them, he started to consider that they may have been scars. Burn scars perhaps. Still, that wasn’t the weirdest thing about her.
Her eyes were terrifying with an allure the man had never felt before. The irises were a light purple with a darker shade outlying the edge and tints of almost silver dazzling its sides but inside of them was something odd. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t quite usual either. Instead of the typical black pupils, hers were white. At first, he didn’t think she had any pupils, but he deemed that to be ridiculous and threw the thought away, concluding that they were just white instead.
Despite her bizarre appearance, the man didn’t exactly view her as a threat but that didn’t mean he disregarded her either. Sometimes those that seemed the weakest were strong enough to tear the world into two.
The girl ran forward, not exactly noticing the man sitting there as she looked back into the forest to make sure she wasn’t being followed. With her attention drawn from what she was doing, her foot wedged itself underneath a tree’s root and her body went flying forward. She put her arms in front of herself as she braced for impact until she crashed forward, landing only inches before the fire. Dirt and branches jumped at the abrupt attack of her body crashing into her own home place but when the shock subsided and she realized what had happened, the girl didn’t seem to mind at all.
When she glanced up, her snow pupils fixated on the man showing that it was clearly the first time she noticed him. Still, she didn’t react how most would. She didn’t seem shocked or surprised at the man’s unexpected appearance, instead she put her finger to her mouth as if telling him not to speak. If her action wasn’t so odd, he may have questioned it, betraying what she told him, but the man only stared at her.
Deciding that was enough for her to work with, something befitting the bizarre encounter happened.
Like dust swept away from a single brush of wind, the girl vanished into thin air.
The man opened his mouth to speak but his brown orbs fixated on something else and he soon realized it wasn’t just the girl who had vanished.
When his eyes moved over to where his arm was once holding the pan, he saw that there was nothing anymore even though he never moved his arm. Cautiously, his gaze moved down to view his chest only to find that, like his arm, there was nothing there. Visibly, his body was no longer where it was supposed to be. His body was gone. It was as if he had become nothing to the world. His existence had faded once again.
Yet Zane didn’t have a lot of time to react nor acknowledge what was really going on as the rowdy group of men he had heard earlier finally revealed themselves. There was nothing special about these men, most of them looked like peasants without much while only a few looked like they might possess a decent job. There was nothing new about them. In the end, most people in the kingdom ended up like that anyways.
“Where is that bitch?” One of the drunken men slurred as the group stopped. Their eyes roamed through the forest’s small clearing, one noticing the lonesome fire, but no one questioned it. Either they were too drunk to believe a fire without an occupant was important or they were too distracted to care about it.
Each man’s gaze moved around, quickly examining the area, but never meeting the man’s own gaze. Their eyes never touched him except for when they were skimming the clearing. Soon, when they decided what they wanted wasn’t there, they moved on. They kept going, pummeling through the forest to search for their target. There was some talk amongst them as they moved away from the campfire but none of them showed any signs of acknowledging the silver-haired man’s presence.
The man was gone.
Zane felt himself lean backwards but he wasn’t sure if he was even doing anything. His movements though, he could feel his movements and even feel the tree pressed against his back. He could hear the movements he made as the crushed leaves coiled into the ground. He just couldn’t see himself.
It was as if he was invisible.
While believing he was frowning, he pulled his arm back and noticed that the pan was gone as well but he could still feel it in his grip. He placed the pan beside him, or hoped that he did, before putting his hand in front of his line of sight. The man stretched out his fingers, wiggling them a bit like they were worms, to see if there was any hint of movement but he found none. There was no absence of a shadow, no unnecessary highlight, there was nothing that gave him any hint that his hand was even there except that he could feel it.
And yet, within a blink of an eye, everything was back. All the colour that made him stand out from the forest green, his form, the shadows clinging to his body as the trees blocked the sun, everything was there. It had all returned as if it never even left.
to be continued