Burns and scars deform the boy’s body. Surrounding his being, fire burns viciously, consuming more and more of earth and flesh. Shrieks of dying souls plague the air and enter his body. Salty drops of water streak down his cheeks and his skin peels off of his limbs. Buildings crash to the ground and the sky is blood red. He tries to walk forward, but his foot sinks into something wet and soft. He looks down to see a single torso, with nothing else attached. He had jammed his bare foot right into it, ripping the surface easily. The boy wiggles his toes, feeling the guts and raw meat sliding between them. He lifts his leg slowly, revealing an intestine that has wrapped itself around his toes. The boy stares at the worm-like figure, then proceeds to slowly lift it off and throw it on the ground. It makes a splat noise, but it doesn’t faze him. He continues to stagger on and gaze at the bodies around him. All of them are mutilated and torn apart, mushed together like a horrid red chowder. A head of a young girl hangs off a lamp post by strings of tissue. The smell of iron and burning human blanket the area. He limps by a pile of bodies that’s been eaten with fire. He stops in front of a broken shop.
Inside himself, he didn’t feel any emotion; no grief or sorrow, no madness or anger. The boy looks to his right, seeing a cracked window. His reflection makes his heart hammer, for what he finds is not normal. He finds a grin. The crack on his face widens and his teeth jut out like sharp glass. It separates to show a dark void, nothing but the color black.
“Look at this marvelous show!” A voice echoes out of the cracked glass, ”Isn’t it fun?”
The boy stares at the image, horrified and sickened. The reflection then stretches its mouth and releases a screech that the boy can only recognize as a sadistic laugh.
“What’s going on? Just who the hell are you?!” He shouts, but the image just continues to laugh. The laughter pounds in his ears, forcing him to drop to his knees. For a moment, he was beginning to laugh along with it. The laughing image then begins to fade away, and before he knew it, a black fog has covered the whole area in an instant. The fog is so thick that he couldn't see anything past his hand. He reaches out to feel his way around but nothing was there. He tries calling out for someone but that fails as well. A small light starts to shine behind the boy. As he turns around in hopes to find a way out, the boy quickly becomes petrified in fear. In front of him, a skull made of purple flames, small thorns and a single red eye on its forehead, stares down at him. The flamed skull slowly approaches him with its jaw opening. As much as he wants to run, he couldn't move at all. Move, damn it, move! But it was already too late as the skull engulfs him in its flames.
“Taku...TAKUMI! Wake UP!” Takumi’s eyelids flutter open. All he could see is black, but slowly the figure of a little girl above him unveils. Geez...It was just another nightmare. Takumi places his hand over his head, that makes nine this month.
“Are you okay? You’re really warm and you’re sweating like crazy,” says the young sister as she feels his head.“You’re not getting sick again, are you?”
“I’m okay Michiko, it was just a dream. How are we doing on the firewood?” The boy slowly gets to his feet, lifting his heavy pile of sticks onto his back. He turns to his sibling and stares. Her white dress flutters in the air and his eyes glance down to her cute maroon boots. Along with the beauty mark under her eye, Michiko’s appearance made her irresistible and hard to focus on. Takumi knows this and tries his best to protect his sister at all times. Guys would come to her and girls would envy her, so he always kept tabs on Michiko, his dear sister. Takumi looks down at his outfit and shrugs. He never cared too much about his clothes like other kids his age. He’s wearing a green blazer with a green striped shirt, and a dark brown jacket. It’s the same color as his boots and his hair. Just like any other style, at least it matches.
His sister smiles and follows her big brother’s lead, quickly grabbing her own sticks. The two of them had been looking for wood for their home, since they barely have any left. Firewood is their main source of energy, and knowing this, the two always go looking for it when they can. Other materials like coal or gas are too expensive these days in the human nation.
“I’m all done, I even gathered some flowers, see?” Michiko holds up a few daisies to her brother.
“Great, let’s hurry home. Mom almost has breakfast ready.”
“How do you know?”
“I can smell her biscuits from here. Mmm…I can’t wait!” Takumi licks his lips and starts to sprint towards town, Michiko coming right beside him. As the two of them race through their town with firewood on their backs, they’re greeted by the villagers and neighbors. The young girl laughs and speeds ahead of Takumi. A nun carrying a basket of apples crosses Michiko’s path, crashing into her.
"Owww!!" Michiko stumbles onto her bottom with red fruit flying everywhere.
"Oh dear, are you okay Michiko?" The nun immediately kneels down to her.
"Yes, I'm fine. Sorry Sister Abby, I didn't see you coming.” The girl smiles. Sister Abby is one of her favorite people to be with, except her family of course. Her bright green eyes and lovely complexion is something Michiko always envied. She also gives the best advice, in Michiko’s mind. While she’s talks to the Sister, Takumi finally manages to catch up. Seeing his sister on the ground, he quickly rushes to her side.
"Michiko! Are you ok? Are you hurt? Is anything broken? Who did this to you?" The boy sputters his words in a worried tone. Michiko, with a calm look, places her hand on his shoulder and whispers something in his ear. The brother hears her and stops panicking. "Okay, you're fine." Takumi faces the kind nun. "We're really sorry about this Sister Abby. We’ll help clean this mess."
"Why thank you.” The three bend down to pick up their belongings. Takumi pauses in the middle of picking apples, and surveys the buildings around him. People laughed, talked, sold things and shared experiences. He couldn’t imagine living anywhere else and being happier.
Takumi was born and raised in Odin Town. It's nothing more than a small marketing town; which makes money off of selling good quality food, weapons and supplies to wandering travelers, cities and other villages over the years. Odin Town then grew larger and larger, becoming one of the richest cities in Ergona. It even has its own military outpost, magic guild and town hall. The town prospers like this because of the peace treaty that was made with the Human Nation of Ergona and the nearby nations. Many towns had time to flourish and become very successful because of this treaty.
"And that's the last of them," Takumi hands the basket of apples over to Sister Abby.
"Thank you both for your help, but I must ask, why were you two in such a rush?" The siblings look Sister Abby, dumbfounded. Then they both take a deep breath and-
"IT’S BREAKFAST, THE BEST TIME OF THE DAY!" They scream. Sister Abby takes a step, holding onto her head piece.
"Okay okay, I get it.” She lightly chuckles at the energetic kids. “Hmm, since you both have been so helpful, you both should stop by the orphanage today. I'm making pies for the festival and you two can sample them if you would like."
"Can I help Sister Abby?"As she raises her hand, Michiko’s eyes sparkle with excitement.
Sister Abby hesitates to answer. She has worked with Michiko many times, and well, she isn’t the best helper in the world. Dropping hot peppers in the Christmas gingerbreads, slipping sour milk into the Harvest Festivals meal, she even pushed a whole bag of wheat into the Orphan Valentine chocolates. Many people now approach Sister Abby’s meals with caution, asking for a sample before buying anything. The nun looks at the young girl, seeing the happiness in her face. She sighs, "Of course you can Michiko. Why, with your help we might be done before sundown." The kind nun gives the kids each an apple before waving goodbye at the two. “I’ll see you guys later.”
“Bye, and thank you for the apples!” The two shout back.
"I think we should go before Dad eats all the biscuits again." Takumi begins to pull his little sister away with him.
The two siblings steadily make their way through the fields. From the corner of his eye, Takumi realizes that his sister has been oddly watching him eat his apple for a while. His sister finally speaks up,