RULE 01: IF YOU CROSS THE BORDER, YOU ARE AS GOOD AS DEAD
✷ P R O L O G U E ✷
The wind was howling, coming alive as a storm brewed in the near distance. Rain danced off the tin roof above, a soft pitter-patter echoing throughout my small room.
I pulled my bedsheets closer to my body, trying to trap my body heat inside the cacoon I made for myself. Summer was starting to fade into fall, and I was trying to savor the time before the weather got too harsh, forcing me to sleep near our wood-burning fireplace downstairs.
Without working electricity, it was only a matter of days before I'd have to share the living room with both Ma and Pa. It happened every year at this time, and each year, I always tried to trick myself into thinking I could stay in my room year round. My body was no match for the unrelenting winter, though.
It was a small price to pay for living inside the border, inside the Borderlands. We may may not have all the luxuries of the outside world, but we did have protection from the beasts that lurked outside.
A small price to pay.
Closing my eyes, I let out a sigh of contentment, ready for the roaring wind to lull me to sleep as if it were my personal lullaby.
While commotion continued to stir outside, it was deadly quiet inside. Odd, I thought to myself. I could usually count on the muffled voices of my arguing parents to drone me off to sleep. They always waited till they thought I was asleep to fight, but I never failed to hear them bickering like clockwork.
Maybe things were getting better, I thought wishfully to myself, as sleep started to take over.
A loud crack of thunder jolted me wide awake. I could tell by the lack of light streaming through my window that early evening had turned into the dead of night.
Exhaling deeply, I sat up in my small bed, making sure not to disturb the intricate placing of the blankets surrounding me. Rubbing the sleep away, my eyes were mesmerized by the flashing lightening in the distance.
The front door was forced shut with enough force to shake my room. I gulped nervously. Ma and Pa were never awake this late, and they had no reason to be out. I knew no beast could get inside the Borderlands, but my heart wouldn't stop beating in fear.
What if they had gotten in?
I had heard the stories Pa would tell me around the dim light of our fireplace. The stories about how humans used to live a peaceful existence, but then they decided to reveal themselves and everything changed. A small collect few were lucky enough to find aid with a coven of powerful witches, who protected the borderlands from those beats.
They hadn't yet penetrated the boarder, but we were prepared for the day when they would — or so I had thought.
Surely the beats of the night wouldn't come to my house, I tried to reassure myself. We were just a working class family. Pa a blacksmith and Ma a herbal nurse — couldn't get anymore ordinary.
Feet marched up the stairs up the stairs, competing alongside the relentless thunder above. The steps creaked eerily with each step closer to my room, my anxiety increasing.
I hoped Ma and Pa were okay.
Shaking slightly, I braced myself for the worst. Don't be deceived by them, Pa had instilled in me, to be friendly with a beast is to be friendly with the devil himself. The biggest mistake is to humanize them, because, while they may appear human to us, they are the furthest thing from human — they are monsters. Sage, promise me you won't ever forget that.
I wouldn't forget that, even if, with each bated breath, I grew more scared.
My door burst open, scretching at the fraying hinges. There, in my dark doorway, stood a bulky figure.
"Sage," the figure spoke, coming closer.
It was just Pa. An audible sigh left my lips, as the shaky tone of his voice went right over my head.
It was just Pa.
Rain coated Pa, little droplets falling from his overgrown hair. Ma had been so busy at work these past few weeks that she hadn't had the time to trim his hair.
As Pa grew nearer, I could see his eyes dilated in fear. I longed to paint his expression. His eyes reminded me of the stray cats that riddle the Borderlands, eyes so big and alert when you tried to go anywhere near them.
I'd never seen my strong Pa so scared before.
Engulfing me in a soul crushing hug, Pa matched my sigh of relief. He seemed to be unaware of how wet he was, and how wet he was getting me and my bed. Ma would get furious at him. She hated doing laundry.
"Oh, Sage, I'm so happy you're alright," Pa confessed, not letting go of his iron hold. "Ma is gone, and I feared the same had happened to you."
"Gone?" I could barely whisper a response.
"She was dragged over the Boarder."
Ma was as good as dead.
STARTED: AUGUST 6, 2020