The blood in her hands is not hers. Her head throbs in pain as she desperately tries to remember what she is fighting for.
She could feel its menacing presence behind her. She clenches her ax with one hand while slowly tracing the engraved words on it with the other. The umber-brown forest is so still, watching as if with bated breath.
She sees the smoke the creature makes in the chilly night. It mixes with the woody incense of snapping branches spread on the forest floor. It's too close, more than she could take. She takes cover behind a tree. She can feel the adrenaline rushing through her veins as she waits. The edge of her ax glints in the evening light.
She ducks as a wild arc of claws comes toward her. The tree in front of her explodes into pieces. Extending her arms back, she grazes the creature's torso. She thrusts her ax deeper before darting to the side, just as its enormous claws close in, aiming for her head. Grabbing the ax again, she positions to attack from the back, but it suddenly turns and, in a sickening squelch, her ax hits its shoulder instead. It roars in anger, and the stench of its breath almost chokes her. She gets distracted for a moment as the beast's enormous claws slice through her skin; the force sends her flying to the nearest tree.
She may have broken a rib.
Paralyzed by the pain, her mouth opens in a silent scream. Tears gather in her eyes as she wheezes out a cough. Panic overwhelms her as she watches the creature moving closer and closer. The growl reverberating from deep within its chest makes her shiver. From where she lay, she searches the ground for her ax. Getting hold of it, she tossed it blindly into the darkness.
The creature flicks it away like an annoying insect. Suddenly, all nine feet of its enormous body are up in the air, having pushed itself off the ground.
The rustling of the trees fills her ears and the howl of the wind screams at her. It's as if the forest is trying to warn her.
She looks at her right arm, the fabric of her sleeve in shreds, and her blood, the same color as her crimson hair and hooded cloak - stains the ground beneath her. Darkness tries to pull her under. She blinks. The evening breeze is damp and chilly, but she can feel the sweat on her eyelids.
Suddenly, it's right in front of her. Crouching. It bares its razor-sharp teeth with a wide grin as if mocking her.
"What big teeth you have!", she exclaims.
The beast comes closer right to her face with a vicious growl and as its saliva drips over her, it whispers,
"The better to eat you with, my dear!"
She shuts her eyes tight as she can and -
Someone clears her throat.
"Liez, are you alright?"
Liez slowly opens her eyes and loosens her grip on the mop she is holding. Her imagination is running a bit too wild again.
"Liza Robinson dear, is there something wrong?"
Miss Ruth Gilmore, the orphanage's head matron, is holding the book, The Little Red Riding Hood, in her hands whilst looking at Liez expectantly. She and the entire room of kids who were listening to the story, at least.
"Oh, d-don't mind me, Miss Ruth. I just got a bit spaced out, um, there...but I'm all good. I just dropped by to, um... get this mop!"
"Ah, but you do look a bit pale. Do you want to see the nurse, Liez?"
Liez looks around the room and sees the little kids already chatting, their attention has moved on to trivial things. Miss Ruth, though, stares at her with concern in her eyes.
Liez could barely look up at her in embarrassment. Trying to maintain her composure, she clears her throat,
"Err, not the nurse, I'm okay really....thanks."
"Alright, dear. Take care of yourself, okay?"
"Yes Miss Ruth, I will..."
"I'll save you, Little Red, and kill that bad wolf with my mighty sword! Rah!", shouts the cheeky six-year-old Paul as he makes his third lap around the room with his paper sword.
She lets go of the mop to catch him just in time and sits him down with the other toddlers in the room.
"...And so Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood lived happily ever after, with their bunch of muffins, of course!"
Miss Ruth closes the book, signaling the end of the afternoon story-telling time.
"Speaking of muffins....snack time!"
Liez turns her attention to the figure by the door nearby, her cheeks turning slightly pinkish. Archer, an orphan about her age, walks into the room with snacks for the kids, dark-rimmed glasses perched on an imperious nose. His brown hair is a casual jumble as if he isn't bothered with it at all.
"Ah Archer, thanks for bringing that in!", cheers Miss Ruth.
Liez awkwardly reaches out to receive the snack tray from Archer and passes it on to Miss Ruth. He didn't really notice her at all, though. She shrugged. She is used to it by now. No boy in his right eyesight would pay her any attention. Not even Archer with his corrective eyeglasses. Seeing that Miss Ruth and Archer have already gotten busy with the kids swarming on the snacks, Liez quickly grabs the mop and hightails out of the room, avoiding eye contact with the people around her.
Despite growing up at Littlewood Orphan Home and knowing all the other kids, Liez never let them get too close to her. An introvert, she prefers keeping to herself. She's always been a lone wolf in that sense.
Growing up in an orphanage all your life kind of messes you up a bit. It has with Liez, at least. She gets bullied by other kids once in a while and having no one to turn to at that exact moment makes it more difficult. Other times, she feels taken for granted, like she doesn't exist. But despite it all, Littlewood is the only place she can ever call home.
And it would have been unbearable if it were not for Miss Ruth. She has been the lighthouse amidst the many storms that Liez has been through. Miss Ruth is very good at handling the pettiest arguments up to the biggest fights. She has the patience of a saint and a heart as big as the ocean. Everybody respects her not because she demands it, but because she simply deserves it.
And there's Valerie too. The only kid that has not really poked fun at her. In fact, Valerie has been kind to her and has always been a good friend.
As Liez would sit on the attic windowsill where she frequents, she would wonder what it'd be like to live outside these walls. Would it be any different at all? She will turn eighteen soon and they were told that orphans of that age will be sent to another institution where they will be trained with real life skills. Liez cares less about it, though.
She hopes that someone is waiting for her out there. Somehow, one way or the other.
© 2022 C.J. Gracie Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
Comments (0)See all