Oath Of God
Tuari reached out with a hand that was more bone than flesh, bloodied and scorched, the skeletal claw tried to catch her, to hold her back, tried to trap her. Kama recoiled from the blacksmith’s attempt to grab her skirts as she fled, leaving Tuari sprawled on the burnt earth of their village, steaming guts piled next to his body. He cried out after her with the last dying croak of his breath. Kama didn’t stop.
Dragging in a shuddering breath, Kama stumbled, tripping over her too large clogs in an attempt to leave behind the horror of those bright red flames, charring timbers of the old cottage to black stubs, like rotting teeth, like…Kama staggered, almost fell…Don’t think of that, she whimpered, don’t think!
Clutching her left arm to her chest, Kama bit her lower lip, trying not to cry at the hot pain throbbing through her burnt skin. Trying not to let the memory of those screams drown her. Trying not to think.
Mama said go! Kama swallowed the sobs trying to suffocate her like the billowing black smoke that blotted out the sky. She scrubbed at her face with the long sleeve of her blouse. Nearly cried again.
There would be no more second hand clothes. How she’d hated that. Never having anything new, but now, she’d gladly wear a sack, just to see Ali, or Papa, even Tuari.
She ran. She ran because Mama said to. She ran because she didn’t know what else to do.
Kama stumbled along winding streets she knew from running them only a few days ago, laughing, playing, being a little girl, paper bag of hard candies clutched in hand, while she danced and laughed and played, made faces at Ali who flounced along in her new blue dress…Kama faltered…Image of Ali still wearing that dress, neck twisted, eyes staring, face scorched, blood, blood everywhere.
Her chest hurt, her eyes burned, and still she ran. Kama kept on running until the air cleared. She didn’t stop, even when the packed earth of the village turned to grass that wet her ankles and the hem of her skirt. Kama didn’t look back at her home. She couldn’t. Wouldn’t. They’d get her. Hurt her.
The soft green under her clogs turned brown. Hard. Lifeless. Stone. Pebbles. Strewn bits of broken pottery or bone turned white by time and sunlight. Kama slowed. Then stopped altogether.
Jagged rocks thrust up out of the gravel like weathered spears, rusted, leaking tears of blood that ran down the dull brown stones. She must have run further than she thought, or knew.
Wrinkling her nose, Kama lifted her good arm and held her ragged sleeve up to her mouth. It was odd. The smell. Like spilt oil. Not the sort for cooking, but the kind used by…She gasped and froze like an animal caught beneath the hunter’s bow. Her heart thudded against her ribcage, fighting to escape the body it knew was about to die. She knew she should run. Mama said, go, live, save yourself, but, she couldn’t, couldn’t move, even breath, couldn’t think. There was nothing else, nothing she could…
The clank of metal and screech of cogs squealed protest as her killer turned to regard it’s prey with a deep green stare like a forest pool dappled with autumn leaves, turned copper and bronze.
This was a thing, built, not born. It’s outer casing of aged steel was dented, scratched, even melted in places, one massive hind leg was shattered completely. Not that it stopped the thing from moving.
It was massive. A demon of myth. It couldn’t be real. It was just one of those stories told to frighten naughty children, or morbidly delight those who loved such tales. Dragons weren’t even real.
She wanted to scream. To rage. Fill this creature with the same fear that burnt inside her.
Nothing came out. She stood and stared. The impossible stared back.
It watched her. Maybe it was disappointed in how small it’s meal was. She didn’t know. Didn’t care.
It was over. Mama fought so hard to save her. Turned into a living candle of melting flesh, gaping mouth shrieking, screaming, ‘Get out! Get out!’ Until her lungs burned. All for nothing.
The thing made of metal and gears lifted it’s great head…a voice boomed from it’s sharply studded maw…’Do you know what sulks in the green, child?’
Kama’s eyes rolled back in her skull as if those words sucked the last of her strength. She fell, fell into a world of silence and darkness, of nothing and nowhere. She was alone. And the child wept.
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