A Mother's Love
A lovely, haunting hum. Whispering a song within the winds. Her voice called to him in the night. It drained the blood from his face, a chill slithering up his spine. He felt himself moving toward the sound of her voice, before he even knew he was on his feet. A woman standing in the dark, her long white hair like silk; draped down her slender body. Ethereal, beautiful, dangerous. His feet moved on his own, the hum enchanting his mind. Her hand stretched out for his, their fingers nearly touching. He could almost feel the cool chill of her pale flesh.
“Come to me.”
Roh gasped, lurching up from his slumber. His head throbbed, and he reached for his forehead to sooth the pain. He was back home, laying on the floor of his room. Sister resting peacefully just a few feet away with his mother next to her.
‘What was that…?’ He thought to himself. The Lady’s face was already fading from his mind, her long white hair nothing more than smoke swept away by the gentle wind. Soon he could hardly remember the dream at all.
Roh brushed the sweat from his brow. Pushing the dirty blankets aside, he made his way to the window. He stared into the darkness, pressing his nose to the glass and peering outside.
A smile touched his lips, Roh always loved the dark. There was no pressure to put on a brave face when no one could see you. It was the only chance he got to truly be alone. He glanced back to his mother and little sister, he wondered if she would enjoy these walks when she was old enough. The thought warmed his heart.
Pushing open the window, the young boy hopped down from the ledge. He sucked in the crispy cold air, letting it out with a pleased sigh. His breath visible in the wind for a brief moment; freedom. Roh loved his family, but he rarely got a moment to himself. They lived in a small home with but a single room for the three of them. This was his time to be alone with his thoughts, though mostly he enjoyed exploring the forest near their home - and playing along the river.
The forest was silent, and beautiful. Nothing but the whispers of nature and the trickle of the river nearby. For Roh, this was peace. Nothing calmed him more than being here. ‘Home’. He wished to take his sister here one day, to show her a life outside of poverty, starvation, and struggle.
He could hear the river in the distance, the sound growing as he trudged his way through the tangled forest. His mind trickled back to the dream he had, the sound of The Lady’s voice; humming through his mind. A sickly sweet lullaby. He felt it again, a presence drawing him close. It was as if something was swirling around him within the air. Reaching out to him.
Then he heard it, a gentle hum cutting through the whispers of the forest. It was her voice, The Lady in his dreams. He scanned the woods around him but saw nothing; he was alone. His eyes drifted toward the sound of the river, and before he knew it his feet were carrying him there. Drawn to the sound of water and the beautiful lullaby.
Gentle, soothing. Her voice ebbed through the air; though soft, it felt powerful. Roh could feel his heart thumping within his chest, his mind urging him to go back; but he couldn’t stop himself. With each step the rumble of the river grew stronger; as did The Lady’s song. He pushed past trees, his pace picking up now. Her voice drawing him in like a spell over his mind.
A hum filled his mind; not The Lady’s song, but something else. He could not place it. A whisper in his ear, but he could not make out the words. Roh paused; the whisper tugging his focus away, for just a moment.
The Lady’s hums had faded, even the rumble of the river was gone. There was nothing but himself. No trees, no wind, not even the grass beneath him. Everything was dark.
He snapped back to reality. Just as quickly as the strange feeling had washed over him, he was back in the forest. He sucked in a sharp breath, his head turning quickly back toward the river–
A woman, with long white hair stood at the river’s edge. Long white robes draping over her slender frame like silk. Roh felt his heart beat heavily in his chest; faster. Fear overwhelmed him, he began to see darkness. Slowly, she turned. Her icy blue eyes settling on Roh. He felt sick, his head was light.
‘Run… Run… RUN…’ His mind screamed at him, but he could not move. He couldn’t even breathe. Her lips parted slowly; hand extending toward him. Fingers as white as snow, slender and sickly.
Roh jolted up from his slumber sucking in a sharp, painful breath. His little sister let out a squeak of fear, eyes wide with shock.
“What’s wrong, Roh? Did you have another nightmare…? You were talking in your sleep again.” She whispered quietly.
He let out a gentle sigh, reaching up to wipe the sweat from his brow. “… It’s nothing, go back to sleep.”
“Sleep…? Roh, it’s morning. Are you sure you’re alright?” The little girl reached up to touch at his forehead to check for a fever, but Roh gently brushed her off.
His brows furrowed as he pushed himself up, giving a stretch. Arms and legs ached, his head throbbing. He made his way to the window, only to freeze in place.
It was open.
He flinched, glancing back to his sister. Her brows were creased with worry, hands tangled together as she watched her older brother.
“Sorry, I-” He peeked out the window again, as if he thought he’d see The Lady standing right there. Her cold fingers reaching out for him. “I thought I saw something.”
“Probably a ghost.” She laughed, her anxiety washed away with a little sigh.
Roh swallowed his fear, reaching back to rub at his neck. “… Yeah, yeah.” A huff, followed closely by a roll of his eyes. “Let’s go, Yara. Before the ghost gets us both.”
Yara wiggled her fingers with a little ‘Ooooo~!’ to follow as Roh brushed past her. A happy little laugh ringing through the air.
Unlike his other dream, The Lady’s eyes burnt into his mind. He couldn’t get her out of his head. Each time he closed his eyes, he could see her reaching out for him. Her eyes unnaturally wide; hauntingly beautiful. A lump in his throat that he couldn’t quite swallow. He chewed his lip, deciding it was best not to speak about his silly dreams. He didn’t want to worry Yara.
A Soul for a Soul
Every night he saw of The Lady in his dreams. Her beautiful song whispered through his mind. Her fingers reaching for him; her piercing blue eyes watching him from the darkness. The only light; her ghostly white visage looming within the night.
Roh stopped going out at night, in fear of encountering her. The Lady consumed his mind. He desperately tried to distract himself. Focusing on his chores around the house; he even took up his sisters duties, which she didn’t argue with. Yara enjoyed spending her time reading, and sitting beneath the sun. Unlike Roh, she hated the dark; feared it. As a child should at such a young age.
As each day passed, he grew weary. The dreams kept him up at night. However, Roh began to feel a presence unlike The Lady. It comforted him when his fears clawed at his mind. An energy that enveloped him, the whispers that called him away from The Lady when he first saw her. It was a feeling he couldn’t describe.
A harmony between two forces that called to him. Forces of comfort, forces of pain. Of fear, and hope. Of life, and of death. A darkness, and a light. A chill ran up his spine, and Roh snapped himself back to reality. He found himself sitting on his blanket; what little he had of a bed. His sister and mother were outside, giving him a brief moment to himself.
A gentle creak set him on edge; slowly he looked up at the window. It was open. Roh closed his eyes for no more than a moment- when he opened them, it was dark; silent. His voice caught in his throat, in that moment he wanted nothing more than to call for his mother.
“Shh.” A voice hissed through the darkness.
A wave of fear washed over Roh, and in an instant the dark consumed him once more. His eyes snapped open, only to find that he was back in the forest. The darkness suffocating him; his heart beating heavily within his chest.
‘Wake up. Wake up!’ His mind screamed at him. The hum within the darkness called to him, and he squeezed his eyes shut.
The lullaby grew closer.
He could feel her cold breath wash over his face.
Yara’s voice called to him within the darkness. that same whisper ebbing through his mind. Hope tugged at his heart; the humming stopped.
He slowly opened his eyes. A trickle of light blinded his vision; but as the glare faded he was greeted with two wide, icy blue eyes. Inches from his face; The Lady. Frozen in terror, he felt her fingers slip over his heart. The cold spreading from her hand all over his body; consuming him.
‘Come to me…’ Her breath washed over him, the darkness overwhelming Roh; he began to fall.
Roh screamed, throwing himself out of his make-shift bed. Panting heavily, he reached up to grab at his chest. It felt as if his heart would burst. Quickly, he yanked his shirt down to look at where The Lady had touched him. He sucked in a sharp breath; reality came crashing down on him all at once.
She had left a mark. A large, black moth marked his chest- just beneath his collarbone, its wings spreading across his chest. He swallowed hard, his mind racing. His thoughts cut off by the sound of his sister speaking in the other room. He made his way to the bedroom door, cracking it open to peek at the conversation; shaken to the core.
Yara was standing there, at the door. A tall figure towering over her, long white fingers reaching down for her. Before Roh could even think, he had burst through the door.
“NO!” He screamed, ripping Yara away and throwing himself between the two.
It seemed as if time had frozen, his heart thudding heavily within his chest. He kept his little sister behind himself, too scared to look at The Lady, but unable to tear his eyes away. The Lady pulled back, watching Roh for what felt like hours; until she spoke.
“A soul for a soul.” Her voice lulled, like a song that scratched its way into his very being. “Come with me.”
The words rang loud in his ears, the nightmares now reality. His voice stuck in his throat; he couldn’t speak. His fear shattered with the sound of Yara’s voice; her arms wrapped around his body, face pressed into his back.
“Roh…” Her voice shook as she uttered his name, the raw fear from his sister revived him.
“… D-Don’t take her.” He wanted to sound braver, but the cracks in his voice betrayed him.
The Lady’s lips curled into a sweet, wicked smile. She leaned forward, her face inches from Roh’s. He could feel her breath wash over his face- just like before. He knew there was no more running; no more waking up from the nightmare.
“Come with me.” She repeated, her ghostly hand reaching out for him.
This time, Roh did not run. He couldn’t; he had a choice. His life, or Yara’s.
He slipped his hand into The Lady’s palm, and the darkness began to ebb at the edges of his vision.
“I’ll come back for you.”
The darkness consumed him once more, the echoes of Yara’s screams swirling through his mind as he was taken.