Alone in the Dark

The wicked wind whispers “death” through the ragged and jagged oaks that hang like a gallows across the waxing moon as Ela pulls her buckskin shawl about her shoulders and moves headlong into the uncertain darkness beyond. The fact that the witching hour had come and gone some time ago worries her very little since she fears nothing that the night has to offer. The real danger lies ahead and the realization of it almost takes her breath away as the raven haired girl steels her nerve with every silent step. The hunting knife no doubt would gleam wildly against the moon above were she to pull it from underneath her covering and brandish it for courage, but there is little hope in the protection that it offers. They could be upon her before the first stroke fell in defense, and the innocent maiden knows all too well that she is at their mercy.

It was never her intention to be in the situation that lies before her, but life sometimes twists and turns and the blameless sometimes bear the brunt of fate. The night that the first of their kind became brave enough to burrow beneath the barrier and creep in for a closer look at what would become their favorite quarry was monumental for it marked the beginning of the end. From that time forward, they knew nothing of fear and cared even less for reprisal. Their lust for flesh ran wild inside of them and there was no end to their thirst for the blood that ran warm just below the surface of her people’s bronze skin. They would easily replace those vanquished by revenge and cared not at all for those lost. They are the beasts of legend that the old folks sang of around the fire, and their tales of certain death had come to fruition.

Ela whispers under her breath the incantation that the medicine man had given her and her only hope is that those magical words will have some effect if she is able to utter them before her evisceration. As the path becomes smoother at the crest of the hill, a distinctive stench meets the girl that she knows to be the death and decay of her people emanating from the caves below. These are the very same outcroppings that her tribe once called home, and a flash of courage races through the determined young woman as her surroundings become more familiar. Not only has she come here to exterminate the vermin, but also to reclaim her home for those that live in exile.

The rosiness of dawn will soon be creeping into the canyons above her and the time is right to act as the first pair of beady red eyes flashes to life ahead like a pair of torches suddenly set ablaze. Ela grips the blade as her teeth grind and her mind suddenly goes blank. More torch-like sets of eyes are moving in the darkness toward her, and she can hear their labored, raspy breathing coming near her. “Selu, help me,” she whispers under her breath, her brain racing to remember those sacred death words, and although she opens her mouth to speak them, nothing comes forth.

Certain death is slipping forward and any second she will feel their razor teeth rip her to pieces, but at least her death will be quick and extremely painful. Determined to at least put up a fight and perhaps even take few of them with her, the courageous girl pushes her shawl from her shoulders and holds the blade in her strong right hand.  U’du’du taught her long ago how to wield the short blade, and among her people there are few that could best her at its use, but now she is outnumbered and death will come sooner than later.

A roar and a sudden rush of wind warns her of the enemy just feet from her, and with blind luck the blade strikes home and the beast falls heavily upon her, its warm blood spewing upon her chest. Ela struggles to push the beast away and slithers out from underneath it, feeling for the knife that is sticking hilt deep in the soft fur just underneath its ribcage. A bit sickened by her blood bath, she rips the knife from its purchase and whirls around, struggling to find a bearing in the dark. The girl feels the air in front of her part as another of them charges, and that split second of warning saves her life. Now it is her turn to bleed as what feels like a foot long gap opens in her right thigh and the fluid of life oozes quickly down to pool in her moccasin. Fortunately, her quick backhanded stab finds a home between the shoulders blades of her attacker, and it trips and careens headlong into an unseen boulder, knocking it senseless.

Ela grabs for the cut in her leg, realizing that it was not nearly as mortal as she had believed it to be. The warrior is determined to battle on, but realizes that she must get to higher ground since some of the creatures are circling around behind to flank her. She knows the perfect place to make her stand, turns, and races to a small shelf of sheer rock where she will have more of fighting chance. The retreat sends the animals into a frenzy as their chase instinct kicks in and they charge forward as one savage group.

Out of breath and surely now out of time, Ela tries hard to get her wind back and mount one last sortie. U’du’du would have been proud if he could have seen her at that moment, her black hair fluttering in the wind and her bronzed body flush with battle. He would have thought her a warrior princess of the highest order and would have been proud that she had been birthed as granddaughter to him instead of the grandson that he had hoped for. She knew that he would join her someday in the land beyond, but there is a big part of her that fears that place, and she knows in her heart that she would rather it not be this day that she makes that journey.

It appears that she has no choice as the snarling eyes close in upon her. At that very moment, a peace comes over her that she has never felt before, and instead of feeling tense and fearful, Ela feels extremely calm. The young girl even sits down upon the smooth stone, closes her eyes, and seems to go into a trance. The world around her peels back as each day of her life plays out before her as though she is living it all over again, but at a much faster speed. Time stands still and the days race into night, and then back into day again. Suddenly the pictures stop and the young girl’s eyes snap wide open, she jumps to her feet and screams shrilly at the beasts just steps from her, “Great U’ne La’nu’hi, give your daughter the power of light,” and within a second, a great flash illuminates the world around her.

Ela is blinded by the brightness momentarily, but soon regains her sight. Her foes are not as fortunate, and large group of them stagger around with their hands cupped over their eyes, howling mournfully.  The horrified girl then realizes that these savage creatures are partly human, and that thought sickens her. Such barbarity deserves no mercy, and as the damaged demi-humans writhe around on the ground in their agony, one by one her blade strikes home. As the last of them dies in misery, the piercing light snaps off, and the world again goes dark.

Exhausted, Ela sits down in the soft grass and watches the rosy peach of the sunrise come up over her home. Later, after a good long nap, she will return to her people and lead them back here. They will change her name to Us’di Nv’do’i’ga’e’hi, or Little Sun, for the courage that she showed that black night. U’du’du, her grandfather, will be the first to meet her, with his tears streaming from his deep brown eyes upon her return.

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