The way back to the dorm was a long hallway of class rooms placed on both sides. Yujo could recount what activity took place where off by heart by the fact that she had spent her entire childhood in them. Before she was even aware of what she was doing, she started to recount them.
“120: Science room … 140: Holo-lab …”
It was a neat little party trick. Her secret weapon to deal with children who were misbehaving or upset. She got half way down the hall before she stopped and leaned on room 240's door. Inside she could hear a group of younger children painting.
She bit her lip. It took everything within her not to give in and start wailing.
It was a battle she would lose to the need to let everything out.
A tiny squeak rang behind Yujo’s back giving her a fright. She wheeled around to see a young boy with shaved black hair. The wide smile a scar on his cheek showed the scar that crossed his left cheek with great pride.
The sight of the young boy gave her the opportunity to put what had happened aside and smile.
“Nathan, how many times do I have to tell you that I’m not a sister yet?”
She then smiled and reached over to pat the boy on the head.
“Or not to sneak up behind-”
Her playful banter came to a sudden halt when she realised that she was doing what Rosemary would do. Ashamed at what she was doing, she withdrew her hand and cast a sideways glance.
The young boy tilted his head.
“Are you OK?” he asked, unaware of the argument Yujo and Rosemary had.
She shook her head.There was no need to make the children worry about the closure. The staff would tell them when, or rather, if the time was right. She was arguing with Rosemary. That did not give her the right to drag the children into their spat.
“Yes, Nathanael, I am fine.” she lied.
Then she realised what was not quite right with this situation.
“Wait a minute. What are you doing indoors, Young Man?” she asked, hands to hips acting like some sort of parental figure. “Shouldn’t you be outside playing football with the rest of your group?”
Nathan’s young mind came to a momentary pause to think of the answer before a massive smile crossed his face.
“OH! I REMEMBER NOW!” he cried out, causing Yujo to jump up. “I came in ‘cause I got banged up again!”
The grin he flashed was missing several teeth.
“Oh, Nathan. Again?” Yujo sighed.
“Yep!” the boy was completely ignorant of Yujo’s disappointment.
“We were playing an’ I stepped on the ball which went whoosh!” he said showing the arc of his flight with with his arm. To prove his point, he pulled his t-shirt’s right sleeve to revel a friction burn on his side. It was his proud scar from the Ball Wars.
Trying to keep herself from laughing, Yujo knelt to his eye level and pointed in the direction of the office.
“Well if you are quick enough, you can get Sister Rosemary to look at it. I'm just done talking to her in her the office.”
“Talkin’ cooties?” Nathan asked with a grin.
“Yes, Nathan." Yujo rolled her eyes, amazed at how so easily the boy had reduced her argument with Rosemary to something so childish. "The most ‘ootie. Now march your behind to the office, mister!”
With a nod Nathan ran off towards Rosemary’s office, fell over, picked himself up and started running again.
The smile on Yujo’s face faded away as the boy disappeared from her sight. With another sigh, she turned around and made her way to her private room on the first floor of the building.
Every part of her body gave up on her the very moment she reached her room. With a loud thump she fell face first on top of her bed causing bed sheets and covers to shoot out in every direction.
The last of her energy was spent grabbing the pillow, hugging it tight and whispering to herself sweet nothings about not giving up.
The cry of her name bounced around in Yujo’s head as her world went from the light yellow of her room to a landscape stained in red. She found herself robbed her of her ability to move and cursed with an excruciating back splitting pain.
She could recall that she was running away from something. Her tiny hands held on to two formless blobs. One held an antique camera in one hand. The other was constantly reassuring her in a garbled voice that everything would be OK.
Then she remembered the cacophony of fury, anger and terror that ended with Yujo lying on her broken back.
Her eyes closed and when she opened them again, two strange figures loomed over her. Their hair streaked out like a rat king billowing in the madness. They started to sing to each other in their insane tongue. The first one put its webbed hand on her face, looked to the other and sang. The other figure shook its head, blasted out a short sharp tone and then pulled out a long spear with its end touching Yujo's chest.
With a shrug, the first figure slithered out of the way to allow its partner to do what it wanted.
The spear wielding figure sang something in the lowest tone it could and pulled back its spear ready to shove it into her chest and pierce her heart.
Then the roar of The Goddess blew the figure into the air. Her explosive cry broke its head clean open as the figgure launched into the air. The other figure did not have the time to understand what was happening before it too was vanquished and thrown asunder.
Yujo didn’t know what to make of what was happening and to a certain extent she didn’t care. She just wanted all this pain to go away.
Then a figure descended, an angel, the avatar of The Goddess and the trumpeter of her roar.
As she fluttered in and out of consciousness, she could see the angel crying out to her, holding her tiny, battered body. From the angel’s arms, she could see the wreckage of the building floating away in the distance. The angel looked at her and, with a smile, issued a command from The Goddess.
At that command, Yujo’s eyes burst open to see the world painted dark blue.
She had fallen asleep.
Yujo groaned and pulled herself up. She looked out of her net covered window and from the dark blue hue of the sky guessed that it was midnight. She wobbled towards her wardrobe and sighed at the mess that stared back at her. As she pulled her top over head she felt a sharp ping between her shoulder blades. Grunting in discomfort, she turned around so she could see her back in the mirror.
The sight of the intricate mess of scars covering her back that started at her. The perfectly drawn round circle that sat in the middle of her shoulder blades gave her the most pause.
All the scars of that day still remained.
With a sigh, she pulled the rest of her clothes off and threw them into the basket next to her. Then she opened the closet door to pull out a night gown to and put on to make the scars vanish from sight.
She made her way to her bed, took the top cover off, and threw herself in, pulling the cover up to cover as much of her body as she could. Her world began to darken and all her thoughts, worries and concerns melted away into a dark sea of nothing.
And then, if even only for an instant, she knew peace.
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- Craig A. McLeod
When he's not bashing out stories on his keyboard, Craig A. McLeod is designing website for clients all over the world.
Avi Art: @lunaofwater