Part 1: The Words Unspoken, Part 2: Secrets, Part 4: Titanium, Part 5: Scar, Part 6: Capture, Part 7: In Your Eyes, Part 8: Reflection, Part 9: Running, Part 10: The Cabin, Part 11: Macaroni and Cheese, Part 12: An Open Door and A Squeaky Floor, Part 13: Interruptions, Part 14: Origin
“Princess?” His voice shocked me as it penetrated the noises of the night, “Are you there?”
I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as pain shot through my spine. Just his voice was enough to fan the embers beneath my skin further and further towards consuming me. His footsteps drew closer as the darkness crawled across my body.
Trying to think quickly, I did my best to project an answer in such a way that he wouldn’t know where I was.
“Yes, and I’m fine. Go away!” I said through gritted teeth to avoid giving away the pain that threatened to saturate my voice.
“I have to tell you something.” He shouted into the woods, “Please just hear me out.”
My temper began to boil over as I endured the skin on my neck beginning to burn. Why couldn’t he just listen to me?
“Leave me!” I called out as I lost my ability to mask the pain in my voice.
He drew closer and I moved to hide my body away from him.
*crack* My heart sank as a broken branch gave away my location and he began to run after me. His growing presence cast a heat wave over my body as I broke out into a run.
“Why?” He yelled breathlessly, “Why do you do this to me?”
The transformation was making me weak, slower than I would have been otherwise. I struggled to keep ahead of his field of vision, knowing that even in the dark the sight of my ever-changing flesh would be noticeable.
I felt him closing the gap between us as I prepared to grab a tree limb to propel myself up into it.
His hand reached for my unaffected arm and I was pulled to the ground mid-jump. Turning to hide the left side of my body from him, roaring began flooding my ears. I heard a scream, but it wasn’t his. It is my own. I felt myself being ripped away from my own body. I was losing control.
He turned my body towards him as the embers began to cover my other arm. They worked their way up my neck, crawling in vein patterns across my cheek. I closed my eyes and braced myself as I tried to make it stop.
“You,” his voice shook with fear, “You are hurt.” His hands trembled as he reached out for me, unsure of what to do.
“Run.” I gruffly barked at him.
“What the…” He stopped mid-sentence as I held my charred hand up, motioning him to be silent.
“I said run!” I screamed angrily as I strained to push through the pain.
He took a single step back in horror as his hands fell open at his sides.
The fire burned its way through inch after inch of my skin, the pain running deeper as each moment passed.
A noise brought me to what would be my final moment of true lucidity before the flames ravished me. I looked up to see his face twisted with shock and pain. His quiet sobs shook his entire body.
“It’s too late.” I mumbled as I collapsed onto the ground.
He rushed to me and brushed my hair aside, lightly brushing his hand against my face. There was no skin, only blackness that hid the burning flames. They scorched his fingertips as he ran them over me and he jerked back in surprise.
“You’re burning.” He whispered with wide eyes.
I sat up, or rather, my body did, with a slow and unsettling groan coming from my lips.
“Princess?” He whispered, hoping that I would respond.
He extended a hand out to touch my back, though he stopped just short, remembering that he’d be burned. Sensing this, my body moved of its own accord as my head turned to meet his gaze with a fiery glare. My eyes opened to reveal that my dull brown color had been replaced with a brilliant orange with black ash speckling them.
He fell back in terror, pushing himself away from me. I rose to my feet without saying a word. My back elongated as I grew taller and my shoulders gave way as black wings budded out. He looked up at me as the sound of ripping came from my dress as it began to tear. I took a step away from him, hoping I could gain enough control to get far away from here.
He sat up and crawled forward just slightly, hanging on to the futile hope that I would recognize him. The leaves crunching below him caused me, or at least what was left of me, to startle. My wings unfurled as I took a step towards him. He rushed to his feet and put out his hand towards me motioning me to stay calm.
With one swift motion, I grabbed his arm and held him in the air. He began to panic, surprised by my strength. I tightened my grip as he writhed in pain and begged me to let him go. My heart screamed inside me, willing me to put him down, but I was helpless to stop this now.
“Let me go.” He said as he flailed in feeble attempts to get away.
I wanted to scream, “This isn’t me!” but all I could do was watch as I hurt him.
The air turned frigid as dark storm clouds settled above us. He kicked at me and managed to land a shot against my side, causing me to drop him. As he jumped to his feet, every movement he made willed me not to touch him. I looked into his eyes as I placed my hand on my side.
“I’m sorry,” He said as he held his burnt arm, “I didn’t want to hurt you.”
A clap of thunder shook the ground as I lunged for him and his eyes closed in pain as he stopped my hands with his own.
We fought with only our bodies, and to some, it may have looked like dancing. I swung at him, striking and drawing away. He blocked all of my advances, but sustained a new burn every time. Back and forth, offense and defense. He refused to take a shot at me.
“I need you to stop me.” I broke through in my own voice, drowning out the monster for a split second.
“I won’t hurt you.” He said with an unsteady voice, defiant yet full of fear.
Rain began to fall around us, but it did nothing to quench the fire that burned inside. My own voice was unrecognizable as I let out a piercing scream, knowing if I lost control, I’d lose him. My leg swiftly moved to sweep his, causing him to fall to the ground. The skirt of my dress caught on a jagged rock and ripped as I knelt down in front of him.
Crawling forward to his face with my wings spread, I straddled him and leaned down until our faces were so close that the rain droplets carried the ashes that had been my skin onto his cheeks. He squirmed as he pushed my legs in a feeble attempt to escape.
All of a sudden, lightning struck the rock next to us and the small puddle of water that my bare foot had been pressing into. For a moment, the world became blurry as he shoved me off of him and drug me away from the water, careful to only touch what fabric of my dress that hadn’t been burnt or ripped.
This time, he straddled me, tightly holding my shoulders down in case I recovered quickly. He was right to take precautions, but his strength was no match for mine in my current form. My wings opened as I push his chest away from me.
His body gave way surprisingly easy, I thought, maybe too easy?
Then I felt it, a blade piercing my right wing, nailing me to the ground. My body writhed in pain as I instinctively struggled against the knife. He held me down, speaking soft, incomprehensible words to try to calm me down in a desperate effort to return me to normal.
In my desperation to get away, I forced my wings up, causing the knife to rip completely through as I rose up and forced him off of me. He sat in stunned silence, watching as I dug my nails into the ground as I forced the pain waves to cease.
I looked up as my vision threatened to fade to black. I was too weak to fight this, I already expended all of my energy trying to stop it. My body moved towards him, holding me hostage to witness the horror that was inevitable. He was strangely calm as I pushed him down and pulled out my dagger from a garter that held it on my upper thigh.
He laughed, a sorrowful laughter, and whispered, “I taught you to do that, you remember?”
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. Terror overtook me as I pointed it directly over his heart, right over his tattoo. His shirt was ripped during the fight and made the whole thing visible. My eyes lingered on it, studying it.
“You know why I chose that?” He asked through an uncomfortable smile, “Because it reminds me of you.”
My hands shook as I pressed the dagger into the first layer of skin. It was like a pin prick, drawing a small droplet of blood that pooled on the surface of his skin.
“If you are going to kill me, I need to tell you something first.” He spoke calmly, as if he didn’t care what happened to him.
My hand reached out and touched the pierced skin, immediately cauterizing the site. He drew in air through his teeth as his muscles tensed from the pain.
He parted his lips as his eyes revealed his desperation to get through to me.
“I…” His voice wavered, “I came out here to tell you something.”
I leaned forward, slowly tracing the tattoo with my fingertips before angling the dagger again.
“I came to tell you that,” he winced in pain as I pressed my weight into him, silencing him momentarily.
“I love you.” He whispered as he closed his eyes.
In a blinding rage, the monster raised the dagger to pierce his heart.
“And I?” My voice was weak as I fought against myself.
I closed my eyes as a single tear rolled down my cheek, leaving healed skin in its wake.
“I hate you.”
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