I remember it like it was yesterday. We had been out in the yard, tending to the garden. The sun was just about to set as we packed up the tools into a basket, I got to carry the watering can. That was my responsibility. My other hand was wrapped in hers.
Her hands were covered in dirt, but it was warm and comforting. The simple act of holding onto even a small piece of her always gave me the greatest of comforts. Her sweet and kind smile had looked down at me, asking what I would want for dinner tonight. There were only a few vegetables that had been ready to pick, the others were just days away from being perfect. After they were ready, we would go to the market and try to sell some of them so that we might be able to buy more hens.
I had forgotten to latch the door tightly and most of the chickens had gotten loose. Dad had been able to track down some of them but he had said that a fox must have gotten the rest. Jesse was too little to know what I’d done but she had managed to cry with me as my parents explained what had happened. Momma hadn’t been too mad, but I had been upset anyways. She said that she knew that I hadn’t meant it and that she knew it would never happen again because she knew that I didn’t make mistakes twice.
As we were walking back to the house, the low thumping of hooves sounded across the ground. “Momma!” I gripped her hand tightly and tugged her to look towards the woods. There were too many. Way too many for it to be dad returning from Kopahagen. She whipped her head around to see where the sound was coming from.
Slowly but surely the group emerged from the woods. Big thunderous beasts snared down at me. I knew that they were horses but they were dirty and huge. Something terrifying about them. Momma bent down next to me and whispered, “Run into the field, and stay silent. Get down low and whatever happens, don’t listen.”
My small brain couldn’t focus, “What? No! I don’t want to leave!”
“Kya, go,” said mama as she pushed me towards the tall stalks of corn.
My little legs stumbled over the ground, I could hear the monsters coming, Why isn’t mama coming with me? When I reached the stalks, I didn’t stop. I did was mama told me and went in to the field, dropping down low, I crawled between the stalks.
And then I waited. I waited what seemed to be forever, I didn’t turn back when the shouting started. No matter how much I wanted to, mama had told me not to. And I was afraid. I hadn’t ever thought that they would come.
Just as my will was about to run out, mama’s voice screamed across the field, “Kya, run!”
I turned my head in her direction. I couldn’t see anything, I so desperately wanted to know what was happening. What to do? Momma said run. Run where? Could I get help? The only other adults nearby were the neighbors. But they were just a little old lady and her husband. There wasn’t supposed to have a lot of people around here. That was for the best, so that no one would see something. But here they were. The monsters. The hunters.
Suddenly, the smell of smoke filled the air; looking up, I searched for the source. It was from the field. They had lit the field on fire. Suddenly I wished that I knew how to use my power. But I could barely water the flowers, there was no way that I had the skill to put out the field. I had to run, but run where? To the monster? They at least had my mother, but she might be mad at me if I run back. I had to move though, the fire wouldn’t be far for long. There had been a dry spell the last couple of days. Papa had told us to expect rain in the next few days.
Where was papa? Why wasn’t he home yet? The sun was setting, it cast its eerie twilight glow over the air. Through the fields I could see the flames, licking at the ground. It was coming closer. I had to move. But where to?
Instinct kicked in and I moved away from the flames, but not too far, I walked along the rim of them, slowly working my way out as the flames followed me. I couldn’t just directly leave, they would see me. Then mama would be mad, she’d yell. I didn’t like it when she yelled. My small legs could only carrying me so quickly, but I knew that if I made it far enough, there would be a break. A small creek that my dad had made to flow through the fields so that even if there was a dry spell, he could keep it going. He’d refilled it this morning so the water was probably mostly gone but at the very least, it would have moisture there. Hopefully that would slow the flames. Give me enough time to find a spot to hide, and for papa to come.
But they were there. Before I could stand up, they were one me. They grabbed at my hair and held me by it. Pain shot through my scalp as I tried to run, they only laughed; one of them said, “Got you,” with a sneer in his hideous smile.
I yelled, I pulled, I tried to fight. One of them grabbed me by my waist and carried me to where my mother and I had been standing before.
My struggles ceased when I saw my mother. Blood was gushing from her head. There was a wound near her temple, her lip was split and one eye was so swollen it was forced shut. The most jarring thing was that she was on the ground, rolled over in a ball. And she wasn’t moving.
I tried to force my power out of me so check on her, to see if I could feel the blood still moving in her. It was a trick papa had showed me when I was younger than I was now. For when I was scared at night and wanted to feel close to him and mama. It was hard to do under the best of times, I didn’t know what it was doing but I put all my focus into feeling it. The men, the horse, they all came to me. I tried to focus them out, even when they dropped me to the ground, I didn’t stop. Not until I felt it. The tiny movement. She was still breathing.
My chest sagged. Momma was still okay. Now what was going to happen? I was laying on the ground, they’d tied my arms behind my back and shoved my head into a sack. They were arguing. Rough noises sounded, someone lifted me up and tossed me onto a horse. The warm heat sunk into my skin as the fur pricked my skin. My ribs were going to bruise from that. It seemed that they weren’t interested in being gentle. But at the very least, they hadn’t killed me or momma yet. Maybe they didn’t know about momma though.
Even though fear struck me at the thought of being taken away, I wanted to get these men way from momma. So that she could go for help, or at least hold off until Papa got back. He shouldn’t be too long. But there were too many people for him to take care of. What if they were going to wait for him to return? They wouldn’t, papa would be able to take most of them. They wouldn’t risk that, would they?
Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about that for long. Someone climbed up on the horse, his gruff voice warned me not to try anything or ese he’d drag me. A whimper escaped from me. Instinctively, I curled my body into the horse, trying to hold on. It was almost impossible since my hands were tied. The jagged rhythm continued to toss me into the air until a big gruff hand laid on my back. The weight held me against the horse.
My stomach rolled at him having touched me. I had to swallow back bile as we continued. They seemed to be in a hurry, going as fast as they had come. There were some real monsters in woods that surrounded my house but none approached the group. They were too big and the aura they gave off was too intense. Monsters immediately recognized them as superior and disappeared.
We rode until my head was pounding and I felt weak. It must have been for a few hours at the very least. When they finally came to a stop, first the man dropped off the horse and then he hoisted me off before tossing me into something hard and squishy. I immediately recognized the wooden smell and feel of a carriage and the squeak that came from my side sounded like another child. My mind raced with how many others there could be. Or would be.