DISCLAIMER : continuation of the short story "THE GIRL WHO CAME BACK"
ALSO SORRY FOR POSTING RIGHT BEFORE THE DEADLINE BUT I NEEDED TO MAKE SURE IT HAD NO GRAMMAR ERRORS <3 HAVE FUN
The sands never rest – they shift and turn to never exhaust, obeying the indifferent winds of Shurima. I have never feared change, but the desert will soon renounce its rules and change will have a different meaning… a fate I seek to withstand.
Time has come again for the tent I call home to be unusually cramped. I sit cross-legged on the woolen carpets, mesmerized by the bending fumes escaping a clay pot supporting my back. Unable to reach the outside, they gather into a lazy cloud hovering between the washing lines: pelts, rugs and patterned scarves are stacked upon them, the drops of water which rarely surface stuck in a maze of colorful creases.
As I attempt to lean on the lid of the pot to feel the comfort of its heat, familiar voices make their way through the leathern walls of the tent - what seemed to be chatter suddenly changes course as one of the men shrieks in a terror so daunting, it pierces the tent and crawls unto my neck. The ground writhes and thunders, sand dunes rasping like storming tides. A sudden quake brings me to the ground and as I reach my trembling hand in search for support I see a soothing silhouette ruffling cloths to make its way into my home.
“Illi, the sunken gods are unsettled, we must redeem ourselves immediately”, says my limping father, all hints of disquiet masked by his bruises.
“Papa, you promised we would speak of this no more... I am never nearing that ridiculous shrine of yours again”, I yell reproachfully, pressing my thumb against my lip to check for any scars.
“Besides... it’s Snowdown, Papa.”
For them, the girl who came back is a warning... for me, a tale of bravery. Since meeting her, Snowdown is the only thing that keeps me sane. Although it means less in Shurima, it helps me forget that everything I know could collapse the second the Void wishes. The painted sheepskins, the argil snowflakes... they give me a reason to think of running as cowardice, they fill me with an inexhaustible urge to fight back.
My father glances at the ornaments I crafted, as he wipes the blood off my cheek with his soiled hand, trying to appease me.
“They must go especially. Our pastor says it is mandatory for us to detach ourselves from the fake gods. The ones from below have finally spoken, Illi!”, a sigh assures me how much he fears for me.
“You must understand. You are a girl no longer.”
He shoves the ornaments into his pockets, trying to catch a glimpse of my resentment with the corner of his unscarred eye. But he finds nothing - I have grown too much to remain a victim of my father’s flawed thinking. I am a girl no longer indeed, I can matter.
I follow my father outside, awaiting to see yet another version of the shuriman desert - that’s something I could not let the void take away from me: as a girl I thought the sands carried the village through the entire wasteland; the only explanation I found for unusually cold nights or moons brighter than the day before. The dunes change at the winds will, only to remain the same in the happiest of memories. For me, the village is always different.
“Come, now, the shrine is up ahead”, says my worried father, holding my wrist tighter than he intended.
The desert has never reminded me less of home; the earlier events brought irreversible changes to the village: the ground is shattered into pieces, purple peculiarities glowing through its dry cracks. Dark swirling towers ripped huts apart and the grains of sand around them are now shaking in their shadow. Jagged hills arisen from below scrape crumby boulders, sparks lighting up the night sky as they clash. All wheelbarrows with dried peaches, all books of carols and cinnamon-scented candles lie silent in the unforgiving pits of the void. And as my father hurls my ornaments toward them, so does everything Snowdown made me feel…
The gleaming maze which surfaces from the void surrounds a wooden monument, the dead bushes and clustered stones around it untouched… the shrine dedicated to the so-called sunken gods.
The number of people praying at its base amazes me - their eyes are chained to the dry paint peeling off the wooden carvings as if they could drive the danger away. My father hurries to join them, chanting mantras as he grasps the hands of his neighboring fools. I’ve been given a task, yet it appears my failure is imminent… have I become one of them?
I reach for my pants and the weight pressing against my leg reassures me. I close my eyes as the hint of purple shining through the fabric of my pockets reminds me of the time I last met her…
“Danger is nigh, Illi” she tells me, the carapace covering her face distorting the voice I was so used to. “Your spirit is enough to save so many”
“I – I used to think so too. I have tried countless times to warn them but my words mean nothing to them” I confess, gritting my teeth. “You have to at least give me the choice, I am old enough to decide for myself, Kaisa! “
Kaisa sighs, admitting defeat. She rips a scale off her carapace, covers it in the cloth that tied my hair and hands it to me.
“You’ll know when to use it, Illi. I know you will”
My remembrance is interrupted by the shaking ground. Critters swarm out of the pits, screeching angrily at my people. I grab the scale and place it on my forehead: It expands and covers the entirety of my body, purple lights exiting my palms as I clench my fingers.
The void shall not feed today… Snowdown is the last thing it will take away from me.