Pieces of midnight ramblings, hope you like it-- it goes along with this.
She was a pretty little thing. Happy and smiling, just beginning to form the sounds that eventually would become words, although now it was all gibberish, gurgles and squeals of delight. The simplest things, a cool summer breeze, sent her into spiraling, unbridled joy at the fresh, earthy smell carried on the wind. It calmed her, too, as she drifted off to sleep in her Papa’s arms, blissfully unaware of the dangers the future held.
Elisesofia Petlykov ran. She ran through dark, empty streets, her cloak billowed behind her, the hood drawn tightly around her face. Silent, but urgent, like a street cat, chasing its next meal. She did not look back. Only forward, searching for the number on the door of the safehouse. 4498. She had memorized it years ago, as a child—but had never once imagined this day would occur. All these houses, silent, each exactly like the next: dark, dirty, windows locked and curtains, usually just a black cloth, closed to block any light—from the inside or out.
She paused, for a split second crouching in an alley, examining number 4498 before pouncing, calculating--she could hear the others catching up behind her—and then she was gone, slipping silently across the street, barely opening the door, her rail thin body disappearing behind as it closed shut, without a sound. She locked it, four deadbolts falling smoothly into place, before closing the second inner door. The second door, made of thick steel slid into place as she stepped back into the hall. The gears in the complicated lock turned silently and she was sealed into the safehouse.
Turning now, Elisesofia Petlykov faced darkness. From the deep folds of her cloak she pulled a candle and a matchbook. In the flickering light the hallway was revealed. Two doors to the left and right. A door at the end, and a stairway leading to a landing. Immediately to her right was a table, with a small wooden box—that box contained the keys. Recalling this from her childhood training, she reached for the keys, walked to the door at the end of the hall and entered another dark room. Flipping the light switch filled the room with a soft light, from recessed bulbs in the ceiling. The room contained a table with seven chairs, a telephone, and a low couch- leather with brown paisley cushions. She turned, locked the door, and sighing, flung her cloak to the ground and collapsed on the couch.
When she woke he was standing over her, a worried look on his face.
“Matthew!” She leapt up, wrapping her arms around the old man and kissing him on each cheek.
“Oh Miss Sofie! I came as soon as I knew!” The balding, round little man seemed quite small, now that she stood next to him. He beamed at her now, his wrinkled face clearly delighted that she was, in fact, alive.
“How did you? You’d never imagine. . . Why is there. . . . ?” The stream of questions couldn’t leave her mouth fast enough.
“Come now, I’ve brought you some food. Eat, then we’ll figure out where to take you.”
She sat at the table, carefully unwrapping the package left there. Wrapped in green paper was a loaf of bread, some cured meat, a rind of cheese, and an apple. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was, and as she took the first bite into the apple she noted that she couldn’t remember the last time she ate anything.
“Matthew,” she began, speaking through a mouthful, “Why are you here? How did all of this happen? I remember running. They came for me and I just ran. Everything Papa taught me, it all came back. It took me three days to get here, and now I’m here. Now what in the hell is going on?”
“Well. . . . It’s complicated.” The old man looked at her young face, full of anxiety and fear, yes, this would take some time. “Your mother, you remember her? Well, long ago, when she was just a child, her parents had to run, also. They tried so very hard to take her with them, but it was too hard to get through the city with her. So they left her with me, told me to keep her safe. I was only a child myself at that point, sixteen. I was the only one of, well, of my kind, that your parents knew of. Among my people I was known as the strong but stubborn son of Kitra---
“Kitra—I’ve heard that name.”
“Yes, she is the leader of the forest people. So I traveled back with the child, Nadari, to my mother. There I claimed her as my own, and, as I was a prince of sorts, no one argued. I raised her as any other child in our tribe, and she grew into a beautiful young woman.” The old man smiled, recalling the peaceful days now long gone.
“Well, what’s my mother have to do with THEM?”
“Patience, dear. Nadari loved the sea, and spent her days learning the ways of the water. That’s how she met your father. He was a stranger to us, tall, standing a foot or two above most of us. But he was quick to smile, and his blue eyes charmed even me. Nadari brought him to our home in the forest, where she insisted he become one us. I hadn’t told her about her own parents, yet. When I did she ran, angry, confused. She refused to speak to me, as if I had somehow stolen her very soul. Your father is the one who convinced her to return. She did. They were married and you were born.”
“But, but then something horrible happened. Those MONSTERS came back—right? Papa’s only told me pieces of the story. How they burned your homes, killed so many people, took the children. . . .” Her voice trailed off as a single tear slipped down her cheek.
She stood, barefoot on the beach, wearing her favorite white dress, dark hair curling in the humid summer air, the band that held it in place hung loose on her wrist. Her nine year old face, sunburnt, but clean, showed a determination beyond her youth. The pelican she stalked eyed her as well, one wary eye turned toward the girl. The bird was taller than her by at least a foot. That might make it difficult. It was strong, she had seen its wings stretched out as it flew over the sea, looking for some unlucky fish to swim too close to the surface.
Then it happened—seagulls fighting over the scraps of a dead fish, distracting the large, proud bird. It turned its head to look down its long beak at them, and she ran. Running as fast as she could towards the giant bird, on its back in an instant, legs wrapped around its body, hands pulling the hairband over its beak, binding it tightly—all before the bird could react. She clung to the monster as it tried to shake her loose—her little arms and legs wrapped tightly around it, head tucked down. She had it pinned. Reaching into the pocket of her dress she found a syringe and in a moment the bird lay, motionless, sedated on the sand. Elisesofia Petlykov stood, adjusted her dress, retrieved her hairband, put her hair up and grabbed the long legs of the bird. She dragged it down the empty beach, stopping at the feet of a man.
“Here.” Her voice was strong, she swung the bird toward the man, dropping it before him. He wore white linen, his strong arms crossed on his chest, blue eyes watching the ocean.
“Good.” He said this without looking at her, eyeing the horizon.
“I need to eat.” It was not a request, nor a demand. She had learned that to survive she must express her needs and not demand frivolities.
“Soon. Our boat is here. Get your things.”
Grinning, she rolled up a towel, and slipped on her shoes, standing next to her Papa, watching as the white speck that was their boat grew larger.