Final

Forest Bound
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  I woke up to the ice-cold winds whipping past me.  I spent the night outside with the winter air biting my skin.  I have a home, a place warm and sheltered from this harsh season, but I’m just barely welcomed there.  My family wants close to nothing from me.  The only thing I do for them is take up space.  To them I’m less than a spec of dirt on their shoes.

  I’m unwanted by them because I have a mark I was born with.

  Black in color, the seemingly inked lines circle around my left eye and up towards my temple.  When I blink the curved and detailed lines look as if they are moving and flowing with every muscle movement beneath my skin.  The obsidian color was a stark contrast to my pale completion, but I loved it nonetheless.

  Unlike everyone else around me.

  To the village I live in, my mark is like a curse.  A sign from those mysterious powers around us that I was destined to bring terrible things to those close to me.  Even my own parents hate me because I was born like this.  My older siblings want nothing to do with me.  They shun me and pretend I don’t exist, all because of the art placed on my face.

  My parents have raised me, but our relationship has lacked love and care.  They are obligated to take care of me, it’s the rules of society here, but that doesn’t mean they have to actually care for me at all.  I know what their feelings are towards me, I know they wish I wasn’t here, but there isn’t much I can do about that.  I’m their daughter, without them I’d be on the streets dying.

  I’m thankful they haven’t tossed me out, and I’m grateful they at least provided me with the basic human needs.  While they may not care for me at all and hold no feelings towards me, I still love them as my parents.  I, at least, care for them even if the emotion isn’t returned.

  Even now I still hold some tender emotions for them as I push myself off the snow covered ground and brush the ice and snowflakes off of me with my numbed hands.  We fought the night previous, which resulted in them kicking me out of the house for the night to somehow teach me a lesson.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why making me sleep outside on the coldest night of the winter season is going to teach me anything other than how to not feel a single part of my body.

  I can’t find it in me to hate my parents or my family.  It isn’t their fault I’m like this so why should I blame them for it.  Why cast the blame on them like so many others are doing to me, it just isn’t fair to do that and I’ve come to accept it.

  I looked up at the dark sky with a sad smile.  Snow was still falling as it always would during the winter, everything was still the same, and nothing has changed.  Everything will go back to the way it always is, I’ll go back to my parents and they will take me back into the house to care for me with the minimal effort it takes.  I’ll go to school and be surrounded by people that fear and hate me.

  School was a place that brought both pleasure and pain.  I fit in rather well with the kids my age.  We got along for the most part, they accepted me rather well.  At least that’s what they showed.  I know their parents have drilled things into their heads about me.  I have seen it in the looks they shoot me when they don’t believe I’m looking.

  But it’s also my escape, my safety and my freedom. 

  The dawn was beginning to make its appearance so it would be best for me not to be found curled up in the cold by anyone out early in the morning.  Using the wall near me for balance I made my way down the street on my frozen, numb legs.  My breath visible in the frigged air wrapping me in its embrace.  I couldn’t return home until later, my parents wouldn’t let me into the house until afternoon, I was sure.

  It’s a good thing I store my uniform for school and a spare pair of clothing in my locker at school.  The school would be open in little over an hour for students to come in early and study or for club meetings.  The time before classes I would use to change and prepare myself for the day ahead of me.  First I would have to get there, though, and at the rate I’m going it’s going to take some time.

  I can only manage to shuffle my way through the streets due to the freezing temperature.  Jacket wrapped around me as tightly as I could get it, I moved away from the wall and tried to seem invisible as I inched my way through the ice and snow covered streets.

  People opening shops would throw me glances as I walked by.  Hate, disdain, and fear were all swimming in their eyes when I looked at them.  Most of the elders in this village would look at me like this since I was a child, and some would even go further when given the chance.

  “Visiting the Forest?”  One man spat at me as he spit at my feet while I walked past.  “I always knew you would be the curse of this town, soon those beasts will invade this place and it will all be on you.”

  I didn’t reply.  I didn’t say a word as I continued on my way.  This wasn’t the worst thing said to me before and I was certain it wasn’t going to be the last.  I pulled the hood to cover more of my face so I wouldn’t draw any more unwanted attention, not that it helped all that much, though.

  By the time I reached the doors of the school most of my body was numb to any sensation of touch or cold.  Snowflakes threaded through my hair and stuck to my clothing.  Shivers wracked through my body when the warm air of the building surrounded me once I stepped inside.

  The hallways were empty of students and teachers alike as I navigated the corridors to my locker and then proceeded to the female locker rooms, my uniform in hand.

  I had little under an hour before other students began to arrive and an hour and a half after that before classes would begin for the day.  Placing my uniform on the bench closest to the showers I went to grab a towel from the shelf the school kept them on.  Removing my frozen and snow-covered outerwear I wrapped the towel around me as I went to turn the cascading, heated water on.

  Watching as the steam began to accumulate around me I hung my towel to the side and stepped under the hot water.  For the first few minutes I couldn’t even feel the steaming water pelting my cold body.  Closing my eyes I tilted my head up and let the water land on my face removing the numb feeling.

  Once I began to get the feeling back in my body I released a content sigh.  I shut the tap off soon later.  I only wanted the feeling back in my skin, the coolness within me would fade throughout the day.  I just wanted to be able to feel the sensation of touch.

  Grabbing my towel and patting away at the rivets of warm water running down my body I went back to where I left my clothing.  Drying my hair as much as I could with the towel, I left it to hang down my back.

  Slipping my undergarments on I slipped the red blouse over my torso and buttoned it up slowly, my fingers having trouble doing the simple task.  Finally getting the last button threaded through the proper hole I pulled the black skirt on and tucked my blouse in.  The red strip an inch above the hem of the skirt was the same color as the blouse, along with the vertical stripe on the right side of the skirt that bisected the hemline.  Pulling my black thigh high socks on and slipping into red flats I finished dressing by slipping the black blazer with red cuffs and collar on.

  Folding my clothing I carried them in my arms as I went to toss the towel in the wash bin before leaving to put my clothing away.  A few students were walking the halls now, none of them paying me any attention as they continued on their way.

  Sighing, I placed my still cold-to-the-touch clothing in my locker and proceeded to grab the books I would need for the day.  My body would spasm every few minutes as chills ran through me but it didn’t stop me from doing as I was.

 “Narae!”  I heard my name called from down the hallway.  Poking my head out of my locker I looked over at where I heard the voice coming from.  A small smile formed on my lips as I saw the owner of the voice.

  Coming up beside me, he leaned on the locker beside mine.  Hands crossed over his chest he watched me get my things.  “What’s up, Daehyun?”  I asked him as I grabbed the last of my books and shut my locker.

  “Can’t I greet you in the mornings?”  He asked as he scanned me over.  “You showered recently, your hair is still wet.”

  I rolled my eyes,  “Keen observation skills.  I did, just before I came here to get my things.”

  He brushed a few strands behind my ear that fell forwards into my eyes. “Why didn’t you shower at home?”

  “Couldn’t.”  I shrugged.  I was glad he didn’t brush his fingers against my skin or he would figure out what happened.  Daehyun was always good at guessing what my parents did to me, and I don’t want to worry him anymore than he already is.

  “What happened this time?”  He pressed.  “Your siblings not give you access?  Parents send you away before you had the chance?”

  I just shook my head.  I shut my locker door and slung my bag over my shoulder.

  Before I could pull back away from him he reached out and grasped my hand.  Eyes widening, he looked up at me and I watched them harden as his eyes pierced into mine.  “You are ice cold, Narae.”  He growled.  “Your skin is freezing to the touch as if you have been outside for hours.”

  “I’m fine, Daehyun.”  I muttered pulling away from him.

  Lunging out he made sure he didn’t lose the grip on my hand.  “It’s not fine.  How long were you outside for?”

  I looked down and remained quiet.  I hated talking about what I was subjected to at home and on the streets, and he knew this but it never seemed to stop him.

  “How long, Narae?” 

  I sighed as I looked up into his eyes.  He looked furious, but I could see the underlying worry in his eyes.  That one emotion in his eyes always brought me to my knees and had me give in.

  “How long?”

  “Since last night.”  I sighed.  “Just after supper.  They started screaming at me for something then kicked me onto the streets for the night.”

  Pulling me forward he wrapped him in his arms.  The minimal body heat coming from him was soothing but it did very little to fight off the cold still running through me.

  “It was the coldest night of the season and you remained outside for the whole of it?”  He caressed my slightly damp hair.  “You could have died.”

  “I know, but I didn’t.  I survived, just like every other time.”  I buried my head in his shoulder.  “It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.”

  The two of us stood in the hallway against the lockers; I was tucked into his arms as he soothingly ran his hand through my hair and down my back.  Hushed words reached my ears once in a while.  No attention was given to us, it wasn’t anything new and we weren’t the only ones that did anything like this in the hallways.  Unlike some of the others in the school, we didn’t make out or grab at each other in some impolite ways.

  “Next time, come see me if they do this to you, Narae.”  He whispered into my ear.

  I shook my head on his shoulder.  “I can’t do that.  Your parents hate me, Daehyun.  They hate me almost as much as my parents do.  If I showed up in front of them I have more to fear and loose.  I can’t do that, Daehyun.  You can’t help me.”

  “I’ll do what we can, I won’t leave you alone in this.”

  “I know.  I know.  But there will come a time where you can’t save me.”

  “And until then, I will keep doing all I can to protect you.”  He held me closer to him.  “You are not cursed.  You are not terrible, and you are not evil.  That mark you have is beautiful, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

  I just snuggled in closer.  “That’s one opinion.”

 

  I sat in the back of my math class.  Barely paying any attention to what was going on in front of me.  My whole body was shaking, the cold seeping further and further into my system.  While I did my best to fight off the frigid temperatures this morning, it was nowhere near enough to eradicate all of it.

  It hurt, the ice rushing through my body.  It was painful feeling my body succumb to the freezing weather.  I’ve had this happen to me before when I was ten, and it took me a while to recover.

  I sincerely hope this doesn’t kill me.

  “Miss Narae!”  The teacher snapped at me.  “Stop moving around and making unnecessary noise!”

  “S-sorry sir.”  I weakly muttered back.  My blood felt like ice flowing through my body.  My skin was once again going numb and it was hard keeping my teeth from chattering. 

  But I had to control it.  I couldn’t make my teachers angry, I couldn’t stand out from the rest of the class.  I was always given the harsher punishments, no matter how small the incident I am involved in is.

  Stilling my movements as much as I could I scribbled down the notes I would need as I wished for the class to hurry and end.  This was one of the three classes I do not share with Daehyun.  Having him with me was always reassuring, it made things just a little better.

  Daehyun and I have been together for a little over a year now.  We’d known each other since we were in elementary school, we became friends and then one day things just happened.

  He was walking me home during the spring.  The sun had just set, casting shadows on the streets.  When the shopkeepers would see my face in the moonlight – more specifically if they could see my mark – they would spit out nasty remarks.  Daehyun, like every one else in this village, knew of the biting and hateful remarks that were thrown at me, but this was the first time he heard them first hand.  I didn’t let it bother me, but he still held me closer to him seeming to shield me from those words.

  No one realizes just how harshly I am treated unless they are with me and watch and hear it happen themselves.  None of them really care either so they tune it out as white noise.  Daehyun grew tense beside me as he clutched me to his side, hiding me from all those nasty remarks I slowly began to grow numb towards.

  I never let anyone come within viewing distance of my house; my parents always get angry when they see me coming home with anyone.  Daehyun pulled me to a stop before the corner that would make my home visible to us, it was here I would turn and return to the place of uncaring cruelty and he would continue straight to his loving household.

  He didn’t say anything, just looked down into my eyes before leaning in and placing a warm, loving kiss on my lips.  It was chaste and innocent but it carried with it more feelings of love, warmth and care than I had ever received from my family since I was born.  It was reassuring and comforting.

  Ever since then I have always been able to rely on him outside of my home for the more tender and foreign feelings I don’t have much experience with.

 

  The school day luckily ended without incident.  My bones were shaking and my skin freezing.  My sensation of touch had slowly faded over the course of the day and my mind would cloud from time to time from the chills wanting to take over my mind and body.

  Daehyun met me outside my final class when it was over and immediately wrapped me in his embrace and cursed as the chilled over me reached his heated flesh and stole its warmth.  Rubbing in hands up and down my back to try and warm me up in the end was pointless.  I wasn’t going to warm up anytime soon, at east not until the ice in my blood thawed.

  “I need to change, Daehyun.”  I sighed once we reached my locker.  “You don’t have to stay around and wait for me.”

  He chuckled.  “Of course I plan of waiting for you.  I’m not letting you wonder around in the cold without making sure you get home safely without passing out.”  He paused as I shut the door to my locker.  I looked up at him and caught his eyes.  “Will your parents take you in?”

  I looked down at the while linoleum floor and pain pierced through me.  “Probably.  I’ll have chores to do that they will want done.”

  I left Daehyun to wait by my locker while I went about changing out of my uniform into a spare set of warm sweatpants and a fleece bunnyhug.  I needed something warm to fend of the subzero temperatures, something to contain my limited body heat.  No matter how much I’m used to the frigid cold, I still dislike the feeling.

  I put my things away in my locker and locked it tight before lacing my fingers with Daehyun’s.  Offering him a small smile the two of us began the fifteen-minute walk back to where our paths forked.

  “If the kick you out again tonight come see me.”  He told me just before we came up to the corner.  “I don’t want you outside again tonight, Narae.  You’ll die.”

  I let out a breathless sigh.  I’ve survived this long I’m sure I won’t die so easily but I told him I would to give hi peace of mind.  I have little worry I will be outside again tonight, it is very rare during the winter season I am outside twice in a row.  It’s more likely to be every few weeks or so. 

  During the cold season I get fed less and do not get blankets or a bed even.  It is only when they get extremely upset that I cannot enter the house.  I will be fine for the night and the next few as well.  It will be back to the same as it always is and I will continue to survive as I always have.

  I did not speak with my parents when I arrived home.  I simply picked up the list of chores I had to complete off the table and set about doing them, making sure to stay our of anyone’s way as they went about their lives in the house.  Cleaning the floors, dusting every picture and polishing the silverware.

  I did not get food that night and I wasn’t all that bothered.  I barely even felt the pains ripping through my abdomen.  The churning of my stomach begging for food and nutrients.  A cup of water was all I was given and even for just that I expressed my thankfulness.  At least I wouldn’t go thirsty tonight.

  It wasn’t until past twilight that I was finished with all I was tasked to do and I still had schoolwork that needed to be completed.  I set off to the attic room I resided in within the house.  The threadbare mattress had been pulled from the small space leaving only the boarded up window that lacked glass that kept the harsh wind out.  A blanket with more holes in in that the fabric should allow was thrown in a corner without a care.

  I grabbed my bag that sat just beside the stairs that led up here with a resigned sigh and got to work on everything that was due the next day as to not get in more trouble.

  My hand was cramped by the time I was finished and my eyes were sore from having to strain them to read with only the dim light of a fading, flickering candle.  It was a wonder my eyes are still in good health without the need of corrective lens that I was sure I would never get should I need them.  My parents would sooner let me go blind than ay good money on someone as worthless and useless as I.

  The house was long asleep, but it would still be some time before fatigue claimed me.  I put my bag away near the door and looked over that the window.  I bit my lip as I eyes the boards.

  “It’s been so long.”  I muttered to myself as I chewed the inside of my cheek.  “I wonder what it looks like in the dead of night in the heart of winter?”

  I knew I shouldn’t do this.  I knew it was wrong.  I knew if I were caught I would wish for death after what would happen to me.  But I was so curious and it always managed to calm me when the day’s were hard.

  I would only be proving everyone right, but I really didn’t care. 

  I made sure my feet were slight as I moved across the wooden floor, careful not to make noise that would rouse those that slept below me in the comfort of their beds covered in warm blankest.  Snuggled up warm and tight while I willing faced the cold night that feared living in.

  I had to be quick and silent as I removed the poorly placed boards covering the window.  I knew which board to remove next and where each nail was carelessly drilled in.  It was quite easy to remove all six of the useless pieces of wood from their place and soundlessly place them off to the side for me to move back into place when I was finished.

  The window that led outside of my attic home led onto a small outcropping of the roof that I could climb onto.  With a little maneuvering I could get myself up into the main roof and let my legs swing free below me.

  From up here I could see all over the small village I lived in.  The few lights still on flickering in the cold darkness.  I didn’t even feel the cold, still numb from the night prior.  But the one thing I loved about this spot was the clear view of the Forest.  The gnarled trees twisting and frightening all those that looked upon them.  The blackness that seemed to swallow up everything that was within it.

  The Forest is a deadly place.  For anyone that enters it is never seen again.  The beasts that reside within are fierce and kill all those that they come across.  What beasts call the Forest home are all unknown to us, the only ones that know whom inhabits the deadly place have all died at the hands of those animals.

  There are times then the ferocious roars of the beats reach our village that sits just on the outskirts of the place.  The angry, deadly growls like thunder bring fear to everyone that hears them.

  Yet for all the fear the Forest brings, nothing ever leaves the sanctuary of its borders.  Nothing.  Not even a leaf or a spec of dust ever passes the boundary of trees.  There is no explanation for this, no one knows why.  But as soon as something enter it will never come out.

  There have been tales of people that have bravely entered the Forest with full intentions of coming out, but they never do.  It just doesn’t happen.  It times past it was a form of the death penalty to send criminals into the Forest to die however they do.  Given a choice of a knife, bow and arrow with a quiver of arrows or a gun they were sent with only that weapon and three sunsets to come out and be free of all charges.  It never happened and no one ever returned.

  What a surprise.

  “Did you really mark me?”  I asked the Forest as I let me eyes roam over the treetops.  A loud roar tore itself from the depths of the Forest.  “Is that a yes?”  But everything remained silent as always.  The winter winds picked up and blew my hair around me.

  There was something ethereally beautiful about the deadly place.  I don’t know what it is but even with all the hatred towards it, the Forest seems to emanate something so protective and eternal. 

  I do not dare speak what I feel to anyone, not even Daehyun, for fear they will curse me for it.  I know not where these feeling come from, but I can never shake the feelings that the Forest isn’t as bad as we seem to think it is.

  Maybe I really am cursed after all.  Maybe I am meant to belong to the Forest.

  A screeching cry ripped through the air.  It pierced my ears and split my mind and I clutched at my temples.  The agony of the cry brought me to double ov

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Wynter
Forest Bound - Hoping to have this updated by the end of May.
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