From the Storm
It was early morning, but Magdalene Ka Atasha had not slept. Dared not close her eyes. Continued to push forward at a relentless pace.
She rode a black horse. The oversized beast was fast–its breath deep and heavy, its eyes wild like midnight storms. The sound of its hooves against the ground was like a giant’s heartbeat. Strong and steady.
Behind her, the wind blew in haggardly from the prairies, moaning and howling like a tortured prisoner, and smelling of mud and dead grass. Ahead, in the far distance, fog lingered like ghostly whispers, haunting their surroundings in an uncanny stillness, hiding the dark mysteries which awaited.
The rain had stopped, but Magdalene could still feel the moisture's sour grip soaking through her clothes and armor, sinking into her wounded soul like a bitter curse.
She had come from a terrible storm, and an even more terrible past.
From chaos and from horror.
She had committed countless acts of unspeakable cruelties from the past she came, but over that time even worse deeds had also been bestowed upon her. The violence she endured had made her in many ways stronger, but also in a sense had turned her into a monster. Had damaged her mind, and filled her heart with an anger which always felt as if it were starving. A ravenous sickness fed only by a lust for turmoil.
She believed she was once good, however. Once innocent. And she believed that person still existed somewhere inside of her. Somewhere far down in the twisted maze of what was once her humanity. The mangled landscape that was once her sanity.
This is why she pushed forward. This was her chance to end the evil. Her hope of surviving whatever future she had left.
For now, her memories were merely fading scars lingering at the edges of her mind, falling off into oblivion like suicidal mutes with every step she took forward. The further she traveled, the more she felt free from those hurtful acts. The more alive she became, and the more clear her sense of purpose.
Strapped to her back was an ancient sword, handed down from generations before her. It was crafted from black steal, with the names of her ancestors engraved into the hilt.
How many lives had been taken with this blade?
She didn’t know.
She did know, however, that there were still more to take. Still more degenerate lives to snuff out like putrid flames. The thought of this filled her chest with a tingling warmth. Gave her the much needed energy to push onward.
Somewhere within the distant fog dwelt her greatest enemy, a diabolic man in ebony armor leading a small army. Everything bad in Magdalene's life led back to him. He was the start, and he will ultimately be the finish.
This was one final act of revenge. Her last commitment. Her salvation.
Time passed quickly, both from fatigue and from determination. The fog, which a moment ago had appeared so distant, was upon her now, devouring her. She entered the mist eagerly, knowing that somewhere within it her enemy was waiting to be butchered.
Dark shapes appeared in the near distance, and Magdalene drew her sword. She quickened her pace even faster, her heart pounding like a hammer, her hands eager for murder. This was it. The beginning of her final moment. Her purpose.
Yet it wasn't.
She pulled back on the reins, and the horse reared.
The dark shapes were of men, but they were already dead. A dozen of them tied to broken tree stumps, their eyes half glazed, and staring back at her.
What was happening?
She moved closer to the corpses. There were no visible wounds on the bodies. No way to determine their causes of death. She moved closer still, and noticed suddenly that the corpses were smiling, crude grins stretched across pale faces. It made the dead men’s eyes seem even more surreal. As if they were gawking at her from some other far away world.
Magdalene wanted to scream.
It felt as if reality has slipped. As if it had stumbled down into a place it was never meant to go. A nightmare which never should have existed.
She began to breath. Tried to focus.
Slowly, she moved past the bodies tied to the stumps, hoping–and even praying–that what lay beyond them was different. That blood still pulsed through the veins of her great ebony armored enemy.
There were more broken tree stumps, and more bodies–yet these ones mangled. No wounds or gore, but their limbs twisted into unnatural angles. Their smiles were the same as the others, but their eyes clearer. Like the glass eyes of dolls. Unmoving but seeming alive. Seeming possessed and full of spirits.
Magdalene motioned for her horse to move faster. They galloped past the bizarre corpses, and up a grassy hill to get a better look at their surroundings.
Atop the hill was a statue of a man on a pedestal.
He was dressed in ebony armor.
Her enemy's armor.
Surrounding the statue's feet were a variety of half-melted candles, their flames small but stubborn. There were crows as well, perched on and around the statue like spectators come to see Magdalene's reaction. The dark birds appeared curious. Their little eyes spoke of mockery. Of decrepit joy. They seemed the same as the dead men’s grins: as if about to laugh.
Dread washed through Magdalene like burning water, filling her mind in a panic. She got off her horse, blade still readied in her shaking hand. She strode up the wide steps of the pedestal, and stood there before the statue. The crows did not fly away. Appeared too eager and too curious to be afraid.
The face of the statue was indeed the face of her enemy. She knew it well.
The statue’s eyes were similar to the twisted corpses: glass-like, and haunted. Seeming alive, yet appearing lost and unmoving. It was the only part of the statue not made of weathered stone.
It didn’t make sense. This was impossible, but still somehow happening.
"Whom am I to kill now?" She whispered.
What was she to do with this hate which still consumed her? What could she do with this unfinished purpose?
The anger in her wounded heart could not be released, and the confusion of the situation was suffocating. She had never felt so lost as she did now.
She gazed into the statue's dark eyes, imagining herself wildly hacking at the actual living man with her ancient blade, feeling her enemy's crimson life-force splattering against her skin in warm streaks. She imagined her heart feeling alive and free. She imagined hope. Salvation. Release.
Her thoughts were dizzy. Disoriented.
From the storm, she was strong. From the storm she had come so far. Had endured so much.
And for what?
She remained silent for a long time.
And suddenly she thought, is this a test?
The notion flickered a sense of wonder. Of possibility. Of reassurance that all was not lost. That she could still somehow fulfill her purpose.
But then other questions tumbled down on her like a sack of stones. Had her enemy cursed himself and his unholy army? Or had someone or something caught up to him first? Had another tortured soul acted out on vengeance? She assumed he had many enemies, and this was entirely possible.
None of these questions mattered, however. The only thing that mattered was the now.
She regained clarity.
"I cannot forgive you," she said, "but to defy you, I will move on. I will mock your name by living forward. I will hurt you in death by forgetting you. Memories of the pain you once forced upon me will not control me anymore. My vengeance will be life."
Still shaken–but feeling better–she placed her weapon at the statue's feet, and stood up. She unlatched her heavy armor, and dropped it to the ground.
Her past was the storm of which she will never return. Her purpose is her future. A life free from the memories of hate, and from the lust for revenge.
Copyright 2017 Justin Gedak
Published by Justin Gedak
Written by Justin Gedak
The cover art is a digital painting by Justin Gedak based on the photography of Anna Anhen
More of Justin’s artwork can be viewed here: www.justingedak.com/
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