The stag head loomed over her, mounted on the door like the beast had decided to peer out just seconds before it met its doom. Its glassy marble gaze reflected her tensed body, ready to lash out in a crackle of energy at the slightest sign of trouble.
She tried not to list out the ways this meeting could go wrong, but Althen’s voice played out in a loop, almost becoming a mantra that braced her for her first meeting with Death.
Avoiding the stag’s gaze, she pushed the heavy mahogany doors open. It couldn’t be an omen – the stag’s fate was not going to be hers.
She watched the last of the parachutists drift towards the beach, where a crowd was cheering and clapping even though the team was one short. Maybe no one had noticed yet. It wasn’t the first time the explorers had returned incomplete.
The sun was still hovering above the horizon, as though holding out for the last survivor. There was still time – one could hope.
He found the journal on the train, a black battered leather-bound volume stashed between the seat and the window. Whether it was meant for him to find, he didn’t know. But he worked it out of its hiding place and gingerly cracked it open. His grandfather had told him to stay out of other people’s thoughts. But then erring on the side of caution had landed him in the enemy’s hands anyway, so there was no reason to heed his advice.
Red was the colour of her hair, the flush in her cheeks when she laughed.
Red was her dress at the ball she had never wanted to attend – she preferred to wander in the forest with me instead. But I made her go, watching her from the shadowed bushes far from the bright lights of the palace.
Red was the bloodstained marble when she plunged to earth like a dying star, the pawn in a ruthless game of power and betrayal.
Red was the colour of the sky when she breathed her last in my arms.
The town of In Between hadn’t had a visitor for as long any of its inhabitants could remember. It wasn’t a proper place, after all, just an afterthought squeezed between two warring colonies. But the town was blessed with an abundance of rainfall and a roaring underground trade – two unrelated reasons the visitor cited for settling down. That was the year the town of In Between broke the rules by taking him in. They were no longer invisible, not with a rain thief in their midst, and everything changed soon after.
(Images taken from Pinterest and Tumblr – none of them are mine.)
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