The Golden Lands, Episode 1


Cover TGL
Image by Clare S


I am walking through the forest, back towards our house, carrying with me four rabbits in a bag that I use for hunting.  It has been a good day; all that’s left to do is to cook and share my kills with my brother and sister.  I sigh.  My siblings receive what I give them with such indifference.  “Maybe I should leave them,” I think grumpily, “maybe then they’ll understand.”

I shake my head, trying to push away my resentful attitude.  I may not know them, but I do love my siblings.  That’s what I tell myself; it’s what my parents always said.  That was before they disappeared.

I come to a halt as I near the edge of the woods.  I look at our home; small and cold, it is made entirely of oaken planks.  I grew up here.  However, ever since my parents disappeared, my own house has seemed so foreign to me.  Maybe it’s because of them, because of how they act…or don’t act.  My brother and sister are like shadows; they move to and fro as the sun makes its course, yet they do not speak, they do not show expression, they have no depth of character.  And I can’t understand why.

The light is fading.  I shiver, though it is not cold, and prepare to do what I have done every day since our parents disappeared: walk into our home with my gatherings, look into my siblings’ pale, empty faces, and slip into the dull, lonely silence as they cook and devour whatever I brought them.  I always let them eat however much they want, forgetting myself.  But they have never noticed my kindness.  I laugh with a note of hysteria, and the light seems to fade a bit more; they have always ignored my kindness!  In my mind, like a little flame flaring to life, a sense of anger and disgust sets in.

I walk through our back door, stepping into the small sitting room that is merged with our kitchen.  Heavy shadows blanket the entire room, save for certain areas that are touched by the golden beams of the setting sun, which enter through the two open windows set on either side of our front door.  The smell of the oaken boards, the feeling of warmth from the dying fire in one end of the room, is so familiar to me.  My brother, Frater, and my sister, Soror, look up from where they are playing on the floor with toys my parents made them.  Our eyes meet for a moment, and I see their faces.  Their faces, their expressions, are so pale and lifeless, no matter what I give them my siblings always refuse to react.  I feel a twinge of bitterness as they look away, once again disregarding me.  I don’t even get a greeting.  I frown.

They are so useless, I think angrily.  They choose to be the embodiment of depression, not even caring to rise from their own worthlessness.  I have to do everything for them.  But they could care less.  They choose to ignore life.  They are selfish and disgraceful.

For so long I have been convinced that I love them, but now I don’t know.  I am finished with their detached nature.  “Hello,” I say in a cold voice, trying to elicit a reaction from them.

They don’t even look up from their toys.  It’s as if they are deaf.  I clench my fist.  I have done everything an older brother should do.  Why won’t they answer me?

I kneel down next to Soror and shake her shoulders, trying to be gentle, but my anger gets the best of me, and it probably feels more like a shove.  “Soror,” I say, “I told you to have put in more wood for the fire before I got home.  Why didn’t you?”

Soror shrugs, not even looking at me.  She is fitting a doll of hers into a dress.  I grunt with annoyance and throw some wood onto the fire, too hard, for ashes and embers fly out of the hearth.  I see Soror flinch; some of the ashes landed on her arm.  She makes a sound of discomfort and pain and quickly brushes the ashes off.

“Maybe if you did what I said, that wouldn’t have happened,” I sneer.

As I finish speaking, Frater gets up and walks over to my hunting bag.  I think he is eight and Soror is twelve, but I can’t even remember.  He looks so young though.  After inspecting the rabbits, he walks back and begins playing again.

I sigh and begin unpacking my kills.  As I do, I say, “Soror, get a pot from the kitchen.”

She has never ignored a command from me before while I am standing in front of her.  She doesn’t move.

I bite my lip and clench my hands, so hard they turn white.  I am done.  “You know what?” I raise my voice.  They perk their heads up, and for what seems the longest time in a while, our eyes meet.  “If you don’t care, then none of us will eat.  If you want to sit and despair for no reason in the middle of the floor, then fine.  I won’t care for you anymore.”

I walk into my room and slam the door, falling into my bed with a huff of anger.  I lay there, my eyes narrowed with anger, seething with emotions that I have repressed for such a long time.  For fifteen minutes, I remain on my bed.

Then I hear Soror crying.  I roll my eyes; what has she done now?  I step outside my room, only to find that she has tried to begin skinning one of the rabbits I caught, and she is horribly failing—

Wastefully failing.

I briskly walk towards her.  “What are you doing?” I say sternly.

Then I know why she is crying.  She has cut her hand with the knife she is using, and she is crying loudly.

Too loudly.

“Shut up!” I shout at her.  “Look what you’ve done to the meat.  Don’t you care at all that I worked hard to catch those?”

I snatch the rabbits from her.  She cries more, holding up her hurt hand, blood running off her fingers.

I clench my teeth; even after I’ve berated her, she can’t even mumble an apology?  I take the knife too and crouch down in front of her.  “Maybe I should give you another cut!” I hiss.

She shrieks, shying away from the knife.  I stand and point it at her again.  “You are nothing but a worthless, lazy dog!  You do nothing but eat our food, the food I get, and you just get in the way!  You act like you’re not even human; you act like you’re dead.  And I wish you were dead!”

And with that, I walk into my bedroom and shut the door, locking my siblings out of my life.  I’m done with them…forever.

Or so I thought.  I didn’t hear their cries, so high-pitched and unearthly, maybe because I was focusing on my angry thoughts, or Soror’s weeping, which I silently enjoyed.  When I did hear them, a sound so foreign to me, I didn’t react; it could have been a strange bird, an owl, an animal in pain, but it wasn’t.

I notice that Soror has stopped crying, and everything has grown utterly silent.  I perk my head up.

A loud, terrifying scream sounds just outside our house, and an instant later I hear the front door get broken down.  Soror and Frater begin screaming with panic and horror, and immediately I rush for the only decent weapon I own; the sword standing upright in the corner of my room.

With a surge of speed, I burst out of my room.  They already have my siblings.  Without hesitation, I stab one of the intruders in front of me, and I acknowledge what I just killed.  It is a horrifying beast, black as the shadows in the room, standing like a man, but with horrible teeth and eyes, a grotesque face, and a large, muscular body.  The room is filled with them.  I immediately know what they are.  They are Evil.

They begin dragging Soror and Frater out of the house.  I cry out to my siblings, raising my sword, but I am blocked by a horde of the beasts.  The darkness is so thick around me, so dark I’ve never seen anything like it, as though the darkness is a black wall connecting the beasts, emanating from their skin.  The way they move makes my head swim, like they keep multiplying and then vanishing into the darkness.  I charge them, and two of them step out to meet me.  One after another, I cut both of them down.  I hear my siblings scream from outside, and I raise my head to look for them beyond our demolished front door.  I see them with their arms outstretched for me, and then all of a sudden I feel pain erupt in my stomach and I gasp.

Time freezes for a moment, and then I grunt with alarm again, looking down at the blade sticking into my body.  The blade retracts, and I release a quivering breath.  I fall to the ground on my side, watching as my blood pools beneath me, warm against my side.  As I lay there,—sharp, burning pain running through me—I look up, seeing outside in the fading light of day a distinct figure: a beast with long, matted hair, and a red cape.  Every Evil returns to his side, swarming about him.  And I know he is their leader.

Then they leave.  Their cries sound for long, pain-filled moments after, and then they fade into silence.  And all that’s left behind is blood and shadow.


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