It was dark. It was so dark. The kind of dark when the sun is down and there's no moon in the sky, when even the stars flee. I was so ready, you know? I practiced all my life for this moment. Every swing of my sword, every song I played, every beer I drank. The entries in my journal all through the years, my entire life until this point, it was all spent preparing for the oath I swore. I was going to kill it and get out; learn some trade or take a job protecting something else. Protection and craft are all I know, but it all ended. Too soon and not soon enough.
The beast entered a cave and settled, and I knew I'd found its home. Those animal breaths shivered the trees and me as well, but I knew what I had to do. I was prepared, after all. All I had to do was wait until it fell asleep and I could get the advantage. It didn't take long - must have been tired from all that killing it did. When I stood up to draw my sword, everything slowed down. I could see every leaf in the trees, every worm in the dirt, I could smell yesterday's rain the ground and I could feel every rush of breath the creature sucked. It was now or never. Each step took a lifetime, and I could tell that story another time, but now that I think about it, it wouldn't be very exciting. Nevermind. Back, uh... the creature. I was close now, close enough to push my sword into its heart and end its story once and for all.
I struck. Blood sprayed all over me and I could taste it. The fear and the anger and the instincts it had to fight - all mine in this moment. It was my greatest moment of glory. ...but I was wrong. The damned thing didn't die! It stood and roared and knocked me aside like a cat knocks a bottle from a shelf. Rocks fell from the ceiling, landing all around me. Crack, boom, ringing in my ears was all I could feel in my rage. I made a mistake and it was going to cost me, but I knew I had to do this here and now so I came to collect. I got on my feet just as an unnatural darkness covered everything. The last thing I saw was those eyes. Those burning, hateful eyes pointed at me, its only foe. I wanted to take them out and crush them with my bare hands, but I wouldn't get the chance. Not yet.
Stumbling over rocks I tried to listen for it and swing my sword anywhere it could go. Only air and rock were cut and I shouted in anger; that's when it hit me. I think it was the claws that hit my sword side and took flesh. If you've never been torn by a creature, it felt hot and cold and wrong wrong wrong - that's all my brain said. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was on my knee, still trying to swing, but my body was fighting every move I made. My boot squished every time I moved from all the blood slopping inside; I couldn't see it but it was falling like water. I was raining inside that cave inside and out, and that damned creature knew it had me.
The next thing I remember was hearing a grunt, then smelling rotted breath, and something hit my head. Right... here, on the front, right there. My vision, it all went white and there was red, veins, all around the outside. My ears were ringing and I didn't know if I was on my feet or my back. I tried to move but it was all heavy and cold. I couldn't feel movement, worse than not feeling it now. It was all loud and kept getting louder until it got quiet and darker, darker, darker... and that was it. I remember trying to smile. I did my best and I gave it all I could, even if it was only a scar to remember me by, so I tried to smile. I tried to say, "help me," to anyone that would listen, then it all stopped. Time froze and then kept repeating, like an echo. That's all that happened, echoing, echoing, echoing, and then I woke up.
Everyone was there. Äiti, Linus, Oleg, and of course the Tietäjä - shaman - leaning over me, looking down with tears falling from their eyes. They weren't breathing, like they were waiting for something. I was confused because I felt numb all over. Something in my head said "I shouldn't be here," but I didn't understand what it meant for a minute. Then Oleg looked very happy. He went somewhere else and then I heard clicks and hums and I felt this strange power move through my blood. I sat up, everyone moved back and looked terrified. Why? What happened to me, why was everyone I love looking at me this way? Then there was another click and I heard Oleg ask "can you hear me? How are you feeling?" I wanted to say I felt very strange with my whole body numb and when I would breathe, there was no air, but I was okay. This strange sound came from somewhere, then my brother said some very foul words, just like he always does.
"You will feel strange for a while," Oleg told me, "you've had a bad time." I wondered what bad time I had. I couldn't remember. I miss not remembering. "Onkki?" I looked to my mother, my äiti. She was reaching to my face to feel it but there was no feeling. I asked what happened to me. She said not to worry about that right now, and just breathe. Then she looked sad and said she was sorry. For what, I didn't know.
"I feel strange, but you're acting it. Except Linus," I said to them. Linus laughed and waved his hand to shoo me away. He said I was still the same Onkki and that he would have to look after me now. I told him he's been dreaming again, and then I felt like I was being pulled. Oleg turned my head and looked me in the eyes and said, "Onkki, you're back. Things will be different now, but you're back." Then he shoved a mirror in my face, and I felt like I should cry. There was a strange face looking at me. Metal, glass, white and green with the, you know, you can see it. I was quiet, wondering what that face was and why it was in a mirror, it didn't come to my head yet. "Onkki, that's you. That's you now, Aurora Nainen, your new face."
I felt it again. Hot, cold, wrong, wrong, wrong. All over. I couldn't cry.
In some weeks I adjusted. I don't breathe anymore. No need to eat or drink or sleep or shit anymore. My body doesn't feel pain or excitement or happiness or sadness, even if I still do. I can still play kantele though, still swing my sword and do my house chores. Run, sit, stand, lay - all things I can still do, but it doesn't feel like anything. Is there a point anymore? Anyway, it's all still new. It'll feel new for a long time I think. It's good I don't feel hot or cold anymore, at least, but every day, wrong, wrong, wrong in my head. Oh, my sword, right, it changed too. It's normal until I touch it, and then it looks like the night sky with little strings in it. It feels familiar in some way beyond my head. It makes me want to stare, for hours, and touch it. Just stare and touch it. The feeling is like I want to go inside it and touch the strings like the kantele, play a song for the stars with them. My family saw me stare at my sword for hours and hours, so Linus slapped my arm and said, "get fresh air, you're being strange." We talked and he made the city sound like a good idea, even though I didn't like the city when I went. So I got some of my old clothes and supplies the people of Aurorankylä saved for me, and went to the city. Kamberan, on the north shore.
There was no trouble on the road. I thought there would be, with all the looks - curious, fearful, judging, all kinds look at me, but there was no trouble. The city was like I remembered, but it all felt more alive now, in a way? Like there was something I could do there instead of laying around bored while the duke talked past me. Jumalauta, that man, may I never see him again. Anyway, I stayed in the city a few days. I didn't need money because no eating, no sleeping, but I wanted to have some to feel like I used to. There was a job about getting rid of a ghost on the post board. Ghosts can't hurt me now I think so I said, "This will be my first new job the second time," laughed at my joke and took the paper. It felt strange to do what I used to do for my training and money. Not enough for me to do something different, though. That part is still me: the best part.