I stood by as the masked man knocked my mother to the ground. For that is what he was, a man. He was too tall to be a dwarf, and didn’t have the grace of an elf. The basket of flowers my mother and I had just collected together lay on the ground, making a rainbow of color on the filthy floor. The man stood above my mother and ripped open her blouse. When I realized what was happening I ran to my mother’s side and began to beat my fists on the man’s leg. The man just pushed me away with a careless shove and I tripped over a stone and fell to the ground. I had heard of this before. Men attacking elf women, it was common. There was something else, something I just couldn’t remember.
My mother was pushed flat and the man sat on top of her. It wasn’t until I saw the flash of silver that I remembered what happened afterward. My mother fought against the man and almost was able to stand until she was pulled back down to the ground. She turned her head and looked at me through her tangled hair and mouthed, “Run!”
Tears of fear for my mother’s safety poured down my cheeks as I turned and ran. I stumbled into the old dirt road with my eyes closed and never stopped running. I pushed past anyone who stood in front of me and picked myself back up whenever I fell. Eventually I made my way to the lake where we had picked the flowers. I collapsed in a patch of purple violets and pulled my legs to my chest.
“Gone,” I choked through tears, “Gone.”
* * *
I awoke to feel rough hands grasping my arms. I tried to scream but found that I had been gagged. I twisted and tried to catch a glimpse of the face of my captor, but the person who held me pushed my head down and pulled a sack over me. The sack smelled strongly of wheat and the rough material scraped my delicate skin as the captor lifted me. I grunted as I was dropped in what seemed to be a cart filled with straw. I felt the strong hands that had bound my wrists push straw over my body. The strands pushed through the sack and poked at my face. Why? I wondered, Why have these people taken me? Who attacked my mother? Is she still alive? Where am I going? Do they want to kill me too?
I curled up under the straw mat that had been pushed over me and let the tears run freely. Just yesterday I laid in the arms of my mother, and now…
I felt a hand land on the straw above me. “Don’t make a noise and you won’t be harmed.”
The voice was that of a man, rough and stern. It wasn’t the man who attacked my mother, of that I was certain. I decided it would be best to listen to the man so I bit my lip to keep from making any unintentional noise. An hour passed and I was still curled beneath the straw. I now had cuts all over from the straw and my face was stained with tears. I had almost begun to lose hope when I heard muffled voices coming from above.
“There have been strange people walking about.”
The muffled voice of the man who captured me rang in my ears. Then another voice, an unfamiliar one, answered.
“They seem to be drawn here.”
I heard my captor slide off the cart and whisper something to the other man. A few moments later I felt the cart jolt and then stop again, and one of the men reached his hand into the straw that covered me and grasped my arm. I let out a short squeal then bit my tongue as I remembered that I was supposed to be silent.
The man lifted me and pulled me off the cart. My legs were weak from fear and the man half dragged me toward a door. There was still some straw stuck on the sack that covered my face and it scraped my skin and got stuck to my eyelashes. I heard the heavy creak of an old door and felt the ground change from hard dirt to worn wood. Warm laughter and conversation flowed toward me as I was pulled through the door into what I believed to be an inn. The man who held me threw me over his shoulder and my knees knocked against my face as I heard another door open. I was moved into another room, one that was apparently empty. I slid off the man’s shoulder onto the floor, twisting my arm behind my back. Suddenly the rough sack was pulled out from under me and I landed on a hard, dirty floor. I let my eyes adjust to the shadows and saw at least five white-uniformed standing around me. They peered at me as I lay sprawled on the ground.
“This is all you could get? We wanted someone younger!”
One of the uniformed men looked at my captor, who I could now see clearly. He wore a simple leather tunic and had dark hair. His face was streaked with dirt and his green eyes seemed cautious, almost fearful.
“I tried to get someone younger but they were all to well protected. She was just lying out in a field, so either she ran away or was abandoned. Either way no one will miss her.”
I looked up at the man with the tunic, avoiding his eyes. “Where is my mother?” I asked, choking down tears.
The green eyed man looked at the white uniformed man who looked down at me with gentile eyes.
“We don’t know, but I promise you,” He kneeled down next to me, “if you behave, we will bring her back to you.”
I paused and nodded reluctantly. The man smiled and stood up again. He looked at the green-eyed man and pulled a pouch out of one of his many pockets. He handed him the pouch, which I concluded to be filled with gold coins. The green-eyed man nodded, a frown drawn across his face, then headed out the door. One of the other white uniformed men advanced toward me and took my hand. He helped me stand and took me to a shadow-covered door. He pulled out a small, intricate key and placed it in a lock. I heard the lock click and the door swung open. I was temporarily blinded by a bright light that flowed from the room. Once my eyes re-adjusted I looked around the white walled room. It was a small chamber with several doors leading into more rooms. The walls were made of a material I didn’t recognize, they weren’t made of wood or stone.
The man who held my hand smiled at me and led me to a door on the left. He opened the heavy door and brought me inside.
“This is your new home,” He explained happily.
I looked around the room. There was a small bed and various dolls spread across the floor. There were no windows, which scared me. I had always grown up in the forest, and now..
The man let go of my hand and walked to the door. “This is where you will stay for the night. Someone will be back later for food. Goodnight.”
The man left the room and shut the door behind him. I heard the lock click as it shut. I stared out the door for a few moments after the man left then sat down on the floor and picked up a few dolls.
I awoke to the sound of a door creaking open and sat up drowsily. I watched as the door opened and a white uniformed man walked in, a tray in his hands. He smiled at me and placed the tray at my feet. I looked at the food and winced. There was a piece of hard bread and some kind of brown mush.
“I know it doesn’t look appetizing, but it’s good for you.” The man commented as he left, locking the door behind him. I waited for the man to leave before I stuck my finger in the warm mush. After my finger was covered in the pasty mixture I stuck it in my mouth. As soon as the taste struck my tongue I spit it back out. I gagged for a minute then reached for the bread. It was cold and stale but was still a welcome change from the paste. I finished the bread but left the brown mush.
By the time I had finished I looked at the heavy iron door, half waiting for my mother to come through with a wonderful feast in her arms. I don’t know how long I sat there. Every time I heard even the smallest of noises my hope rose then fell again once the noise subsided. Eventually I climbed onto the soft bed, one of the small dolls clasped in my hand. The rough cornhusk scratched against my face, but I didn’t care. A few minutes later I fell asleep, the doll I named Mommy pressed tight against my cheek.
* * *
The next morning I was woken up by the creaking of the large heavy door. I sat up and looked, wide eyed, at the man who entered. I rubbed my eyes and pushed the sheets off my legs.
“Don’t sorry, I’m just here to talk.” The man smiled at me and sat down on the bed next to me. “So, what’s your name?”
I sat crossed legged on the bed and looked at the man. He wore a white overcoat with a pocked on the chest. There was a blue twig and paper with a metal string binding sitting in the pocket. I could tell he wasn’t from town.
“My name is Ohani. I’m from the Bakai village.”
The man smiled gently at me and looked at the doll I held. “Well Ohani of the Bakai village, do you like dolls?”
I nodded as the man pulled out a small package. He pulled off the wrapping and held a small cloth between his fingers.
“Your arm is a little dirty, I just want to clean it.”
He pulled up my sleeve and rubbed my arm with the wet cloth. I didn’t know why, my arm wasn’t really that dirty. I watched him clean it with little interest.
“You know,” The man began, “If you look at that spot on the wall you can see the face of a doll.”
I turned my head away from the man and looked at the spot on the wall where he pointed. I was staring at it so hard I hardly felt the man grasp my arm. I continued staring at the wall when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my arm. I whipped my head around to look at the man, who had one hand grasping my limb and the other holding a needle in my arm. I whimpered and watched him pull the needle back out. A small drop of blood protruded from the spot that the needle emerged from. I whimpered again and lifted my arm to suck on the wound, but my mouth was filled with a bitter taste from the liquid that the man cleaned my arm with. I quickly pulled my arm away from my face and tried to spit out the bitter taste. The man looked at me but I swatted away his arm and crawled away from him. I pulled my legs against me when my vision started to go black. Soon I lost all consciousness.
* * *
I woke up again on the floor. The man was gone and there was a new tray of food by the door. I sat up and looked around, then lie back down and put my hand on my forehead. Pain shot through my back up to my head and I rubbed my scalp. I decided to get up a little slower as I slowly lifted myself up and leaned against the bed. Once my back touched the cold metal a burning sensation shot through my back. I flinched and twisted my arm to find what caused me such pain. As I ran my hand down my back I cried out in pain and pulled my hand back. Blood trickled down from my fingertip, but there was no cut. My eyes opened wide and I twisted to see the reflection of my back on the metal of the bed. I gasped, the air leaving my lungs. I turned back around and tried to scream, but fear overcame me. Along my back was a long slit, covered in blood and puss. A thin black wire pulled the skin together, but not tight enough. I closed my eyes and bent over, vomiting on the cold ground from pain and fear. I sat back up and wiped off my mouth. After a few moments I turned around and pulled myself onto the bed. I vomited again from the pain and lay on my stomach upon the dull blankets.
This went on for years. Week after week I would endure the same painful procedure- be pricked by the needle and knocked out, just to wake up again with a long slit down my back. It usually happened once a week, sometimes twice. I didn’t even feel the pain anymore. I began eating the brown mush; I found out that if I ate it when I was in the most pain, it took my mind off the excruciating burning in my back. After two years I overheard a conversation between two scientists- for that is what they called themselves. The needle they poked me with was a shot, and they were apparently doing something to my spine. I hated the scientists with all my soul, and as I grew, so did the hatred.
Then, one day, I awoke on the floor. I tried to move but screamed out in pain. It was worse then any pain I had ever felt before. Tears streamed down my face and I clawed at the ground. I couldn’t move. Every time I so much as lifted a finger pain would shoot through my body. This is it, I thought, they have finally decided to kill me.
I closed my eyes and breathed faster. The pain was getting worse. I cried out in pain again, louder. I thought I felt the earth shake beneath me from my screams. And then, darkness. I fainted from the pain. The next day I awoke again to the pain. It wasn’t as bad as before, but it felt like a white-hot dagger was being pressed to my spine. I moved my finger slightly, sending a shock through my body. The pain slowly subsided and soon I could move my entire hand. I tried to move my arm, but it was too painful for me to bear. I paused for the duration of three minutes and then tried to move my arm again. I realized I couldn’t and sighed. I closed my eyes and tried to move my other arm. After an hour or so I could move my hands and feet less painfully and I could make my arms and legs twitch. For a few days I continued the painful rehabilitation process. Little by little I regained feeling in my frail body. Then, that one life changing day, I was well enough to sit up. I slid my hands beside my body and pushed myself up into a seated position. Something wasn’t right. I looked down at myself and frowned. My scraggly blonde hair flowed over my shoulders and my clothes were old and torn. But that wasn’t it.
I swayed a little then stopped. I squinted and twisted around. I winced but fought through the pain to turn. I had a tail. I tried to cry out but was too speechless to make any noise. My mind raced. It wasn’t like the tail of a cat or a bird. More like the tail of a large lizard. Red scales gleamed dully and I tried to figure out what the tail was from. Suddenly I whirled around and y eyes opened wide as it hit me.
It was a dragon tail.
I sat there, staring at my new tail. The scientists must have given it to me. That Is why they played with my spine. I reached out and touched my tail. When it didn’t move, I reached out and pulled the end into my lap. I ran my fingers along the shimmering scales. They were cold. I tried to wave my new tail but it didn’t work. I turned around and touched the area around my new tail. My spine had been stretched down into my new limb, and new muscles had been implanted. I tried again to move my tail, and this time the very tip shuttered and then stopped.