Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
A growling noise roused her from her thoughts and she lowered her sword toward the threat. Due to the darkness, she hadn’t seen what it was immediately, but when her eyes finally made it out, fear gripped her heart like a steel cage.
A huge hulking thing was hunched over. It was twice as large as the young woman herself and had multiple barbs sticking out of its back and seemed to be eating something. Its thin arms came out of its body at an angle while its legs looked squat like a toad. The ferocious sounds accompanying this creature’s feast sent unease gurgling up inside her. She truly felt helpless now. What could she do?
The creature’s meal stopped abruptly. It raised its head quicker than the young woman could react. She saw its face, a red mouth lined with fangs, great luminous eyes that danced between colors of red and yellow. It turned and looked straight at her. Her heart stopped, as did her quivering, as if standing completely still could eliminate the chances of being seen.
The creature got down low to the ground, opened its mouth and shrieked. Not an ear piercing shriek but a guttural howl. It had found its next meal. Its movement startled her.
Despite the fact that she had a head start it was closing the gap, and fast, faster than she could run. Skidding along the ground the young woman tried to change her direction almost getting caught as her boots got weighed down in mud. She however, pushed off, gaining extra traction and taking off. The creature also skidded behind her but had a better time adjusting than she did. What was this thing? How could she lose it? It was then she noticed a small cave in a rock not very far from where she was. It was embedded in the ground about twenty yards away buried in the dirt to her left. She couldn’t have this thing follow her so she booked it for the section to the right of the cave. As expected the thing behind her followed, closing the gap on her heels in no time. She wasn’t far now, five yards. She strapped her sword onto her pack as she ran, and at the last second jumped to the left, narrowly missing the creature’s claws as she hadn’t realized how close she had cut it.
She fell through the cave entrance, sliding and crashing over the rocks as if the cave was swallowing her before falling into a larger cavern. She braced herself for the fall managing to keep her injuries light.
“Ow,” she muttered as she rubbed her head. “Don’t want to do that again.” She stood up, brushed herself off, and examined her surroundings. The cave was empty for the most part, just filled with rocks, but there was a raised rock further in the cave. It reminded her of a dais and in the center stood a mirror. “What the heck?” she murmured, as she walked closer to the mirror.
The mirror was a very peculiar object. It wasn’t like any she had seen before. Its edges were wooden but seemed to be rooted into the ground, as if the mirror had grown there. “What is this place?” the young woman asked no one in particular as she stroked the glass surface of the mirror. She wanted to figure out what this thing was but also didn’t want to waste any time waiting for that creature to come back. As she tried to leave she felt a tugging on her arm, her hand not coming with her. As she turned to investigate she found her hand had sank into the mirror’s surface and it was taking her entire arm with it.
As she was seeing this strange phenomenon, the girl began to freak out, desperately pulling on her arm as it was sucked further and further into the mirror. Soon it was up to her shoulder and she was having to brace herself against the mirror’s edge with her other hand. But to no avail. She let out a scream but it was cut off as the mirror reached her face. Soon the mirror had sucked her up, leaving nothing behind as if she had never existed.
She was floating in nothing. Empty space was around her. How long had she been in here? Hours? Days? Years? She couldn’t tell how long it’d been. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t feel anything either. It was like she was lost in a void. All she could hear were the voices.
Who are you?
You should never have left.
You’re worthless.
She tried to cover her ears, but couldn’t feel anything. It was then that she noticed her hands were gone. Flakes were coming off of her at the wrists. She looked downwards and noticed the same thing about her feet. She realized she was disintegrating. What could she do?
Nothing! You can’t do anything!
You’re inadequate, a joke!
Just die.
Yes, these things were true. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t do anything. She had failed so many times since entering this place. Maybe she should just die. Tears began gathering at the corners of her eyes. She just wanted to see her father again.
You’ll never find him!
You should never have left!
He never came back for you!
He left because of YOU!
In the stew of voices she noticed that last one. Left...because of her? No, that wasn’t right, he loved her.
No he didn’t!
No, he had! He would do anything for her. He wouldn’t leave her and he wouldn’t want her to die.
I have to live she thought to herself.
Just die! the voices repeated.
No, I have to live! I have to find my father and get my shadow back! She began to feel a return to her body as she repeated these words and then, without warning or reason she was reminded of a night so many years ago.
Could I be like her dad? she could hear her own voice, her younger voice, as she could hear all the others.
No. She heard her father say and it warmed her heart. The warmth spread throughout her body. She could feel her arms and legs reconstituting as she focused on the memory.
Because one day, you’re going to be even braver, and stronger, and more legendary!
Her dad wasn’t afraid of this place so why should she. If she was going to get her shadow back and find her dad she couldn’t afford to be afraid.
Things can only scare you if you give them the power to. That doesn’t mean you won’t be scared at all but sometimes, you have to be brave, fight the scary things even when they make you afraid. Face it head on. When you say “I know that I’m afraid and that’s all right” that’s when you become brave.
That’s why I am brave, she corrected herself. I won’t die here! I won’t die here! In that moment she was gasping for air. She could feel the cool breeze along her skin. The way out! She grasped at the air and reached out with her other hand. Where was it? Where was it? Her hands gripped the wooden portion of the mirror. YES! Using the location of the wood, she located the other side and latched on, pulling herself out. Her head came out after her hands. Breathing in deep she continued pulling her body out. Next her torso, then her legs, and finally she thudded out onto the stone. Taking long deep breaths she kept repeating to herself, “I’m alive, I’m out!”
A crackling noise greeted her ears. As she looked up, she realized it was the sound of falling stones. A familiar shriek greeted her as the creature came falling through the cave entrance. As it shook itself off, growling, it trained its eyes on its prey.
The young woman smiled as she began to stand, her hand gripping the sword as she took a battle stance. “There once was a warrior, a warrior who had been through many a battle, who had battled many monsters, who was both brave and strong.” The creature hunched down as it prepared to attack, but the young woman was no longer afraid. Her father loved her and he was waiting for her. She’d take back her shadow and then she’d find him. As she repeated her mantra, a gleam appeared in her eyes.
“This warrior was respected by everyone for her courage and abilities.”
The creature charged, shrieking as it ran. At the last moment it leapt into the air. The young woman’s sword glowed as she leveled it at her foe. She smiled, a devious smile, like one her father would.
“She was a legend.” She swung the sword without fear.

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