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A Light in the Shadows


A Light in the Shadows
by Shenita Etwaroo

 

Wetness dampened Aurora's cheek, following a long afternoon of enduring the hideous taunts of the Lisa coven. Dry fall twigs and leaves crackled and snapped under her feet as she cleared a path through the deepest part of Georgevilla forest. She'd been crying so long her eyes had begun to burn. It was more than apparent to anyone in these parts, angel fairies were so badly abused that they could hardly recognize kindness anymore.

Aurora had gotten used to being treated as fodder by most of the other prenatural beings in the spirit world. As she plotted a trail through the forest, red dust flew in her face, forcing her to sneeze. Aurora whirled around realizing she'd taken one too many steps in the wrong direction. An unceasing warm wind blew her hair about her face, drying her tear-stained cheeks. Looking out through the trees, she realized now she had no one.

To make matters worse, she'd never gotten lost this far in the forest because of what creatures may lie in wait in the shadows. She pulled the side of her cape, clutching it close with one hand. With her other hand, an oil lamp dangled in her fingers.

"There's nothing you can do now except move forward," she whispered to herself. As night loomed, a chill rose in the air, and Aurora heard the echo of the rumbling sound churning in her tummy.

She hadn't had a morsel to eat in days, and had forgotten what it felt like to be full. Ahead, a lake lay in her path. Often, she tried her best to avoid any pools of standing water as they attracted the watchful eye of thornback shifters. As she started to make a turn, she recoiled at the sound of something crying out in the distance. Something splashing through the water, flicked drops on Aurora's polished shoes.

A row of fur--the color of silver--gleamed down the creature's back. Aurora immediately hid in the bushes, crouching as low to the earth as she could to avoid being seen.

Howling animals called in low-pitched bellows. One rose on his haunches, carrying some sort of bundle in its jowls. Another thornback snapped and grunted, attempting to take a bite. A wail of a child cried out in the shadows, which hitched a breath in Aurora's throat.

"A child!" she spoke under her breath. "A child? Those bastards have stolen a child."

Immediately she blew out the dying embers of her firelight. She knew if she continued on her way home, the baby was as good as dead. She needed to get a better vantage point. The noises of birds cawing overhead filled her ears. Aurora drew the cape tighter around her shoulders and moved through the razor sharp twigs, which tugged and tore at the bottom of her dress.

One of the thornback shifters turned, dropping down fast and marching through the water.

Can they see me? Aurora wondered.

A low growl sounded through the leaves where Aurora remained hidden. Now, though she was sure the beast could not see her, she gazed right into its blazing eyes.

She looked over to the prowling shifter, keeping her eye on the thornback carrying the baby in its maw. It slowly started to lower the bundle of cloth to the surface of the water. The fate of the child hung in the air. Aurora dug in her pocket, pulling out her set of matches. The rank odor of the shifter's breath made Aurora gag. Briskly she lit the match, lighting a fire underneath the bloodthirsty creature.

The thornback yelped in pain rolling over on its chest. Knocking the leaves from her face, Aurora reached out for the child, and then she hurled a handful of gritty dust in the wolf's face. Then she snatched the child from its jaws. She lifted the small wailing child to her breast. Big splashes of water flew up mid-air, as Aurora made giant gaping leaps through the lake.

A few yards away, once the thornback had snuffed out all of the flames, it turned its attention to the Fairy Angel's scent, wanting only to rip through her flesh and lap up her blood. The other shifter's red-rimmed eyes zeroed in on Aurora's trace, looking down at the strewn leaves on the other side of the lake.

Aurora ran, the child still crying in her arms, as she heard the sound of heavy footsteps following from behind her. The moonlight shone on Aurora's dark blonde hair as it spilled out of the hood of her cape. Suddenly, she stumbled and tried to find her balance after tripping over a pile of stones. She collapsed on her knees in a puddle of mud.

Mud splattered her face and into her mouth. A heart-stopping howl burst behind her, sending a shudder through her body. Aurora could not get up, pulling at the back of her cape that had gotten trapped in the rocks.

"Fairy angel, do you not know your place among the spiritual order?" One of the wolves spoke in a guttural voice. Its eyes, still inflamed from the dust, looked so red they appeared as though they were set on fire.

"If you keep running you'll have a target on your back," chimed in the second thornback.

"This child is human. And you know the laws. Please, just let us both go. I'll cut through the woods, and you'll never see me again."

"You have nowhere to run. Either give us the child or we will have to drain you both…"

Aurora gave her cape one last tug and then ran forward, tumbling on the other side of the rocks. She slid down the other side of the hill, nearly colliding with an overgrown thicket full of sharp thorns at the bottom. The thornbacks tumbled fast, and their enormous hulking bodies could not slow down their speed. They both crashed into the thorns, which pierced and ripped their pelts.

Once the sound of struggle died down, Aurora looked up to see if everything was all clear.

She looked up at the wolves bodies caught in the last throes of death. Aurora exhaled a sigh of relief, knowing how close she came to death. She walked a few more steps with the baby in her arms before checking to see if he was okay.

Pulling down the tattered blanket from the child's face, Aurora stared at it in the eyes.

"You're a girl," she smiled.

The baby looked up at her with pale blue eyes; its face smudged with wet mud. Even so, the child smiled like nothing had even happened. Aurora had never thought she would have children--not that she was too old. A young fairy angel, only thirteen, she just never thought Georgevilla was the best place to raise a family. But here she sat, with a human cooing in her arms.

"Well, I can't just keep calling you human," Aurora stated, gently petting the child's soft hair. "What should I name you?"

Aurora truly didn't know. She never had someone's life as her responsibility, and it overwhelmed her a little. The child's light blue eyes gleamed like bright neon. The kind you could only see among the stars. Aurora thought the child to be a light in the shadows. A purity in the madness of the world around her. When she stood up from the ground, Aurora whispered in the baby's ear.
"Neon…" she said gently.

The child responded just as if she had been waiting for someone to name her too.

Aurora smiled again. "You like that don't you?"

Neon giggled and laughed, and then reached out for Aurora's face. She gently tugged at a lock of Aurora's hair. Until this moment, she had seen little purpose in her life, but now Neon had given her meaning to go on--to continue. Whoever left the child here, must have abandoned her for good. Aurora knew all about being left behind and didn't want anyone else to the feel the pain she'd suffered from being unwanted for so many years.

But this time it was her chance to show how loving someone can be--how kind. Neon tugged the lock of hair in her small fingers with the curiosity Aurora had lost so long ago. The child smelled like something pure, innocent, and like something that no longer existed in this world. Then Aurora stood up in the mist with baby Neon settling her arms.

Strangely, whatever fears the young fairy angel had of the forest seemed to melt away. Neon clapped and laughed at her until she fell asleep against Aurora's shoulder. Neon needed her, and Aurora would never think of abandoning her now. Someone finally counted on her, and Aurora was no longer alone.

Aurora continued undaunted with the child and headed to their new home.

* * *
-In memory of Neon


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