after turn, hallway after hallway. This damned place was a maze and no matter
how many corners Lydia pivoted around, the demon was always behind her. Always
just too far out to snatch her up, but close enough that she could see the
insatiable hunger in its eyes.
The dead end impacted with her body and the floor came up to
greet her like a falling tree. As in every chase before, the demon stood over
Lydia with its caltrop teeth and spade horns looking famished. But the dream
ends and Lydia is again in her palace room. A cold sweat on her back and face.
Servants bustle into her room and prepare her for the day. Their
shadows helped with the chores. Cross-sectional slices of dogs, cats, and even
a rat carried off linens and laundry. One of them returned with a gown that was
different than every other one Lydia owned. Instead of terminating in a
wide-mouthed dress, there were pant legs, and instead of puffs of lacy fabric
on the shoulders, there was nothing but sheer material that she knew would
contour her body perfectly. Yet, how it shined. It caught the sunlight like how
a canvas holds paint.
The servants helped her into it, and their shadows held it
taught. Touching the gown to them was like a tasting a fine ambrosia remembered
from one’s childhood. Today was the demarcation line for Lydia between
childhood and adulthood. She would turn eighteen just before the sun passed
beneath the horizon.
Fanfare and revelry exploded in the palace gardens. Dignitaries
from near and far were all in attendance, getting drunk and laughing while
their shades of exotic animals and beasts joined in the fun. Lydia gazed at her
shadow, it was human and utterly plan as it mimicked her every move. No mind of
its own. But it was still her shadow, or at least it would be until the end of
Triangles of purple and orange snaked through the sky, bleeding
from the mountain tops jetting up along the horizon. Each streak was stolen by
Lydia’s gown and shown off to all of the party. It was time for the merge.
She walked up to an altar flanked by her parents and the
kingdom’s priest. A speech was given going over the details of Lydia’s
childhood, about the challenges she faced and the strength she gained from
conquering each one. Because of this strength, her father’s hunters found a
creature with both physical power and steely resolve. It was stored behind the
altar in a covered cage. Minutes before the sun would set, the cage’s cover was
pulled off, revealing the beast inside.
It had caltrop teeth and spade horns. Panic ran through her much
like how she ran through the labyrinth in her dreams. The demon gave her a
knowing look and seemed to not mind the holy spears that the hunters jammed
into its body. It died with a smile on its maw as the sun fell beneath
the mountains. Lydia lost the feeling of the sun’s rays and her gown grew dark.
The pile of fur and flesh in the cage dissolved and flowed through the bars to
Lydia and enveloped her.
Lanterns the size of trees were ignited to thunderous applause
from the entire party. Shaking, she made the customary bow one does after the
merge. The shade behind her, with its terrible teeth and grotesque horns, did
not bow with her.
The nightmare of adulthood then began.
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