For yesterday’s Free Write Friday, we wrote a story sentence by sentence in our Facebook group. This was such a fun exercise – each person was only allowed to write one sentence at a time, and had to wait until three others had added to the story before contributing again. It took the story to unexpected places, and it was incredible to see the beautiful nuances in each person’s writing.

Below is the result of Joy, Allie, Melissa, Christie, Wendy, Sarah, Kéra, Ludid, Renée, Teagan, & Miranda’s story: 949 words, a character named Amra, a mystery unsolved, three violent horsemen, and an intriguing ending that left me wanting more!

***

Shadows played across her delicate features as rocked back and forth, hugging her knees to her chest.

Hiding beneath the pine trees on the edge of her father’s property had always brought her comfort before. The air was cool and still in the shade; her ragged breathing and her thundering pulse were just audible above the distant din of twittering birds, murmuring voices, and passing cars.

She quietly contemplated the last 24 hours, her mind swirling with the terror, and any sense of calm that had come upon her rapidly vanished.

It should have been the best day of her life – hadn’t she spent nearly every second of the last three months awaiting the moment the celebration would begin? But from the moment it did, she knew that something was wrong. Her grandmother had pulled her aside. “Not only is this your birthday, my sweet, but it is the day I tell you the truth about who you are. It’s time.” The truth had sliced in her in half and the two halves had peeled away from one another, leaving her heart exposed between them.

She buried her head in her knees once again, rocking back and forth more violently, murmuring precious verses, trying harder than before to keep herself whole knowing that when she woke up from her next sleep, whenever that came, she would never be the same again.

“Amra!” a voice called from somewhere deep in the forest behind her.

She gasped, immediately got up and ran as fast as she could, not knowing where her aching feet would take her but knowing that staying put would be worse than any fate that would meet her on the rocky path. The slice of land that was once home faded behind her until it was completely out of sight.

She found herself deeper within the forest, where all the trees hung with moss. Her heart pounded in her chest and her breath froze on her lips.

“Amra!” The voice kept calling her. She stopped and listened. Enamored by the sounds of the voice she didn’t know, she picked her feet back up and continued running to a place she hoped to find answers. She landed in this private wilderness and the speed of her soul recognized the rhythm.

If every incomprehensible thing they said was true — if she hadn’t been born to the woman she knew as mother, if she had no roots in this place, if she wasn’t even human — then why had she always felt like she belonged to this land, to the ancient trees and dark river?

And yet, the voice continued calling – so foreign, yet so familiar. Like nothing she had ever heard before, but at the same time, like something she had always known, deep within her bones. Where could she go now? What life could she make now? How could she start over? Severed from what she knew, what she thought was good and right, or so she thought.

She tripped, hands flying forward to brace the impact; leaves scattered around her and dirt and pebbles ground into her hands as she settled on the forest floor. She felt the earth tremble as seemingly out of no where hooves beat against the earth beside her. Three horsemen shuffled above her, their faces covered in dark cloth, breath coming out in steaming jets.

Had they come for her?

Frightened and face first into the ground; her nails dug into the dirt trying to grasp onto anything familiar. She strained to stay silent as one of the horsemen dismounted; she could feel his heavy footfalls in her body as she breathed in the wet earth. A moment of silence passed, and the weight of it hung in the air as his shadow loomed over her hunched form.

With a strong hand, he grabbed her sandy-brown hair and pulled her face up to look at him.

She reluctantly opened her eyes as a single tear fell down her freckled cheek. “What is it you fear, girl?” he asked.

“That my stake in this place, that the dirt I peel from underneath my nails each day, the land that I love, my mother, my brethren, they’re not my own. Now that I know.”

“You were a lie even they tried to believe, Amra. But it’s over. You’ve always been one of us.”

Her stomach dropped to her feet as his words stung her. She gritted her teeth and spat into the dirt. She would have spit at him. She wanted to spit at him. But she heard her grandmother’s voice screaming in his words. She couldn’t do that.

Instead, she squared her shoulders, raised her chin defiantly and looked him in the eye. “And what if I don’t want to be one of you? What if I prefer the lie?”

And he slapped her.

Her head flung to the side, hair swinging and she spat blood into the dirt. She turned back to him, eyes flashing.

But what of it? The sting on her face was now somehow more real than what she thought she knew through the whole of her life, which was now a lie.

“The disguise of this flesh may fall away at sundown,” she said, her voice even and suddenly sure, “and you may force me to return with you- but you cannot control the loyalty of my heart. It will remain with those who took me in and loved me.”

He laughed, looking further down the lane as the sky darkened.

She knew she had precious few moments left.

Out of the darkness came a million iridescent orbs of light, paralyzing the horseman and sending a light breeze through Amra’s hair.

***

(Interested in participating in exercises like this? Join the TWC Facebook group!)

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