Some fiction for a Thursday night.
Her heart pounded behind her breastplate. Sweat soaked through her t-shirt as she crouched in the kitchen beside the stove. The once familiar grip of the sword now felt foreign to her. Her crown slid to the side on her damp hair and she straightened it.
The enemy had come. How he had entered her home, she didn’t know. It didn’t matter right now. He was here and her children were slumbering just a few yards away.
“I am not ready for this.” She whispered to herself. What choice did she have? Her eyes focused in the half-light given off by the sword. She scanned the kitchen and the hall beyond. Usually, the Sword of Light shined bright enough to illuminate the entire house, but she hadn’t honed it for some time.
His red eyes flickered has he slithered past the door toward the room where her son lay sleeping. A lump formed in her throat, and she gasped. Her eyes narrowed, fingers tightening around the hilt of her sword. Expertly wielding the blade, she leapt forward swinging it high overhead, she slashed with all her might.
His instincts were quicker than hers, fine-tuned through generations of battle.
He turned on her with a flick of his powerful body. The hatred in his eyes made them glow a deeper red as he stared at her. His breath was rhythmic and deep. A thin smile spread across his black, evil face. He had seen it.
The Sword of Light was growing dim.
“You expect to stop me with that pitiful weapon?” He slithered toward her.
She had no answer. She had tried to defeat him with a failing sword before. It wouldn’t work. How could she have been so careless?
He paused for a moment, seeming to contemplate her, the way a cat contemplates a mouse before it pounces. The sword flickered and its light went out. She was plunged into darkness. Only his eyes were left visible, glowing a dangerous red. Hissing, wicked laughter sounded through the narrow hall. The eyes raised until level with hers. He opened his mouth, in the darkness the fiery darts within shone with an angry flame. He took a deep breath and exhaled. There was no time to react. The darts hit her neck. Venom burned into her veins, tracing a path to her heart.
“You know you don’t win in the end,” she said boldly as she crumbled to the floor. “We already know what happens to you.”
His face was again level with hers. “But, right now, I have you, and if I can get you, I can get your children, and your children’s children.”
Her vision was fading and she knew the voices would come soon, voices that would be nearly impossible to ignore. “You have no real power here. The Master will come. He always has. I am his.” She began to sob. “I am his.”
At the mention of The Master, the serpent gasped but remained strong. “Why don’t you tell me that tomorrow after the darts have done their work?” He silently slid into the darkness as her vision became cloudy and the first of the dreaded voices came to her.
You’re failing, you know that don’t you? Your children are behind in their studies, the dishes are still in the sink from dinner. You’ve not done enough today. Your son needs to go to the dentist and you forgot to make the call again. You’re such a horrible mother. Speaking of phone calls, when is the last time you called your friend? She is going through such a hard time, and you’re selfish. You don’t make enough time for her. You’re failing. You haven’t done enough. Look at you. You’re alone. No one cares. I don’t know why you’re still here. You’re a failure and you always will be.
Tears began to stream down her face. The venom worked through her heart and into her mind. The encounter with the serpent vanished from memory. The words coming to her took on the familiarity of her own voice, inescapable, a part of her. She crawled to the couch and clambered up to the comfortable cushions, the world around her fading faster and faster.
She woke to the soothing sounds of her husband’s voice. “What are you doing out here? Why didn’t you come to bed last night?” She opened her eyes to see his concerned face.
“I…I don’t know. I must have been tired.”
“Do you feel alright?” He helped her to sit up. She looked around, a growing sense of unease filled her heart.
“Yes. I think I’m just tired.”
His look of misgivings didn’t make things any easier for her. “Do you have your sword? Where is your crown?”
“I remember taking them out of the closet last night, but I don’t know where they are now. How strange!”
“I’ll find them.” He left the room.
Thoughts flooded her mind:
He doesn’t care what’s going on. He just wants you to get up and take care of the kids. He doesn’t really care what happens to you. How could he? Look at you.
She peered into the glass coffee table sitting in front of her. She narrowed her eyes and searched her face. Every flaw seemed to stand out, wrinkles, blemishes, and graying hair. She couldn’t believe that she hadn’t noticed it before.
Coming back into the room, he carried her sword and crown. He placed the crown gently on her head and set the sword down on the table. His hands were shaking and she thought she saw tears in his eyes.
“You don’t know why you were on the couch?” He sat down next to her.
“I don’t remember coming out here. Maybe I just couldn’t sleep.” She pulled off her crown. “This is too heavy to wear all the time.” She set it down next to the sword.