The world is dark. It is cold, wet, and coarse. This is all you know, all you have known for longer than could even be known. Constant pressure, crushing weight, subterranean creatures of all kinds feasting on you’re forever re-growing flesh. In the beginning it was painless, your body nothing but a burnt husk meant to rot and become one with the earth. But a fate like that is too merciful. No, your skin muscles and bones mend themselves endlessly, you hadn’t the mind to care… until there was pain. You could feel the maggots digging into tender meat, your body becoming an eternal buffet for any creature that wishes to feast on you. The pain never ends after those first days, and it continues for what feels like forever. Perhaps it has been forever? There is no way to know, there is nothing but suffering.
The only comfort you have is your mind, but after so long you’ve all but lost it. You abandoned conscious thought long ago, all you have is memory. Snow, a name, a home… who you once were. These things had begun to fade, but there are many you would never forget. The memories that sealed your fate, your crimes and their punishment. Your crime had been your very existence, something seemingly so small, but with dire consequences. You remember the stoning, the drowning, the stretching, the trials and torture you endured for months. Every time you healed a new trial was conducted. Until the last one, the pyre… fire, screams, and then nothing.
You had thought to yourself, ‘finally, it all can end’... but fate is cruel. It wasn’t the end, because when you awoke from your long, deathlike slumber, you were here. Your prison of dirt and suffering. You longed for the strength to move, to learn to breathe again. What has the world become? Is there still a world above your prison? Or has everything perished, much like you wish you could. But soon, even those glimpses of life faded to nothingness.
The trials, witch trials. Many women who suffered them were innocent, most were just unfortunate souls who couldn’t escape the wrath of their fellow man. But no, you were so lucky to be a falsely accused young woman doomed to die. A real witch could never be so fortunate. What had you done to catch their attention again? Ah, now you remember, the girl. This girl, she was precious to you… probably? Important enough to save at least. You could have let her die that night, but you didn’t. But why was the girl in danger… someone was after her? No, something. It was big, right?… you can’t recall. The girl had smelled of blood, she was coated in it. It was so strong, so potent - like now - the creature wanted it desperately. Wait, like now… you inhale. You can breath!
There’s a jerk in your consciousness, a sudden strength in your body. Before you can truly register what you’re doing, you are crawling desperately for the surface, the smell of blood fueling your every movement. It’s so hard to move, but the invisible chains keeping you trapped are gone. It’s like you’ve been reborn when you feel snow. The feeling is almost foreign, but unmistakable. Freedom, something impossible, is so close.
The smell of blood grows stronger as you climb, but it’s like a slap in the face when your face breaks through the surface. A deep breath. Air, real air, and snow! Your eyes fly open, an expression of glee breaking across your face. Light, for the first time in forever, makes its way into your eyes and blinds you. But you do not complain, no, the feeling of unseeing eyes adjusting to harsh light is the best sensation to be felt as of yet. With all the strength left your body, you free yourself entirely from the soil. Freedom, a mercy that fate has granted you.
Your eyes, after a long while, adjust to the world around you. It is night, and the moon shines brightly in the sky, illuminating the snow with it’s pale light. You catch sight of the very thing that freed you from your prison - blood. The crimson mars the perfect snow beautifully, and like the starving soul you are, you lunge towards the reddened snow and eat it with an animalistic vigor. That is until you see the bleeding, dying body leaning against the tree you once lay under. The stranger looks at you with horror, and all you can do is smile madly at them. You approach slowly, on your hands and knees, your breaths coming out long and ragged.
When you reach the stranger, you begin to recognize them as masculine. You reach your him, your arm is full of holes, oozing blood. The skin is nearly non-existent, and you can see your bones in some places. Your decrepit hand grabbed hold of the man’s trembling body, and you climbed yourself carefully into his lap. Your other hand raises to caress his paling face. With a raspy laugh you begin to attempt speaking.
“I need to thank you young man,” you say in a scratchy voice, “you’ve done me a great service… so I will help you.” The man looks hopeful for a moment, but still terrified. You lean in towards his neck, just below his ear, and breath in deep. With a hum you press your hands to his shoulders and whisper in his ear.
“I grant you the mercy of death.” The man is about to protest, but before he can utter a word you sink your teeth into his neck, chomping down with as much strength as can me mustered and tear a chunk away. Quickly, you grab hold of his hair and tear his head from his shoulders. He is dead, and his blood is flowing freely from where his dead once was. You cup your hands beneath where the blood is flowing collecting it. You drink from him for what could be hours, until every last bit of his blood is gone.
When you’ve had your fill, you stand, using the tree to support you. The maggots that once made their home in your body writhe around seeking the comfort of their new host. Your body, once resembling that of a rotting corpse, is now unblemished and fully healed. Every torn muscle, hole, and hollowed bone are just as perfect as they were meant to be. You still ache with hunger, but you are hydrated.
Experimental steps are taken, one foot in front of the other, and you walk for the first time. Following the trail of blood left by your meal is simple enough, and the long trek to what you hope is society begins. The sounds of the night startle you, but as the trek carries on, you begin to find comfort in the sounds. A tune once forgotten finds itself in your mind, and returns itself to the world from your mouth. Gleeful laughter fills the air as you begin to pick up the pace and run.
You stop suddenly when you see a castle, it’s glorious. The sheer majesty of it has you in awe. You stand starring for who knows how long, trying to capture every possible detail. Your eyes catch on one of the windows, someone is standing there looking out into the wondrous night. You know they are looking at you, even if you can’t see it, you can feel the eyes. All you can see in the window is a rather large figure clad in white. You plan to watch them until they disappear, but you are stolen from your staring contest by the doors of the castle opening, bathing you in warm golden light. A small woman rushes from within a large blanket in her arms.
The woman is frantic and coos over you as she wraps you in the blanket and ushers you inside. The promise of warmth, food and clothing are enough to have you walking towards the castle without resistance. When you look back to the window, the figure is gone. You frown to yourself, bowing your head and letting the adrenaline fade. You know the fear in the woman holding you is not just for your safety, there is a deep terror within her. You pay it no mind.