Each year, members of GFWW come together in round robin writing relay. This year, yours truly is launching the exercise with a story that’s been rolling around my head for a while – a YA dystopian story of a mysterious young girl.
I’ll get the story going, and let the gang take it from here. Check back regularly for installments of Red.
The red-haired girl came to me in my dream again last night. Like before, the sight of her was terrifying. Flaming hair curled and blew in the wind, like fire reaching into the night. Unnatural. Unholy.
At least, that’s what the elders said. The child borne of fire will be the destruction of the Fifth Society.
It was always the same. She ran through the dark woods. Branches reached for her, like the bones of the dead grasping for some spark of life.
I was always a specter in these dreams. She fled past me. Her chest pumping in and out, face flushed, the smell of the sun captured in her long hair as it whipped my face. This time, it was different.
She stopped right in front of me, her deep green eyes shining with tears. My throat constricted and my fingers went cold. Within her eyes I could see panic. She reached out, lacing her fingers through mine.
“I need you, Ezra,” her voice husky despite the fact that she couldn’t be older than sixteen. “Find me.”
She clasped her free hand on mine, enveloping me in her touch. Images flooded in rapid succession, chopped bits of what they used to call movies, swirling in a discordant array of pictures. She released me and continued her flight.
I sat up in bed, gasping for air. My hair clung to my forehead and I broke out in goose pimples when the winter air hit my bare skin. The window to the east was still dark; it would be several hours before it was time to check on the cattle. A snore rattled from the far corner of the room. At least my nightmare didn’t wake my twin brother Asher.
But was it really a nightmare? No matter what legend tells us, I never felt afraid of the red-haired girl. Quite the opposite. I felt drawn to her.
The wet pillow greeted my head when I sank back into bed.
I tried to talk about the dreams once to my Grammy. Thunderstorms raged outside while we hunkered down in the root cellar. Asher shook with each rumble of thunder, and she told us stories of the old days to distract us.
“When my grandmother was a little girl, people lived in huge cities with skyscrapers nearly touching the sun,” she said, her voice taking on the sing-song quality of a child. “And there were so many people.” She dropped her voice to a conspirator’s whisper. “My Grammy even claimed to know a red-haired, but she swore us to secrecy. You know how the elders get worked into a lather over these things.”
She made it sound like something as simple as spilled milk. Grammy dismissed the elders’ prophecy as something she called “malarkey,” but others held their breath at each birth, praying that the child is born with a head full of dark hair. If she’s born bald, mothers nurse their babes with tears in their eyes, fearing that at the slightest hint of the red hue their child will be ripped from their arms and sacrificed to the gods.
I rolled to my side, watching the orange light creep to the window.
How did she live this long? And, how do I find her?