Patina – Chapter 6

The girl ran.

Which was barely enough. 

Brambles and branches rose to scratch her face, to bite her naked ankles. She breathed in panicked spurts.

Something slick and warm ran down her forehead. Might have been blood. 

She did not care.

The girl ran. 

It had to be enough. 

Far-off voices ran after her. Indistinct, for the time being. She still had some advantage. 

She did not know exactly what to do with. 

She jumped from root to root, stumbling against the rough barks of the grey trees, her feet slippery on the patches of overgrown moss.

Come back, said a far-off womanly voice, slurring through air. 

No, no, no, the girl replied. This much she could say. 

Run. This much she could do. 

And the forest, begrudgingly, let her pass. Behind her came the echoes of her pursuers, cursing and crying out as the bushes and the thorns hindered their chase.

She just ran – downhill, each step reverberated through her body like a plunging hammer. 

One, two, one two. Put a foot ahead of the other, don’t mind brambles stuck in her ears, don’t mind the blood running down her cheek, don’t mind her tail stuck with mud. 

This was her chance.

Run run run, chanted her heart. She couldn’t fathom what they would do if they caught her. They wouldn’t be gentle. They wouldn’t show mercy. 

She hit a muddy patch of terrain and skidded through the foliage, ripping off her white vest. She did not care.

Something whizzed past her ears. They turned to follow the noise – something hit a tree ahead and a spiderweb of hooked ropes bloomed against its bark, pulling the branches back. 

She shivered and tried to crouch, losing her footing. She stumbled and rolled in the mud. Her arms tried to look for purchase but all she found was rocks and reeds. 

Then she hit something hard.

“Owww…” holding her head and trying to keep her vision still, the girl with the wolf ears slowly sat up. 

She had reached a cliff. All around her the grey forest continued, patched from time to time by the ruins of some old building she did not recognize. It wasn’t dark and metallic like the one she just escaped from. 

The one she never wanted to go back to.

Sadja, called the same woman’s voice, sounding as if next to her ears. They twitched and her heart beat in her throat. She skittered and stood up and kept running. Sadja, why are you running? 

She did not have an answer – just memories. Memories of white and black flashes of light, of chains and latches and needles and long stretches of time when her mind shrank down to a pinprick and everything was so fuzzy and dull and when she came back she had to learn her name once again. 

She knew why she was running. 

She was just trying to fool her. 

Why won’t you answer? Are you mad at me? That makes me sad, the voice said. 

She shook her head, her tail stretched out in fear and stress, running down to the cliffside. 

She did not have a plan. 

She just had to run. 

More noises. Another of those flying-traps-seeds wheezed past her, lost into the ravine. Close.

Too close.

She turned her face to her right and sure – battered, bruised and scratched, but a dozen of men holding staves and whips and more of those other things that hurt and bit and pulled and if you tried to move they hurt even more. 

They pointed at her and renewed their pursuit – there were less trees so close to the cliff, so they fanned out, trying to block her.

Sadja. Please come back.

Flashes hit her mind again. A blonde woman (it was her) with a metal mask on her mouth, holding her in her arms. The same woman, lifting a bowl of soup to her lips, telling her she’d been a good girl

You’re a good girl.

She stumbled. Fell on her face.

For a moment, hesitated.


No, she was not a good girl, she was not a good girl and this was her chance. Her only chance.

She stood up, her resolution crashed against those memories (fantasies) like a mallet. She ran through its jagged shards, her naked feet stumbling through the mud. 

Where to go? The cliff cut the mountainside like a knife – the rumble of water the only escape, but jumping down the waterfall would only make her crash on the rocks below, or so her instinct told her. Air was thick with the stench of mud and the dead, rusty thing decomposing beneath the mud. It went to her head, making her even dizzier. 

More of those trap-seeds flew by. 

No, she had to find… find a way. 

She slowed down. Took in a breath through her bloodied nose, glistening silver in the afternoon light. 


There was something sweet, close by.

It smelled like those fuzzy yellow fruits they gave her some times… what were they called? Peaches. Yes, it smelled like overripe, fleshy peaches with a thrumming, beating heart inside.

It called onto her.

She followed the scent, growing stronger with each step. It was so unique: everything in her cage smelled either sharply cold or dully warm, and on the outside she did not have time to focus on it. But now that she was stumbling through the mud… it was like going back to bed after one long, long day of having her arm pierced by needles. Actual sleep, not the fake, tiresome one. 

The kind that healed her limbs and soothed her mind.

She followed the scent of peaches. It lead her to the waterfall, and to the arch of stones that rose right above its edge. It looked ancient, its rocks smooth and eaten away by rain and foam. A strange bramble ran all over its surface, a thorny weed with bone-white stems and crimson, bleeding flowers. 

Don’t go there! She said. 

“Hnnh,” Sadja (yes, Sadja, that was her name, she was Sadja and she was running away, that was what mattered), gritted her feet and advanced.

Her pursuers were getting closer. 

One of the trap-seeds even hit the strange arch, but its capturing ropes sizzled and withered upon contact to the stone. If anything, it only meant she had to get there as soon as possible.


“Ouuh…” she yelped, falling once again on her knees. Behind her closed eyes she saw the same woman, the woman with the sharp smile and sharper words, the one who lulled her to sleep and the one who called her a good girl (while she changed her needles!) the one who had always protected her (and kept her in a cage!) the one who had always been there for her (to squeeze her dry).

Please do not leave me, she sweetly said right between her ears. Her voice lapped at her heart, echoed through her chest, pulled at her arms like reins. Sadja trembled. She was getting weaker. Her eyes stung and big tears fell down her cheeks. She would lose all this. Would lose that sharp smile, would betray her, would never see her again (it was for the better…) and something inside her was pulling her apart.

But then she breathed in and the scent of peaches reached her once more.

It called onto her. She just had to reach the arch.

She’d be safe.

She knew it in her heart.

Sadja rose on unsteady feet. Her tail hung limp against her thigh, her ears soft and tired upon her head, and her breath ragged. 


“Shut up!” Sadja cried out. 

Her shout echoes through the trees. The earth seemed to rumble.

A cloud of yapping ravens shot skyward from the treetops.

The river’s water, freezing, reached her feet.

She took one last look at the stone arch. It loomed, ancient and unmatched. The thorns and the flowers seemed to glow a restless red.

She stepped right through it. 

And the voice disappeared. 

Sadja gasped.

It was like a veil had been lifted from her mind, for the first time since… she couldn’t recall. Maybe it had been there forever. 

It’s all so clear, she thought (in her own mind). With her own voice. Were these her thoughts?

Another of the trap-seed whistled right above her head.

Sure. That did not mean she was safe.

But the cliff, the waterfall, for some reason it looked so inviting.

She proceeded right at the edge, each step the water kissing her legs higher, pulling her faster.

She knew what she had to do.

One last look at the valley below. The grey of the trees giving way to vast patches of crimson.

Her gaze reached her arms. Naked, now that branches and willows had their way with her sleeves.

Thin see-through tubes still hung onto her arms, latching on to the rows of pockmarks left by innumerable needles.

They felt slippery, rubbery.

With a grunt, she pulled them apart.

She threw them far away and then any strength abandoned her, ebbing out of her body like the last drop of resin from a wizened tree. She slumped forward, and the rising foam and the roaring waterfall hid her plunge into the valley below.

Pic by Golden-Drake

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