Home > A Secret In Onyx

A Secret In Onyx
Author: Jessica Florence

Chapter One

 

They say when mankind fell, a black flash streaked across the sky. People died where they stood. Planes and cars stopped instantly. The world went dark in mere seconds. I wished I could remember what it looked like to see planes in the sky or cars moving along the roads instead of husks of the great machines scattered across the land. Sometimes in the quiet of the night when the darkness covered me like a security blanket, I dreamed of what life was like before it all ended.

Tor, my boyfriend and traveling companion, liked to hold me close against his hard chest and recall what he remembered. He was older than me. As far as I knew, I was twenty-three years old and he was twenty-eight. The day life changed, I had been three and alone. A neighbor, Mariam, took care of me until she died six months ago. Tor wasn’t a psychopath like others I had encountered on the roads, so sticking together was the best decision for both of us.

“What were you thinking just now?” He peered at me with his chestnut brown hair brushing against his matching lashes. Rundown, he desperately needed a trim. His arm tightened around me, making me feel warm and safe. Most of the time, I didn’t feel safe in this dangerous world. There were days when I thought it wasn’t worth the fight to survive this hell. Maybe I would just slit my own throat or let the Dramens take me and eat me. But every time I had that thought, Tor was there, as if he noticed me falling down and out of his reach.

“I was thinking about the ‘before.'” I dreamed wistfully of the past often and how different it would have been if nothing had changed.

“Of course, you were.” I didn’t have to look at his face to know he smiled lovingly at me, finding enjoyment in my dreams of the past.

“Continue the story, please. I won’t nod off, I promise.” Ever since I had met Tor, near the small community of normal survivors in what used to be called North Carolina, he’d told me tales to keep my mind busy and give me hope. Hope to keep me from the darkness that beckoned me to join the rest of humanity.

“Anything for you.”

I knew in my soul he would always be there for me, in whatever way I needed, except the one way I wished to be joined with him as a couple. He always kept me at a distance instead of touching me like I knew he wanted to act upon.

“I forget where I was in the story. Had Queen Olyndria married King Lachan from the kingdom across the land yet?”

I nodded against his chest, my hands idly drawing swirls across his dirt-covered green shirt, which was soft despite the grit. “She just gave birth to the princess.”

I closed my eyes, forgetting about the “before” as he continued with the story of the magical Fae, fantastical tales of royal queens, kings, daring princesses, handsome princes, dragons, and cores made of nature inside them. They were stories from a fairy tale book, but I loved hearing them just as much as I obsessed hearing about life when things were simpler.

Tor began the story. “Queen Olyndria was a beautiful Fae with brown hair and pale skin that shimmered like a jewel. The royal Fae had gem cores, signaling their power. They lived among the world of men in a hidden realm where they helped protect us from the evil creatures who lived there. Most stayed in a particular part of the realm with their king, an awful man named King Verin. The queen finally wed a king from another land, and they had a baby, Princess Nyx. She had lavender hair and pale skin like her mother and eyes of the deepest royal purple from the amethyst core inside her.”

I sighed. Such a difference from my light brown skin, messy hair with curls of brown, and almond-shaped eyes that Tor said reminded him of a forest in spring—a bright green mixed with yellow and brown flakes around my irises. However, I had come to terms with myself, even if I wasn’t a gorgeous Fae.

Tor never mentioned what the princess’s powers were, but he said she was promised to be the most powerful of them all. “I bet she met a prince and they had a large wedding full of dancing,” I muttered wistfully. People didn’t have parties or large weddings anymore. If you managed to not be taken by the Dramens and made into a wife, either willing or not, then you spent life in a safe community or on the road, hiding.

“I don’t think they did, actually. The Fae legends say King Verin released a darkness into the realm that took away their powers, making them defenseless to his takeover of their world. The princess would save them all, so her parents encased her in an onyx tomb. The queen used the last of her powers to save her daughter and it drove her mad. Not a very happy ending to this story.” His voice became solemn, and remorse gutted me for requesting he tell me this tale.

“Well, I’m gonna choose to believe the story is real, and eventually the princess will be released from the onyx and will save everyone, maybe even us poor humans.”

Part of me knew he made this story up to keep me distracted from the evil around us. The other part of me believed his story came from some truth. Somewhere out there, the Fae existed.

I fell asleep, thinking of a purple-haired woman encased in onyx who would one day rise and save the world.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

The sun came up early this time of year, which used to be called autumn. We’d made camp in a rundown church, and while I appreciated the rays of light beaming through the torn curtains, I wished they would have let me sleep longer in darkness. Vines covered the ceiling with spider webs hanging between the leaves. The pews were strewn haphazardly, like a monster had come into this place of worship and destroyed it. Dirt, grass, and twenty-year-old bibles were scattered across the tile floor. The hard ground scratched the exposed skin from the holes in my clothes.

It wasn’t wise to stay in one place for long when you were in a small group. Dramens had daily search raids to find survivors and take them back to their keep. There were four sections of the country that used to be called the United States. First, the Northwest side, where the people became more like the great beasts that roamed the lands. I had heard they would capture you and you’d be forced to either join them or die. The Southwest Dramens had camps everywhere. Their hearth fires looked like stars that had fallen and scattered across the deserts. They, along with the Northeast ones, were the expert hunters. They liked to chase after survivors, then sell them to the highest bidder. Paper money became useless after everything happened. Dramens preferred to be paid in nickel, silver, gold, and iron coins. Gold used to be the top of the currency pyramid, but not anymore. Iron reigned as king in these lands. The more iron you had, the richer you were. The Southeast Dramens, the most hateful of beings, liked to eat their prey, human and animal alike. They raped, pillaged, and took pleasure as they saw fit. These had broken into the colony where I had grown up.

My heart beat rapidly, my breaths stuck in my throat, and my belly twisted. Their horrible faces would forever be burned into my memory—blonde, long hair, beards coated in blood, and yellow-crusted teeth dripping with the remnants of whatever throats they’d ripped out moments before.

I sat up abruptly, looking around. I saw the green in the trees, the sun shining, and the man still sleeping next to me. I had to remember this reality existed and the memory, as horrible as it was, was just an awful memory.

In the middle of the land, where the corners of the territories connected, the Dramen’s capital rested, a place we’d managed to skate by undetected a few weeks ago. The leaders of the lands lived in a palace of stone and iron at its center. Their king and queen sat upon thrones of human bones and skulls in the great halls. They rose to power two years after the fall of mankind. We humans had been in such chaos that many didn’t know how to survive. Such disarray let the weak be easily preyed upon by the vicious without much fight. Dramens were the elite now, and everyone else lived until they were either converted or killed.

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