Kira ran. Her feet bare and soles hardened against the stones and twigs she rushed across as she fled. Heart soaring, she tilted her face up to the star strewn sky laughing with joy.
She could hear the voices behind her. They were anxious, the dark forest contorting them into a cacophony of fear that echoed around her. They didn’t want her to leave but she was tired of this place. She had been trapped by their love, and their visions for her future were the chains she would not bear. The time had come for the bird to flee the nest and Kira was more than ready to spread her wings and fly.
“Kira!” Their voices became shredded by the thick forest and woven walls of branches but still she could hear them, so insistent were their pleas. “Come back. Come home.”
“I am going home,” Kira said, grinning widely. “Finally, I am going to where I belong.” She laughed, the sound whipped away from her, carried by the wind as she raced through the heart of the forest.
Her family had gotten the trees on their side. Branches grasped for her, their skeletal limbs tore at her, abrading her bare arms and face, attempting to tangle in her hair. Kira, feeling betrayed by the forest she had often played in as a child, hated each sting. They had once been her most trusted friends and keepers of her dreams, the trees. She had whispered to them long ago, divulging her childish secrets. Those words, spanning years, came to her again, echoed back from her once loyal friends.
“I am different,” the trees said, sighing in her voice. “Why do they look at me like I am a stranger? Why are they afraid of the wind?”
They reached for her, wanting to reclaim her in their wooden embraces. She was the air, flowing through their reaching clutches. Always she had felt different and now that she knew the truth, she wouldn’t let them keep her any longer.
Their reasons for keeping her birthright from her, she had guessed. Their love was selfish and greedy. But her mother, dying of the wasting sickness had saved her last breath for the truth, letting it spill from her cracked lips.
“You are the daughter of the West Wind God,” Ephine had said, her breath wheezed over an arid tongue and had smelled of death and sickness. A hand, nothing more than paper skin stretched over bones, had fluttered to caress Kira’s cheek. “You have his eyes, my love.”
Kira had looked to her gathered family, their faces dark with dismay that the veracity had been brought forth. Her mother, soul unburdened, let death take her to eternal peace. The secret had been a key that unlocked Kira’s hope and with it, she had fled. Kira escaped their plans to keep her anchored and her heart swelled with the promise of freedom.
The trees thinned ahead and Kira spied the ocean beyond, slivered with moonlight. Her feet thundered against the ground, the terrain growing rockier as she neared the cliff’s edge. Kira sprung forward, her arms outstretched and let the wind welcome her home. She dissolved into the air, laughing as she wafted over the water. It was everything she had thought it would be, liberating and warm. They’d never find her unless she wanted them to.
She turned to face the cliff, saw the gathering lanterns emerge from the forest and grinned. Their voices reverberate through the air; she could feel them as they rippled through her and then fade away. She waved, knowing they couldn’t see her and lay back to gaze up at the stars. Sighing with contentment, Kira drifted on the wind, letting it carry her away.
Melissa Osburn is a writer of speculative fiction with stories appearing in the anthologies We Walk Invisible and Growing Concerns: An Eco Horror Anthology. She also has a blog, Dreaming Blithely at http://melissasosburn.wordpress.com, where she writes about inspiration, fiction and movies and shares her stories. Melissa lives in rural Michigan with her family and cats.