By Patricia H. (HS)
Before we start, this story is not complete, but it is long, maybe too long for
this newspaper. For this reason, some chapters may be split into Parts 1 and 2.
For now, that will not be the case, but for future chapters please be aware of
that. Thank you. -Patty H.
“What must I give for such a deal?” Jude asked. “Such a prize is not worth without repaying.”
“That’s not worth considering,” I said. His words flowed as empty as a sullen abyss. A
different way of talking, never heard before. I don’t think this guy is from around here,
but I didn’t care back then. I don’t even care now. It was all meaningless, as long as I
could see my daughter again, to embrace her and tell her it’s all ok. I would always be
there for her and if I wasn’t even there, it was all a horrible dream. Such wishes…gone
“Well then,” Jude started again, but in a lower voice than usual. Like he was
whispering, trying to keep what he was saying under wraps. “You would be the most
valuable thing to settle this arrangement. As long as you give me…” A vicious grin
wrapped around the lower part of his mouth. I immediately noticed something was
wrong with him, but I did not understand back then; didn’t know better.
“Huh? Speak up, I couldn’t hear what you said”
“Oh, my apologies, it was nothing. I was about to say that I needed something.”
“And that is?”
Out of nowhere, Jude drew out a platinum-textured knife from a pocket of his brown
robes. Come to mention it, it was freezing cold that night. I was cold as hell, and wish I
wore robes like him. If only I knew it had weapons in it. The silver glistened in the
moonlight of the porcelain terrace of a night palace we stood upon. I wish I could rejoice
in the fantasy a little longer.
He lurched towards me as if he was a zombie and had undergone an immediate
transformation. Still keeping that grin on his face, he was eager to kill me. I would not
pay him back for anything; I didn’t know anyway, so this the best way? No! I had a life
to protect. People that cared for me and loved me. Was I going to lose all that now?
I never believed it, but Jude was fast. Despite my attempts, he caught up to me and
held me by my throat. He stared at me, now with a forlorn face, differing from the grin
he had once before when he pulled his trusty friend out. “I’m sorry, but I need to do
this,” he confessed. “It is the only way for them.”
“For them?” I strained, trying to get him off of me. He was too strong, too much for me
to handle. It was an unusual strength for a feeble young man like him. My eyes
widened as he drew up the knife and plunged it into me. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t
move. It was agony. My life’s blood poured out as my body responded with a painful cry.
My blood covered the man, drenching his brown robes a deep red. He dragged the knife
along my body, forming a “x” symbol on me. It was so painful.
When finished, he got up off of me as he watched me bleed out. He walked away from
me. “Thank you,” he sneered underneath his breath. “Now they will begin. “But who
were “they”? What did they want me dead for? And why did they send my best friend to
do the deed? What was the “x” supposed to represent?
Why do I even bother?
I bolted up from a bed in a room that wasn’t mine. Dawn had already risen, and it was
bright. There were chandeliers and elegant décor around. Looking outside a window, a
fortress shone in the sun’s light. People were bustling about, merchants, nobility, the
whole thing. From the looks of it, I was at a castle. “Why am I in a castle?” I asked
myself, irritated. My head was pounding like crazy, and when I look in a mirror nearby
my bed, I found the bloody x that Jude had carved into me like a piece of wood. I still
remember the conversation we had. There was something wrong with him, though he
was always like that. I was always there for him, but the fact can’t be argued that he
had major issues. They sent him to an asylum for killing several other people the same
way he did me, carving x’s in their bodies. I tried to get information from his point of
view, but he either averted the question, or said, “The time is not yet right, but you will
find out.” He was cryptic. Yet, I’d never believe he would get to me too.
“You’re up, finally,” the sound of another voice interrupted my thoughts. It was a young
woman, who looked about my age, and was wearing a maid uniform. “You almost
overslept. Hurry, they are waiting.”
“Who is?” I questioned, while trying to put on what clothes I had. I didn’t want to be
ambushed like Jude did with me.
“Your Majesty. Hurry, you must not delay.” There was another person, a boy. He was
wearing the butler uniform equivalent. I nodded with tiredness and finished putting on
my cardigan. It was a special gift for my daughter. The dress I had on was washed from
the blood that got on it, and my wounds were patched up. Well, except for the x, which
was done to the best of their ability. That one was a DEEP cut. Whatever the case, I
was grateful that I was still alive. But, I did not know what to make of this. Was I really
back to life, or was this the afterlife? Could I be both?
The servants led me to the throne room, where a queen sat upon her royal chair. Icy
stares and ominous presence overload. I knelt before her, like any common person would
and replied, “Your Majesty, I am graced to be in your presence.”
“Manners, how lovely,” the queen responded. It seemed very sarcastic. “I have much to
speak to you about. My intel has told me that you were murdered with an x on your
“Well, that’s one way to put it,” I replied hoarsely. I was still groggy from waking up.
“My friend, Jude did it while we were talking about something about the festival today.
We were both volunteers to help the royal palace with setup. Jude was concerned about
‘them’ and then he just…”
I open my cardigan to reveal my scar. It had opened up and was bleeding profusely.
“Ahhh, I see. Well you are not the only one who has been killed this way. I am quite
stunned that you are here, speaking to us about this.”
“Wait what, I’m right here!”
The queen turned to one of her servants, ordering them to walk over to me. Apparently,
he didn’t know the meaning of “personal space”, because he suddenly brushed their
hands against my arm. For some reason, I didn’t feel their hands…at all. The servant
just bounced back, with a terrified look on their face. He instantly ran back towards the
queen and whispered something in her ear.
“You are here, my dear. But not in the land of the living.”
“Don’t tell me. Am I?”
“Deceased? A spirit? Yes. But you have not passed on yet, therefore you are here before
all of us.”
I couldn’t understand. I died? How did I end up back in the castle? Why can’t I not pass
on? Wait, this could be good. I have another chance to live! I could see my daughter, my
friends, my family. They wouldn’t have to worry about me.
“Now listen carefully,” the queen turned seriously. I got up from kneeling because it was
hurting my legs. Or whatever legs I had anyway. “You can either choose to pass on, or
become alive again. If you choose to pass on, you must say goodbye to everyone and
thing you love. If you choose to come alive…”
My heart was pounding at her words.
“You must become an employer here at the castle until they decide to concede.”
There’s that third-person word again. They, them. Who were they, and why are they
controlling the way I have to function with life?
“So what is your choice?”
What do I choose? Leave everyone behind? Or work here for another chance of life?
“I’m living no matter what.” MY choice was clear. Everyone would lose their minds if I
was gone for good. I was too young, with so much to live for. And especially, so many
questions that need answering.
“Very well then, you are now a maid here. What is your name?”
“Lovely name. Welcome Arina, you are our new maid. Please allow one of our key staff
to help you get started.”
And just like that, I had my second chance. But not in the way I thought. But I don’t
care. As long as I figure out what is happening around here…I will not rest.