prelude to ashes


A discreet hush fell over the ancient forest. The winds, which had been sharp and stinging just an instant ago crumbled, sending ripples across the viridian grass. The sorrowful melody of the birds in the trees silenced. Even the clouds seemed to still, and the sunbeams were caught. It was almost as if the forest had fallen asleep…but it was all too abruptly. No, it seemed like the forest had…


A girl burst out into the grassy clearing, panting and gasping. Dirt and stains clung to her skin and clothing, and her silky dark hair was everywhere. The gleam of her chestnut eyes were edged with panic, laced with bloodshot lightning. She squeezed her eyes shut, grabbed at her temples in agony; she'd been here already.

It all started with the wail—the horrible, awful wail that ricocheted through the gaps of the tree trunks, reverberating off the invisible walls of the sky and exploding. Like a banshee's screech, it was so horrid…

She tore through the bushes, each sound her actions made echoing and intensifying in the quiet woods. Her eyes searched the trees frantically—her fingers pried through the small openings she could not pass. Her steps were wide, long, almost like strides as she struggled to quicken. Faster and faster, until the emerald scenery spun around her…it was like falling.

Her search ended by a protruding tree root. As she tripped over it, she stopped, sat down and cried. Her loud and shameless sobs seemed to closely resemble a name.


She began to hear a hum, like an irritated echo in her ear, and dismissed it. But suddenly the hum grew louder, lower, like someone was groaning in pain. Her eyes snapped open wide and the tears stopped flowing. Her body turned rigid and still as she glanced behind her, to her sides.

The groan evolved into a ghastly shriek. She immediately screamed and buckled to the ground, thrashing as the sounds imprinted into her body and made her bones itch. Shivers of pain culled through each twist and turn and swivel of blood… It hurt so much…

Then the treetops shook madly and wind ripped through the branches. The shriek rode along the wind arrows and paused slightly by the girl's throbbing ear. The shallow hum of the insects and birds melded into a wild medley, shrieking and hissing and crying. The clouds raced in front of the sun until it was barely seen, and the tall, castle-wall grass reached up against the girl. They bounded her lips, wrapped around her eyes, tightened against her sweaty wrists, and continued until she was completely hidden from view.

The forest had awoken.


The boy wriggled through the tree roots that wrapped loosely around him, his cheeks stained red. He briefly examined the scrapes and cuts all over his arms and body, and the awful gash that was carved into his right leg. He tugged at the edge of his once-crisp, once-white shirt, but it barely stretched. It wouldn't rip—there was no point.

He looked down at his feet; one shoe had been taken away, and quite literally at that. He was walking with his friend Meryl through the forest in the mountain, enjoying the pure scenery and abstract nature. The normality was obliterated in a split instant, though, and suddenly the world seemed to swirl around the two. He heard a beautiful sound—the most gorgeous voice in eternity. It was singing.

Meryl had collapsed dramatically, her hands grabbing at her ears, claiming the sound hurt her; that it sounded like a scream. That was when hell broke loose.

The grass started to grow faster than it would have in months. It stood, towering, as tall as cornstalks. Vines reached out, past the girl, to grab the boy, but he dodged them and was forced to break into a deadly sprint. Like snakes, the vines slithered after him, and as he ducked away for cover by the foot of an enormous tree trunk, it too suddenly spurted. Overgrown roots shot out, sharp as swords, wounding him everywhere. They captured his joints, pulled him in and caged him tightly, so tightly he could barely breathe. And then he drifted.

Now he was awake, and he had never been so afraid. He tried to run to the clearing he remembered getting separated in, but his injured leg strained and clawed at his insides until he was forced to slow to a limping walk. Dragging along, the forest began to darken, and a familiar hum danced into his ears. He enjoyed the soft sound and as he walked, his worries faded and he could barely remember his purpose, much less his own name. Slowly, the beautiful music began to replay, sweet and pure as before, like the treble of a keyboard.

He was mesmerized. How could Meryl be in pain listening to what sounded like a voice of the angels? It was soft, high yet low at the same time, and feminine. It was sweet—pure and untouched. It always started as a drawn-out hum, the most amazing sounding hum he had ever heard. And then the notes soared by until it was a song, like water pouring gently from a stream.

He followed the voice, the stream in his mind, his heart pounding, his mind soothed. He pushed through drooping branches and stepped over fallen logs—nothing would get in his way. He wanted the voice. He…needed it. The rhythm of his heartbeat was in pace with the melody.

His head was tilted downward when he arrived at the foot of the singer. Closer up, the voice was even clearer, more impossibly beautiful. He dropped to his knees like in prayer. The song was too amazing—he didn't deserve to hear it. When he raised his head to look at the owner of the captivating prelude, the melody suddenly stopped flowing. It didn't fade out slowly or waver—it just suddenly came to a halt.

A thick vine shot through his chest the instant he met the singer's eyes, which were infuriated, slicing glares. He fell against the vine, which was accompanied by ten, twenty more, his breath knocked out in an instant, the gashes seeming to melt his body. He continued to stare up at the possessor of the amazing voice despite the absolute pain that was quickly swallowing his body.

Black, bruise-like shapes began forming in the mouths of his wounds. The pools of blood that seeped out turned to soot, and in seconds, he was but a pile of ashes.


A/N: This is my new longfic, and my latest addiction. I can't guarantee the next update, but it will probably occur when I'm in an angry or disturbed mood, like I was while writing this. I'm positive the rating will remain strictly at T. I'll be toning down the language, but upping the violence; stepping down from dialogue, advancing toward monologue. Please criticize me.

Oh, and ten points to the observant.