Breanna Koscenski

© Copyright 2022 by Breanna Koscenski

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I’ll be back before you wake up, don’t worry,” the woman said, kissing her daughter's forehead goodnight.

And if you aren’t? What then?” the young girl asked.

Well, then I guess just stay put, and I’ll make it back home as soon as possible,” replied the woman. She left the room, blowing out the candle that illuminated the room. The young girl fell asleep before she heard the front door close, awaiting the next morning.

Bleary-eyed, she went downstairs for breakfast the following morning, but the house was empty. “Mom? Are you not home yet?” yelled out the young girl. Her mom promised she’d be back by now, why wasn’t she home yet? She searched throughout the home, seeing nothing, no evidence of anyone having come by during the night, no evidence of her mother coming in with the fruits she was leaving for. The young girl sat on the empty floor, and waited. Days go by, the young girl sitting around the house, perking up at every little creak the home makes. It takes fourteen days before she realizes that her mom isn’t coming back, and even more time goes by before she cries.

Ten years later, the girl is gardening outside, planting berry bushes and seeds, before hearing something yelling out within the forest. Perking her head up, she listens for the sound to occur again. “Hey!” something screams, its voice echoing through the forest. “Someone help! This thing is chasing me!” The girl sighs, running out to the wooded forest towards the source of the sound. People get stuck in the woods all the time, and she has to help them out more often than not. This time, she comes across a girl, seemingly not much older than herself, trying to climb a tree to escape some small animal.

What are you doing..?” the younger girl asked. “This thing was trying to kill me! What is that!?” the older girl said in response. Laughing, the younger girl answered: “It’s just a spider, a larger one, at that. I promise you’ll live,” she stomped on the small spider squishing it under her shoes, and then said “I’m Fauna, now get off of that tree, and get out of this forest. There’s much more to fear out here than small spiders.” The other, older girl stared at her, and then at her clothes; like her green skirt, which seemed like it had been worn for years, due to it being so tattered and patched up, and at her too small shirt, which was also covered in patches, and resembled a brown stained crop top at this point, before slowly beginning to lower herself from the tree.

You said your name’s Fauna?” the older girl said, a bit confused. “Yes?” she replied. “Good! You’re just the person I was looking for!” she exclaimed, with a large grin plastered on her face. The other girl looked towards where Fauna ran into the forest from, and grabbed the younger girl's hand before running towards the clearing.

Is this your home?” she asked, taking in the little cottage for the first time. “Yeah! Do you like it? I’ve been trying to decorate it for years now,” Fauna replied, looking around at the decor. The home was full of darkened wood, plants on every corner, and stained glass windows made up for most of the dull lighting, creating rainbow shadows throughout the home. Most of the furniture looked like it was handmade, with the couch being made of sewed together scrap fabrics, and the dining table having just been a small stump dragged inside the home. Little knick knacks filled the shelves, sitting next to a few books, some hand binded. A large rose bush sat towards the entrance to the small kitchen, the vibrant red and pink flowers glowing under the low lighting.

It’s very… busy looking,” the older girl said, wandering around the makeshift kitchen, seeing the twine knotted twigs for cabinet doors, and a few small hand carved bowls and plates. “Come over here, sit down,” Fauna asked, pointing to the couches next to the stairwell, which also looked handmade, with larger branches making up the railing, and more sturdy looking steps leading up to a door at the top of the stairs. The older girl walked over, carefully sitting down.

So, you know my name, what’s yours?” Fauna asked. “Oh, you don’t need my name, sorry,” the older replied, holding a calm expression on her face. “Well, can I at least have some sort of nickname? Or a false name?” The other girl sighed, leaning back on the makeshift couch, saying

You can call me… hmm… Euthalia.”

Euthalia? That’s a hideous name!” Fauna exclaimed, giggling.

It is not an ugly name! It sounds regal, and seems like it would show wealth! What do you mean an ugly name?” Euthalia said.

Well, even for a false name, it’s quite bad. You could’ve named yourself something like Charlotte, and had a cute nickname, like Lottie! Or…” she paused, “oh! Or you could have named yourself Magnolia! That one’s very pretty. Any of those names would be much better than Euthalia,” Fauna listed, going on and on about even more names that she could’ve gone with instead, all while Euthalia glared at her.

Well, I thought it was pretty, it isn’t like Fauna is much better, you know,” she interrupted, watching the grin fall from Fauna’s face. “Are we done with the name topic now?” said Euthalia, a sly smile rising to her mouth with every word spoken. Fauna nodded, still frowning from the previous comment about her own name.

Good!” Euthalia exclaimed, “so, I need your help with something, something big, and if you help me, I can help you in return.”

Help you with what, exactly?” Fauna questioned.

I have this… problem, and from what I heard from some other people, you can help me out!” Euthalia replied, her tone seemingly excited.

You still haven’t said what the problem is, though?” Fauna said, continuing on with “I’m not willing to help unless you tell me what I have to help you with, because for all I know, you are some crazed lunatic trying to get back at someone.”

Euthalia gasped, saying “I’m not trying to get back at anyone! I just got hired for a job, and I didn’t think I would be able to do it alone. When I met you, I thought to myself ‘oh! This person would be great to help me out! I’ll ask her!’” She paused.

Fauna, I just need some help bringing some items down to town, but it’s too heavy for myself to bring alone, and due to how far away this town is, I would get so bored! I only need someone to talk with, and I thought you would be a good person to bring along, at least, that’s what the people in that one village across the forest said,” Euthalia leaned forwards on the patchwork couch, gripping her callused hands together tightly. “So, you wanna help me out? I can help you with something in return, if you’d like.” Fauna sat still, her face contorted with thoughts. Her eyes brightened, as though an idea popped into her mind.

So, if I help you, you can help me with anything, you said?”


Can you help me find my mother?”

Euthalia gasped. “Your mother?”

Yes, she’s been missing for quite some time, you know.”

I suppose we could try, there is no guarantee that we’ll find her, though, okay?”

Fauna grinned, before exclaiming “Thank you! I’ll help you with your delivery service, and then we can go find my mother as soon as possible!” Euthalia managed to show a grimace smile, before saying “You’re welcome, Fauna.,” though locked teeth. “She doesn’t know…” she thought, watching Fauna twirl around the cottage in joy.

The two girls set off soon after their conversation in the cottage, with Euthalia knowing so much more about what will happen at the end of their journey, and Fauna, exploring a false sense of hope and trust with her new found friend.

You know, this forest is quite beautiful at night.”

How so?” Euthalia asked, watching her every step, while seeing Fauna look straight up at the forest roof.

All the fireflies come out at night, and the stars wander about the sky as well. If we hit another clearing whenever it gets dark, we can stop for the night and stargaze for a bit,” Fauna said, watching every leaf fall off of the orange and green autumn trees.

That sounds nice, Fauna,” Euthalia replied, still watching her every step to avoid walking on anything bad, or squishy.

So, what are you delivering, anyways?” Fauna questioned, now looking at Euthalia.

I need to deliver some boxes of food, but I have to pick them up first, so we will stop tomorrow morning to grab them, and then we’ll continue on.”

How long are we set to be walking for?”

You sure are full of questions, aren’t you?” Euthalia said slyly, letting out a hushed laugh. “The entire delivery process, from us starting here, delivering my stuff to that other village, and then us trying to find your mother, will probably take about… hmm… two weeks or so minimum, from us getting the delivery, and then giving it to the actual owner, and who knows how long it could take to find your mother. So the entire time we’ll be wandering around should only be about three weeks or so, give or take a few days, not counting how long it takes for your end of the deal.”

The two girls continued walking, sharing some stories about their lives. Fauna listed off her life with her mother, before she disappeared, and how she started maintaining her mothers garden recently, saying things such as “She made the best pies, full of different wild berries from the forest.” Euthalia had more interesting stories, with her mostly listing off funny moments she had when she was a child, not older than ten, such as the time she went to a city for the first time, saying “It was massive, Fauna! After this delivery, we can look around a few cities for your mom.” Their conversations continued on for over an hour, each of them sharing bits and pieces of their life stories to one another, from fun times with family and friends to more saddening time, dealing with grief.

How old are you now, Thalia?” Fauna asked before squealing at the sight of some mushrooms on a tree, surrounded by large purple flowers at the roots. Euthalia looked at the other girl funny, due to the use of the nickname, before saying: “I’m 17 now, and how old are you? I want to make sure I’m not taking some thirteen year old child on an adventure around the world.” Fauna was plucking the lavender from the roots of the tree, before grabbing the chicken of the woods mushrooms off of the tree as well. “I’m sixteen now, but I’ll be the same age as you are in a few months or so, right before winter, I believe.” With a bundle of lavender and mushrooms in hand, Fauna sprinted back up towards Euthalia, asking “Do you know how to start a fire, by chance?”

The girls found a clearing not long after finding the flowers and the mushrooms, and Euthalia began to start up a fire for the cold night, while Fauna gathered materials for a shelter under the stars. “I got the fire started!” Euthalia called out, seeing Fauna trying to knot twigs together for their shelter. Fauna looked up, smiled, and tried to knot the twigs together again.

Can you try and find something to lay those mushrooms on? The ones I found are edible, and taste wonderful when cooked,” Fauna said, before exclaiming a quick “I got it!” when tying the twigs together.

I’ll go find some rocks, you can find some large leaves for the shelter roof, ok, Fauna?” Euthalia turned towards where Fauna should have been, but she was missing. “Fauna?” she said worriedly, looking around in different directions surrounding their makeshift campsite, even looking out into the woods for a moment, seeing nothing but millions of acres of trees in her line of sight.

I found some leaves in the forest, Thalia, and I also found some good rocks as well!” Fauna exclaimed, prancing out of the forest view as though nothing had happened. “Oh, okay, thank you Fauna!” Euthalia said, relieved, turning back to the small fire in between the two of them. Euthalia sat the rocks above the fire, heating them up before placing their foraged food on them, while Fauna grasped the large leaves and carefully placed them on top of the small makeshift shelter, leaving them with some shelter from the cold night, the stars looking over them, watching their every move.

Are you sure that the girl can actually do this? She’s getting fairly attached to her target.” announced a mysterious high pitched voice, her tone wavering on the line of uncertainty and worry. “Well of course she can, she’s done this with others in the past, and despite getting attached to some of them, we always get their heads in the end. She’s just trying to get the girl to trust her, would you not do the same?” explained the other person in the room, a man, watching the two girls eat their foraged food from the cover of the sky, spying from random creatures that had been following the girls from the beginning.

I was able to kill that girl's mother ten years ago, back when we had no idea about this kid. If we let that thing exist any longer, she may compromise our plans, just like her mother tried to, and her father before her.” he stated, remembering the ambush on a nearby town years ago, killing a young girl, who was barely 25. She had tried to grab some food, specifically some plums, from the market, knowing that something had been watching her. They ambushed the poor girl and murdered the entire town within five minutes.

I’m certain that my daughter can do the same, it probably helps that this other girl is a bit on the anxious side, it makes my daughter easier for her to properly trust.” The man turned back to the large screen in front of them. The robotic bird that they have attached to a small branch was staring right at the two girls, watching their fire crackle in the night, watching them sleep under the stars. Everything was in order, not a single break in the set procedure. Fauna would be dead within a week.

You know, Fauna, I think we may be able to get my delivery to that town faster than I thought, we might be done with all of this within a week!” Euthalia exclaimed, putting out the fire from the night prior, while Fauna took down their shelter. “A week? That’s rather quick, I thought you said it would take longer than that.” Fauna questioned her, the math simply not adding up.

Well, I thought it would, but I just remembered a major shortcut to the first town, which should help us get to the second town much faster, shortening our trip from a few weeks to a single week, which also means we can find your mother much quicker, since we’ll have more time,” Euthalia explained, choosing her words very carefully.

Fauna let a soft smile show, still holding the massive leaves from the shelter within her arms. Euthalia relaxed, seeing that her lie had worked. “Come on, we should get going if we want to make it to the town on time,” she said, finally stomping out the fire with her boot. With the shelter taken down, and the fire stomped out, the two girls continued on with their miniscule journey, hoping to reach the next town before nightfall.

I think I’m starting to despise walking, Euthalia,” Fauna complained, fanning herself from the heated humidity of the vast forest lands surrounding them. Despite it only being noon, the heat of the day was piercing her body like spikes of lava in her spine. Although excited at first about the idea of a journey, of a fun adventure, a way to finally leave her cottage, she was starting to hate the aspect of living off of the land, wanting to go back to living in a more hunter-gatherer way rather than an off the grid way.

I swear, my mom told me that this forest was massive, but never said that it was millions of miles out in every direction! Can we not stop and rest for a moment?” Fauna asked, her vision going blurry with each step. She hoped that this town was nearby, hoping that it was just around the corner, despite knowing that it wasn’t.

The town is nearby, I can feel it.” Euthalia replied, using a convincing tone.

I’m starting to believe that you have no idea where we’re going.”

Well, I’m starting to believe that you need to get out of the house more.”

I cannot believe that you said we could reach this thing by nightfall, my god.” Fauna said, ignoring the comment thrown at her. “You know, Euthalia, I could be back in my house right now, napping. Or I could be sitting by the window, watching the birds. Both of those ideas seem much better than walking.”

Walking is good for you, Fauna, how else do you think you’ll meet more people? You have to walk around! Venture out of your comfort zone!”

I’m regretting agreeing to this delivery.”

The two continued arguing, going on and on with minor insults towards each other, making fun while on this walk in the woods. Little birds kept sitting in the trees, watching them. The same red cardinal kept flying ahead of them every few moments, chirping with every take off.

They aren’t all that close to the town yet, are they, sir?” said the higher pitched voice in the shadowy confines of a room. A large screen in the middle showed the world through the eyes of a robotic bird, picking up no audio, but plenty of footage.

It’s only noon. Like the girl said, they will make it there by nightfall.” said the man, still watching the screen, ignoring the other person in the room.

But how will they get somewhere to stay? You didn’t give the girl any sort of currency when she left.”

I have their room prepaid. She knows that they have two beds, and that a gift is in there as well. I am certain that they will be fine, and that the younger girl will be gone in just a few days. Just watch, Nainsi.” Nainsi gave the man a disapproving look, before walking out of the room, her heels clicking on the floor with every step.

Euthalia, the sun is going to set soon, are you sure that we’ll make it there in time?” Fauna questioned, watching the other girl walk on the stones next to a small stream. “I’m sure that we’ll make it there, and if we follow this stream, we’ll be right there, we should head this way!” Euthalia exclaimed, pointing to the direction that the stream is flowing in.

And you are absolutely certain that this is the correct direction, right?” Fauna asked.

Mostly, this stream runs straight through the middle of the town, and it’s where they get their drinking water, their electric power, and sometimes fish, depending on the season,” Euthalia replied, then saying “quickly, the sun is setting, and we’re so close to the town.” Running alongside the stream, the two girls rushed towards where the town supposedly is.

Are those the town lights?” Fauna asked, seeing bright lights emitting from the forest floor ahead. “No, Fauna. That’s the edge of the world.” Euthalia answered in a sarcastic tone. Fauna glared back at her, before storming away towards the town. “Come on, Fauna, I was joking!” Euthalia yelled after her before sighing and running after the other girl.

They made it to the town. I’m impressed,” Nainsi stated, watching the world through the eyes of a cardinal, a massive screen in front of her and her boss showcasing the two girls' every move. “Were you doubting them?” the man asked, his eyes glued to the screen in front of them. “In a way, yes. I was expecting your daughter to just kill the girl in the forest. I have no idea why she’s taking so long to do that simple task,” said Nainsi, watching the camera view shift from the bird to a cat within a blink of an eye. “The little gift you put in their room was another camera?” she questioned. Everyone else on the team thought that the gift was something else, like a small pile of food, or new clothes.

I was thinking that the younger girl was getting suspicious of the bird, seeing it follow them around for the past couple of days. I thought a cat would be a better companion for them.” the man responded, seeing the “cat” come alive on screen as soon as the girls came into their new room. “It picks up audio, Nainsi. We can know exactly what they are saying, and we can communicate with my daughter much easier this way,” he said, a large grin peeling across his face. “Whatever you say, sir,” Nainsi said, walking out of the room, her thoughts and concerns rising more and more with every step.

Thalia! There’s a cat!” Fauna exclaimed, launching herself forwards to grab the little thing. Euthalia just stared at it, seeing its bright orange fur shed all over one of the beds, and seeing its pupil dilate in a more unnatural way than most cats, like it was zooming in on something. “It’s so fluffy! Euthalia, can we take it with us?” The cat meowed in agreement, flopping over on the bed, purring. “I guess so, I just wonder how it got into our room,” she said, exaggerating the word “wonder”, knowing exactly how this thing got in.

You know, Fauna, on second thought, I don’t think we can afford to keep the cat with us, I mean, we have such a long way to go, and this cat has to eat different things from us, I think we can just drop it off at a shelter, or a dump.” she said, keeping eye contact with the cat the entire time. The cat hissed in response, giving the girl a jagged stare. “No, I’m sure we can keep it.” Fauna said, petting the cats back. Euthalia glared at the cat, and then lied down on the bed, glad to have something comfortable to sleep on tonight. “Goodnight Fauna.” she said, rolling over in her bed while the other girl entertained the cat.

The cat was awake before the girls. Euthalia woke up to it whacking her in the face, its tail swishing across the plain brown bedspread. “Go away,” she mumbled, rolling to the other side of the bed, grasping the thin brown blanket and pulling it with her. The orange striped cat let loose a low, guttural growl, which was all that the little robot was able to do in terms of communication. “Fauna, we have to get up.” she said, muttering out every word slowly. Groaning, Fauna slowly sat up in bed, grabbing her glassless frames off of the bedside table.

Fauna, why do you wear those? They don’t have any prescriptions in them, not even glass,” asked Euthalia.

I think they look nice on me.”

Where did you even find them?”

They were my mom's old pair, she let me try them on a lot.”


Yeah, oh.”

The two sat in awkward silence for a moment, before Fauna leapt out of bed and onto the cold wooden floors below, ready to go get the package, leave the small tavern they were spending the night in, and head to the next town. “Can you grab the cat, Fauna? The thing is staring at me.” Euthalia asked, slowly sitting up in her bed. Fauna walked over from across the room, scooped the cat into her arms, and sat it on her bed while she grabbed her shoes.

She paused, holding the sandals in her lap. “Euthalia, do we have to deliver that package this week? We could wait a week or so, spend some time in this town, and venture out again after we rest for a bit.”

In theory, yeah, we could, that could put us a bit behind schedule though.”

I think it would be fun, though, don’t you?”

Yeah, it would be fun to relax for a few days, but we really don’t have the time, Fauna..”

Fauna scowled, looking away from the girl and facing the cat instead. “Cat, don’t you think we should take a break for a few days?” The cat sat silently, its face contorting into a frown-like gesture.

Fauna, I don’t think that the cat wants to stay here much longer either,” Euthalia commented, hearing the orange cat begin to purr in agreement.

Depressingly, Fauna finally agreed, deciding to continue on with their journey, despite knowing that the two girls were tired, and although she tried to make a case, saying things like “If we rest, we may be more motivated to get to the next town much quicker!” and “Euthalia, we’re both tired, and we barely know each other anyways, staying here for a couple more days could be a great bonding experience!” Even with her efforts, Euthalia refused to budge. Sighing loudly, she finally gave up, and began to pack a few things from the tavern room, grabbing mediocrely cheap things, and stealing some blankets from the bed as well, all with Euthalia’s encouragement. They tossed all their findings onto the floor, ransacking everything in the room as the cat watched on, eyes fixed on the girls.

Did your daughter really just convince the other girl to help her steal from a family owned tavern, sir?” Nainsi questioned, watching through the screen as the girls stole as many items as possible, hearing the girls question each other about if this is the correct and moral thing to do.

I think she did, but I see no major harm in that, we can pay to replace the items later on, or return whatever isn’t destroyed.” said the man, watching the screen attentively.

I still believe that you should have chosen someone else to kill this girl, because if you had, she would have been dead days ago.”

The man scoffed. “Regardless of who I chose to complete this mission, the girl ends up dead, no matter how long it may take.”

You may want to reconsider soon, your daughter is getting far too attached to this girl, she may just let her go after their false delivery service act is done with.” Nainsi replied, watching her boss's face change to a scowl.

I’m sure she would never do such a thing, and I cannot believe that you are falling for her trusting act, Nainsi.” he barked, turning away from the screen. “My daughter knows exactly what sort of plague that this girl's family brought upon this world, and has known what to do from the moment she met the girl. She has trained for years, Nainsi, years. If I decided on someone else to commit this act of violence against a child, they would all refuse, and end up changing sides.” He continued, “this girl is in a war she doesn’t even know about, which gives us an upper hand. The very second that she leaves this planet, every single one of us will feel a weight lifted off of our shoulders. Got it, Nainsi?”

A mere “yes, sir,” was all she could mutter before turning away, about to leave the room, practically touching the silver handle for the door. “Oh, and Nainsi,” he said, making the girl stop behind him. “Make sure that the tavern owners get paid for their loss of materials, please.” he commanded, turning back to the large projection in front of him.

Nainsi hummed in agreement before sprinting out of the room, her sleek black dress following behind her like a shadow. “Hot tempered prick.” she muttered under her breath, and then rushed to get the payment complete.

You have everything, Fauna?” Euthalia called out. A large pile of toiletries and blankets sat in front of her, all of which would be useful in the desert land they were soon heading towards.

I think so,” she replied, holding a couple extra blankets she found underneath the room's dresser.

Okay, good, toss it all into the pile.”

The girl tossed the items she found into their small stash, wrapping it all up in one of the larger blankets they had found in the room. The cat sat on one of the two beds, watching the girls while it swished its orange tail back and forth, creating little creases on the empty mattress.

Is that all of it? I want you to be completely sure,” asked Euthalia, looking at Fauna sitting on the floor.

I think so, but why do we need this stuff, Euthalia?”

We’re taking the blankets and pillows so we don’t have to sleep on the cold ground again, Fauna. Our campsite the other night was covered in dirt and bugs.”

Fauna went quiet for a moment, before asking: “Ok, I get why we need that, but why do we need the other small things? I’m sure we don’t need this towel, it’s soaking wet from whoever had the room last.”

We can leave the towel, Fauna,” she said with a sigh, wrapping the rest of their stolen items up in the large blanket and tossing the piled objects over her shoulder, carrying them like a heavy laundry bag. “Make sure you leave that cat, I don’t want it coming with us.”

Euthalia left the room, heading through the tavern's lobby and out the door, the bagged items still thrown over her shoulder. Fauna followed a moment later, holding the cat in her arms similar to how you would hold a baby on its back.

You actually brought the cat.” she grumbled, seeing Fauna waltz out of the tavern with the orange cat swaying in her arms.

It would have just followed me anyways, and look at their little face! How could I just leave it in there, all alone?” she stammered out, looking at Euthalia’s frowning face. “Look, Thalia, the cat can stay with us for a bit, and we can drop it off at the next town, okay?”

Euthalia groaned, pausing for a moment to catch her temper. “Fine. The cat can stay. I need you and that vermin eating thing to stay next to that fountain over there, ok? I’m gonna go pick up the package.” She pointed to the left of the tavern, towards the town square. A massive silver and pearlescent fountain sat in the middle of the square, with people swarming around it.

Make sure you dump that cat in the fountain's water as well! Cat’s adore water, Fauna!” Euthalia exclaimed, running off snickering at her own joke. Fauna looked down at the cat in her arms, just to see it glare up at her, its eyes saying “don’t you dare.

I’m not that dumb.” Fauna muttered, sitting on one of the fountains walls, setting the cat in her lap. Looking around, she saw the small town full of life, with people wandering around from shop to shop. Some people had more average clothes on, like a mere long black skirt underneath a stained white top, while most of the men had a vest on over their dirt stained shirts, and wore an old pair of pants, just as stained as their shirts. Every once in a while, Fauna saw some people in more regal outfits, carrying bags upon bags of clothes and materials. Their clothes were never stained, or tattered like hers. She made a mental note to ask Euthalia about them later, when she got back to the fountain.

Euthalia came back an hour later with a massive crate trailing behind her, held up by a large piece of wood on wheels. “Okay, Fauna! Are you ready to go? If we leave now, we might have time to stuff the cat in this box as well.”

You spent an hour wandering around this town to get a crate.” Fauna said, her tone wavering from one of confusion to disappointment.

Not exactly, I got the crate in about five minutes, it took me another thirty minutes to get the wooden plank and wheels, and then even longer to get the crate on it, then I had to push it over here,” she stammered out, looking around the town square, seeing people stare at the large crate. Fauna looked at the crate, before turning back to stare at Euthalia blankly.

Look, it’ll be easy to move if we both push it, and I got our blankets and stuff in there too! We might be able to deliver it by tomorrow if we push this thing around till around midnight,” Euthalia said cheerfully, a fake smile plastered onto her face.

I’m not pushing that thing around till midnight, Euthalia.”

I’m pretty sure you are, Fauna. You agreed to help me if I helped you.” Euthalia mused, reminding the younger girl of their agreement. Scowling, Fauna plopped the cat onto the board holding the crate.

Come on, Euthalia, let’s get going.”

We aren’t stuffing the cat in the box?”

Not a chance.”

Nainsi walked into the room, her boss still glued to the screen in front of him. The robotic cat looked around as the girls pushed the crate out of the town, its every move showcased on the screen for whoever walked in to view.

Where the hell did they get a crate?” Nainsi asked, her face contorted with confusion and interest.

Honestly, I have no idea, but they managed to find one, and my daughter stuffed it with the loot from the tavern, among other things.” replied the boss, his voice deepening with each word.

Nainsi looked around the room. The only source of light was the large screen being projected onto the wall. All of the windows were covered with curtains, and the room looked as though it had been painted with darkness. Her boss was only visible through the projectors light, showing the man's eye bags and unshaved face. He was a mess, and smelled like one as well, his stench causing the room to reek.

Sir, if you’d like, I can bring in a few other people, and we can watch over the girls while you… cleanse yourself,” she said, a concerned smile appearing on her face.

That won’t be necessary, Nainsi, I can manage a few more days of watching the girls, besides, that younger one, what's her name…” He paused for a moment, blanking on what the girl’s name could be.

Isn’t her name Fauna?” Nainsi asked.

Fauna! Yes, that's her name, anyways, she should be gone in just a couple of days anyways, probably by tomorrow if we’re lucky! I have no reason to stop watching the screen till then,” he said, controlling the cat to jump up to the top of the crate.

Nainsi sighed, looking at her boss with concern. “If you are so entirely sure that you need to watch the screen, then do so, but you are actively harming your health every second that you spend sitting here in your own filth! So please, sir, let someone else watch the screen for a moment, and go clean yourself!” She begged, screaming out every word.

I’ll be fine, Nainsi, go do your job, err… whatever it is you do.” he replied, still transfixed onto the screen.

I’m your assistant,” she mumbled, leaving her boss to wade in his own filth, as per his request.

Euthalia, this crate is heavy,” Fauna complained, pushing the crate while Euthalia walked ahead.

Don’t worry, Fauna, we’ll stop and rest in a minute, and in the morning, I’ll push the crate instead.”

The girls stopped, seeing the edge of the forest nearby, the treetops changing from green to yellow, and from yellow to nothing, leaving large logs sitting in their place. The tree’s were starting to lessen in number, being replaced by sand, dirt, and charred stumps. They could feel the humidity dropping, everything starting to dry up. The sun was beginning to set, leaving streaks of colors washing over the sky, purples and oranges mixing together like fruits in a blender.

This seems like a good place to stop,” Euthalia said, sitting down on the last remnants of grass, although it was starting to yellow under the lack of water. “Fauna, come sit down, I’ll open the crate and get the stuff out.” she stated, beckoning to the ground for Fauna to sit, while the cat jumped off the crate.

Euthalia opened the crate, the lid opening with some squeaking hinges, and grabbed out the bed set they stole from the tavern room. She tossed it down to the ground, aiming for the cat.

You almost hit the cat!” Fauna screamed, glaring up at the other girl.

I missed? Oh, what a shame,” she replied sarcastically before grabbing other items from the crate, tossing them down with less intensity, yet still aiming for the robotic cat.

Is that everything?” Fauna questioned a few minutes later, looking at Euthalia, whose body was halfway into the crate.

Everything but the delivery items, yeah.” the older girl replied, trying to push herself out of the crate.

Fauna, I think I’m stuck.”

What do you mean?”

I’m stuck in the crate! I can’t move!” Euthalia yelled, begging Fauna to pull her out of the crate.

Fauna shot up, and yanked the other girl out of the crate, the two collapsing onto the ground behind them.

Thanks,” she said, out of breath, her long brown hair falling into her face. “Can you help me set up all this stuff, now?”

The two girls laid out the blankets onto the ground, tossing down some pillows for added comfort. Cold air was starting to sweep through the outskirts of the forest. The two buried themselves under their blankets, hoping to keep the cold from washing over them.

Nainsi?” the man called out, looking for his assistant. “Nainsi!”

Nainsi walked into the dark room, seeing her boss finally standing up. “Yes, sir? What do you need?” she inquired, walking further into the dark confines of the room.

Watch the screen for me, the girls finally laid down for the night,” he explained, before quickly running out of the room, presumably towards a bathroom.

Nainsi grumbled, watching the screen closely. The makeshift spy-cam had wonderful picture quality, letting her see everything in the forest so clearly, it was as if she was actually there. A couple minutes passed, the girls seemingly fast asleep.

Her boss's daughter wasn’t asleep. Nainsi watched, her eyes transfixed to the screen, just as her boss had been just an hour earlier, as the girl opened her eyes, sat up, and stared at the girl in front of her, her tangled hair cascading down her shoulders. The cold air let Nainsi see the girl’s shallow breaths, each one seeming panicked. The teen turned around, grabbing a small knife from beside her, and hung it up in the air, aiming for Fauna. Nainsi held her breath as the teen plummeted the knife down, stopping an inch above Fauna’s skin. A tear fell down the girl’s face, and she turned around, setting the knife back onto the ground next to her. She lied back down, the girl crying herself back to sleep, knowing that she just couldn’t kill this girl, not yet. Nainsi could hear the teen’s whimpering cries, as well as her own. She prayed that her boss would be back soon, so that she could stop watching the horrific projection in front of her.

Twelve minutes later, her boss wandered back into the room, freshly clean. “Did the girls behave for you while I was gone?” he laughed, sitting back down in his seat. Nainsi didn’t have the heart to tell him what happened, knowing he would berate his daughter for abandoning such an easy kill.

The next morning was cold. Summer isn’t usually cold enough for a person's breath to show in the air, summer wasn’t supposed to reach temperatures of 40º, of 30º, not even in the darkest nights, and yet, here they are, the two girls wrapped in blankets, freezing. The robotic cat provided no warmth for either of them.

Euthalia, can you please start a fire, it’s absolutely freezing,” Fauna said, her voice chattering in the cold air.

I can’t start a fire, it’ll start a wildfire, the grass is too dry,” Euthalia paused, “Walking might warm us up.”

I am not walking for who knows how many miles in these temperatures, Euthalia!” Fauna exclaimed, yelling out the other girl's name frustratingly.

Oh no, whatever will you do. You can sit on the board while I push the crate, then.” Euthalia compromised, turning her head to the large crate. “You can keep your blanket on, but make sure it doesn’t get caught in the wheels, and keep that cat away from me, deal?”

Deal,” accepted Fauna, sighing with the acceptance of their verbal contract.

Fauna sat onto the board, pulling all of the blanket on top of her, while Euthalia went to the back of the crate, beginning to push it forwards with ease. The cat hopped onto the board as well, staring directly at Euthalia while she pushed the crate. She glared back at it, then turning her head back forwards to focus more on the crate.

Euthalia, what's with the sand?”

She stopped pushing the crate, and looked down beneath her. Sand covered the ground, digging into her feet. She poked her head out to the side of the crate to get a better view at what was ahead of her, and saw a massive, sprawling desert looming out in front of her. Mountains of sand rose up to the clouds, and not a single ounce of water or shade was anywhere in sight. Her face began to pale, knowing that this was the place her father told her to bring the girl. This was the place where her future mattered; this was where Fauna was going to die.

Nainsi could hear her name being called from across the facility. A screaming thought passed by in her brain, did the girl do it? No. The girl had not finished her job, but she was going to soon, within the next few minutes. Nainsi bolted across the building, heels clicking across the concrete flooring. The overhead lights illuminated the ground beneath, flooding it with the bright neon white light. Nainsi's normally deep brown hair appeared orange, still dulled, but an obvious color. She opened the door with a huff, the door being barricaded with concrete, plus a large unlocking mechanism. “You needed me?” She said, panting.

Nainsi! They’ve made it to the desert region! Her job will be done, and we won’t need to deal with that horrifying family any longer, and–”

Sir, you called me across the entire building just to tell me that the girls made it into a desert,” Nainsi interrupted. Her boss scowled, turning away from his assistant, and back to the screen. Sand covered hills were in every direction, the mixture of black and orange pieces covered the landscape, creating almost a painted look throughout the ground, the colors of the ground reflecting into the clouded sky.

I want you to stay here and watch this with me, Nainsi. Go grab a chair, seat yourself somewhere in the room, and make sure that you get a good view, this event is a moment in history.”

Nainsi begrudgingly left the room, finding an office chair left unaccompanied in a neighboring room. She dragged it in, hearing the plastic wheels scrape against the concrete floor, creating an awful scratching noise. She dragged it into the room, sitting only about ten feet back from the screen. She watched as the girls traveled through the colored desert, knowing how her boss's daughter, Euthalia, as she told the other girl, was coming home soon, knowing that poor Fauna was never leaving the sand covered land, and would never return home.

Fauna? Are you awake?”

Euthalia had stopped pushing the crate, hearing no noise coming from the front, where her friend should be. She shook the girl, trying to get her awake so she could view her final sunset.

Euthalia, let me sleep some more, it’s cold,” the girl mumbled, curling up even more within her ratty blanket.

Euthalia frowned. “Fauna, the sun’s setting, you have to look at it, we can lie down for a bit in a moment, okay?”

Fauna slowly sat up, stretched, and then looked up. The oranges and the blacks of the sand were reflecting back up, merging with purple hues of the sky. The moon was full, the white surface becoming brighter and brighter as the sun set. “It’s pretty.”

Isn’t it? There's got to be loads of stars hiding out there as well, some constellations as well, maybe a few shooting stars will fly by as well!”

Fauna smiled, telling Euthalia something that her mom had told her years ago, something about how those who die under the night sky become one with it, becoming a new light in the sky.

She was distracted, the sky taking all of her attention. Euthalia looked over at the cat for confirmation on what to do here, should she take this chance? The furry thing nodded at her, giving her the confirmation she needed. Euthalia took a deep breath, and began to dig into her pocket for the switch knife. She gripped the wooden handle, and walked up behind her friend, the girl she had gotten close with over the past few days. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she plunged the knife deep into the girl's back, making Fauna cry out in surprise and in pain. Euthalia yanked the knife out of her back, watching as the girl collapsed into the sand, the sand absorbing the blood like unwatered dirt, more tears welled up with every bloodied stab, into the girl's throat, her chest, her stomach.

I’m so sorry.” The words repeated in her mouth, never stopping, even as the tears fell, even as the blood still dripped off the knife, even as the words became more of a mumbled mess. The cat jumped onto the crate behind them, shutting off. Euthalia was left all alone, all alone with a dying sixteen year old girl. Euthalia curled up in the sand, setting her head on her knees while she wailed, her voice echoing through the sandy hills surrounding them. She cried as Fauna’s eyes went gray. She cried, even as her voice became unable to muster up any sounds, and cried the most when the young girl went limp in the sand, staring at the first stars appearing in the sky above them, the final ones she would ever witness.

Euthalia wandered towards a house in the woods. The same one she first met Fauna in, the same small cottage that the girl had lived in for her entire life. The door was left unlocked from when they left, just a week earlier. The door creaked as she opened it, and as she peered into the cottage, she could see the little knick knacks on the shelf lay dusty, and a small bell hanging from the shelf, untouched throughout the week. The floorboards creaked under her feet, and the stained glass windows made the room appear dark, unlike how it had been the last time she was here.

She walked around the home, trying to view how the girl had lived. The plants that had littered the home had gone brown, even the rose bush that Fauna had seemed so excited about. The small staircase was coated in a layer of dust, covering the wooden branches that had been used as a banister. The short flight of stairs led to a bedroom, likely the only in the house. Even her bedroom had been covered in small items that held little value to Euthalia, but had held loads of value to Fauna. Euthalia walked through the room, finding a few photographs sitting on a dresser, most taken years ago. Some contained photos of a toddler Fauna, along with her mother. One small photo sat behind it, likely having been taken just months before the two girls even met. She grabbed the small photo, admiring it, the small picture making it seem as though the girl was still alive. Tears filled her eyes, dropping onto the photo. She stuffed it into her pocket, along with the others sitting on the dresser.

She searched through the house, trying to find a small basket, a box, just something that she could use to carry on the memories of this girl, something to prove that she really did exist, something to show the world that this girl had lived a life, a life before Euthalia had killed her, killed her dreams, killed the entire personality that she had grown to love.

She found a basket sitting in one of the closets on the bottom floor, hidden under more dead plants. Euthalia yanked it out, causing the ceramic pots that held all of the plants to crash onto the hardwood floors. The girl grabbed any of the little items sitting on the shelves, and tossed them into the basket, laying the photos on the top. Euthalia left the home, staring at it for one last time, before she went back home, to the facility she was raised in, the one she was trained in from a young age. If she had been trained to lack any form of emotion, then why did she feel so upset about the death of this girl? Out of everyone she’s done this horrid act to in the past, why did only Fauna’s death affect her? She doesn’t know.

The sun was beginning to set. The first stars of the night shining through the cloudy sky. The brightest competing their ways to the front, while the dim ones would appear to flicker in and out of the sky, losing their battle to be seen. Euthalia looked up, wondering if Fauna is one of those stars, and if she forgives her.

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