• I was in a forest.
    It was dark, an odd, fiery glow my only source of light. The fog that swirled around me reflected the light, made the moss-covered trees eerily demented. A fallen tree lay in my path, a variety of plants winding their way through it, over it, under it. It was silent as a graveyard.
    More of, it could have been, if it were not for the maniacally insane laughter erupting behind me.
    “Where are you, you revolting creature!” a crazed voice screamed as its owner came into view.
    It was my mother. My mother, with wildly untamed hair. My mother, with wide eyes that appeared bloodshot. My mother, wearing a tattered, dirty kimiten. My mother, possessed, it seemed.
    “I will kill you,” she said, more to herself than to me. “I will kill you; rid this house of the curse that you have bestowed upon us! You will be where you belong!” This last word was yet another crazed scream, and she lunged towards me.
    I turned and ran, not remembering that this place was enclosed, the home I knew so well.
    I clambered over the fallen tree, running for my life. I had seen the flash of metal—she was carrying a weapon. One that will kill you, a voice whispered in my head. It made me move faster.
    I dodged tree after tree, using the glow from the lantern she carried as my only source of light, even though it was held by the one thing I did not want to see. I could see glimpses of the creatures that resided in this forest—the tiger, the wolf, the birds—but they would not come to my aid. I didn’t expect them to. They’d taught me to fend for myself, only care for myself. They had told me one rule: to live, you must kill. To kill, you must learn. To learn, you must survive.
    Those words were repeated upon my lips as I continued running from my mother, who shouted more curses at me, more of the crazed sayings of a person I had loved more than life.
    My feet suddenly flew behind me, my hands instinctively reaching out in before of me to help with my fall. Looking behind me, I realized it was a boulder—that was why my leg hurt with such paroxysmal pain. My mother crashed into view once again, her smile wider than her usual, happy smile. “There you are,” she said quietly, coming to loom over me. “There you are. You were lost. You ran away.” Her voice rose, both in volume and the insanity which radiated through it. “You will not get away again!”
    She’s going to kill you, the voice purred, cold as ice. She’ll kill you. Don’t let her hurt us. I did not care that the voice had said ‘us’ in the last part—I only cared that it meant it would be harmed, too.
    And suddenly, I didn’t want to die.
    My mother raised her sword above me, poised above my heart. The strange metal glowed, black and silver and crimson—the color of blood. In my head, the voice was growling words I didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand—these were words that would give misfortune to my mother.
    I heard the voice, faint at first, then growing louder as it continued. Mother raised the sword high, laughing, relishing my fear. It growled more words, ever louder, growing in intensity. Mother’s eyes glazed over for a moment, as though she could hear what it was saying. A slim smile of evil satisfaction played upon my lips, then slipped as she raised the sword once more. The voice was shouting something. Something that sounded like a curse. I had no idea what it meant, but it formed a foggy cloud around my mother, thicker than the one that surrounded us. My eyes widened, tears falling down my face.
    I don’t want to die, I thought. I’m only four. I don’t want to die.
    That was the last thought I had for a long while.