The night of the Hunt we always stole away, Mica and I, just in case. Most stayed with their families to say goodbye in case the glow started, but we stuck together. The elixir lingered on my tongue, heavy and sickly sweet like molasses. My hands shook as I waited for my veins to glow white, or not.
Mica bit into an apple he stole, keen to get the taste of the damning elixir out of his mouth. He tossed the fruit to me. It was crisp and light, one of the best I’d had here. We waited for the glow. It should have only taken a few minutes.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said.
“I always worry.”
“I know, so do I.” His brown eyes were made black by the slivered moon above us. Then he kissed me and I forgot everything, and we ended up a sticky mess of Macintosh nectar and summer heat.
I’ve worried every month since this deal was struck. This was the price we paid for the protection of the Headers. They get to hunt us like dogs once a month, and we get to sleep in the protection of the city away from the demons rising from the ashes outside the untouchable dome of Nacht. They would kill three people tonight, chosen by the elixir we all just drank. Drink the placebo and you can go home, but drink elixir and your veins spark like fireworks. That’s when you start running. It’s a sport.
“This is disgusting.” I stare at my hands, waiting.
“We didn’t have a choice. Any of us. Better to die this way than be taken below or eaten by a demon.”
“The Breach needs to be closed, and we could go home.”
“Have you looked past the dome? Home is gone. This is home.”
“You are home,” I told him. His eyes were heavy on my face, his hands heavy in my hair, and their weight was welcome and warm. The night air smelled like rain and ash, and we waited.
Veda, run! My father yelled. A mass of black rose behind us, reaching for our heels like the tentacles of an octopus from the deepest pit of hell. A Rael demon, escaped from the fifth pit, but not the deepest. Hell had spit up worse since the walls were breached.
Run! He screamed. We had heard of a place, Nacht, where solace was offered from the Breach. I could see it now, sand burning my feet as I ran for the gates. Go, go, go, was all I could hear above the Rael’s screams. A tentacle lashed my ankle and I rolled, sand burning my skin. It tightened around my foot, pulling me back.
There was a dull scrape of metal on sand and I was free. Strong hands pulled me up and forward, away from the demon behind.
“I’m Mica,” the boy said, dragging me limp-running through the gates of Nacht behind my mother and sister.
“Veda,” I huffed, hands on my knees. “Thank you.”
He was alone, his skin criss-crossed with evidence of the losses it took to get him here. But his amber eyes smiled at me as he knelt to tie a length of cloth around my bleeding ankle.
I would carry an anklet scar until it faded, but the memory of the Rael stealing my father forever.
“Veda, look.” Mica’s voice was harsh as I focused again on my hands. Still normal.
But his weren’t.
“No, no, no,” I whispered, the tiny futile words making no difference to the light under his skin. Pearl sparks worked their way up his hands to his forearms. A blooming marker for the Hunters billowing from his heart to shoulders, but his eyes shined amber, as always, and I crushed myself against him.
“No,” I said again.
His hands were on either side on my face, glowing like lanterns in my peripherals. He shook his head at me, voice soft and full of apologies. “Hush, Veda. Please don’t cry.”
I didn’t know I was. “Go,” I said, tasting apple soft and sweet once more before shoving him hard away from me.
“I’ll be fast,” he called behind him as he disappeared into the woods. “I love you.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I whispered to him and nobody.
The demons behind the dome rattled muffled screams into the night, but they didn’t match the real ones rising inside Nacht. The Hunt was beginning.
I wondered for the thousandth time if my father would approve of the price of this protection. Tears fell to the rough ground, and I thundered after the boy with the amber eyes. Light swam in my vision and my scar glowed white as a shooting star in the night.
For more poetry by WB Yeats, please read his collections online or at your local library. Poem © Copyright, William Butler Yeats 1899. All rights reserved.Used by permission of the Creative Commons License.
Stay tuned for extra content this week from Julie. Return next Monday for Anne’s answer to this prompt.