Glass shattered overhead, gunshots resounded the ballroom. Screams could be heard, as people and colors dashed around in frenzy. Panic filled the area, as the crystal chandelier fell from the chains that secured it above. A man dressed entirely black came into view, standing on the windowsill, his face obscured by a glittering mask that revealed nothing but the grey eyes behind the eyeslits. He lifted the rifle, aiming it at the crowd below. A chopper came into sight. Those were rare. There were almost never enough ores to fuel them. The chopper alone was enough to reveal the man’s identity, or at least, the man behind the entire operation. Clearly, they weren’t afraid of getting caught. Everything was supposed to end here and now. No witnesses were expected to escape.
Bullets sprayed through the previously lively area. Bodies stacked like rainbows, as both men and women dressed in garish colors and adorned with gaudy accessories piled on top of one another. The havoc worsened as the victims found all alternative exits sealed shut. The attack was planned. And escapees weren’t part of that plan. The only route of escape was the window. The place where the man stood. Yet, even that wasn’t very accessible. Even if someone could manage to get close enough without taking injury, the heavy ballgowns, inflexible tuxedos, and dressy shoes didn’t lend well to climbing.
The shooter’s gun tracked every movement, stealing lives as quickly as a foot could squish ants. One moment, shade of blue darted by, desperately trying to escape, the next moment, nothing but a shade of red and a corpse to fill its place. She pulled her knees closer to her chest, in an effort to self-hug. Putting her face into her knees, she did her best to block out the sights, the smells, and the sounds of screams surrounding her. Tears spilled down her face, as she huddled in a corner adjacent to the wall where the shooter stood. She did her best to choke back sobs, trying not to attract attention from the man stealing the lives of all those before her.
Make it stop, she wanted to scream. But she could find no voice. All she could do was stay curled up, as tightly as she could, praying that it would all end soon. Helpless. She continued to sit, breathing in the bloody odor, as her sniffles led her to hyperventilate. There was nothing she could do, she told herself, though she knew otherwise. Her years of training in the magical arts probably could have done something. Probably could still do something. But in her panic, all her training seemed to leave her. She was just that little girl, that little girl that just wanted to be at home, that little girl that was too scared to even conjure a fireball, that little girl that still dreamed that fairies danced through balls, that little girl that thought that all humans were kind beings.
Suddenly all went silent. Still, she dare not move. Surely the man had a purpose here. Why else would anyone leave so many dead? Surely, he would come down here, and inspect the area. Surely…
“You!” an unfamiliar voice called. “You, there. Girl, in the orange and lilac. You’re not dead are you?”
She dare not look up. In her panic, she couldn’t even discern whether the voice belonged to a male or female. The man wasn’t alone. Someone else drove in that chopper. Even if this wasn’t the man with the gun, maybe it was the chopper driver, or someone else he brought along. She wasn’t budging. Even if they planned to take her life too, she didn’t want to face them. She didn’t want to see who they were. She couldn’t.
“Please!” the voice pleaded. “He’s gone. Please help me.”
She forced her stiff neck to look up. Her body, seemingly resisting her every movement. It was a woman, crushed beneath several corpses. Suddenly, she became aware that not everyone was dead, as she originally assumed. Some people still groaned. Others still stirred. Perhaps, she realized, there was still hope. Perhaps, one step at a time, she could save them. With renewed vigor, she walked toward the woman.
“Please,” the woman continued to plead, passing her an infant, who looked up at her with bright eyes. He was a beautiful boy, with dark hair and glistening blue eyes. Without warning, the woman passed her hand through the girl’s hair, causing her to flinch, as the woman’s fingers brushed over the silver cone capping the tip of her ear. She’s worn similarly fashioned earrings for as long as she could remember. A cone that sat over the top of her ear, with adornments hanging below, before connecting to the more common, lobe-piercing. “You aren’t human are you?” the woman asked.
She didn’t answer, as she cradled the child. Despite her lack of response, the woman continued. “My husband was like you. I’m glad you were able to survive.”
Upon careful inspection, she noted that the child also had a slight point at the top of his ear. It wasn’t very noticable, but still there, nonetheless. “What happened to him?” she asked, suddenly curious.
“He got hunted down, like the rest of you,” the woman answered, breaking into a sob. “He was just going about his day, like anyone else, when someone pointed him out. It happened only a few months ago.”
She reached down, her magic returning to her, as she calmed. Drawing energy from the stones that made up the ground, she focused it within her, before levitating the stack of bodies off the woman. “I’m sorry to hear of your loss,” she answered, passing the infant back to the woman.
“I know you’re not human,” the woman insisted. “The earrings are a great ruse. With their placement, normal folk would never suspect you for what you are. But I married a man of your kind. You all move too smoothly; too gracefully. That dress of yours, with the gently layering colors and cloth, gentle on the eye, and inspired by the traditional attire of your kind, gave it away. The way that it sways too gently with your movements. And though, I know it gives you comfort, no human woman would be caught walking around barefooted. My husband used to wear cotton shoes, so that he could still feel the earth as he walked, perhaps that could work for you as well.”
Without answering, she continued to sort through the bodies, levitating them apart from each other, identifying those that still had a breath left in them. She was never the best at healing arts, but it couldn’t hurt to try. As she worked, she put up a defensive barrier around herself, to protect her from basic magical attacks. It would do nothing in face of physical efforts, but few humans were gifted with the art, she couldn’t be certain that no one here wouldn’t try to fight back against her efforts. There weren’t many that were open to the concept of magical healing, even though, it was the best way at times.
“You’ve suffered a similar loss, haven’t you?” The woman asked, behind her.
Finally, she nodded. “About a month ago. My mother’s last request was that I come here. She told me that she expected my aunt to be attending.” She sighed. “But it didn’t look like she came.”
“It’s no wonder you locked up earlier. I was fortunate enough to not see my husband die before me,” the woman replied, putting a hand over her shoulder. “If you’re willing, after this is over, I’d gladly take you as a daughter.”
“Thank you,” she answered, prompting the woman to hug her.
“Praise the lord.” The woman said, tearing up. “Though I have lost a husband, I have gained yet another child.”
She smiled, for the first time, since her family’s death, and returned the woman’s embrace, careful not to disturb the infant resting between them, in the woman’s other arm. In their close contact, she noticed a plain, but open locket around the woman’s neck. Within it, was a photograph of her uncle.