“Let her…” said the unfamiliar voice from before, and instantly the faceless man let the girl go, regaining a sentinel’s pose. The girl collapsed against his chest, staining his shirt with hot tears as her hands clambered around her for comfort. Her body was torn, cuts across her little arms and neck, whilst something like a patterned nightdress hung from her in strands. She looked up at him, her eyes red-rimmed and dark green, freckles clustered on her nose.
“Willow…please,” she whispered, her voice losing breath as if she was about to lose consciousness.
There were so many things that he wanted to say, but only one question came from his lips: “who are you?”
He watched as sorrow and horror overcame her, as if everything around her was turning to dust. She struck him furiously, her fists beating his chest again and again, and she shook him like trying to wake him from a dream.
“Wake up!” she screamed, before the men seized her again, all of them, their hands wrapping around her chest and her neck with a kind of hunger. She kicked and shouted, over and over, “Willow, wake up! Wake up!” He tried to order them to let her go, his thoughts screaming out, but his mouth wouldn’t move, and instead when he looked up, slits were growing on the men’s faces, and all together, they opened onto dilated, bloodshot eyes.
He tried to scream, but he couldn’t. All he could do was shut his eyes and beg for everything to go away.
‘If this is a dream, I want to wake up. I want to wake up.’
Dizziness swept over him, and before he could hope to catch his balance, the ground was an abyss and he was falling to its bottom. He closed his eyes as the wind snapped his clothes against his back, and when he struck the ground he felt no pain. There was only a numbness that split him apart at the seams, carrying away his last desire for the little girl to be safe, and for him just to see her smile.
End of Chapter Three