With that, the butterflies swirled into nothing, and they were gone. My mouth was dry, and I swore. I let her go feeling like she was a pawn, a prize to be won. That I wanted to be his minion. And now I'd never see her again.
I whirled around, and hit a tree, harder, harder, until the blood came. Then, I slid to the floor, wrapping my knuckles in my t-shirt. The scarlet looked far too familiar against the russet fabric- my father put paid to keeping a shirt clean for too long. I pulled the sleeves over my hands, hiding the evidence of my insanity, and tried to wrestle my head into order.
What do I do? Who do I save? My head buzzed with questions I couldn't answer. I closed my eyes, and fought the tide of panic threatening to close over my head. I couldn't be this out of control again. I couldn't. He can't do this to me! I love her, I love them both. My eyes were branded with Helena's wide eyes, the tear rolling down her cheek as Fachtna tugged at her hair. Willow's silent scream as she was yanked backwards toward him. I kneaded my eyes, trying to get rid of the images. They wouldn't be dismissed, taunting me with what I had, what I lost.
Later, I awoke to total disarray. I stumbled to the river, splashing icy water over my face to try and provoke a plan, a way to save them both. When the water settled, my heart jolted. I was a mess. Wood shavings caught in my hair, mud smeared on one cheekbone. What scared me most was my eyes. They were hollow, lifeless. Dead. Dead like they could be, alone and scared.
Then, I turned, and my breath hitched. Fachtna never played fair. The woods were a stranger, the willow tree to my left gone. I cursed as I realised his tactics. Now I had no idea where I was, yet alone how to escape, or how to find them. I hadn't the foggiest where he'd hide them..
Except, I did. The one place he was king, the only place I couldn't walk in alone. Willow's house. My stomach lurched, and I retched. Willow had told me Fachtna had trapped her, lonely and isolated in that place. The empty corridors, the whispering doors and shifting floorboards. My mind skittered away from the memory, like a frightened animal. I shut my eyes. I had no right to be afraid, not when I had to save my sister, the only one that stopped me leaving this place, and my Willow, the only person strong enough to take me as I am.
I pulled myself to my feet, willing my stomach to keep its contents, and headed east. Maybe that way, if I tried hard enough, I could stumble across the house. I had to. I had to!
Hours later, my eyes burned, and the green undergrowth began to shift and blur, shadows twisting and reaching. I rubbed my eyes, determined to keep going. My efforts had been fruitless, and my body was caving in. I hadn't eaten for two days, and my stomach was still threatening total ejection. My head throbbed, and my feet, I was fairly certain, had split and bled. My nails were ragged from tearing, breaking and clawing. Fachtna wasn't above making lichen and ivy twine around my legs, or throwing trees into my disorientation.
The walking was mind numbing, and my thoughts were darting around. I focused my attention on Willow, on Helena. It prevented the flashes of terrible, horrible things from hurting me so. They snuck into my head on padded feet, and filled my head with blood and incessant screaming, pleading. They were more frequent now, which I took to mean I was getting closer, needing a deterrent. They were also getting worse, images of Willow, tied from the roof, bloody and bruised. Helena in a corner, gagged and bound, eyes black. I told myself so many things, to keep myself moving, to stop myself from sinking to the floor and never getting up. They were alive. They were dead. They were all my fault. I was spineless. I could help them.
Suddenly, my head exploded into colours, sounds. I cradled my skull, fruitlessly blocking my ears from Willow and Helena's desperate pleas for help, their death cries as their breaths slowed down. Green, scarlet, ebony. I sunk to my knees. Still they plagued me, horrors upon horrors. I crawled forwards, my head warring to fall apart, blood smearing the floor. The screams increased with every step forwards.
Eventually, somehow, they ceased. The peace was even more deadly than the noise. My chest contracted, more and more, and my breathing was getting harder. " I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, " I said, hoping somehow, foolishly, they'd understand why I abandoned them. My vision went white, and all went silent.