Meet Xia, the newest heroine in my short story collection. This one is a little bit different from the rest. Enjoy!
Xia had killed eight flies, and was hunting for the ninth, when she felt the presence behind her. Her back stiffened involuntarily as The Other crept closer. She forced herself to relax and ignore what was taking place behind her, but her tight grip on the rolled-up magazine she was using as a fly swatter gave her true feelings away. She inhaled deeply and squinted, sending ghostly fingers searching for the consciousness of the missing fly. Slowly, she exhaled.
A flutter on the edge of her peripheral vision betrayed the location of her prey. Shifting her focus, she sent a wave of crackling energy in that direction. The small winged creature fell from the air, landed on the bare floor boards with a shudder, and died.
“Disgraceful,” The Other spoke contemptuously.
“So you’ve returned,” Xia stated simply.
“And with good timing, it appears. You have been neglecting your practice.” She heard The Other shift, as if looking around. Xia cast a listless glance around the small room, seeing it through The Other’s eyes.
A small metal cot, topped by a thin mattress and even thinner sheet, was shoved in one corner. The walls were stark, white, and unadorned. A low, rickety held a slim computer. Next to this was a stack of glossy magazines and paperback books, their pages faded and worn. Bodies of small insects littered the floor. A dim, overhead bulb provided the only light.
“If I had known you were coming, I would have spruced the place up.” Sarcasm dripped from Xia’s words. The Other never announced a Coming; the shadowy being seemed to arrive from nowhere and take form from nothing. Xia twisted her head and glared pointedly at the firmly closed door. “You could have knocked.”
The Other hissed with displeasure. “You have forgotten your place.”
Raising an eyebrow, Xia countered with “I didn’t know I had a place around here.” The Other growled, and Xia felt the air pressure drop. Falling to her knees, she gasped for breath. Darkness appeared in the corners of her sight, and she felt herself going numb. Just as suddenly as the attack began, it ceased. Drinking in mouthfuls of precious air, Xia smirked. Abuse her, but never kill her: that was The Other’s way.
Once she refilled her lungs, she made herself comfortable on the floor, bringing her legs close to her, and crossing them. She kept her back to The Other, because to face one directly was to invite death. She waited, patiently, for The Other to speak. There was always a reason for a Coming; The Other would not be in the presence of a Tainted One otherwise.
Xia dragged a hand across her bald head. She could still feel the insignia that was tattooed on her brow. Without looking into a mirror, she could trace the blue lines and swirls and know what was there. Written in the glyphs of the language of The Other, the language of the ancient race of rulers, was one word: BEWARE.