Fog roiled about in a quiet verdant valley. The air was crisp and cold, and the first rays from the sun was only beginning to peep from the surrounding mountains. A small unremarkable town laid in the centre of that valley, houses huddled up in the northern corner of the bowl-like depression.
As the morning progressed, residents of the town started going about the streets. There were fields to be tended, livestock to be fed and daily chores to be done. The village depended mostly on agriculture to survive. The volcanic residue and abundant rainfall made it a fertile strip of land. If not for the remoteness of the place, only one path connected the valley to the outside, it would not have been the small town it was now.
“Quintus! Make sure you come back for lunch!”
A middle aged lady, Miriam Palma, carrying buckets of water drawn from a nearby creek, shouted out at her youngest boy who was 8 years old. Both sported mousey brown hair and ruddy complexions, wearing simple drab clothing. All chores had to be done manually so everyone was fit and muscular, apart from the children who weren’t given any until they reached 10 years of age. The small boy shouted back a “yes” and quickly bolted out of their modest yard fenced in by simple wooden stakes.
The Palmas, being a simple family, owned a small farm only measuring 2 hectares while their house and yard didn’t even reach 200 meter square. They manage to get by with the extra work offered by the larger local farms during harvest season and are wealthy enough to raise chickens on their land. Of course, wealthy was in comparison with their neighbours. With five children in total, 3 boys and 2 girls, Quintus Palma was the youngest of the lot. The eldest was already 20. With no one to play with him at home, he spends most of his time with the other village kids or in the nearby creek.
Having just received a nice and sturdy wooden sword made by his eldest brother Raya when he came back after chopping firewood, Quintus was eager to swing it around like a swordsman would in stories. Trotting over to the town square, he couldn’t wait to show off the sword in front of his friends. There, the other children had gathered and were rambunctiously chatting together.
“Hey, it’s Quintus!”, one of them shouted out. Hearing it, Quintus quickened his pace and joined in the group.
“Look, I got a sword from my big brother! We can play knights now!” The children clamoured in excitement as they decided who will be the knight and who will be the villain.
“Since it’s Quintus’ sword, let him be the knight first!” One of the girls suggested, in her sunny, cheerful voice and they all agreed. They spent the whole morning taking turns role playing the classic knight and villain fairytale, where the knight saves the princess from the evil villain and lives happily ever after.
They spent the whole day engrossed in their new pastime. Not even lunch could hinder them as they rushed back to the square the moment they finished. Only when dusk showed it’s purple hue, were they forced to stop for the day and trudge home reluctantly with promises to meet again tomorrow.
As Quintus reached home, he was greeted by his other siblings as they prepared dinner together. Quintus was responsible for taking out the cutlery while the second youngest, Winnie, set them upon the table. The eldest Raya kept the stove fire going while the second son Eruft and third sister Camellia helped their mother with cooking. When food was almost ready their father, Raygus, came in after locking up the chickens in the pen. The whole family had the same hair color and you can see the family resemblance
It was just like any other day in the town, like many other simple townsfolk in the valley. Food was simple, bread with broth and some fresh vegetable salad picked from their farm. Leafy greens were grown by each family for their own consumption while the town exported the long-lasting wheat harvest into town every year. Like this they manage to get by rather well. Despite the persistent fog, the valley was shielded from the worst of weather, which was much preferable to having to deal with typhoons. The family chatted and shared the events that happened with everyone until before bedtime. The youngest 3 snuggled into a room of their own while the eldest 2 occupied the one next to it, bidding each other a good night.
The house was two storeys tall, and made out of unpolished wood. The fog obscured the moonlight, making the night exceptionally dark. In his room, Quintus, who had been sleeping soundly, started groaning as if in pain.
In his dream, an indistinct silhouette of a man can be seen, while pain and grief racked his body.
Write, like the worms you are, humans…
The man then brought up a bloody blade and severed his head in one clean swoop.
A shrill frightened scream echoed in the house.
Raya was the first to rush into his brothers’ room to find Quintus bawling his eyes out, clutching his blanket tightly. With Winnie and Camellia trying to console their crying little brother.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. We’re here.” Raya soothed as he took Quintus into his strong arms and hugged him tightly. Slowly, the sobbing subsided and he finally calmed down. Gently setting Quintus back onto his bed, they asked what had happened.
“It was so scary Raya! There was this scary man with a knife coming for me.” Quintus replied, looking ready for another round of waterworks.
“Don’t you worry, big bro Raya here will beat up anyone who tries to hurt you.” Raya said with confidence to Quintus who was now pretty much reassured. They all shuffled back to bed after second son Eruft sent word on what happened to their bewildered parents. Thankfully nothing else happened after that.
The next morning Quintus has fully recovered, to the relief of his doting family. As usual, he rushed out to play with his friends in the town square again, very much looking forward to act out the noble knight and the treacherous villain. The sunny girl yesterday, in a similarly sunny yellow baby doll style dress, brought a wreath of wildflowers to use as the princess’s crown. All the children thought with envy that they would ask their parents tonight for a sword or a wreath when they got back.
Clear laughter rang out in the square, with nearby shopkeepers keeping an eye on them. It’s become a daily thing for them and they enjoyed the energy given out by the kids. The square was mostly empty and the usual customers were the locals so they didn’t mind the children occupying the place.
“See you tomorrow!” They bade each other in the evening, plenty satisfied with all their playing for the day. The sunny girl approached Quintus and handed him a white wildflower and grinned.
“Thank you for bringing the sword Quintus. I had lots of fun!”
Not used to much boy-girl conversation apart from those with his sisters, he blushed pink and shyly replied.
“You’re welcome, Marigold.”
On the way back, Quintus skipped the whole way. This would be what we call a crush, as a fluttery feeling invaded his stomach and he was giggling randomly. He stopped by the creek behind his farm and was feeling rather happy with himself, squatting by the side accompanied by the pink setting horizon. There was still sometime before night falls and dinnertime, so he was leisurely enjoying the cool evening air.
Suddenly a sharp throbbing pain assaulted Quintus’ senses, so painful he could not even scream. Crouching on the ground withstanding the searing pain that was more than what he should have been able to endure, the same scenes from the dream last night replayed themselves more clearly this time.
The salty acrid smell of blood hung within the air, breathing was difficult and painful. A woman’s body laid on the ground, blood staining the surrounding dirt a deep lustrous red. Her dishevelled and movement ragged. Himself was not much better off, he could feel many ribs broken and numerous cuts bleeding. His consciousness was fading however it did not fade before the atrocity occurred before his eyes.
It was as it the world plunged into silence. A man held a curved sword, a scimitar, and plunged it into the woman’s back.
Pain from grief far exceeded the bodily pains he experienced at the time. His heart rent asunder and rage, grief and sorrow flooded his mind. He wanted to scream, but was unable to do so. He urged his body to move only to find that it no longer could.
He could only watch silently, helplessly, as that man approached, arrogantly staring from above.
A red line snaked from the forehead to his cheek over Quintus’ right eye. It glowed a blinding red and the pain grew even more intense.
“You’re next. Writhe like the worms you are, humans… Especially you…”