This story is one of the May Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee.
Her sleep was troubled, but she’d become accustomed to the barracks—to being lost. The warmth of several bodies around her didn’t suffocate her anymore. She’d learned to keep her eyes closed and to let her nightmares be undisturbed. Or so she thought. Thump.
“Who’s there—” she hissed, bolting up, honey eyes wide.
“Sorry—” Orion offered, reaching for her before she stepped on Pax’s elbow. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”
She yanked her arm free from his grasp.
“Why are you awake?”
“Come,” was all he said, pressed a hand to his lips, and tiptoed towards the end of the room. “Annabel,” he whispered. “Move.”
“Ughhh,” Annabel sighed and followed him, double-checking where she stepped. Orion was a shifter, and that only made it harder to keep up: the way his skin seemed to melt into everything. Like a chameleon.
“Orion?” she called as she stepped into the adjacent chamber. He sat by the window, the moonlight caressing his face, illuminating the woods below the tower.
“In here,” he said and patted the empty space beside him by the window. Annabel approached and sat down. And waited endlessly.
“We loved with a love that was more than love.”
“I and my Annabel Lee,” Annabel said. “Why are we here?”
Orion shrugged. “Needed to think, that’s all. Our fight for life begins tomorrow,” he murmured. “And I’m afraid.”
He grinned. “I… I need to keep Calliope safe, Anne. I promised my mother.”
“But those monsters,” he spread his arms. “They don´t seem to have a weakness, and all we can do is fight.” He met Annabel’s eyes. “And I’m afraid.” He buried his head between his knees.
“Because we can’t fight forever,” she shared then.
“I—I’ve lost so many people in this war. I can’t lose Calliope. I would rather lose myself.”
She didn’t say a word for a while; the spark of hope within her tired of being crushed—like a hundred yellow butterflies that could only live for a day.
Annabel glanced at the navy-blue sky as the first glints of morning light appeared. “It’s here,” she said, but it was a merely audible whisper.
Orion rested his head against the wooden wall. His eyes were full of anger, fear, and what Annabel took for concern for his sister.
“Calliope will be safe,” she said softly.
“Safe,” Orion repeated and closed his eyes. “The wind came out of the cloud by night, chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.”
Even though he couldn’t see her, she swallowed hard and stood up, ready to look for both Calliope and her ax.
“Anne,” he called when she was almost out of sight. “Lee,” he said after her not turning around.
Orion sighed. “Thank you.”
Then Annabel nodded and left the chamber.