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She Wasn’t Dead (Short Fiction Contest 2019)

“She died, Ceana. I don’t know how else to explain it! She was alive, now she’s not. She was breathing, then she wasn’t, she had a life, then she didn’t. It’s simple!”

He never stopped yelling about her deadness. My dad was certain of her death, and I knew she should’ve been dead, but I also knew she wasn’t. I mean, we’ve been connected by blood for life and we’ve been bound together by the Encircling for the past six years. I’ve been able to tell her feelings and thoughts since we were born. Twins just have that unexplainable connection. But regardless of the twin thing, we are Encircled. We were chosen together for the Encircling at age ten. I could tell when she was hurt. I got this drop from my throat to my stomach. I knew it without thinking it. But then they told me she had died and somehow, I was shocked. It doesn’t work that way though; the Encircling makes surprise deaths impossible.

The Encircling happens at age ten, when two people (best friends, cousins, or in our instance, twins) are approved by the Council as a compatible and appropriate pairing, then the ceremony happens. The pair are brought to the town centre and pronounced as Encircled after a lengthy ceremony we all hate but are forced to sit through annually. Six years ago, Eryca and I were Encircled.

Then, we were the two most skilled warriors in the history of Cantrere, the most decorated Encircling; the strongest our people had ever seen. When Eryca and I were given our mission to infiltrate the Damrete camp, we knew it was our riskiest one yet, and the village knew we were likely to become prisoners for life. We understood our risks and so did the rest of Cantrere. We said goodbye to our parents. Eryca held her daughter, Freye, for what felt like eternity. We kissed our boyfriends. We waved away the village. We arrived, snuck in, and completed our mission successfully with only minor injuries. We were in the midst of our escape when everything went wrong.

What seemed like the entire Damrete military was facing us as we attempted our escape. They charged, Eryca ran at them, I thought she was being stupid, and then something happened. She raised her arms and what I could only assume was a forcefield slammed into the Damretes. Extending from her fingers was purple electric current, webbing over her and I. She started screaming in exertion, gritting her teeth in pain, digging her boots into the dirt. I pulled her to the edge of a cliff, expecting her to let down the forcefield and we could drop into the water, achieving a dramatic escape. Instead, she yelled at me, “Go! Jump down!” Naturally, I trusted her like I always have, and she seemed to be full of alarmingly effective ideas today. I dove through the air, plunging into the cool, salty water. Despite the relentless stinging, I opened my eyes to find Eryca, but to no avail. I looked up and saw her lose control of the forcefield and heard her screams ringing as the Damretes pulled her further from me, and then felt her pain in my chest as they did horrible things to her, but I never felt her die.

For six years, everyone but me believed she was dead. She never returned and the Damretes surrendered to us just one week after Eryca’s capture and we never found her. I knew she was alive, but I seemed crazy to anyone I told. The rest of the village didn’t understand she wasn’t dead. They didn’t understand the pull I felt when she woke up and the calmness I felt when she slept. To them I was just crazy and in denial. Her daughter believed her mother was dead, her boyfriend believed the love of his life was dead, my parents believed they had just one sixteen-year old daughter, and they all believed I was crazy. My boyfriend tried to listen to me, but he just gave up and told me to look at the facts. I was just about to listen to him, until that one day. I had a new sensation. Instead of feeling the usual pull, I heard it. I heard Eryca whispering my name.

I woke up to Eryca saying my name and begging me to find her. I knew I couldn’t have actually been hearing her because the Encircling is supposed to be only about tactile feelings like drops, pulls, and speed. Screw it, I thought. In my thoughts I tried to communicate to whatever this voice was and tell Eryca I knew she was alive, but no one believed me. I waited for a response and heard one. I am alive, but I need you to rescue me. I’m at the original Damrete camp. They’re using my forcefield abilities to mask it and feign their surrender. Sneak out and rescue me. They have no one on guard because like me until today, they don’t know we have telepathy, she explained.

I left the village two hours later.

__________

My father is walking Eryca down the aisle behind myself, and eight year old Freye. She stops and smiles at the man who held her after she was rescued from the Damrete camp. They stare at each other knowing their nine-year relationship has been through more than any other. They know becoming parents at sixteen, remaining a couple through the recovering stages of a staged murder, and uncovering a family secret ability to conjure forcefields are only the beginning of their adventures.

That morning seven years ago led me to successfully rescue Eryca and prove my sanity. I brought her back to tearful reunions with her daughter, now-husband, parents, and the entire village of Cantrere. The whole time she was gone, I knew I was right. It wasn’t until that day seven years ago they believed me.