No more cruelty. No more neglect. No more torture. Today, Ariel will break free of the chains restricting her to a metal post in the cold, wet basement of her parents’ large estate. Stripped of her humanity as a teenager and forced to fight other wealthy parents’ children, she hasn’t seen the sun in years or dealt with anyone that didn’t use her for money. The time will come when she extracts her revenge on them, but for now she’s focused on loosening her wrists and ankles. She scoops up urine and vomit with her hand and spreads it over the shackles, twists and turns her frail hands until they are free. Her sister, who was brutally murdered in a fight years ago, told her how to get out of the castle through the guards’ barracks. It won’t be easy, and Ariel’s head has been bashed in enough to lose a significant amount of memories, but she is determined to escape with her life.  

Past the large wooden doors, down the stone stairwell, through the single panel door that leads to the barracks, hide and wait until the alarm sounds, escape through the window at the end of the hall and into the large sunflower fields. That is what Ariel was told and replays in her head over and over. In walks the guard for the final security check of the night—another fight tomorrow. As he approaches and the door slams shut, she bites down on his leg, through the cloth and his skin, and tears out a chunk. She shuts up his screaming with the metal shackle, bashing it against his face until his jaw breaks and teeth shatter. She snatches the keys from his belt and enters the torch-lit hallway. 

Her sister was correct about the double doors, which were hidden to Ariel by a burlap sack covering her eyes. 

She inserts the biggest key, holds her breath as the slow creek gets louder and the breeze from possibly the outside brushes her paper skin. There’s only one torch lighting the staircase; slowed steps until she reaches the door. Nothing can be seen through the keyhole, though her instincts flare as if there’s a monster inside. Sweat makes the keys slip out of her hands. Fear rattles them as she unlocks the door. 

Stomping metal boots gets closer. Ariel bolts under a cot and covers her mouth to suppress her scream—an inch away from her hair being stepped on. 

She holds her breath until the last one makes it out of the room, crawls on her hands and knees under the cots, then makes a break for the end of the hall. A major change in scenery from stone to marble floors and walls—something her sister never mentioned—and warmth beaming through the giant bay window with a view of the sunflower fields. 

“There she is! Get her!” shouts a guard. 

She looks behind at the dozens of people, including her mother, running toward her with their beating sticks and chains. Ariel turns the heavy crank just enough to fit through. 

A hand grabs her ankle before she fully escapes. Her mother’s wicked grin shines even more hideously in the sunlight. “Let go of me!” Ariel demands. She yanks her leg away, pulling her mother’s face closer to the grass. Shards of the window stick into her back on the way down, face first in the bed of sunflowers. She wipes the dirt from her eyes and sprints for as fast and as long as she can, through the warm day and into the cool night. 


Unfamiliar voices creep into Ariel’s dreams. 

Her eyes open to fluorescent light and two strangers standing over her. Ariel’s eyes can barely open. “Where… where am I?” she asks. 

“You’re safe,” says a warm, Scottish accent. “Sleep now. You’ll know more when you wake up,” is the last thing she hears before entering a dream world where a large crowd of people watch her sleep. A cloaked person approaches her, places their hand on her belly and presses down. The pressure begins to hurt and shoot pain all over her body, yet she can’t scream or beg them to stop. Their hand enters her body and digs around in the flesh. “The final piece” is what the deep, hoarse voice calls it as it hands it over to a shadow next to them. 

The pain subsides at that moment. Luminous yellow and orange crystals come into view, beckoning her—she reaches for them; blood seeps from her fingertips with every touch. Droplets of her blood spill into her eyes. The stinging squeezes her eyes shut, and when she opens them, her world has suddenly changed again. Her wandering eyes won’t slow to appreciate the green mountains surrounding her and the translucent water she’s submerged in. The others, in their white, flowing gowns, just like hers, stare and laugh. “How did I get here?” asks Ariel with a shaky breath. 

“We brought you here.” The Scottish accent returns, along with an unbearably cold wind. 

“Who are you?” she asks, trotting to them in the shallow water.  

They smile at her and say, “we have met before. On those cobblestone floors when we were both trying to kill each other to eat that night. You are quite strong. You bested me.” 

Ariel’s eyes widen. Faint memories of blood splattering on her face while someone cries under her relentless fist speeds through her mind. She slowly backs up. “Are you going to murder me?” 

“Absolutely not!” They chuckle. “Quite the opposite.” They walk closer and put out their hand. “I’m Kassai Tehbaw.” 

Kassai’s welcoming grin compels Ariel to take their hand, and upon their touch a rush of freeing death consumes her body. She can’t let go while images of her awful parents and the cruel things they made her do replay in her head. The pain of fighting against her will, the emptiness she felt as her mind delved into the psyche of a murderer, and the suicidal ideations that occurred during days of isolation comes out of her and soaks into Kassai’s veins. Their voice intrudes her thoughts, “we are the same as you. We want the same as you. Journey further into Bawism with the rest of us and, together, we will rid the world of those who tortured us.” 

A new sense of self thrives. Kassai holds her hand and guides her into an unknown world. Red and black figures dance and hum around a tall statue of a hideous creature; behind it is a tall pile of organs. Kassai elucidates what it’s for and claims everyone who converts to Bawism must give up a piece of their flesh. There is a God who walks among them, one they worship, who lives within Kassai Tehbaw. 

Today, that God will rise and unleash its wrath on the rich and the wealthy. 

Shadows that once looked human now resemble ugly monsters. The humming has gone from a sweet tune to an ominous hymn. “How did you find me?” Ariel utters, staring into the piercing yellow eyes of the hideous statue. 

“I found you sleeping among the sunflowers,” Kassai whispers. A euphoric sensation sets in—like she has never felt sadness or anger—when Kassai kisses her on the forehead and takes their leave, and watching them remove their white gown and force a perch on the statue in their back becomes the most beautiful display of art she has ever seen. Kassai’s blood spills from the rod and the others, humming and crawling, drink from it like a fountain. “Join us… Ariel. Drink from… me, then kill them all, so that I may return as an immortal being.”

The others scurry out of the way. Slowly, Ariel steps toward Kassai, who is close to their dying breath. She kneels down, gulps the blood from her cupped hands. Foreign memories seen through the eyes of miserable souls: people forced to harm themselves because of great sorrow inflicted on them by others; endless days of gratuitous ridicule for things outside of their control; left without fortune and left to suffer and literally fight for basic needs while those dressed in gold cackle and—a life mirroring her own.

For Kassai—for Bawism, she will kill whoever caused this much misery and sadness. 

Into the night like wolves on the hunt for food, Ariel and the creatures under Baw’s control run to the land of castles and sculptures and bountiful gardens, where the people wear gold and diamonds mined by children, and everyone is involved in some form of wicked trade. 

She’s starving. 

No door is strong enough to stop her from doing Kassai’s will. Ariel runs into homes, killing her smug victims with her bare hands. Not a sleeping child or elder is safe from her vicious claws and seething teeth. She guts them like animals before devouring their flesh, then rips the remains to shreds. 

There’s a giant house with large windows just across a blanket of sunflowers—its pungent smell of punishment and death beckons her. She sprints through the towering flowers with a thirst for blood and flesh. 

The thick wooden doors come crashing down after some help from her new friends. The area is empty, but there is commotion beneath her feet. Ariel presses her ear on the cold marble floor and listens to muffled screams and jeering. With pure barbaric strength, she punches the floor, breaking the marble, and tears it from the ground. Kassai’s followers break the floor with her, then punch the ground to make a hole. Their fists become bloody but never break, and their claws rip through the ground, causing the foundation to break and send them falling through. 

The yelling turns into shrieks and the cobblestone floor and walls become painted in blood. Ariel snatches up the people trying to escape by their throats. She jumps down in front of a woman cowering under debris. 

“Ariel, please! I’m sor–” 

She cuts the woman’s eyes with her claws, silences her scream by ripping out her heart. “You will suffer in Kassai’s realm,” says Ariel before savagely opening the woman’s belly to devour her insides. 

Her new master’s voice speaks for her conscience, “Now, you are free of your past and will forever be bonded to me.” 


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