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Whispers. Disjointed voices pleaing for attention. Ghostly murmurs, incoherent and untseady with emotion.
Lights sparkling, too bright for reality; shifting colours of varying shades.
She heard their cries, she saw the visions. But none of it was clear. None of it made any sense. She felt hollow as she knew that she couldn't help.
Her eyes were screwed up. She could see an angelic face, face shining with tears.
And that was when the woman spoke, soft voice silent yet somehow demanding to be heard.
Come. Find us. Set us free, child.
And the woman faded, darkness taking her as it's own.
Layla opened her eyes. She lay under a canopy of crisp leaves: red, orange, brown and gold. Spleckled light filtered through the foliage, casting dancing rays of sunlight on the leaf-strewn ground. The earth was warm beneath her skin, and her dark hair blew in a gentle breeze. It was tranquil, the songs of the birds the only noise in the grove. She sat up and breathed in the sweet-smelling natural aroma of the place.
How could she feel so at peace, despite knowing that somewhere the sad souls of the hopeless were despairing?
How could she bask in the warmth of a new day, when there were those who lived in bitter-cold misery?
Layla frowned, and clambered from the floor, absent-mindedly flicking her hair back out of her hazel eyes. She glanced around her. The forest was desolate. Of course.
She had no parents, no home. She was alone with the burden of a thousand trapped souls waiting to be liberated. The spirits were talking to her, and she had no choice but to listen and obey.
She had to free the spirits.
But as usual, she had no idea where to start. Her gift was to hear them, not to locate them. The latter was her responsiblilty.
A responsibilty which she took seriously.
Really, she was trapped too, condemned to a life of searching due to a power she had never asked for.
Layla squinted through the trees. She had heard something.
A man, silhoutted, moved purposely through the trees towards her like a shadow. He hardly made a sound among the dead twigs and dry leaves, and Layla could see even from a distance that whoever it was, he was unnaturally tall and powerful for a human. And if she had to take a guess, she would say he probably wasn't friendly either.
Layla gasped in shock. She stumbled a little as she turned and fled, clumsily racing through the trees.
It wasn't long before her heart was beating wildly, and her breaths came out in rasps. Her legs ached but she knew she couldn't pause for breath; she could still hear the man pursuing her.
Her feet caught a tree root and she tripped, cying out as she did so, overwhelmed by the excrutiating pain. She felt that she must have twisted her leg, and she held it in agony, watching as the shadow drew closer.
He had slowed down now, realsing that there was no need to run.
He had caught her.
And Layla could hear the lost souls wailing in anguish and disappiontment that they would never be freed. She could no longer think clearly. Colours and visions were swirling through her mind, which was now like a vortex of indistinguishable shapes and vibrant blurs. She couldn't see, couldn't hear. She could only feel her own fear, her pulse racing. Terror washed over her and still the spirits wailed, growing louder.
And finally it all went quiet, as the darkness engulfed her and she blacked out.