Prologue & Chapter 1 - The Seventh Layer Excerpt

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Prologue

It crept down the window like an epileptic spider, jittering from side to side, pausing ever so slightly before continuing its descent.

The rain.

It always fascinated me. I often sat on my bed at night watching it shatter against my window, then travel slowly out of sight, dancing a sorrowful waltz with the low light coming from the oil lamp on my bedside table. It mattered little if I had to be up at dawn to start my daily chores with Sister. Nothing truly mattered when it rained.

"Sarah, is everything alright?" Mother stood in my bedroom doorway. She was a plain woman, light brown hair lacking radiance, dull gray eyes, and thin pale lips that almost matched the color of her near-white skin. Her cheekbones curved high beneath her eyes, the lines sharp. Almost too sharp, almost masculine. But she was a kind, gentle woman. No one could deny her that. "Sarah," she said again when I didn't reply right away. I looked over my shoulder at her then, grinning briefly.

"Everything is fine, Mother. I was simply admiring the rain." She smiled, but there was a flash of sadness in her eyes. I knew that sadness, but we never spoke of such things. Sadness in our community was often seen as a weakness of faith. Mother sat next to me on the edge of my bed. She smoothed down her skirt until it lay perfectly across her thin frame. Folding her hands in her lap, she let out a soft sigh.

"It is a beautiful sight to behold," she said quietly, gazing out the window. When she turned to me again, her eyes were brimmed with tears. I hugged her quickly, letting her cry silently into my hair. Three days left. That's all we had. When she finally pulled away, she dabbed lightly at her eyes and nose with the cotton handkerchief she always carried tucked in her sleeve.

"I will always remember you," I said just above a whisper before laying a chaste kiss atop her hand. "Though I know you'll all forget me, in time." She started to shake her head, but she knew it was true. No one remembered, the human mind was too simple to comprehend it. I had begun to notice just over the last week that people in the community were already beginning to forget. Mainly just the ones I wasn't in contact with everyday, but they were forgetting just the same. It seemed strange to a point. They were all I had known for the last ten years. How could anyone be in your life for so long and so quickly forget who you were entirely? Yet, somehow I knew and understood it. No one ever had to explain it to me, I just knew.

Mother tucked a strand of hair that had fallen out of my braid behind my ear. Her hand cupped my cheek, warm against my skin. I watched her study my face, trying to memorize it before kissing my forehead and leaving my room. I stared at the empty doorway, my heart heavy. Three more days.

Just three more days.

~~~

"I had the dream again," I told Sister as we scrubbed the kitchen floor.

"It's so strange to me that you dream so much, Sarah." Her tone was almost spiteful, maybe even jealous. I'd noticed over the years that either no one spoke of their dreams, or no one really dreamed. I was never really sure which was more accurate. She shook her head at herself. "I apologize. Perhaps I'm not as prepared for you to leave us as I'd convinced myself I was."

"Sister," I paused my work to sit back on my heels and look at her. She turned her youthful face to me, looking me straight on with those enchanting brown eyes. "Sister, I can't imagine it's easy for anyone to be prepared for what is to come this new moon. How can you, knowing they will use meidung so that no one suspects? That is not a simple slap on the wrist, Sister. I know I can never come back, and it's not because of meidung. But it seems to give this whole situation a certain omen, does it not?" Her face was dark as she shook her head.

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