Memory in a Snowy Forest

She was on the run. From what, she tried to keep in the back of her mind. But she was running. She had always been running. From the truth; who she was, who she wanted to be. Her feet took her through the darkness as it rose, shrouding her in a veil of mist. She cried out but it carried her voice away, silencing her.

I will not be afraid, she commanded inside her head. But she felt weak, her strength leaving her. "No!" She screamed.

She woke, gasping, her purple eyes wide. She took deep breaths, trying to calm herself, to bring her heart rate down. She looked around her. She was in her tent, in a red sleeping bag, with her rucksack near the entrance. She pushed the sleeping bag away from her, standing up then unzipping her tent, stepping outside. The sky was hidden by clouds, blocking the light, the moon, the stars. She shivered. Where the fire had been was now only charred, black wood, and a cool wind was blowing. No sound came. It was eerie, and her every breath felt like a scream in the silence. Until it ended with a real one.

 Tears trickled down her face. She was sitting under a tree, shadows all around. Her heart was too fast, her throat burned. Then suddenly the forest was bright—just for an instant. But in that instant, she saw a figure close to her. Its eyes were red and glowing. That's all she could see, except the knife glinting in its hands. Everything else was black, as the light vanished. She screamed. Trembling, she brought her head to her knees, holding herself as she sobbed. Footsteps. Steady breaths against her broken ones. She squeezed her eyes shut, but she could feel the presence only inches away, a ghost-like presence.

 She ran through the forest in the direction of the scream, her feet falling on the snow and leaving shadowed imprints behind her. As she ran, her mind did also, running through all her memories of this dark place. A branch sitting on the ground seemed to appear right before her, and she stumbled over it, falling to the ground. Her breath was ragged, and so she lay on the cold snow a moment to get her breath back before she would push herself back up and continue to find the girl who she had only met the day before and who was surely in danger. But a moment was all her memories needed to surge through her mind, overwhelming her with flashes of light and colour, pain and fear.

She crouched on the ground and squeezed her eyes shut, screaming through gritted teeth. Scenes flitted through her mind. At random, she chose one of them, just to end the vivid display. Immediately, she was pulled from the winter forest, to a room full of heat.

She was sitting on a throne — her mother's — made of stone. Two shapes loomed over her. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, but when they did, she saw her parents — Queen Vanessa and King Alistair.

"You've disappointed this family for the last time!" Vanessa screeched. "Explain yourself, Georgia!"

"Vanessa, it was my—" Alistair tried, only for Vanessa to whirl on him, eyes blazing.

"I'll deal with you later," Vanessa snarled. Then she whipped back on Georgia, cowering against the back of the throne, before the fiery gaze.

"What did you think you were doing?" Vanessa went on, her lip curling as she glared down at her only daughter. "What if they recognised you? You could have doomed your entire kingdom with your idiocy!"

"Not doomed, but—"

"ALISTAIR, QUIET!" Vanessa boomed.

 Alistair wisely closed his mouth.

Vanessa kept her eyes on Georgia. "And what if the kingdom found out that you'd gone outside of the boundary? They'd rebel! We'd be cast from the throne-and you know we're the only ones keeping this place from falling into chaos!"

 Georgia wished her mother was exaggerating. But despite what Alistair often tried to think, Vanessa hardly ever exaggerated. Their family had been ruling for generations. They kept the balance in the kingdom, kept the power secure. And in turn, the kingdom gave them, and their selves, only one rule; never go over the boundary. A rule Georgia always broke. If they knew...Vanessa was scary, but at least she was one person. Georgia could hardly deal with her; she couldn't deal with an entire kingdom of Vanessas.

As that thought flicked through her head, a new idea followed it. She shook her head to clear it, then refocused on her parents.

"Mother!" She tried for an imposing tone, but her voice wavered. She swallowed, but it did its job; Vanessa paused from her debate with Alistair and spun, her eyes narrowed.

"Dare interrupt me?" She growled.

"Mother." Georgia straightened her back. Whilst her heartbeat was racing, she attempted to keep her voice-and her facial features-relaxed. "Since you obv-obviously don't think that I'm suited to the role of princess, then crossing the boundary for good should-should..." Georgia hesitated, thinking of a world. As for Vanessa, it seemed that her eyes were burning a hole straight through her daughter.

"How could you possibly think that that's a good idea?" Vanessa roared.

Georgia pushed herself off the throne to stand directly in front of Vanessa, forcing herself to meet the fiery gaze.

"As a princess, I-I have authority. So I have, well, I have the power to banish myself from the kingdom."

"WHAT!?!" Vanessa screamed. Beside her, Alistair had gone deathly pale.

Georgia wanted to curl in a ball and hide, but she gritted her teeth and stayed where she was. She knew what words she had to say-Vanessa had banished people before.

"With the power of queens, kings, princes, and princesses before me, I, Georgia, banish myself to an eternity outside of any kingdom ruled by Queen Vanessa!"

By Imogen Tkatchew