Turning the Tables of Destiny: A short story

He stirred slightly, the blood on his forehead already crusty and dry. How long was he out? He felt the sharp pains and tender aches over his entire body, muscles he never knew existed complaining. What happened, he did wonder. His memory was hazy, having no recollection of the recent past. Every bone in his body protested at his movements as he struggled to his feet, gasping, wincing.

And then the memories came, rushing back like a flooded levy. The others who came for him, to scar him and to possibly end his life. He remembered the look in their eyes, burning with heated passion, with hatred. Did he know them? No. But he understood exactly why he was targeted.

As a child, he grew up relatively happy, if not lonely. The other children would never play with him, forbidden by their parents. His own father disowned him at birth, too, leaving him and his mother, wanting nothing to do with them anymore. But his mother provided all the care and love she could, ensuring that he would grow up to be a proper gentleman. She had sacrificed everything for his safety and happiness; she endured estrangement from her family, the jeers of the village folk, and the harsh insults of her contemporaries. The mother of Satan's spawn they called her. They said evil was her lover, the dark arts her friend, and witchery her lifestyle.

So he left her. He left her to protect her, for if he was not around, perhaps they would leave her be. He would hope his mother told them she finally destroyed what had consumed her, that the boy who lived with her was no son of hers. He wished, from the bottom of his heart for her to do this to protect and free herself.

He yelled out in agony, collapsing to the ground, every bone in his body burning, like a hot iron rod. He blinked back the hot tears that stung his eyelids, threatening to spill over his dirty cheeks. He curled his fists, nails digging into the flesh of his palm, fighting the urge to give up, fighting to live through the pain. But it was proving to be much too harsh for him, and he fell onto his back, succumbing to the darkness, to relief.

How long he was out, he did not know. Hours, minutes, maybe years. The sensation of time was lost to his unconscious psyche.

And then, he heard a voice. As sweet as sunshine and as smooth as butter.

He felt a cold compress on his forehead, giving him much relief. He felt small hands rub his hands, feet, the joints that ached so badly. He flickered his eyes open, seeing a strange girl rubbing a healing salve on his wounds, apparent as his pain slowly began to subside, although not eradicated.

"Who are you?" he rasped, his voice dry from disuse. The movement tickled his throat, causing him to reflexively cough, sending him into a spasm.

The strange girl - no, woman - tsked at him. "You are better off not moving for awhile to let the salve set. It will not take long," she said told him, continuing her ministrations.

He listened to her and waited what felt like an eternity before the pains and spasms in his body became tolerable. "Why are you helping me? Can you not see what I am?" he questioned this strange woman once again.

"I am helping you because you someone who is in no position to care for himself. You have been badly beaten. You are lucky to be alive, considering the extent of your damages; broken ribs, punctured lung, bleeding spleen to name only a few. What in heaven's name did you do to receive such treatment?" She sat back on her sheepskin mat.

He stared at her for a moment. And then he stared at his hands. And the tail that wrapped around his torso, his wolf like ears flicking slightly. "Well, is it not obvious? I am a hybrid, a mutt; nothing worthy of attention. It was not what I did, but what I am."

She watched him quizzically, his statement soaking into her brain. "Well, I simply see another living being. I am sorry for your circumstance. But not worthy of attention? I believe you are wrong. You had someone who loved you very much for you to have survived as long as you did. I suspect that it was your mother who protected you to let you live long enough to experience life."

He snorted at her comment. "Experience life? The only life I have experienced was hurt and betrayal. Happiness is a foreign concept to me."

She shook her head. "I disagree," she said. "You have known happiness. I can see it in your eyes. It is mingled with sadness and torment, but it glows feebly."

He nodded. "Some happiness. With my mother. But that is all. To society, I am as good as livestock."

She gave him a pitying smile. "But you are setting yourself up to be said livestock. You are sculpting your person on beliefs your society has put forward, as barbaric as they are. Do you feel to be livestock, property, worthless? Who is to say that is the life you must lead? Take matters into your own had and build the foundation of your legacy yourself. No one, not even your mother, can design your future for you."

He suddenly felt very shy and embarrassed at her chastisement. Why did he never think of that before? He had been ridiculed and bullied for the majority of his life. But what did he do to stop it? Nothing, he realized. He allowed for his village folk to have their way with him, and his mother, and he did nothing to prevent nor stop it. He felt foolish.

She smiled at him, seeing the revelation light up in his green eyes. "You see now then? You only became what society wanted you to be, what they wanted to believe. You are no monster; you are no doormat to be stepped upon. You are a person, even if you are half human. You deserve the same rights as any other citizen of your society."

He listened to her words, and knew this to be true. Perhaps his beating, his leaving home, and his serendipitous encounter with this woman was a wake up call to pave a new future for himself. "Yes," he breathed to himself. "I can go back and put my right foot forward, and show them my potential. I can be a citizen of my village, and contribute. And if that fails, and if they reject me as they always have, I will move to another village, another city. I am not bounded to simply one place!" He became excited, unaware that he injuries had healed and that he was jumped up to his feet.

He whirled around to face the woman, to tell her of his plans, of his new found sun. But she was gone. The warm room that was once lit with fired logs was cool, ashes in the hearth. The candle that was lit when he awake had burned down to a puddle of wax. And the sheepskin that woman rested upon was coated in dust. And she was gone. He looked puzzled, wondering if her presence was simply a figment of his imagination, a magic his weak mine concocted to comfort and guide his pathetic self.

But no, the salve was still there next his feet, half used, and still fresh. He felt rejuvenated, his injuries healed, his pain gone.

Even after many years, he would never fully understand what had happened that day. Was the woman real? Or was he at the brink of insanity? Regardless if it was reality or fantasy, he did indeed become a new person. He was unable to be a part of his village; instead, he moved himself and his mother into another city. There, the citizens actually ignored him the first time he arrived, not because he was different, but because he was as ordinary as they were. He was not second-class or second-best to the human race. He was equal and they found nothing special about him. He worked hard and became an integral citizen of the city, a respected individual. He married and had children, with whom his mother had immense joy.

He would never know who that woman was. Was she an angel? A spirit? Or perhaps his muse, his guiding star that had burned down to a miniscule flame? Either way, he had reignited the life in his heart, the potential in his soul. He became the person his father never believed he would be and had the life he could only fantasize about.

He was whole and his life had purpose once again.

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