Chapter II


Sophia reached the shelters just before the lockdown. Guards, if you could call them that, were preparing for the night shift. Lars and Anders waved at her, acknowledging her presence. She just smiled and passed them quickly. Her shed was nearby, but Sophia was reluctant to go in with the box in her hands. She quickly hid it under a pile of rags close to the door and walked in, trying to appear indifferent. First to approach and greet her was Jack – somewhat of a group leader. He came from the States just before the Storm and got stranded in Europe at the worst possible time.

– Good that you came in now, kiddo. The food is almost gone. Did you find anything good?

– Nah – she briefly replied – just filled my shoes with sand.

A moment later she joined the table and started eating while he kept talking.

– We should leave this place soon. We need to keep moving West towards Dunkirk. Boats from Norway bring medical supplies there from time to time.

– Aren’t we supposed to go to Alkmaar? – Sophia asked – We were supposed to join a bigger community there.

– No kiddo, we don’t have time for that. Besides, Alkmaar Old Town is in ruins, and the group disbanded a few days ago.

As he kept talking, Sophia felt a weird sensation around her neck. First, it was just a strange warmth, but then it started to burn like hell. She ran out of the shed and snapped the pendant from her neck. Strangely, it did not burn her fingers but was rather completely cold. The skin on her neck hurt for a few more moments, but at least the burning sensation was gone.
Sophia returned to the shed and headed straight for the mirror, expecting to see burn marks on her neck. Nothing was there – her skin was intact. She carefully put the pendant back on and went toward her bunk. The lights were out, and her mind kept spinning. While she was thinking about how to sell the goods she dug out, a quiet voice suddenly broke her thoughts.

– You don’t know what you’ve found, do you? – she heard.

She turned to see who said that, but nobody was there. Just a few sparkles of dust falling to the floor. Couldn’t help herself but scream.

– Don’t be afraid. Just close your eyes and you’ll see me. – the voice said.

It was clear as day – there it was, a strange being, made from nothing but blood, sewn with red stitches. Calm, but focused. It was looking straight into her soul.

– Now open them, and I’ll still be here. Good. – the voice said.

Tears covered Sophia’s face. She knew this was not the dream. She never felt this scared from the moment she realized her parents will never return.

– Who, well, what are you? – Sophia dared to ask, barely breaking the silence.

– I am Mamanime, your guardian spirit, here to help you. Once I felt Yuki-onna’s pendant around someone’s neck, I rushed to see what was going on. Glad I was the first one to come – others might be frightening.

– Others? There are more of you? – she asked.

– Oh yes, plenty! We are all around you, just waiting for the right time. Anyway, I can tell you more about it, but we don’t have time right now. I am Himari. While I was alive, as you would say, I was into communication science. Born in Kōriyama, a small city in Japan – way back in 1977. Well, my whole life I was afraid I’d lose my mind, so I don’t want you to lose yours. –

Sophia listened without moving a single muscle, while the guardian continued:

– Can’t tell you much now, but know this – what you’ve found is bigger than you. Be careful with these items, they hold immense powers. That pendant around your neck – it belonged to Yuki-onna. It will help you deal with people and make better decisions. Whenever someone lies, it gets warm – and you can feel it. Oh! It is midnight already. Try to get some sleep, and know that you can’t stay here. It is not safe. Jack will steer you into a trap – many will follow and lose their freedom. You need to continue to Alkmaar alone. Sleep now. –

Sophia tried to say something but fell asleep immediately. Mamanime spirit disappeared while her eyelids were closing. A new day was upon her, with many decisions to be made.


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