The Cycle of Purple By Sasha Lin Orr
A girl stood in front of a large stone slate, her eyes warily scanning the gruesome images that had been carved into the rock. She stood there in near darkness, one of the only sources of light being an ominous faint purple glow. The images on the ancient rock showed a hero, who had set off on a quest in efforts to save their ailing friend. The sickness that the friend had acquired was terrible, the parasitic infection would incapacitate the victims and take control of their bodies, inflicting unimaginable pain upon the hosts. The disease was incredibly contagious and caused the infected to become strangely aggressive. The roots of the infection could be traced back to a purple gem. Those infected were said to have purple eyes.
There was no sound in the dark setting they found themselves in. No occasional tweet from a bird, nor the sound of rustling leaves or the crunching of dead grass. The silence was slowly suffocating the group of travelers that ventured down the perilous path. The leading figure held a torch which burned a bright orange. The cloaked figures held their breath hoping that the screech was not because of them, but because of some other unfortunate soul walking on the same obscure path they were. Yet the purple light that had appeared behind them told them otherwise. “RUN!” One of them shouted, they ascended down the path at unnatural speed, all of them hoping they could outrun their incoming doom.
A group woke up in chairs around a large rectangular table. Oblivious to who their kidnapped counterparts were, they studied the room hoping to find any clues as to where they were. The room’s main focus was the grand table and chairs. The chairs were not so much chairs, but rather thrones. They were made of wood and intricately carved, depicting stories of heroes and monsters. The edges of the table had similar engravings but far more finessed, with dramatic flourishes and a thick garnish. The room around them was far less extravagant than the table or the chairs. The walls had a host of mushrooms protruding from the long cracks which scarred the ancient concrete. The room had little light and no windows. Though there was something much more important the group had failed to see, the terrain map that lay in front of them. Luscious forests and mountain ranges lay on the table along with valleys and rivers. The water seemed to move and looked life-like. The map covered the entire table, stretching the full eight feet. Six chairs were placed around the table, each filled with a member of the group. There seemed to be a pattern in the seating. On the two longest sides of the table sat a girl and a boy with the other side following the same pattern. The two ends of the table followed these unspoken rules as well. The group had not chosen their seats. They were victims of circumstance and violated by fortune. They sat awaiting something, or someone or even a hint at who they were and what they were doing. No answers came. They sat and waited patiently hoping for something, anything. They searched for a cure for their boredom, and in their search they found themselves captivated by the magnificent map that lay in front of them. On the map, the wind swirled, rustling the leaves on trees and the grass seemed to dance. It was a majestic dance, one that you could get lost in. The group seemed to be at peace, unmoving, unquestioning and content. They were not sucked into the map, but rather lulled in. Birds chirped and crickets jumped. The clouds swirled around them and bright sunlight welcomed them into their newfound world. Confused as to what to do, they sat, pacified, waiting for nothing. A dark haired girl finally broke the silence. She was of a tall stature and had an air of superiority, she had piercing gray eyes. When she opened her mouth to speak, it was as if by just the motion she demanded attention.
“Are you going to sit there like dunces waiting for whatever mysterious force that brought us here to snatch us up again?” Silence met her reprimanding. She sighed and began again, “You lot haven’t even noticed that you can’t recall anything from before the dark room?” At least to this statement the group gave a reaction. They thought for a second and drew the same conclusion as her as the creases in their eyebrows grew more defined.
“What do you expect us to do? Run?” An annoyed voice took the spotlight this time. The owner of the voice had a long narrow face, paired with rather thick eyebrows and dark brown eyes. “We don’t even remember our own names! Where do we even run? Into the forest and get picked off one by one?” His questions just seemed to infuriate the girl. She looked at him for a moment and scowled.
“Why don’t you check your pockets?” A small but assuring voice said. She had sleek pitch black hair that ended right under the end of her ears and there seemed to be a trace of purple in her dark eyes. She waved a tiny piece of parchment just large enough to fit one word, a name. The paper read ‘Aedel’. The group followed her lead, and the girl who first spoke pulled out a piece of paper that read ‘Sylvia’. The boy who had complained found that his paper read ‘Alexo’. Another shorter figure with curly hair and many freckles that dotted his face was named Viktor. The tallest person in the group took the parchment out of her pocket rather carefully. She had dark skin and intelligent eyes that seemed to bore into you. She had close cropped hair and gold circular earrings. The slip that she held read ‘Auru’. Another figure cautiously pulled out a slip of paper out of his pocket. He was hunched over and was very tense, his shoulders raised to his chin. He looked very timid, afraid even. The others looked at him impatiently, tapping their feet and looking distastefully at him. If he had straightened to his full height he would have looked rather intimidating but he still held his apprehensive posture. After quite a while of waiting he announced the results of his paper in a small and subdued voice, “Liam.”
The group looked rather disappointed hoping for something that was worth their wait but recovered quite quickly. Aedel didn’t look bothered at all and just stared off into the forest. She raised her arm slowly pointing her index finger towards the forest. The gesture captured the group’s attention and many nodded their heads in agreement. Among those who supported the idea were also many dissenters. Liam shook his head and murmured to himself, hoping to avoid the forest if possible. Auru looked just as disturbed, but instead of Liam’s quiet demur Auru voiced her opinion.
“You don’t know what's in that forest.” Her eyes were full of fear and the statement was barely a whisper. Sylvia pinched the bridge of her nose while shaking her head in an annoyed fashion.
“We are going into that forest whether you like it or not! I’m not going to wait around! I am not afraid to leave you here.” Her statement was finite and the group knew Sylvia would hold true to her word. Sylvia glared at them both with disgust and marched off gesturing for Viktor, Aedel, and Alexo to follow. They glanced apologetically at Auru and Liam but still followed after their new leader. Liam and Auru trailed after the group ruefully. The forest was magnificent, with brilliant shades of green and yellow leaves littering the floor. A gentle stream trickled through the roots of trees and sunlight seeped through the many leaves that blocked the sky. They gazed around in wonder and even Liam relaxed.
“We can split up into groups to cover more ground,” Viktor suggested and Alexo and Aedel nodded in agreement.
“Okay then, we can split up into 2 groups of three, Aedel, Viktor you’re with me,” Sylvia glared at Auru and Liam for a moment more but released her hold on them. As much as it pained Sylvia to say it she knew that Alexo was the most logical choice as leader. “Alexo you’re with Auru and Liam, make sure they don’t run away sniveling. Your group can head back to the clearing since you lot seemed to like it so much, and my group can continue to explore the forest. Objections?” Silence followed as expected and she ushered Auru, Liam and Alexo away before stalking off into the thick trees. Sylvia’s group did not make it far before their next adversity appeared. A cloaked figure emerged from the thick undergrowth and grabbed Aedel’s arm. She quickly pulled it away but the figure was persistent in its goal. It reached for her wrist and was this time successful.
“Do not venture deeper into this forest, for you may not find your way out.” At that, the figure finally relented and disappeared back into the trees. Viktor gazed in horror at Aedel’s arm for it had begun to blister and a putrid smell was paired with the pus that leaked out of the wound. Aedel looked quietly at the wound as her face contorted in various emotions. None of them were well versed in herbs or remedies and instead did the best that they could with the limited supplies that were available to them. Sylvia put on a strong face and ran to grab a leaf for a makeshift bandage, she gestured for Aedel to rinse her arm in the tiny stream which trickled down tree roots into a small pond. Aedel gingerly placed her arm in the pond with her jaw tightly clenched. Water just disturbed the wound and the blisters made a horrible sizzling sound similar to that of a deflating balloon mixed with the sound of hot oil and water. Aedel yelped and immediately retracted her hand, it was beyond recognition, the blisters were now steaming and pus leaked out. Aedel’s arm was so swollen that the size of it rivaled even her head, and at the grotesque sight, Aedel convulsed and fell to the ground.
“If you wish for me to save your friend, I will ask for something in return.” The figure reappeared, causing Viktor to shriek and fall to the ground, joining Aedel. Sylvia looked disdainfully at him and muttered something incoherent but sounded something like ‘coward’. She turned her head to face the figure.
“What do you want?” Although she was very tempted to leave them behind she knew that she would face some backlash if she returned alone.
“What I request is quite simple. I do have one condition though, that once your acquaintances have recovered you must leave this place and never come back again.” Sylvia nodded in agreement to the request the figure made, but she was curious as to what was so precious that the figure would not want them near it. They had to be hiding something. The figure held up a purple gem. It had a warm glow and it seemed to pulse like a heart. “I ask that you retrieve my core gem. It is identical to the one that is in my hand, and can be found in this forest.” They pointed towards a path and Sylvia was as eager to go down it as she was to rip out her hair, strand by strand. She stole a quick glance at Viktor and Aedel and made up her mind, thinking that they looked so pitiful on the forest floor.
“If you uphold your end of the bargain, I will uphold mine.” And at that Sylvia and the figure shook hands, cementing the crucial decision. She fled down the path and even though she had only been on the trail for a few minutes she already saw the gentle glow of the gem. Even she knew that this was too easy. It must have been a trick, but there was no other option. She headed in the direction of the gem. She tread cautiously and was careful not to be victim of a trap, but something else caught her attention. Something much, much, much more important.
The stones that surrounded the gem had engravings like the ones on the table. The images told the story of a group of travelers who ventured down a path and were never to be seen again. It then cut to a scene of the travelers sitting around a table, and how they found themselves inside the three dimensional map. Then the images described how part of the group split off and ventured into the forest. Sylvia’s eyes widened with terror but she kept reading. The images then showed the figure and how one member of the group went to search for the gem because of their fallen team members. The next scene that the stone carvings recounted would seal Sylvia’s fate as she let out one last shriek along with her last breath. Aedel stood behind Sylvia and the color of her eyes had become even more defined, it was now the same bright purple as the core gem right in front of her. There was no trace of her wound exempt from a purple mark on her arm, and it was shaped like a handprint. Aedel stepped over Sylvia’s body and retrieved the gem. No empathy could be found in those purple eyes. No trace of her humanity was left. The cycle had to start again.
Sylvia woke up with a start and found herself in a dark room along with five other people. She didn’t remember who she was. It seemed that the other members of the group seemed to be just as oblivious. There was only one person who seemed to have a hint at who they were or where they were, but they hid it well. The person had purple eyes.