The girl drew in a sharp breath and felt needles piercing every part of her lungs. The air felt cold as ice; when had she last breathed? Her head swum in nothingness and she felt a dull, throbbing pain in her limbs. Sitting up she took in her environment. Clear caramel eyes adjusted to the almost darkness, and in the cabin’s gloom she saw mirror shards and blood. Blood. The girl covered her mouth and shut her eyes. As she grew more conscious, the swimming sensation in her head weakened. Something felt wrong, so very wrong. Where am I? The question merely echoed dully, automatically. Her eyes further adjusted to the darkness of the cabin. It was a shallow, dusty place. It all felt akin to a dream, but what is the difference between a dream and reality when only one exists? The girl slowly stretched her legs, placed an open palm on the warm floor, and stood up on shaky legs.
“You woke up.”
The voice sent the girl on the floor once more, eyes wide in terror. She instinctively covered herself with her hands, and subsequently realized she was fully dressed. The voice materialized as a small figure, hopping out of the shadows. A crow.
“W-who are you?”
What had started as a modestly intimidating interrogation, concluded with a meek, timid question. The girl was shocked by the sound of her own voice. It was new. The crow hopped closer, nonchalantly. The closer he came the more the girl moved backwards, never once lifting her large eyes off him.
“I wouldn’t hurt you.” The crow’s voice had a peculiar charisma to it, yet it felt distant and lacking emotion. “Reisen.”
“Who is Reisen?” The girl’s brows furrowed and her mouth curved sadly. She felt a painful emptiness in her head. The crow tilted his head curiously, as if examining the situation.
“You are Reisen, it’s your name. Don’t you remember?”
“I… I am? No, you’re wrong, I’m not called Reisen. My name is…” Her voice stopped mid-sentence as her thoughts came to a halt. She could not remember her name. Certainly it was not Reisen, right? The word sounded too unfamiliar. Gently biting her lower lip, she once more attempted to stand up. The wooden cabin was cold, yet the spot she had been lying on was almost warm. At lifting her body off the ground she felt an unnatural nausea. The distance between her head and the wooden planks was too much. I’m too tall! She stumbled and almost fell once more. All the while the crow observed her silently. The forgotten art of walking was soon remembered, despite the newfound height.
“Am I… Am I Reisen?”
She turned towards the crow, still uncomfortable and hesitant.
“What else can I call you?” The bird irritably flapped his wings and flew over to a full-body mirror, oddly resplendent in the darkness.
“See for yourself if you don’t believe me.”
Reflections do not lie. Logic told her that much. Yet Reisen could not help the yelp of disbelief that escaped her throat at seeing the reflection. Nothing looked like it should have. The girl did not remember how she used to look but most certainly she used to different. Caramel eyes stared down at her long, slender legs and girlish, rounded hips.
“I’m not like this!”
She looked at the crow perched on the mirror with terror. And as soon as she did, she drew in a sharp breath and looked away. For as wrong as her appearance felt, she had no memory of anything else to compare to. Why did everything feel out of place? The crow remained still, apparently evaluating the situation.
“What are you talking about? This is you.”
Reisen rubbed her eyes wearily. Her whole existence could have been a dream and she would not have realized. It was then, as she tried to make sense of everything that had happened in the past few minutes, that a strong feeling of longing washed over her as an ocean. No, not quite longing, more like seeking. She turned back to the crow and blurted out, voice full of emotion.
“Where are they? The person I’m… looking… For..?”
Her sense of certainty went on a slow decrescendo, leaving her with nothing more than an unexplained sensation. The crow’s eyes focused on her, visibly amused. He flew down to her eye level.
“Mh, interesting. Can you describe this person?”
The crow flew down to the floor and looked up at Reisen unblinking.
“I don’t know… I don’t remember… But I have to find them! I feel it!”
The emotions flooded her insides and caused a physical reaction. Tears started rolling down Reisen’s soft cheeks.
“Listen, Reisen. We are the same, you and I.” The crow perched itself back on top of the mirror. “I can help you find this person you are looking for.”
The crow perched himself on Reisen’s shoulder, and she fought the urge to push him off. Physical contact caused shivers to run down her spine. Furthermore, there was some underlying sinister sensation surrounding the crow. It was something she only vaguely felt, but the whole situation caused her discomfort, so she reasoned it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Why are you helping me? And just who are you?”
Reisen looked straight ahead and spoke as calmly as she possibly could. The movement of the crow’s body indicated something akin to laughter, but he did not laugh.
“Mh, it’s complicated. I’ll tell you in time, Reisen.” He paused. “You can call me Tevari. Think of me as a friend.”
Reisen repeated the name. Until then, it had been the only word that sounded natural, familiar. Yet she could not remember any context surrounding it, nor give it meaning. It was only a name. Mindlessly twirling a strand of snowy white hair between two fingers, she swallowed nervously.
“What do I do now, Tevari? I need to find this person, but can’t remember anything.”
The crow flew off Reisen’s shoulder with a strong flap of his wings. The girl closed her eyes at the wind. Tevari perched himself somewhere in the darkness and Reisen had to squint to identify him amid the blackness. The crow was perched on something resembling a door architrave.
“Let’s leave. You can find who you’re looking for out of here.” Tevari looked down at the door as he spoke. The hinges were rusty. Reisen nodded slowly, uncertain, and walked towards the door.
“Wait,” Tevari jerked his head towards a peg on the wall. A solitary brown hooded cloak hung on it. “Put that on, it’s cold outside.”
Reisen obeyed silently. She draped the cloak around her shoulders and felt the hard fabric with her fingertips. Something about it felt undeniably human. More human than the mirror and the crow, at least. With one last glance at the blood and the broken mirror shards on the ground, Reisen grabbed the door’s handle and pulled it towards her. The door opened with a screeching sound. Gelid wind flew towards her and rustled the cloak. It felt alive. Wearing a short dress, stockings, boots and a cloak, Reisen stepped outside in the sleeping world. It was no dream, because dreams ended eventually. The outside of the cabin presented the same bleak dustiness as the inside, coupled with spiderwebs here and there. It gave the impression that none had lived or visited it in decades. Tevari flew back on Reisen’s right shoulder.
“Also, Reisen, you are the only one that can hear me. No one else can.”
Looking first at the melancholic wooden cottage, and then at the seemingly endless pine forest surrounding them, the girl with the crow on her shoulder pulled the hood up her head and set off in the dead of the night.