Chapter 90 The Hundred Years – Seventeen Years
After Hannah gained her first spark of insight into how she could begin to familiarize herself with something other than death, she dove into the deep end. Hannah spent day after day inflicting wound after wound onto herself and taking the time to watch her body healing itself.
Even though it was a tedious process, she became fascinated, driven… Obsessed with the process. Without realizing it herself, she had spent years without feeling an ounce of control over her life, her fate, her choices. Hannah changed after the moment she gained the first glimmer of hope into which she could improve herself. She was improving herself, walking down a path not set before her by fate but rather through her own merit. She had no affinity for life or healing but she gained a spark of insight on how to begin walking down that path and she dove head first without questioning herself.
Day in and out, it became a routine. It came a ritual. Every wound she would inflict on herself gave her hope, gave her purpose. It even gave her pleasure. A self-indulged pleasure of feeling in control over herself. Every injury she inflicted on herself gave her back a piece of herself she thought was lost. Instead of losing more of herself, she was finding herself. Finding a stronger version of herself she didn’t know she could be.
She had formed a routine that had turned into a ritual. This ritual had given her back control, and that control have in turn given her back her sanity, and a personality.
Then one day, six years or so after she had begun the ritual of inflicting herself with wound after wound to understand the healing process of her body, she realized she had come to a conclusion.
‘There’s a limit to the kind of wounds I can inflict on myself without causing permanent damage… I think I’ve learned about everything I can…’
Coming to a realization that she had reached a dead end. Hannah didn’t have to think too long before deciding what to do next. ‘I have to find test subjects…’
Her mind immediately went over the beasts and monsters she knew were in this section of the forest, as her mind settled on either bear beasts or wolf beasts.
The old version of herself would have flinched at the very thought. Perhaps she might have even felt disgusted at herself for even suggesting it. Even if only to herself. The idea of hurting other living creatures in order to possibly learn something new… It would have been ridiculous to her. In fact even as she thought about how easy she’d come to this conclusion, she realized that years ago she may not have been able to hurt someone or something else, even if whatever/whoever she was hurting was willing…
A giggle escaped her lips as her mind came to that discovery. A wistful smile that made her seem older than she looked. ‘I’ve really changed haven’t I…’
Staring into the distance, Hannah remained seated atop the tallest tree in her vicinity at the highest branch giving her a view over miles and miles of the forest.
‘I was afraid of a lot of things before… I was even afraid to sleep in a tree.’
Hannah’s smile only grew wider at the memory of her first few days after she’d entered the forest with her family and friends.
She had changed a lot. From a closed off girl with a deep feeling of responsibility and love for her family, to a broken husk of her former self. Stripped of everything she’d ever held dear including her sanity. Until now, these past few years had changed her even further. Healed the former throbbing wounds that were as exposed as the day she’d received them to scabs that she could look past enough to appreciate the wounds for what they were, experience and a part of her past.
Throughout the year of nonstop self-mutilation, something had changed within her. Every new wound seemed to heal a small part of her soul. The control she’d begun to feel at controlling her body and future. The first inklings of hope had begun to heal Hannah in a way she didn’t think was possible. In fact she didn’t think about it as it happened until one day, she thought about her former life, her brother… Even Ava and Daichi and instead of feeling pain or longing. Instead of hoping for a numbness that would let her escape her pain she felt herself smile. Surprising even herself at the time, she’d been so shocked she’d actually fallen off the tree she was on at the time. It was a low branch which stopped her from breaking her neck on the fall. Bruised and in pain at the bottom of the tree, her face was still covered in surprise.
The pain from every wound she caused herself, gave her perspective over her life. It gave her power to face her past and appreciate what she’d had. That appreciation gave birth to an even greater desire than before. A desire to bring her brother back, repent for killing Ava and even make the wrongs of her past right.
She couldn’t help but think about what she’d done to Daichi. How foolish she’d feel to turn on the one person who despite not having to help her, had done so at the expense of his own safety. The one thing he seemed to value above all else. Daichi had done something even to this day Hannah still couldn’t understand. She’d thought she understood him, everything he did was to survive. In her eyes, Daichi had been devoid of purpose other than to get stronger and even that had seemed to be for the sole purpose of putting himself in a better position to survive another day. Then he’d risked his life, when he didn’t have too. He’d come back for them when he had more to lose than he had to gain. At the time Hannah had been so lost in herself, so overcome with grief she could only blame him for what had happened to her. To what had been done to her by a monster.
In her eyes that what Tael was. A being who did what he wanted simply because he could, and for no other reason than that.
She’d blamed everything on Daichi because she could, perhaps because she had no other choice knowing she couldn’t do a thing to the real monster. The one so far above her that she couldn’t even hope to touch his feet. That knowledge had given her a sense of peace. Instead of feeling regret over what she’d done to Daichi, she felt debt. In her heart though, she couldn’t decide whether she didn’t feel remorse because she was no longer able too, or whether it was because she came to realize she never thought Daichi was dead.
Even as she sat atop the tree, staring into the distance ‘How could someone like that possibly die just like that? You’re out there somewhere aren’t you? Maybe you’re even coming after me…’ Hannah’s smile only grew wider.
‘Would Daichi come after me? Would he get angry and want revenge? Can Daichi get angry? Did he ever care about anything? Was he ever happy? Afraid?’ She’d thought all sorts of questions after she realized she thought Daichi was alive. Then realized how little she really knew about him. Not once had he ever told them a single thing about himself that actually mattered. He’d shared with them his thoughts about what they should do, he’d killed with them, and he’d helped them survive. No one ever pushed for more than that at the time, and so Hannah had only now come to realize that she hadn’t learned a single thing about him in all that time.
It was no wonder she couldn’t understand why he’d come back for them, what had she ever really known about him she thought.
When she’d first met Daichi, he was reading a book and all but ignored her presence. A boy who’d ignored her presence as if she wasn’t beautiful. As if his hormones weren’t raging and in control of him. She’d thought him interesting and a bit of a curiosity enough so that she’d always kept a bit of an eye on him. More so than anyone else, since no one else was worth noticing. Then when there were only four people left in the entire town including herself, she’d paid him no mind despite how much he stood out. Now years later, she realized just how much he stood out because he didn’t stand out. She spent weeks with him, in life and death situations one after another. In the town they grew up in and then a forest as endless as if it stretched across the world. Four people, together and holding on to each other as if they were the last and only life lines left in the world, and still she knew nothing about him.
Thinking about Daichi, Ava and Kaden made her hopeful for the future. Hopeful for the things she was going to do, and hopeful for the things left in store for her. In control of her feelings and herself, she let herself tilt sideways and off the branch as she avoided every branch as she let gravity bring her down moving faster until her legs hit the ground and her ankles caved in under the impact and snapped.
The pain traveled up through her body as her mind registered the sensation as she toppled to the ground and her smile grew even wider. A blissful expression on her face which would have made anyone who saw her wonder what joy she must have been experiencing. If anyone saw her expression, there would have been no way they could connect that smile of joy with the image of a girl falling and breaking her ankles, the sounds of bones snapping like twigs and the pain that must have followed.
Hannah laid on the floor, as blood seeped out of her legs. The bones had snapped to the sides and bone had broken through the skin revealing parts of her body that shouldn’t have been where they were. Blood trickled out and Hannah laid in silence with that same smile and an ever unwavering patience that she’d never previously possessed.
Instead of moving or trying to staunch the blood flow, Hannah only laid still. The blood trickled onto the ground and the smell of copper hung in the air and was carried through the forest as the wind blew by and the breeze carried the scent of the wounded throughout the trees.
As Hannah lay on the ground, a funny thought struck her ‘I think… I’ve been in this forest for as long as I lived in town… Am I really 34 now?’
Hannah’s smile didn’t waver as she thought about how her life could be split evenly between being in a society full of people and stuck alone wandering a never ending forest with nothing but beasts and monsters and her very presence being no different than theirs…
Less than an hour later… Two wavering bears had been attracted by the scent of blood and had meandered over in search of a meal in the form of wounded prey. Hannah recognized them without ever having to look in their direction. She’d run across this type of beast enough times in the past year to recognize the muffled grunting noises they were making to one another as they came towards her. She didn’t know what they were really called, her knowledge of beasts and their names was limited unlike Daichi’s but she had aptly named them “wavering” bears once her previous demeanor had begun to return because they were prone to standing on their hind legs and wavering back and forth like an alcoholic and weren’t vicious enough to attack prey unless their prey was wounded. Otherwise they would prefer to wait for prey to approach them before taking a swipe or two in the hopes of getting a kill and a meal.
Hannah kept her eyes closed and stayed absolutely still, until she could hear the rustling of the grass just a few mere feet away from her…
Hearing the grunting noises of the bears as they stood on their hind legs, Hannah’s eyes opened wide as she hit the ground beneath her with both hands palms down which pushed her into the air. Her ankles cracked as more blood sprayed as her bones seemed to crack and rearrange themselves as they settled back into place within that same moment. After the bones seemed to rearrange themselves back into place. The skin where the bones had broken through turned pink at the ends as the skin began to reattach itself from the ends forming a scab of skin turning yellow as the skin connected and the scab formed from above the entire patch of skin. Hannah landed on her feet a few feet in front of one of the bears. The scabs on her ankles already fallen off along with other flakes of skin as the skin around the injuries on her ankles seemed to disappear and in their place a hue of pink on newly formed skin.
Hannah’s smile never wavered but seemed to turn imperceptibly apologetic as the two large bear beasts in front of her growled with a lack of understanding.
‘Sorry bears. Today you aren’t going to be food… I need some help with something new…’ Hannah thought as she let the bears charge towards her, closing the small distance that separated Hannah from the bears and the bears from freedom.