Rebirth Ch. 01byNaughtily_Written©
The average snow flake falls at 1.7 meters per second.
Around Aiden, the crystals slowly fell. He wondered if they were as lonely as he was, a singularity surrounded by millions and millions yet so completely alone.
Pain tightened his chest, this pang fiercer than the last. Let me out!
The words echoed in his head like a wave of fire ants as the fiery bird screeched, his flight interrupted by the discomfort. Gravity pulled him toward the ground, the cold air making the flames surrounding him flare wildly. The ground only inches away, he caught himself and leveled off but not before the low hanging branches of the surrounding trees tore at his skin. The wounds closed as he ascended, the ache fading away. Breaking passed the barrier of the icy forest, the last rays of the setting sun momentarily blinded him.
The scene before him competed with some of the most beautiful he'd ever seen. The sun dipped into the valley between two snow-tipped mountains. Oranges and reds blended with violets, various shades of pinks and deep blues extended from the source of his powers. They stained the lazy clouds and bounced off the white landscape.
Ever vigilant, the bird scanned the land for any immediate threats, knowing he was susceptible to attack by those who knew he was at his weakest. He saw snow dwelling creatures scurry beneath the camouflage of the trees, burrowing into prepared holes. The vibrations of teeth on bones reached him and he identified the scent of a wolf scores of miles away, its heart beating with the exhilaration of a new catch. He was the apex predator here though.
He left yet another identity behind. Blending into the human world was becoming more and more difficult with every passing year. He found it increasingly difficult to hide the wildness in him but he played the elusive billionaire well. The author of several bestselling thriller novels, he went under the pseudo Aiden Rychel.
He staged his death five days before, a convenient vehicular accident over a Californian cliff into stormy waters that left his body unrecovered. The news spread like wildfire, the experts claiming drugs and alcohol attributing factors in his death. His true existence stemmed from something far more violent.
Born of fire, Aiden was the remnants of the sun god, Ra, the deity being once known for his unusual kindness to the humanity. Most gods saw man as nothing more than an amusing diversion but Ra took particular liking to the species. He resided alongside them too long ago for the history books to remember, openly opposing his immortal kin when their safety was questioned. Most gods feared Ra's fiery wrath and ignored the earthly realm and its dealings.
Peace resided on the blue and green sphere for a time but was not destined to last forever.
Ra took his most formidable solider as his lover but Landra soon grew resentful of Ra's love for the humans she considered far beneath them. Craving his love for herself she plotted the demise of the weaker species but was caught by the male whose heart she wished to enslave. Lenient to his former lover, Ra forwent the most lethal punishment and cursed her to a thousand lifetimes of confinement within the sun's core but Landra could not be contained. Her hatred and need for revenge grew until the golden orb was poisoned by the negativity and lost its shine.
The world plunged into darkness. The earth was ravaged by the elements in response to her anger, lightening licking the ground, floods sweeping away settlements, fires destroying the woodlands. Left no other choice Ra sought to slay her but Landra made a fearsome adversary. The core of evil that was slowly infection man fed her power and the two fought many, many battles.
Knowing Landra needed to be defeated once and for all, Ra entered into an unsteady alliance with the ruler of the underworld to leash the demented force. The world was bathed with light once more and as was his part of the deal, Ra's body burst into flames and his essence was consumed by the sun. The phoenix rose from Ra's ashes, a fiery protector of humanity, his love just as true.
As was his duty, the fire bird kept kept unseen threats at bay, swiftly and lethally dealing with any enemy bold enough to confront him head on. He fought beside man and taught him how to defend himself, how to hunt and stalk his prey. But man turned on his teacher, wanting the gifts the phoenix possessed, craving the immortality that came with spilling the creature's blood and the healing power of his tears. Using the skills the bird taught him, man hunted the symbol of life after death and Aiden was forced to retreat to the darkness to protect those who betrayed him.
Humanity pushed the limits of Aiden's patience, poisoning his affection. Wars raged. Mortals, so indifferent to their short lifespan, tortured and killed with so little provocation. Children died of hunger as kings carelessly threw bread into the trash. Man took the gifts of his mother, earth, and treated them so callously, giving the grieving planet less and less respect with every generation. Unable to interfere with inter-human matters, he realized humanity had to fall to rise above his pettiness. All he could do was sit back and watch.
So many years went by. Century after century of nothingness, of waiting for that elusive something that taunted him. Millennia after millennia, he felt his soul reach increasingly for the comfort of darkness. With no other of his species to provide company, he grew increasingly weary. He was tired of knowing tomorrow would come and dreading the event. Tired of watching the self-destruction of the species he once loved with every fiber of his being. Tired of waking up to an empty bed with only the nameless faces of strangers to fill his night.
He was not normally one to give into melancholy or reminisce on the past but knowing his time was near brought emotions better left buried to the surface. Soon he will return to his place of birth, a forgotten tomb deep within the earth where his body will be consumed by fire. With death comes life and from the ashes he will be renewed stronger, faster and wiser than before. This rebirth every thousand years ensured his immortality.
But it also ensured his rebirth to this loneliness, into a despair that ran so deep into every single molecule that his body cried from it. Every thousand years, he woke up to a crueler world that had no place for a nomadic bird believed to be myth. He was a symbol of hope, of life but he felt dead inside. As time stretched, he feared that he too would become infected by the evil that was engulfing the people on this third rock from the sun. He feared that his compassion would wither away, leaving only the bitterness that was crippling his soul.
The powerful phoenix flapped his wings of fire, snowflakes subliming into steam around his flaming body. He had to find her, his salvation. The promise of light to his darkness. His true mate.
For his perseverance, his maker ensured him the one who would complement him perfectly, who would complete him. All he had to do was find her. Easier said than done on a planet with billions of females. It was promised that he would instantly know her, that he would feel their souls join. She would become his center in that one second of soul recognition. In all the years he roamed the earth, he had never known such a feeling. He had felt lust, infatuation, even the beginnings of love but never that all-consuming need to have one particular woman.
The effort for maintaining his flight was suddenly too much. He closed his eyes against the picturesque sunset and let himself fall. The cold friction pulled at his golden feathers and burned his skin. Branches tore at him as he got closer to the ground. He landed hard, the snow bellowing to form a crater around his body. Shifting to his human form, buried within his battling subconscious, he allowed himself a temporary escape.
Mac got off the bus and started in the direction of her apartment, which was only five minutes away. The moon peeked over the cover of large, dark cumulous clouds but not even the gloomy weather dampened her good mood. She got an offer for not one but four of her paintings today and straying off the course her parents set for her was finally paying off.
The slight skip in her step faltered as she neared her building and realized that it became unnaturally quiet; no insects chirped, no wind blew, not even the distance sound of a car. Glancing behind her, the sight of an approaching male figure sent panic through her. She picked up the pace as a feeling of inevitable doom made her heart race.
She broke into a run when his steps escalated to match hers. A glance behind her showed that he was gaining on her, seemingly teleporting closer and closer. Frantically, she searched for assistance. The street was empty.
She opened her mouth to scream and hard, merciless hands grabbed her, smoldering her cry. The strength was suddenly sapped from her limbs and darkness clouded her vision but not before a familiar pair of brown eyes met hers with gleeful malice.
Mackenzie Blackhorn gasped as she fought to escape the emotional confines of her afternoon nap. Heart pounding, tears stung her eyes as she tried to breathe through the pain the recurring nightmare awakened, memories assaulting her unprotected mind.
Born to middle aged parents who were the definition of control freaks, university had been her first real taste of freedom. Relishing her new found independence, she finally pursued her true passion, art. Her parents had blown a casket when she abandoned her degree in Business Management. Cut off from the family funds, she worked two jobs to support herself, selling some of her pieces online and painting in her spare time. Two years later she got her big break when a popular gallery bought some of her work.
And then it happened.
On route to her apartment, she had been kidnapped and for five days and nights, her abductor methodically broke her body and spirit. He never penetrated her body but loved to watch her suffer, masturbating to her cries of pain. Years after her rescue teeth marks, small, strategically placed cuts and flogging scars marred her body. Her self-esteem was just as scarred, his verbal abuse as damaging as the physical maltreatment. She had never been a size zero but she had been comfortable with herself. With that twist of fate he made her ashamed of her body, made her hate every single line and curve. In a shootout with the police, her molester lost his life but the damage had already been done when the authorities found her chained to the wall one hour outside of her downtown Chicago apartment.
The most horrible part was that she had known her attacker. He'd been a regular at the bar where she worked as a waitress. Sharing a few greetings and casual smiles, she never realized his obsession with her. Later she learned that he was a notorious serial killer with a grudge against the female gender, Grayson McDonald.
Being reunited with her family brought little relief. Panic attacks assaulted her almost daily in the beginning. Her parents tried their best to console her but they did not understand. No one did. Not the counselors or the detectives and certainly not the media.
It all became too much.
She could not take the nightmares anymore. She could not handle the fear, the panic, the cloud of shame that followed her. Awake or asleep she still felt his dirty, cruel hands on her. Even in death, he haunted her. And she had wanted, needed, it all to end. So she got in her car and drove it off a bridge.
Her suicide attempt had been a failure and she spent almost a month in the hospital. Adding to her unstable condition, she was left barren, killing the dream of a family of her own.
Her survival had been a miracle. That's what the doctors said. Resentful, angry, hurt, her opinion had been quite different. Needing reprieve, she isolated herself after her release. Using her small savings, she escaped to the Montana Mountains to lick her wounds without the pitying stares of relatives and friends.
Five years later, the carefree budding artist on her way to big things and bigger places was gone. She was replaced by a woman with so many phobias it's a wonder she still functioned. Every sound was a potential stalker lurking in the shadows. Every man looked like him, smelled like him. Any room less than four hundred square feet was a potential prison. Everyone and everything felt like a threat.
She pushed the blankets aside, their weight causing feelings of claustrophobia. Trading the large shirt she slept in for jeans, a sweater and heavy socks, she went downstairs where she adjusted the still kindling fire. In the bathroom, she washed her face hoping the cold water would wash away the last vestige of the nightmare.
In the kitchen she considered preparing herself a meal but despite the ache in her tummy, her throat closed up at the thought of food.
She paced, a restlessness that she had not felt for a long time assaulting her. Off to the right, she entered her art studio. With a tall ceiling and a décor that that matched the rest of her home, the workspace was an artist's dream, her supplies neatly stacked and categorized. The propped canvas stood in the center, pieces she felt too personal to share framed and hanging on the walls.
The hobby began when her eccentric aunt bought her the art supplies for her twelfth birthday. Her parents frowned upon the activity, calling it a waste of time best spent studying. She never quite lived up to her parents' expectations. While they did not voice their disappointment, it was there in the way they looked at her, spoke to her, acted around her. Her art offered an escape when the pressure of being their idea of the perfect daughter weighed too much.
Her painting became her escape after the attack as well, frequently streaked with dark tones unlike her previous work. Ironically it was after her kidnap, her career as an artist really took off, demand for her work skyrocketing.
She picked up her brush and studied the bare canvas. The creativity that flowed in her isolation had been gone for the last few weeks. The anger and hurt that drove her to paint day and night had settled into dull, deep ache that made her want to curl up into a ball. The feeling of restlessness grew.
Needing fresh air, Mackenzie left the room, closing the door behind her. Donning a heavy coat and the rest of her snow accessories, she stepped out into the winter's dusk.
The cabin sat on thirteen acres of secluded land and had been in her mother's side of the family for generations but remained forgotten until Mac made use of it. Her upgrades included indoor plumbing, her art studio and a small generator she kept in the shed behind the cabin. She used it to power the refrigerator she kept in the same location, her laptop and the cell phone she kept in case of emergencies.
She drew in a deep breath, pulling in the scent of fresh, clean mountain air, pine and something else she could not identify, and let the picturesque twilight scene sooth her. The snow was coming down heavily, covering the surrounding trees. Their branches bowed below the fluffy white blanket. Cold wind blasted against her cheeks, whistling a mournful yet meaningful song. The demons inhabiting her mind quieted just enough for her to enjoy the peace of the moment.
It was moments like this that made her cherish the life that still burned in her blood and happy that her attempt to throw it away failed.
The only thing that kept this moment from being perfect was the persistent loneliness that always crept up on her unawares. Despite the horrors of her past her heart still refused to give up on the dream of finding the man of her dreams, the one that soothed her wounded heart, heated her body, sheltered her in his strong arms and completed her soul.
She almost laughed at her silly musings. What sane man would take on the huge baggage she carried? More importantly, would she ever find the courage to let any man attempt to get close to her heart, to her body?
Maybe one day, she thought. While she could barely stand the thought of being close to a strange man, the panic attacks that paralyzed her in the first year after the incident died into something more manageable. Maybe in a few more years, she would rejoin the world she left behind and give love a try.
She moved off the small porch and was about to explore the surrounding yard when the magnificent sight stopped her in her tracks. A small deer came out of the trees and walked across the snowy ground. The animal cocked its head to the side and caught her stare. Its ears twitched and she almost laughed in delight.
With a sudden movement, it bounded away with stealthy hops and a scurry of strong legs, disappearing behind the shed.
That was her only warning before a flaming red ball trekked across the sky, disturbing the air and unsettling the built up snow. The trees swayed in protest as her hair blew around her face. A squawk sounded, soon to be drowned out by the sound of the impact with the ground.
She almost ran back into the cabin, already taking two steps in that direction. But curiosity kept her from retreating. The inquisitiveness that rivaled a cat's always got her into sticky situations in her former life. That and a sense that she had to see what it was.
Gathering her courage she inched forward, trembling like a leaf in a storm. Passed the outline of the trees she made out the figure of whatever it was, snow already covering it. It looked suspiciously human and she trembled harder, berating herself for not getting a weapon first. "Come on, Mac. You can do this."
Her little pep talk did not make it any easier to trudge the rest of the way. Stepping into the crater, she hesitantly knelt. It was human and naked.
A pulse check made her sigh in relief. She quickly removed her coat and brushing the snow away, she got it around the person as best as she could. She tried to ignore the fact that it was clearly male. Her hands shook harder and it had nothing to do with the temperature and everything to do with terror and uncertainty.
She would have to let this stranger who fell from the sky, this nude male who was larger than the man who destroyed her world into her refuge. She was miles away from her nearest neighbor. No one would hear her scream. If he decided to kill her no one would find her body for weeks, for months even.
At the notion of being at another man's mercy she thought, I can't do this.
Standing, she paced away from the body. Throwing her head to the sky and squeezing her eyes shut, she fought back the onslaught of tears. A few deep breaths later, she glanced back at him. Snow already covered her coat and was burying the man beneath. She definitely did not want him in the one place she felt safe but she could not just leave him to the mercy of the elements. If he did not freeze to death, the wild animals would get him.
She stalked back to him with determined steps, biting her lip to keep her focused and not melt into a ball of jumpy nerves. Her decision made, she sent a silent prayer, hoping that this was not a mistake.
The trip to the cabin felt like an hour journey as she pulled the man through the thick inches of snow. His large body was dead weight and she was only five foot four inches of plump female. But finally she got him through the door and next to the couch. There was no way she could lift him onto it, her arms and legs aching enough as it was.
Rushing back, she pushed the door close, seeing the last rays of the day fade into night. The wind picked up and the snow was building up, dashing away any thoughts of driving him down the mountain by the morning. The thought did not sit well as her heart picked up a speedy pump and a jagged rock came to rest in her stomach.