1. Waking Up.

The first colour I saw was red. Everything was red. Then yellow. And then white. The brightest white I had ever seen. I opened my eyes but the extreme brightness made me shut them immediately again. Why was everything so bright? There was so much sunlight. Too much.

There was also a soft wind. I could now feel the slight breeze rippling over my body like a cloth, caressing me, brushing over my toes and legs, all the way up to my nose and tucking my hair. And there was soft grass, right underneath me. The earthy smell of the forest, I could suddenly smell it. It was everywhere.

I was becoming more and more aware of my senses... they were slowly creeping up on me, as if suddenly awakening inside of me, awakening after a long period of lying dormant. I was also becoming aware of my body. My toes, legs, knees, hips, shoulders... I was becoming aware of them, of me, body part by body part, right up to my heavy, drowsy head... A head, so full of fog and clouds that no other thoughts were capable to form, - no words, only feelings, only that growing awareness of my awakening senses.

There were sounds. Sounds all around me. They came from - everywhere! In fact, now that I realized them, I could not understand how I did not hear them earlier... So much noise! There were birds singing, leaves rustling, small branches crackling, even the far-away sound of a river or stream was slightly audible, the peaceful lapping of the water, flowing quietly its own way. And then there were those footsteps.

Instinctively, my body seemed to get tense, alert. As if this sound was something that should cause worrying, my ears pricked up, and my shoulders stiffened. Fast steps. Coming closer, and closer.

My eyes shot open, but once again they were blinded by the bright light of the sun. Worried, I wanted to jump on my feet, but my body did not quite listen to my head. Instead I only managed to crawl onto my knees, and twisted my body so that my squinting eyes were facing the direction of the footsteps. Finally, I was getting used to the sunshine. And there, through the countless trees and bushes, I could make out a figure, a man, running into my direction. My heart was pounding. What could I do? I could hardly manage to get up on my feet, and he was running so fast. He was tall, and was holding a long rod like a weapon, tightly, with both of his strong hands. Fear made my hair stand up, and I could feel a strange prickling sensation in the tips of my fingers. Captivated, I kneeled there, listening to his every footstep. And suddenly, the footsteps stopped, and the young man was staring directly at me. His jaw dropped.

“Ch-Cherry?” he uttered.

‘Where?,’ I wanted to ask, seeing no cherry trees near and far, but my mouth seemed unable to speak. Perplexed by this question of his, I simply looked at him, wide-eyed and curious. He had moved very close to me now, so that I could look directly into his face. I saw his clear blue eyes. I could even smell him! This interesting occurrence, - to be able to smell his sweaty, human scent so distinctively, - distracted me for a moment, and it was in this moment that something I was not expecting happened. It happened so quickly, that my weary, slow-moving body could not have possibly been able to react or do anything about it. Before I knew it, the man had fallen to his knees, his arms opened widely in a frightening gesture, only to close them around my shocked body and give me a - hug. I could not move. I could not even breathe. “Cherry,” he sighed, “you are alive.” I tensed. Was he speaking to me?

This moment only lasted for seconds. Then, realizing my shock, realizing something was not quite right, he let go of me. I gasped for air like I had been kept under water for too long. My heart was pounding so fast, I was sure he could hear it.

“Who are you?” the words tumbled out of my mouth before I had formed them in my mind. The young man’s facial expression changed from a happy, relieved smile, to a distressed, almost dejected mien.

“But Cherry, don’t you recognize…,” the man did not finish his sentence. He did not have to. My perplexed, fearful-looking eyes must have answered his question before it was spoken. And as if this was not already enough confusion, tumult and chaos, I noticed with distress that the sounds of more and more footsteps appeared. The man could read my blank fear and quickly tried to comfort me. “It’s okay, Cherry, everything is okay, it’s just our…”

But once again, he did not manage to finish his sentence. He was interrupted by the blurting of excited voices.

“Is that…”


“No, it can’t be…!”

“She’s alive! She really is…”

Three figures of quite different forms and sizes were running with bright smiles, widely-opened eyes, and swinging arms in my direction. I couldn’t help but feel the desire to run away from them. I wanted them to stop, to stop running and shouting at me.

They all had weapons. It was the first thing I noticed about them as they moved closer. The woman amongst them had a maze with sharp spikes and crystals clustered at the top. Next to her a man, dark-haired, muscular, armoured with two short daggers, one even drawn and placed inside of his swinging arm. The third amongst them, a little girl - or boy? - was holding sharp light-reflecting nails inside its hands. Weapons, fast feet, swinging arms, - everything was too much for me. I didn’t know whether to curl up into a ball or whether to attempt to stand up and run. Fear was pulsating through my blood, spreading throughout my whole body.