The Prisoner


The physicians had failed so many people. They failed so many families. There was

coughing and blood and death. He didn ’ t understand what it was, only that the physician couldn ’ t

help. Their neighbors, other people from their town. It seemed that everyone was sick — and


Then, they were gone.

It wiped out more than a third of their rural village, including his parents, uncle, and three

cousins. Out of all his family, his aunt and he were the only ones who managed to avoid the

dreaded illness. He finally understood that he would never return to that village. After his parents

and relatives had been collected and buried, his surviving aunt had taken some of his things and

packed them away. And then they were here, knocking on the door of a woman with severe

features, gray hair, and a crow ’ s voice — a family friend, he ’ d been told.

His aunt had died three days later, the night of the storm. This brought him back to the

memory of the breaking glass. The woman said he was cursed and cast him out.

She was right, he ’ d supposed. Everyone he knew was no longer alive. He ’ d wandered

around the village for a few days, trying to find food and shelter. He wished now that he had

spent more time at the docks. Perhaps he could have worked with the fishermen, but instead, he

had chosen to try living with just himself.

Maybe I am cursed, he ’ d thought as he sat by the water about a week after his aunt ’ s

death, watching the burning sun descend lower and lower in the sky until it seemed to dip under

the water. In the last light of day, he saw what looked like a magnificent ship on the distant

horizon coming nearer. It had three billowing white sails and a purple flag that waved in the

wind. Kai studied it for a while before turning his eyes upward, examining the sky. He watched

the bluish-green hues replace the warm pinks and oranges and purples of the sky until an onyx

curtain covered it. One by one, the stars gleamed in the moonless sky. Not even a sliver of a

smile could be seen where he thought the moon would have appeared if it had chosen to that

night. There wasn ’ t a single cloud. He quickly found each of the constellations that his father had

taught him. He ’ d say it was important to learn, in case you ever got lost.

“ They can lead you to where ever you want to be. They can lead you right back here, to

us, to home. Understand, Kai? ”

“ Yes, papa. ”

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