The chase seemed endless. Gabrielle stopped to catch her breath. She looked around her, and all she could see was a landscape filled with thick trees and muddy pathways to unknown places. Nothing reassuring to provide her with a safe hiding place. 

The small shed was too far away to even think of retrieving back there now. She wouldn’t have enough time. 

So, she continued to run. The air racing through her lungs burnt like wild flames eager to consume the last molecules of oxygen. Exhausted and out of breath, she collapsed on the ground.

The earth beneath her was cold and damp as if it had been raining for days. The wind was sharp and non-forgiving. It was not bringing more rain, but snow. A whole lot of it. 

The sun, unable to pierce through the thickness of the forest had already abandoned its warming task.

Gabrielle knew she had to keep moving. 

In an attempt to pull herself up, she reached for a branch above her head. As she stood, the branch cracked and echoed a sound that resonated miles away into the depths of the forest. The fall was even harder this time. 

“How can I get out of this?” she asked. Her adrenaline rush was slowly carving out. 

Her legs were bruised, and they hurt. Like the muscle pain of growing up, but ten times worst. Unable to support her own body, she remained glued to the musk. Behind her, she could hear manly voices coming closer. Dangerously close.

“She’s here somewhere,” one said.

“She can’t escape us,” the other replied. 

For the first time in her life, Gabrielle felt as if she was lying right next to her own death. She was terrified.

“This must be a dream. And I’m going to wake up soon,” she whispered afraid the man would hear that in such despair she couldn’t hold the words within her any longer.

Usually, when bad dreams happen, Gabrielle knows she can somehow control them. With a simple intention of waking up, she can escape the terror of those too frequent nightmares and wake up in her bed, safe and sound.

But this time, the tactic didn’t work. 

“I don’t want to die,” she said as her heart tightened. “Not yet. Not until I have truly loved.” 

She looked down at what was in her hand. Three lava stones, the size of ping-pong balls, were nesting comfortably inside her palm. 

She recalled her mother’s words. 

“If you ever reach this beautiful place before I get to speak to you about it, make sure you find the small sacred shed. You will recognize it with the fact that it has no windows and only one door. Go inside. You will find a treasure only you can see. Keep it with you under any circumstances. It will protect you and those you come in contact with.”

Prior to being chased by the unknown men, Gabrielle had stepped into the shed. It was like her mother had mentioned. No windows to look into and only one door. Inside, no light could pour in. It had encapsulated a smell of darkness. But not the kind of darkness that creeps in and scares us. No, it was a different kind of darkness. One that held the seed of tomorrow; the seed of growth.

Somehow it smelled like the fragrant of a new life; a newborn baby or a new existence raising from the ashes. The lava stones where the only thing she found. 

“I have the treasure mother; now what?” 

Out in the woods, something caught her attention. She scanned the forest but no signs of danger.

Then, she heard cracking branches a few inches from her. 

“Grab my hand.” A voice whispered. 


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