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That day, it seemed the only sound in the forest was the soft trickle of river water. Even the wind did not dare blow. The trees stood still.

The young man standing knee-deep in the middle of the stream made a small movement. In his hand was a spear tipped with sharpened stone.

A whole second passed.

There was a splash. The young man swung.

In the next instant, the spear reappeared in his hand. Stuck to its tip was a large, brown goby. The fish wriggled, struggling to escape, but after only a short time, it stopped moving. The young man removed it and casually placed it inside the wicker basket tied around his waist. Before closing, he inspected his catch.

One, two, three goby. One big catfish and three or four smaller variety fishes. Enough for the day.

He gazed up but the foliage was so thick, he could only see glimpses of the clear blue sky. It looked like the sky itself was in pieces. He gave a sigh and prepared to wade his way back to the banks.

Someone was watching him.

The young man rolled his eyes to the right and saw a girl partly hidden behind the trunk of a huge balete tree. She was a tiny slip of a thing, dressed poorly (she appeared to be wearing clothes weaved from barks and leaves), her feet bare – a wildling but different from any wildling he’d ever seen. Everything about her was pale: her skin, her hair, her eyes. If he didn’t know better, he’d think she was colorless. Quite possibly, dead. But she wasn’t dead though.

She moved.

“Hello.” Almost as soon as the word was out of his mouth, he realized what she was – what she must be.

But that one word was all it took.

The colorless girl drew in a sharp intake of breath, took a step back and ran deep into the woods.

He had raised a hand, mouth half-open as though to shout a name he did not know. The gesture was unconsciously done. He was not even aware he had done such until the said arm was lowered to his side. He should be afraid. His hands formed fists as he stared at the spot where he saw her disappear.

Somewhere in the distance, a twig broke and the noise echoed all over the forest.

The girl did not return.

The young man stared a moment longer, then he looked down. He saw that the droplets of water that clung to his feet and to his legs were starting to dry. He hoisted the half-full wicker basket up and over his shoulders and, with one hand gripping his spear tightly, he started walking back to his village.

Prologue
Girl Without Color

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