Raven aimlessly stumbled along the dirt path, rivers of tears flowing out of her bulging eyes. The salty teardrops beaded down her blemished cheeks, making paths through the dirt. The young girl crossed her eyes to see her bulbous nose, loathing every inch of it. Her frizzy grayish hair was unevenly cut and matted with dirt.
Raven’s bushy eyebrows furrowed in pure anger at her appearance. She ran her purplish tongue along her crooked, yellow teeth, more tears springing to her eyes and running down her abnormally hairy face. She bolted into nowhere.
Running from her home. Sprinting from her short-sighted peers, her cruel siblings, and her parent's graves. Her parents were the only people who saw her for who she was, and not what she looked like. Her siblings called her a werewolf, incapable of love and kindness. For days Raven had been fleeing from the only life she'd ever known. And not because of anything she did, but because of the small-minded people of the world.
Suddenly, in the distance, she saw roofs of small houses, in a village. Raven’s stomach clenched tightly at the thought of entering another village with people. Then her stomach clenched again, but from the continuous pangs of demanding hunger. With a heavy heart, Raven trudged to the small suburban city center, taking all the alleyways and shortcuts with her head hung low.
A huge, flashy fruit stand made Raven’s mouth immediately salivate. She casually walked up to the booth, pretending to examine the fresh, juicy apples, oranges, bananas, and pomegranates. While the boisterous salesman was distracted by an older lady questioning his selection, Raven slipped a crisp golden apple into her raggedy clothes pocket. Nonchalantly sauntering away, Raven searched desperately for a hidden alcove to eat her meal. There was almost nothing in the desert city. Ravenous with hunger, she decided to sneak into the basement of a house that looked long abandoned. Once inside the damp room, Raven devoured the fruit in a few bites. Then she closed her gibbous eyeballs and went to sleep.
“Hello?” A sweet, accented voice flipped open Raven’s tired eyes. Her heart immediately started drubbing painfully, and her grey eyes adjusted to the dim surroundings. Her blood ran cold when she saw an elderly woman with a cane leaning over her. Raven gasped, leaping to her feet.
“I’m so sorry, ma’am! I didn’t mean to fall asleep here, I just wanted a place to hide and...” She trailed off, looking at the dusty floor. She braced herself for a beating with the cane. Her siblings had seemed very generous in her share of beatings. But the old woman waved her hand impatiently.
Fervently yet kindly, she murmured, “I know, young lady.” Beckoning to Raven, she commanded, “Sit down, please.” Raven nervously sat on the edge of a rickety woven chair. The old woman perched her frail body on another, dustier chair. Raven nervously twiddled her thumbs, keeping her head bent way down.
“Look at me, child,” she said, her voice kinder than anything that had ever been used with Raven. She couldn’t bring herself to look at the woman. Shame brought tears to Raven’s eyes. “Please don’t cry. I’m not going to hurt you. What is your name?” The old woman inquired graciously.
“I’m Raven,” she mumbled. Her own name felt bizarre on her tongue, for nobody ever asked her name.
“That’s a beautiful name, Raven! You can call me Cornelia,” Her polite, benign tone made Raven’s eyes travel to the old woman’s face. Raven stifled a gasp. Cornelia laughed good-naturedly as Raven’s mouth dropped in horror. She slapped her hand over her garrulous mouth.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, her eyes wide.
“Don’t think anything of it, child. It’s not easy to look at our faces.” Raven was astonished at her composure. Raven marveled at Cornelia’s face. It was almost like looking in a mirror! Bulging eyes, hairier skin, and a bulbous nose. Although, Cornelia's eyes were a dark green, almost a moldy color. Her honey-like voice didn’t seem to match her facial features.
“There is only one difference between us that I can see from this brief encounter.” Raven looked curious. Cornelia smiled.
“What’s that?” Raven inquired curiously. Cornelia leaned in close to Raven, their foreheads almost touching.
“Security,” she whispered softly. Raven raised a bushy eyebrow. Cornelia continued, “I have come to terms with my...face,” she said. "I don't try to hide it anymore." Before she could extend her explanation, Raven interrupted.
“Even though everybody will stare at you? Even though your own siblings shun you? Even when people say you look like a werewolf?” Raven’s voice trembled uncontrollably. She’d expected more of a horrified reaction, but Cornelia just gave her a melancholy grimace.
“Yes, Raven. Even despite those horrifying hardships. And you know why?” At this point, Raven’s tears spilled onto her cheeks once more.
“No, ma'am,” Raven whispered, intrigued. Then Cornelia spoke the one word that would change her life forever.
“God.” Cornelia placed her wrinkled hand on Raven’s, tears springing to her eyes as well. “He is the One to confide in. All your worries, your hardships, your looks, He has it in His hands. You must trust Him, because He is the only true light in this cruel and lightless world. He made you exactly how He wanted, and you must embrace it. Your body is simply a vessel to continue His mission.” She explained passionately. With a melancholy sigh, she added, “And I wish I’d learned this truth many years ago.” Raven sat back, the weight of Cornelia’s words resting on her. But not in a burdensome way. In an uplifting way, in fact.
Many silent moments passed. Even though the crickets were emphatically warbling, Raven couldn’t hear a single thing over her pounding heart. Her mind swarmed with Cornelia’s words. Your body is simply a vessel. Your body is simply a vessel. Your body is simply a vessel.
Slowly, Raven glanced up, straightened her back, and smiled for the first time in what seemed like ages.
“Tell me more about this God,” Raven breathed.