“It has been said that every letter in every word has its own universe; a sea of nothingness and everything rolled into the everlasting. Sure, there are many clichés in this world: Silence is golden, silence is sound, and the list goes on; but one thing is certain, words have power. For every word we speak we create a god in our own image, from the chaos of speech is formed the basis for order. Many people ponder the simple things in life and forget about the things that confound and frustrate them. To be sure, this life is full of the unknown and the unsavory but behind the veil of darkness lays the imprisoned shard of life. Redemption is but a word until it is uttered with the intention to create.” – Author Unknown
Chapter One: Awake
“The only world that I knew was the world created by those around me.”
His voice bounced around in the darkness and then fell flat at his feet: no one would hear his words; after all, the world was dead.
“I always yelled, but no one would listen to me.”
His words then spotted the sky like stars; each one spaced too far apart to hear the other.
He watched in awe as his words fell from the heavens and into his outstretched hand.
“Is this all there is?”
Only silence answered his question.
“Why didn’t anyone listen?”
His words danced into the sky and then disappeared from sight; he was once again alone.
“I never thought of you as the daydreaming type.”
He could hear the smile in her words.
I am not daydreaming.
Of course, in his groggy, far off, state, all he could manage was a grunt.
“Don’t you grunt at me, Mister Bums-A-Lot; I have you know that grunting at a lady is a criminal offense.”
Very witty, dear, now shut up.
He responded to this accusation with an intentional grunt and opening one eye to his young teammate.
There is sound.
“Since when were you a lady, Virginia?”
Oh, I can feel it now; she’s going to let me have it.
Surprisingly there was a giggle and then a punch to his shoulder.
“There’s no need to be so sour, Jet; I can’t help that I’m the only lady that can keep you in line.”
Damn it, stop having good points.
“Aren’t you giving yourself a bit too much credit?”
There was another chuckle just outside of his visual range.
“I don’t think she is; you’re just too damn stubborn to accept the facts.”
Will they listen to me, now?
Instead of a response, he opened his other eye to come face to face with his three teammates looking at him with no dearth of amusement.
Well, this is not a bit awkward
“What’re you looking at?” grunted Jet, looking around at the world that surrounded him.
There is light.
He looked down at the bedside table and promptly discovered that he had acquired a lovely cramp in his neck.
How long have I been out?
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” huffed the young android, slowly rising from the chair he had been sitting in and shoving his teammates away in a not so gentle manner.
The leader of the bunch gave Jet an amused side glance and then placed her index finger on her chin.
“I didn’t think it was possible to wake someone up that wasn’t asleep in the first place.”
Again with the logic!
The silver haired boy had no witty riposte to this and contently walked toward the stairs that led to the kitchen.
“No one likes a smart ass.” He said, ambling down the stairs but not before hearing
“I wasn’t being a smart ass, I was just being truthful.”
The truth hurts, baby.
He grunted once more to his party and descended the stairs a bit quicker.
He sat down at the breakfast table, silently scolding himself for falling asleep in his bedroom chair opposed to in a bed like a normal person.
Well, I ain’t normal.
“Now there’s the understatement of the century.” sniffed the young man, absently rubbing his finger against the rough surface of the table.
What is normal anyway?
Normal is but a word, correct?
Jet met this question with silence.
I can make things normal.
Who the hell are you?
I am reality.
I’m living in reality, buddy, I don’t know about you.
Reality is but a word, remember?
The room started to blur around the edges and then erode into nothing.
Not this again.
You were silent; you didn’t tell them.
Tell them what?
That their world was created by your words.
Again, there was silence.
You unlaced the threads of existence; you were silent.
It was then Jet felt the sense of unease grip his stomach and claw its way down to his toes.
“What do you mean by “unlaced the threads of existence” last time I checked, the world was still intact as were the people that lived in it.
Their words did not coincide with yours; therefore they were removed from your world.
The claw of unease morphed into the cold blade of fear.
“What do you mean by that?” he asked, his voice now trembling.
It as I said; their words were not yours, therefore, they do not exist.
“But they were standing right in front of me; how can they not exist?!”
I grow tired of repeating what I’ve said time and time again. If you seek answers then speak the question, otherwise I have no business talking to you.
“How do I bring them back?” asked Jet, his tone now demanding.
You must call their names; you must pull them from their galaxy.
“I’m sorry; I really don’t get what you’re saying. What do you mean by “pull them from their galaxy”?”
For a moment there was silence and then:
Think of it this way. The letters of your name each hold their own destiny, every word you say weaves into that destiny, so, too, is it with all humans. Without words there is no reality as there are no words to weave it.
“So you’re saying that words create our world?”
That is correct.
“So, all I need to do is say their names and they’ll be back with me?”
That is also correct.
There was no change in the darkness.
Your words hold no meaning; you are just calling her name; you’re not creating her. Empty words are no better than a void without a name.
He closed his eyes and focused on his memory of her.
So, this is the beauty of memory.
From the word “memory” sprung the visage of the female Drifter.
“Foolish boy, you are always lost.” She mouthed, glaring at him.
“You’re always in a hurry to forget.” She was no longer mouthing these words; instead, she was sounding them out in a condescending way.
This is not who she is.
Then voice the words she should speak; creation stems from one’s will, not from someone’s thoughts. If we relied on thoughts, we’d perpetually be lost in the current of fear and ignorance. Voice her words.
Will the words I put in her mouth be the truth?
“I am Virginia; memories are my life and will more than likely be my death.”
She slowly formed in front of him. He reached out to touch her hand and instead touched the void.
What’s going on?
You’re not finished; there are more words to say.
The young man inwardly sighed, trying to string together words that would fit his leader.
“I am outgoing, smart, and a bit bossy.”
Her hand became solid beneath his. He held on to it and watched as her face began to solidify as well.
“I am strong-minded, sweet, and overall a good person.”
Her smile brightened and her eyes sparkled to life.
He bowed his head and looked toward the blackened ground.
“…I want her back.”
Her whole body became solid and she waved at him with her free hand.
“Gee, Jet, what’s with you and daydreaming?”
The vague image of sunlight filtered through a dirt caked window became visible and started to become tangible.
Do I really wish to summon the others?
Do you, indeed?
All you need to do is say the words, then.
Jet took a deep breath and lifted his head.
“I wish to summon Clive from the oblivion of silence. His intelligence, understanding, and warmth remind me that there are, indeed, good people in this world.”
There was an outline of Clive forming, now.
“He is a family man and I admire that.”
His face started to fill in.
“He intimidates me, though; his intelligence, sometimes, makes me uncomfortable.”
The rest of his body began to fill the void of the outline.
“I want him back as well.”
Clive had solidified and his face was etched with concern.
“Are you okay, Jet? You do not look so well.”
Jet let go of Virginia’s hand and walked over to the sniper.
“Welcome back, Clive.” He said, pulling Clive into an unexpected hug. Clive smiled with uncertainty but reciprocated the hug.
“Uh, thank you.”
Jet pulled away with an uncharacteristic smile.
It’s time for the dumb-dumb, now.
Are you sure you want to call him back? You seem to dislike him.
The smile widened as Jet stepped back from the awkward embrace and dropped his hands down to his side.
Of course I do, he is a friend after all.
“There’s not much to say about Gallows; he’s his own person. He’s a bit of an idiot but I have a feeling that he’s hiding something; he has shown me time and again that he has some semblance of intelligence.”
An arm reached out of the void, gripping air, seemingly confused. Jet blinked to this, it was most certainly an interesting way to come into being.
“His heart is as big as his libido and that’s saying a lot.”
Another hand attached to a torso appeared.
The young android smiled a bit as he said the next part.
“He’s also incredibly loyal; he’s had plenty of chances to bail on us and he hasn’t. I must admit, though, he scares me. If he ever got truly pissed at me, I’d run as fast as I could.”
His head poked out of the darkness, looking rather confused.
“What is this?” he mouthed, looking around, his head pivoting on an invisible neck.
“He’s always cheerful and that’s admirable; at times I wish I were more like him and less like myself.” Everything else formed around the head and arms, the creation of his teammates was complete.
Do you wish to create the rest of the world?
“Yes, this reality wouldn’t be complete without it. There’s only one thing to say about the world: originality.”
As he said these words, he watched as the void around him filled with life, sound, and light.
There is light, once again.
Indeed, one world had been revealed through the power of words and will. There were many other worlds out there, but Jet was quite pleased with the one he had created. There are many chapters to one’s life, many words that are spoken and wove into the fabric of time and space. So ends one story, a line of words severed to make way for another sentence. The story is not over yet, there are still many things to learn.
--+--The End of Chapter One: Awake--+--
“If silence is death then sound must surely be life”. - Larry Pearce from “Masters of Horror: Sounds Like…”
Chapter Two: Death
He could hear nothing; his eyesight was dimmed by the shade of death. There were many things he regretted and nothing he could do about it. Through the gurgle of blood came a sharp whisper from his punctured lung. Death was not mercifully forthcoming. He closed his eyes, he didn’t want to see the hail of bullets screaming toward his already downed body; he often times wondered why they didn’t stop at the killing blow; it seemed to be a recurring theme in most spaghetti western novels he had read.
They always seem to like shooting a corpse; I guess it’s like getting the last word in but with guns instead of words. Ah, fate, you’re a very cruel mistress.
He never understood the appeal of death; he understood the purpose, of course, but never why it seemed to be pursued in earnest. His thoughts seemed to be redundantly ironic, now; it seemed like every belief he held was being tested by bullets and blood.
It was his intention to laugh but instead all he got was a gurgled grunt; so much for laughing in the face of death. He turned his head to side and casually observed the contrast of blood and sterile, white, walls.
Oh Gallows, you fool, what’ve you gotten yourself into?
He tilted his head back towards the ceiling and managed to push out a whistling sigh.
I’ll tell you what I got myself into: death.
The young priest ironically prayed for death. Of all the things he had prayed for, this seemed to be the most passionate one.
For so long, I had prayed for beautiful women and a never ending supply of delicious ale but now I am praying to end it all.
He shut his eyes, a bitter smile crossing his face.
Why are you dying?
Gallows’ eyes slowly opened, his smile fading.
What is a little girl doing here?
“Why is it so dark?”
The question was punctuated by silence and then the answer became clear to him.
It is dark because I am dying and I am dying because I am foolish
Can’t you come back?
That’s not very likely.
I am glad that you can hear me.
I’m glad I can, too; it’s always nice to hear the voice of innocence before I die. Are you an angel?
What is an angel?
To this question, the Baskar’s lips twitched into a smile.
An angel… It’s…
For a moment, thought escaped him and all there was, was a red bolt of agony.
An angel is a being from a higher plane.
The silence seemed to stretch across the ages when in reality it was a few seconds.
Oh, I see. Well, I am no angel, I’m sad to say.
What are you, then?
I am your life, I am your actions, I know all that you are and what you are to become.
Again, darkness tried to claim but there was something odd about this girl and what she had said truly intrigued him.
You say that you’re every aspect of me from a third person point of view, that’s confusing to say the least.
I am not expecting you to understand, only to listen.
I’m all ears.
The pain will go away.
Miraculously, the pain became just a dull thud and Gallows’ mind wandered towards her voice.
When you wander without a purpose you are more likely to get lost. You have wandered for years and yet you have not found your purpose. Why is that?
I imagine it’s because I forgot the reason I started to wander in the first place.
Your life is a moot point, then. Perhaps death is the best thing for you.
Gallows’ heart skipped a beat. Had he truly no purpose?
You give up too easily, you are weak.
Now his heart clenched in anger and his thoughts leaned toward the oblivion of dark thoughts.
I am not weak.
There was a sharp laugh from the mysterious entity and then:
If you are not weak, then why do you insist on dying?
It’s not as if I want to die, you know? Last time I checked, death wasn’t something you could necessarily change at will…
That is a lie.
Gallows was at a lost for words; somewhere, deep down, he knew she was speaking the truth.
Okay, since you know so much, tell me what I’m supposed to do.
Remember the promise you made to yourself so long ago. What inspired you to become a Drifter?
Freedom, it was freedom.
Freedom came at a price, didn’t it?
Yes it did.
Was it worth it?
There was silence, he had nothing to say.
Do you even remember your own name?
Of course he remembered his own name! If his calculations were correct, the question she asked added up to stupid.
It is not a stupid question. Do you remember your name?
“You are stupid!” cackled his grandmother’s voice from beyond the abyss. The young “idiot” flinched to this, completely floored.
My name is stupid.
If you are stupid then bade it so; turn your mind to the outside world and bask in its foolish platitudes and pointless wars. Do you still wish to be an idiot?
Who do you want to be?
He pondered this, deeply. What was he truly after? What was his purpose? As clichéd as his train of thought was, it was still a legitimate one.
I wish to be…
Tell me; tell me what you want to be.
I want to be myself.
Then become it. Speak to yourself, work yourself out of the “who you are supposed to be” and into who you truly are.
I am the fool that has summoned a world of fools. I made them into fools because that is all I know. Being a fool, though, is not stupidity; it is the inability to accept things for what they are, to question your surroundings and to wonder about what is beyond yourself. I am a fool.
Speak your name then, fool.
“I am Gallows the fool.” He whispered, gaping in awe as the world began to seep through the abyss and the sound returned in a deafening roar.
You will not die here, child. I have returned you to the point in time before you chose to die. Be not the fool everyone wishes you to be, be the fool that perpetually wonders about what is around, within, and before him. Goodbye, fool, we will meet again.
The last sentence morphed into a grown woman’s voice and then was gone. He slowly opened his eyes and shielded him from the invading sun; he was back in his room, a smile crossing his face: he was no longer a wanderer with no purpose, he was a fool and he rather liked it that way.
--+-- The End of Chapter Two: Death --+--
“Silence of the sound and the colors of the night. The sound from the thoughts and the thought with no light.”- “Rain One”-Cirque du Soleil
Chapter Three: Thought
I have missed you terribly, my dear. Not a second goes by that I do not long for your touch. I miss the days when things were not complicated, when Kaitlyn could be a child and not an adult due to her father’s stupidity. I am beginning to wonder if I made the right choice. Perhaps I shouldn’t stay with them; to be honest, they are not as important as you. If it were possible, I’d make it so none of this ever happened. As I look up at the sky, I see you. I see you and my darling, Kaitlyn. Has she been eating her broccoli or do you still have to coerce her into doing so? Tell her daddy loves her and that he will see her soon. I will see you soon, my love, please believe that. I wish that this would all go away, that it would blow over so I can see your beautiful face and feel your tender touch. I want to hug my daughter and tell her face to face that she is wonderful, that she is the light of my life, and that I will always love her. It always hurts, it hurts when I lie in bed and you are not beside me.
I will be there soon, my dear, and when we meet again, I will be a better man. I will never leave you again, honey, I will not leave you until death claims me and even then I may still love you. Please take care of yourself and Kaitlyn, I await the day when we can embrace without the fear of being harmed. I truly am sorry, my dear. I’m sorry that I have no control over destiny.
P.S. Tell Kaitlyn to eat her vegetables or else they’ll get lonely.
He read over the letter and grimaced; his words truly did seem empty and meaningless on paper. Meaningless or not, there they were, staring at him like some sort of eyeless child in the midst of a nightmare. He read it over once more; poring over each word, each sentence, trying to figure out what to do next.
I could leave under the veil of night; I doubt anyone would notice until it was too late.
After a moment of contention, he shook his head; that simply would not work.
If I were to leave the group, chances are I’d eventually be found and there would be much more at stake; no, I simply cannot do that.
“There must be a better answer!” sighed the sniper, carefully folding the letter and gingerly sliding it into an envelope he had sat aside near the ink well.
Yes, that will have to do.
You know, giving up just makes you a tool.
Clive blinked to this and looked around.
“Who’s there?” he whispered, inching toward his sniper rifle.
That will do you no good: you cannot shoot that which is beyond this world.
That voice sounds so familiar…
I can take on many voices; sometimes my voice is silent.
“How can a voice be silent?” snorted the scholar, somehow amused by the voice’s folly.
My question may very well be valid but…
Silence is sound waiting to be born. Once you perceive sound as something tangible then what I say is not so farfetched.
The father thought deeply on this, turning his mind towards the voice’s words.
Sounds are like colors, they are on different wavelengths. That means…
“So you’re saying that silence is on the lowest wavelength of perception?”
You catch on quick, good job.
“So that is why your voice has no distinguishable quality?”
“Then why did your voice seem so familiar.
As I said, I can take on many voices. The voice I used sounds so familiar because it is the voice you hear often in the midst of battle and the midst of passion: the voice of reason.
Clive looked back down at the still opened envelope and then out the window; the blackened sky was streaked with the blues of twilight.
“It is already morning?”
No, it is not morning, look again.
Clive squinted through his glasses and started: the ground started to crumble to meet the sky!
“This cannot be!” frowned the wise sniper, taking off his glasses, rubbing them briskly with his night shirt, and then putting them back on. However, cleaning his glasses had no effect and the earth continued to float towards the heavens.
“This is not good! Serious repercussions can-!”
A sudden jolt beneath him silenced him but good.
It is beginning.
“Would you mind being a bit more specific, please?” sneered Clive, grabbing his trench coat as he slid toward the door he had so gracefully opened seconds before.
You must stop the end; your family depends on it.
“How can I stop the end? I am but one man!”
How can silence be sound? You must think, Clive; I cannot solve everything for you.
He continued his trek through the hotel, breathing hard as he reached the front door.
Is a beginning yet to be born…
He threw open the door which led to the outside and looked up at the sky, gasping in fear; the heavens were now a screeching vortex of ebony, crimson, and grey.
Clive, you must tell the end where to go; if you do not, the end will surely stop here and life as you know it will cease to be!
“I…I cannot tell the end where to go, I am not a guardian!”
Stop being foolish! You can do whatever you want, why limit yourself to just words? Tell the end where to go, bade the end away from all which you hold dear.
The swirling vortex ripped chunks of earth from its rightful place.
Tell it now, you fool!
Why does it sound so desperate?
“I think you should go…” wheezed the bespectacled guard, pointing his finger towards the sky.
The chunks of earth the vortex had reaped from its seat returned it not so gently to whence it came. Inwardly Clive smiled: it was a start.
“I said go!” screamed Clive, pointing towards his head. The vortex ceased altogether and the sky became calm again.
This is not the end.
This was unfortunately the case. The vortex was now screeching in his head, trying its hardest to rend the threads of sanity from its home and fling it to the unknown skies of oblivion. Clive turned his attention inward, now, and started when he discovered that he was surrounded by the vortex, watching as his past transgressions screamed by him in maddening circles.
You will go, too.
He closed his eyes, blocking the piercing screams of the past.
“I said you will go.”
As if on cue, the screaming stopped. Smiling almost smugly, Clive opened his eyes and promptly yelped; before him hanged his wife and daughter, their mouths frozen in a scream of eternal agony.
He dropped to his knees, a tear running down his face.
The clichéd saying of “every end is but a beginning” is true, isn’t it?
Clive responded by drooping his head and burrowing his brow into his slightly cupped hands.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this…
Who said this was how it ended? Only you can write the ending to this, Clive. What you see before you is but one ending, the worst ending possible. Open your heart to another ending, Clive, you know it’s there.
My wife’s smile…
The grisly visage of his wife and daughter faded and were replaced by their smiling faces and glimmering eyes.
“I believe in you, daddy!” laughed Kaitlyn, holding her arms out to her mourning father. Clive looked up and smiled at his family, slowly rising to his feet.
“Honey, supper is ready.” Said Catherine, quietly, offering her hand to her husband. Clive accepted her hand and pulled her into a hug.
“I have missed you terribly, Catherine.”
Kaitlyn tugged on his trench coat.
“Did you miss me too, daddy?”
Clive let go of his wife and scooped up his daughter and held her close.
“Of course I did, Kaitlyn, of course I did.”
This is the ending I wanted.
And so this is the ending you shall have. Just say it, Clive, say that this is the ending you desire.
“This is the ending I desire.”
And in a flash of light his ending was a reality, after all, an ending is a beginning not yet realized.
--+-- The End of Chapter Three: Thoughts --+--
“It was always thee and never me.”
Chapter Four: Them
She was a selfish person, there was absolutely no way around this.
I lead my teammates into a hopeless situation; they will never have a normal life.
She turned onto her side and looked at the warped wooden wall.
Justice is such an empty word…
The female Drifter blinked back tears.
Why did I start to seek it, again? Oh, yes, because I thought that someway, somehow, seeking “justice” would lead me to my father. Ah, but just look at me now! I’m sleeping in a bed that smells as if it hasn’t been slept in for the last decade and I’m surrounded by all of these mistakes.
She closed her eyes, trying to shut out the truths that slept beyond the walls of her room.
If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be feeling like this. I want to blame myself but it’s so much easier to blame them. They could’ve stopped me…
Her lips pulled up into a sneer: an unfamiliar facial expression that both terrified her and liberated her.
Of course it’s easy to blame them; it’s always easier to blame those that don’t deserve it.
Oh yes, so very selfish.
“I wish I could rid myself of them.”
Be careful of what you wish for.
Virginia bolted upright and looked around.
Perhaps I am, perhaps I am not.
The leader’s sneer tightened and she flopped back onto her back.
“If you’re not my father then go away; I really wish to be alone right now…”
I will not leave you alone; I have something to tell you…
“Then hurry up, I don’t have all night.”
Oh, but you do!
Virginia fell silent; she was starting to get aggravated by this voice’s vague demeanor.
You are correct for blaming them. They followed too blindly; they acted against their better judgment to satisfy you. They are weak minded, they should be dealt with posthaste.
The brunette’s sneer melted into a frown.
“Are you mocking me?” she whispered coldly into the now frigid air.
Why is it so cold?
I am not mocking you; I am just speaking the truth. It’s always about them, never about you. They’re always whispering, always whining about how tough it is to be outlaws. They could’ve left, they could’ve gone on with their lives, they could’ve not listened to you. They stayed with you, though. Do you know why that is?
Again, Virginia was at a loss for words.
They stayed because that was all they could do. Trust me, had they the opportunity to leave without consequence, they would. I think you should send them on their way. There are ways to send them away without consequence.
“And how would that be, oh voice that is not my father’s?”
Kill them; send them back to the point in time before they met you. Killing is not murder unless it is for a malicious end. You must believe me when I say that they will be safe. They will die in this reality, yes, but in the other reality, the past; they will reform with the knowledge of the present.
Once again Virginia bolted from her prone position.
“I will not kill me teammates!” she spat loudly, her voice just below a shout.
Be silent, there is no need to yell. As I said, “murder” and “renewal” are two totally different things. They will be back, albeit in a different form. You will no longer be here; you will be with your parents back at Boot Hill…
The female Drifter, unable to cohere words into sentences, kicked her legs over the side of the bed and stood up, shakily.
“I refuse to kill them…” she whispered, her voice now dancing before her in a wispy cloud.
“Why is it so cold?”
This is the beginning of death, dear.
The shaken young lady walked toward the window, gazing out at the moon that weaved in and out of the lace like clouds.
“You say that they would be in another form. What did you mean by that?”
Perhaps “another form” was a bit too vague; I meant that they would be the same people but in different circumstances. As I said, they will revert back to the people they were before they met you.
“And what did you mean by the whole “you’ll be back with you parents.” bit?”
When you die, you will revert back to a reality where both of your parents are alive. It’s a pretty simple concept, really.
“So, you’re proposing that I commit a triple homicide followed by a lovely suicide? Do you have any idea how that would look?”
You would be dead, why would it matter?
She slowly shook her head, trying to sort through the haze that had snuck into her brain.
Who is there?
So will you kill them?
She nodded her head yes and walked toward the door, ignoring the fact that all she was wearing was a flimsy gown.
“Wake up, sweetie, you’re scaring me.”
She reached toward the doorknob and smiled: soon her worries would be over, everything would be set right. The haze got thicker and the smile a bit more docile. As almost an afterthought, she reached down and grabbed the guns that sat on the night table next to the door.
They would do quite nicely.
They will soon be saved.
She opened the door, the click of the lock echoing off in the distance.
It’s so cold but that’s alright.
The young woman walked down the corridors and stopped outside Jet’s door.
I’m knocking at your door, dear, are you going to let me in? Knock, knock, who’s there?
“Virginia, please open your eyes.”
“I’m coming in!” giggled Virginia, leaning back and pulling her knee toward her chest.
Knock, knock, baby, knock, knock.
She slammed her foot down and out, smashing the door open and in toward a very startled Jet.
“What the hell are you doing, you damn psycho?!”
Virginia smiled and aimed her guns at his head.
“I’m saving you, dear; I’m saving you from me.” And with that, she spun the barrel and slammed a round through his head, painting the walls a lovely shade of scarlet. His back slid down the wall and against the headboard, his eyes a pale reflection of the terror he had felt just moments before.
You’ll be knocking on the past’s door before long, Jet. The question is, will the past open the door for you?
“Virginia, you must open your eyes! It has been several weeks, now.”
She walked down the hall; her guns still smoking, her smile still haunted.
“Oh, Clive, I’m so sorry…” whispered the sleep deprived woman, looking at the door in pity.
“Of all the people I must set free, you’re the hardest.” She closed her eyes and then raised her hand to knock.
I am so sorry.
She rapped her hand hard against the wooden door. There was silence and then a muffled “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Virginia, please open the door, it’s an emergency.”
Why didn’t anybody hear the shots?
There was a flurry of movement followed by a loud bang. Virginia’s eyes flew open and she jumped.
“Damn it!” she heard Clive say on the other side of the portal.
They didn’t hear the shots because they weren’t meant to.
That sounds reasonable.
Virginia raised her guns and waited for Clive to open the door.
I am so sorry.
“Come on, Virginia, you’re the leader; stop being so selfish!”
Selfish, selfish, who is selfish?
Clive opened the door and was greeted by a hail of gunfire. The top of his head shattered in a ruby shower and he fell straight backwards, his lips letting out one final whimper of surprise before hitting the ground with a dull thud.
He is so silent.
The air smelt of death and her heart felt as if were made of molten lead.
Oh Gallows, my dear, you’re next; your brother will see you again, I promise. I am so sorry, Gallows, I am so, so, sorry.
She walked a few more steps toward the next door, her guns growing heavier and heavier as she neared her fated teammate’s door.
Wake up, Gallows.
She slowly opened the door and smiled: he was so very predictable.
You kept the door unlocked because you wanted everyone to know that you were there to listen.
Gallows, totally oblivious to the fact that he was about to die, mumbled in his sleep about how the economic system should be replaced with a bartering system, something about how it would benefit both parties whilst keeping supply and demand in balance.
So you’re smarter than you look. Oh well, that won’t matter, soon.
She raised the guns, once again, and aligned the sights on Gallows’ shaggy head.
She pulled the trigger back, slowly.
She heard the click indicating that there was no turning back.
And let it out.
The sound of her bullets cleaving through flesh and bone brought her back from her reveille
It’s time to end it, now.
She put the gun to her head, the smile on her face now fading.
I killed them all.
She slowly pulled the trigger back and closed her eyes; the colors were too much for her, now.
They are so bright and beautiful. I want to forget what I am about to leave behind.
It’ll be okay, go on.
“Virginia, please don’t leave us.”
“Life will go on.” whispered the female Drifter, a tear running down her pale face.
“Virginia, I promise I’ll do anything, just wake up!”
I will not see you again. I love you all, never forget that.
“I’m sorry for whatever I did! Please, stay with me! Don’t leave me!”
The trigger was clicked to the point of no return.
The explosion kicked her head back and she fell against the wall, a dull pain issuing from her exposed, working, jawbone.
It hurts… it hurts… it hurts.
With one fogged eye she looked down at the ground. The bleeding tendons pulled into a grotesque smile and then went lax; she would soon be with her parents.
And the band played on.
Clive knelt down beside his dead leader, weighing her eyelids down with a wave of his hand.
“I am so sorry, Virginia, I did the best I could.” He whispered, hanging his head in despair. Gallows clasped the elder sniper’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
“I know you did.”
Jet knelt down next to Clive and leaned his head on the bed level to Virginia’s chest.
Her chest didn’t comply.
There was, once again, no response.
Gallows let go of Clive’s shoulder and put his hand on Jet’s shoulder.
“She’s gone, Jet.” He mumbled quietly, his voice filled with sadness. Jet’s lips started to quiver and tears started to well up in his eyes.
Gallows squeezed his shoulder and then sat beside him.
“Jet, she’s gone; there’s nothing more we can do.”
The android looked at him, his crushed expression flooring the young priest.
Gallows put an arm around Jet.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered, leaning against Jet and looking at his fallen leader.
“Good night, dear leader, I hope that you find the peace that you were always searching for.”
And with that, he wept silently with the rest of his teammates, wanting so much to reverse the course of time.
Fate was cruel, reality was crueler.
--+-- The End of Chapter Four: Them --+--
“Four paths will cross but only one will remain.”- Author Unknown
Final Chapter: Collision
Thusly, their worlds were created as they saw fit. It would be foolish for the story to end here, though; there is still much to know. The worlds created by their words ran concurrently and yet were separated by their consciousness. However, these streams of thought were not parallel, nay; they were forever weaving towards one another, always a hair’s breadth from disaster.
Which reality will win when those worlds collide?
The strands of fate inched together a bit more, the colors of reality merging with what was.
Who will it be, indeed?
It was then their worlds started to collide.
Who will be the victor?
The question echoed through the void of time’s beginning and the darkness smiled.
The time has come for things to come undone.
“Life ain’t fair; don’t you know that, baby? Life ain’t fair ‘cause there’s always a “maybe”.” – “Let the World Die” – Anonymous
He leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling, questioning everything he had experienced. On one hand, it could’ve been a very strange dream; after all he had been accused of daydreaming. However, that tiny whisper in his mind reminded him of the fact that he had just created a new world. As if that weren’t strange enough, he kept seeing his leader disappear from one place and appear in another.
That’s impossible, isn’t it? Maybe it’s just my imagination.
He shook his head, it wasn’t impossible.
It’s just improbable, but…
He watched as Gallows ambled around the kitchen, phasing through tables and chairs as if they were made of some sort of intangible liquid.
Something’s not quite right here.
He heard breathing behind him and whirled around to see a very confused Baskar looking down at him with concern.
“Uh, did I interrupt something?”
No, not really, just me losing my mind, thanks.
“But you were just…”
He looked back toward the room he had seen the young priest in, found it empty, and then looked back at his teammate in astonishment.
“You were just there.” stuttered Jet, blinking up at his comrade-in-arms.
“Yeah, sure I was.” Responded Gallows, looking down at the android as it he was made of some sort of otherworldly slime.
“Listen! I saw what I saw, okay? I saw you…” he looked back over his shoulder and then looked back at the befuddled priest. He tightened his hand into a fist and jerked his thumb over his shoulder, toward the room behind him.
“You were there, Gallows; don’t tell me that you weren’t!”
“Um, sure I was, only not really. Listen, Jet…”
Gallows reached over and put a hand on Jet’s shoulder.
It feels real…
“Perhaps you’re tired. Why not lay down and…”
“Listen, you idiot, I created you, don’t tell me what I am!”
Gallows said nothing but gave Jet another strange look.
“First of all, I’m not an idiot, second of all I…”
A loud bang behind Jet jerked their attention from the argument and they both paled.
Behind Jet, near the bar, stood another Gallows, seemingly oblivious to the heated argument that had taken place behind him.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Whispered Gallows, gaping in disbelief at what he saw. Jet whirled around, saw the other Gallows, and whirled around once again to face his befuddled teammate.
“See, see, I told you I saw another you!”
“But what was the banging noise we just heard?” asked Gallows, his voice returning, albeit quietly. Jet turned back around, his face twitching between confusion and annoyance.
“I’ll tell you what it was.” chuckled a genderless voice from behind them.
“It was the sound of one reality seeping into another one. Soon, this Gallows and that Gallows will meet each other and the fabric of happenstance will unravel and weaken the tapestry of fate.”
They whirled around and found themselves staring at a faceless, hooded, figure.
“Oh give me a break, this is so cliché; a hooded figure that is death and…”
“I am not death.”
“Then who the hell are you?”
“I am Circumstance.” The hooded figure replied, its voice starting to crack with annoyance.
Ah, so there it was.
“So, you’re Circumstance, eh? Not a very creative name, I must say.” Gallows shrugged, looking the creature in its nonexistent eyes.
“Listen, I’m not here to… Ugh, forget it. Look, I’m here to convey a warning, not to discuss my lackluster name.”
“Then shoot, man, I don’t have all day.” frowned the young android, glaring at the hooded figure.
Jet figured that, had the shade a face, it would’ve been twisted into a “fuck you very much, buddy” expression.
“Okay, here it goes; your world is about to collide with the worlds of your other three teammates. The only way you can prevent this is to make known the fact that your world is better than their’s. It’s that simple, really.”
Jet, once again, blinked in surprise.
“Now why would my teammates do that, pray tell?”
“They’re not doing it on purpose; they’re doing it because they have to do it. You will have to do it, as well.”
“You’re dancing around my question and I find that slightly annoying.” snapped Jet, giving the hooded figure a “fuck you” expression of his own.
“How can I make it any simpler, you fool? Listen, I’ll oversimplify this for you since, apparently, you don’t get it. You’re a god, simply put, and those not of this world are threatening your existence as well as your creation. I imagine that would be somewhat of an inconvenience to your godhood, don’t you think?”
Jet thought deeply on this and then: “Okay, I get what you’re saying. What do you need me to do?”
“Prove to this world and the others that your world deserves to exist more so than theirs. It’s that simple, really.”
Jet’s face brightened when he realized his true purpose on this world. The two Gallows that stood before him and behind him faded out.
“It’s time to prove to everyone that my world is the true world.”
Existence, once again, blinked into darkness.
“Every rose has its thorn, just like every night has its dawn.
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song.
Every rose has its thorn” – Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
She lay on her back and stared at the studded, white, ceiling. She had killed all of her teammates so that they would return to the point in their lives before they met her. It sounded good in theory but in retrospect she regretted it.
Am I cold-blooded murder opposed to a savior?
She shook her head and looked toward the window and started at the swaying tree.
If that were the case, I wouldn’t be laying here with my mother and father talking downstairs.
That fact gave her little solace, however.
I want so much to see them again, if only for a moment.
“That would be a bad idea.” cackled a man’s voice from her left.
She snapped her head towards the voice and started when she saw a shadow moving to and fro within the confines of her mirror.
“Do you really want to lose the world you toiled over for so long? Don’t you think your sacrifice would be in vain?”
It… It’s that voice!
“It’s you again.” Spat Virginia, rising from her bed and settling her feet on the ground with a light thump.
“You don’t sound too enthused.” sulked the shadow, pulling itself from the mirror and gliding toward her bedside. Virginia stood up and glared at the shadow.
“Of course I’m not enthused, you made me kill my teammates!”
The darkened form’s blank face started to indent itself into a hurt expression.
“You remember that?”
Virginia gave the form a nasty look and clenched her fists at her side. This son of a bitch had a lot of nerve.
“How could I forget? It’s hard to simply forget systematically killing one’s teammates, you know?”
There was an uncomfortable silence and then the form coughed.
“Your memory should’ve been erased when you made the transition between this reality and the one you left behind.”
Sometimes I wish I could bury the memories I have within me and make new memories with the things that lie before me. This is so ironic.
“Ironic or not, that is the way of things. Granted, I’m surprised that you’re able to remember such an event, but I guess that the link you have with your other self is strong. If you decide to bring them back, then you’ll just relive the mistakes you made and lose everything you hold dear right now. Are you teammates really worth that kind of sacrifice?”
Are they indeed? As much as I cared for them, the fact that my mother and father are still alive is enough to make me forget that I cared in the first place. However, it’s a bit unfair for me to live without the memories I have of them, for better or worse. Why can’t I have both?
“You can’t have both, you know; at least not in this reality. However, there is a way to change reality once again. The downside, though, is that, not only would you have to compete with their feelings, you’d also have to compete with their worlds. As you know, creating one’s world is not all that hard and don’t think for a moment that your teammates weren’t given that liberty. Their world versus yours, are you willing to take that chance?”
There was silence followed by the Ex-Drifter’s irritated huff.
“You sure are longwinded, aren’t you?
The figure’s face creased into an annoyed sneer.
“Listen, I’m just trying to help you; stop getting so smart with me.”
“I will, but only after you tell me who you are. Quid pro quo, you understand.”
The shade’s chest rose and fell, almost as if it were trying to compose itself.
“My name is Sarosiugnas, but you may call me Saros. I am a dimension personified. Now, would you mind giving me respect and the time of day? Also, would you mind sitting down? It makes me terribly nervous when someone is literally breathing down my neck.”
Virginia concurred and looked up at the self-proclaimed personification of a dimension.
“I’m all ears.”
“As I’ve already said, changing reality once more has a price but it may very well be worth your while. When you change reality, you change the outcomes as well, in so saying, there’s a possibility that you can have both. However, like I said, you’ll have to compete with your friend’s worlds if you’re to bring your desires into fruition.”
“So, you’re saying that if I can overcome my friend’s worlds, I will able to have them and my parents?”
The darkened figure nodded and looked down at her with an unreadable expression.
“Tell me what I need to do.”
So began the struggle to survive and thrive.
“I don’t want to miss one smile. I don’t want to miss one kiss; I just want to be with you, right here with you, just like this. I just want to hold you close, feel your heart so close to mine, and just stay here in this moment for all the rest of time.”- Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.”
He had faced the oblivion, controlled the end of the world, and created for himself a new reality; life was good to say the least. Even so, he had often pondered what became of his teammates. Sure, they were the cause of his dissonance but that didn’t keep him from caring. During the rainstorms, he’d often recall how Virginia fought so hard to bring the world back into synch with nature and beauty and yet she was also the person that brought out the ugly side of justice. Then there was Jet, an android that had just started to grow. He wanted so bad to watch Jet grow into a true person.
But that is no longer possible and I guess that is okay.
Clive looked down at Kaitlyn’s sleeping form and smiled. Perhaps it was best not to focus on the things he couldn’t change. He looked back up and looked out the window, watching as the trees weaved in and out of the sun’s light.
“Hm, Gallows would have loved a day like this.” whispered the father, the smile pulling down into a frown.
Yes, Gallows, the team’s cheerleader. He was a good guy.
Was, was, was; all that kept rolling through his mind was “was”.
He was a good guy, she was a good person, he was still growing. Why can’t I get “was” out of my head?
It may be because you still need them.
Clive closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath; he knew this voice all too well.
What are you doing here, again? I don’t seem to recall needing you, anymore.
You will always need me. I am the one that helped you create this world, remember?
Once again the truth bit into him with stinging teeth.
What do you want?
I want to make you a deal.
What kind of “deal”? Clive simpered to the voice inside of his head.
A deal that is too good to pass up.
I’ll be the judge of that. Why is this wonderful deal you speak of? The sniper was starting to get annoyed.
What would you say if I were to tell you that you could bring your teammates back into your world with their good attributes retained whilst their negative aspects remained back in their dimension?
I would probably say that it sounds interesting but they wouldn’t be the same without the quirks.
The voice sighed and the fluttering feeling of smugness overcame the scholar.
Okay, I’m sure that can be arranged.
So, since you’re so sure of yourself, tell me the stipulations of this deal.
It’s simple, really, call forth the void once again, step into it, and close it again. Once inside the void, bade fate to do your bidding. However, be aware that fate holds your friend’s lives as well and if you want to change your world you must be willing to change theirs as well. I wouldn’t expect them to go quietly, though; I’m sure they have their own worlds to fight for.
But what would they have against me? I didn’t start the fight with the Ark of Destiny.
He pondered, looking down at Kaitlyn, seriously considering the shade’s proposal.
The fact that you went along with the plan, that you were too weak to say “No, this is a bad idea; logic suggests that we run for it and take care of those that get in our way.” You followed a foolish concept and fell into a foolish trap. That’s the long and short of it.
Ah, but you’re putting words in my mouth. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that justice is a foolish concept; now, granted, Virginia’s concept was naïve to say the least but that doesn’t lessen its merit.
But if you had it all to do over again, would you have chosen that path? Would you have followed a foolish girl who selfishly sought not justice, but her own selfish whims?
Clive had nothing to say to this so he remained silent.
Or would you rather have followed a girl that selflessly fought for justice for all the right reasons?
So you’re basically giving me a chance to rewrite not only history but a human being?
So I can have peace and my teammates?
Can you answer with more than one word?
… No one likes a smart ass.
The sniper smiled again.
“I guess I should get started, then.” He looked down at Kaitlyn, once more; she would know her friends again, soon.
Clive lightly shook his daughter awake and she looked up at her father sleepily.
“Ah, daddy, why’d you wake me up?” she yawned, stretching a bit and then sitting up, leaving the cradle of her father’s arms.
“Daddy’s going to go somewhere for a bit but I promise that I won’t be gone long.” Kaitlyn slid her legs off her father’s lap and pounced to her feet, cheerfully.
“Well, as long as you promise that you’ll come back, I’ll be waiting for you.”
The bespectacled creator continued to smile as he rose to his feet.
“Then I will not disappoint you.”
Kaitlyn smiled to this.
“Are you going to tell mommy?
Clive nodded and ambled toward the front porch where he knew Catherine was.
Catherine was looking out towards the center of town when Clive walked out the door.
“You’re going off somewhere again, aren’t you?” she asked, her back still to him.
Clive was at a loss for words for a moment and then.
“Yes, dear, but I promise I will not be gone for long. Incidentally, how did you know I was about to leave?”
Catherine whirled around and smiled.
“The way you breathe.” She said simply.
“The way I breathe?”
“Yes, when you’re about to go, you start to breathe a bit quicker.”
Clive pulled her into a sudden hug and whispered that he loved her.
Catherine returned the hug.
“I love you, too.”
The green haired sniper pulled away and gave a quick peck on the lips.
“There’s more where that came from.”
And with that he ambled off the porch and towards his new reality.
What have I become, my sweetest friend? Everyone I know goes away, in the end; and you can have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down, I will make you hurt.”
Memory was a paradox, a constant stream of what was and what was to be; it was there and yet it wasn’t, it was sticky yet elusive, it was consciousness yet it hid. He hated it. He constantly tried to remember their faces, their names, and yet all he got was brief shadows that snuck between his grasping mental fingers. He laid in his bed, looking up at the earthen ceiling, the back of his hand pressed against his forehead in an attempt to block out the sun.
“Why can’t I remember?” he whispered, the hand at his side twitching with irritation.
He bolted upright, his hand flopping lifelessly at his side.
The young priest tried to speak and yet all he managed was a startled whisper.
I remember, now.
His hair matted to the floor, sticky with his own blood.
The Ark of Destiny…
Bullets howling towards him like a pack of unleashed demons.
They were after me for some reason.
He felt the bullets bite into his flesh with dull, yet painful, thumps.
Why were they screaming?
They looked down at him with gleeful eyes, they were smiling.
They liked it.
His vision was fading, now, and all he heard was waves of blood pounding in his head, punctuated by whispers.
They were nice.
“No they were not.” He finally managed to say.
He got up and walked towards the window and looked at the sun, all of the sudden enjoying its warmth.
“I was dead.”
The sun continued to shine and all seemed right and yet.
“Something is missing.”
Reality seemed to coat another world, a world that he should’ve remembered and yet didn’t. He walked back to his bed and sat down, closing his eyes in an attempt to think clearly.
I should be grateful that I’m alive and yet all I can think of is my death. Am I truly worthy of this life? Should I try to rip the world I know apart in an attempt to find the world I should know about?
“Oh brother, someone is here to see you.” Shane’s voice floated from downstairs. Gallows opened his eyes, rose to his feet and scuttled towards the stairs, his mind drifting back and forth between this reality and the one he was seeking. When Gallows arrived downstairs he noticed a short female chatting on the couch with his brother. .
“Oh, Gallows, it’s good to see you here.” She smiled, looking up and giving him a small wave. Gallows tilted his head and gave her a sheepish wave of his own.
“Oh come on, brother, surely you have something more interesting to say.” smiled his younger brother, rising to his feet and walking over towards his older sibling. The young lady also rose and held out her hand.
The smell of roses…
“I’m Virginia, nice to meet you. I’m so glad you’re here; I was worried that you wouldn’t be on my way here. ”
I am here? Of course I’m here! Where else would I be?
“Gallows, your guest came all the way from Boot Hill to see you, you should be a bit more polite.” growled his grandma, rapping him smartly on the behind with her cane. Gallows jumped forward and gave his grandmother a weary look; he hated it when she did that.
“So, what brings you here, Virginia?” The young Baskar asked, his voice sounding far away.
“I heard that you’re good with plants and was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to raise some carrots.”
She always smiled.
He looked down to find that she was indeed smiling, her hand still extended. Gallows’ face brightened and he took her hand and gave it a good shake.
“I’d be glad to help! Sorry for being so distant, I…”
He frowned and didn’t continue his sentence. The young woman frowned and let go of his hand.
“Did I come at a bad time?”
Gallows snapped out of his daze and shook his head.
She was always so worried…Virginia, I remember you and yet I forget what your purpose is.
“Oh, no, of course not; I’m just sort of off in another world, it would seem!” he smiled, closing his eyes so that she could not see the uneasiness.
I remember her purpose.
Gallows’ eyes flew open and he looked around.
“Um, Gallows is there something wrong?” asked the young lady, looking at him with concern.
Gallows looked down at her, his eyes a cesspool of confusion.
“N-no, of course there’s not! What did you want to know about carrots?” he asked, his eyes returning to normal.
“I was just wondering what kind of soil would be best to grow them in.”
She was your leader before you chose death. She was the reason you died.
“Um, the best soil to use would be a mixture of black soil, manure, and a pinch of salt.”
She’s the key to the reality you have forgotten.
“So black soil, manure, and salt, I’ve got it! Is there any other tips you can give me?”
Take me to the truth?
“No, I can’t think of any at the moment. Uh, Virginia, can I talk to you outside?” he asked out of the blue. Virginia gave him an unreadable look but concurred with a nod.
She wanted justice. Ask her about justice.
Gallows nodded and opened the curtain for her. She thanked him and walked out.
“So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“What’s your take on justice?”
Virginia didn’t respond and hung her head.
“I’m sorry, was that something I shouldn’t have asked.”
The young brunette raised her head and smiled.
“Not at all, actually; you see, I’m seeking justice for my parents. I’m looking for them while I find my way in this world.
It all came back to him in a tidal wave of laughter, rage, and tears. He remembered everything and suddenly he wanted to escape from it all. He had found the truth and yet the reality he was living in was so much better.
I want to live.
Then don’t be afraid to step through the door you’ve opened.
His surroundings started to distort and then wrap around him, pulling him towards the center.
I am being pulled towards that door, aren’t I?
Yes you are. Are you ready to face the world you have forgotten?
Are you willing to create the world again?
Are you willing to fight her and her friends?
There was silence
It is too late, you will create the world and then you will fight for it, fool.
“I am a fool.”
There was flash of light and then there was the world he remembered in all of its gory, sad, glory.
This is the world you want? The world you wanted to remember?
Yes, yes it is.
Others will try to take it from you.
I will kill them all.
“Love is a battlefield.”
The Darkness stood with Its arms crossed, soon the war would start and entire worlds would die; it was the cycle of death and rebirth, creation and destruction, good and evil. It did not know who the victor would be and yet It looked forward to the colossal clash.
“Here they come.” It whispered, excitedly, watching as the first world materialized in the great cosmos of time and space.
The first world was a silver world caressed by a constantly moving sword.
“The Airgetlamh…” It said in awe, watching as it ceased its swirling and flew into the waiting hands of a silver haired youth that had materialized on his planet.
“I have created this world in everyone’s best interest and yet they still wish to oppose me?!” he snapped as the stars halted their sparkling and dropped into the void. The Darkness said nothing but chuckled within Its limitless gut.
The next world the Void saw was a world encased in thorns with bladed roses swinging in and out of its orbit.
“I have lost it all to gain it all. Those I have killed call out to be reborn. I will not make them wait any longer, I will win this and return them to where they need to be: with me!” boomed a voice from within the planet. Small tendrils with thorns seeped out of the atmosphere and swayed menacingly.
“The Lady of Thorns…” murmured the Darkness, causing a distortion as It scratched Its chin.
The stars that had escaped the void swirled around the planet’s crown, forming a halo.
From the darkness phased forth a world of metal and death. From within its depths issued a female’s insane laughter and a crying child. Blood dripped down a cannon that had ripped the metallic skin of the earth. From the depths of the bloodied cannon echoed:
“I want nothing more than to meet my friends again and to keep my family safe. All those that oppose me will die; there is no escape.”
The Abyss smiled and tilted Its head upwards towards the stream of time.
“The Father of the Destructive Womb…”
Space distorted and gravitated towards the planet of steel.
It listened for the next world intently, It knew it was on its way but time seemed to slow down, just as It was about to become impatient there was a series of thuds that echoed through the galaxy. The smiled had not disappeared from Its face but it had lessened but now it was as bright as ever. The darkness was ripped asunder and spewed forth a monstrosity with too many heads to count. The serpentine heads whipped to and fro, nipping at space with sharp teeth and snarling.
“I am dead; I am waiting to be reborn into the reality I belong in. Who took me out of my reality? Who took me out of my home? I will go back and all that oppose me will meet a terrifying end.” Deadpanned the voice as it rolled into a huge, hissing, world.
“The World of Many Faces.” It concluded with a laugh that shook the very fabric of the cosmos’ existence.
“Well, it appears that you all have gathered to fight. But, before you all begin, let me tell you why you all are here.”
The silver haired man shifted the sword on his shoulder and snarled.
“Spare me your philosophical drivel and theological mumbo jumbo; I know what I am here for and I will not let you get in my way!” he punctuated the sentence by bringing his sword down in an arc and sending a shockwave through the ripple of time.
“What do you hope to accomplish by swinging that sword of yours around? You cannot hit the darkness so you may as well stop trying.” It chuckled, displacing the shockwave that threatened to echo through the stream of time with a wave of a hand.
“I do not want to listen to you. I want to return home. Please do not stand in my way.” Spoke the Hydra Planet in a monotonic voice. The Great Expanse of Nothingness chuckled and waved a dismissive hand towards the planet, knocking it off its axis.
“Do not speak to me in that manner! You will give me the respect I deserve.”
There was no response from the planet but It could feel its rage pulse from every scale of its being.
I am enthralled.
“I am here to tell you that there is a reason you all are here before me. You see, there were so many worlds created by the four of you due to different circumstance that I have to eliminate all but one. I know it’s hard to fathom but you must believe me. I will not lie and say that I do not look forward to this fight but I will say that I will regret to see the worlds you worked so hard for die. I think that-“
“So you brought us here so that we could destroy each other’s world?! What kind of half-baked plan is that?” spat the planet of thorns whipping its thorny vines like a whip all around it.
“The world that wins will have all worlds combined into it but they will be the god of that world. That is what is at stake. I assure you that I will moderate this fight fairly and in the end none of you will die; you will live on in what ever reality you’re born into. It may not make sense now but I assure you that it will in the end.”
“Reality exists within us. I find this fight somewhat pointless but…” boomed the cannon’s voice. “If it means that I can see my daughter and wife I again, I will fight a thousand battles like this one and become the victor each time. Whether they fight fair is irrelevant, I want nothing more than to become a god so that all that live within the confines of the Macrocosm I create will work harmoniously.”
The Darkness closed its massive eyes and chuckled.
“I admire your spirit but unfortunately it is time to start fighting; too much time has been wasted with idle chitchat…”
“Hey, you started it.” Spat the silver haired man. The Darkness said nothing but shifted Its dark eyes towards the young man, angrily.
He’s got a lot of nerve.
“So, are you going to stare at me and glare or are you going to engage in a battle that will possibly make you god?”
There were no words; there was no need for them. The battle was about to begin and only one would remain. This was the way of the world, this was the way of fate, this was the way of life.
“So, who wants to be chopped in half first?” laughed the young man with silver hair, pointing his sword at each planet briefly.
The thorny planet whipped out one its tendrils and tried to relieve the silver headed boy of his sword. He swung his sword down in a biting arc and chopped the tendril in half, extracting a surprised yelp from the thorny planet.
“Does anyone else want to take a shot?” cackled Jet, digging his sword into the planet and glaring at the other three.
“I will kill you, now.” The cannon boomed, drawing the vast energy of time and space into its barrel.
“What will you do, old man, blow me up with a big bang? Please, I expected more of you, Clive.”
“You underestimate me! I have no intention to blow you up but…”
The cannon expelled the energy it had absorbed and a dark child flew from its depths, still curled into a fetal position. Jet blinked and backed up.
“What the hell is this?”
The child unfurled itself from its curl and expanded itself to the size of Jet’s planet.
“Why did you awaken me from my slumber, kid?” dead panned the child with fiery, red, eyes.
Jet backed off and brought the length of his sword down and towards his feet.
I’d best watch out for her, something isn’t right. It could be that she’s the size of my planet and has the eyes of a maniac. I may just be talking to myself, though.
“Heh, you really don’t scare me, you spawn.” He said, bringing the sword up and aiming it towards the darkened child.
She lifted her hand and held her palm out towards him.
Jet leaned back and quickly lowered his sword back into a defensive position.
She closed the hand that was aimed towards him into a fist and pulled the space around her into a wicked smile.
Jet tried his hardest to not back down but it was becoming more difficult every second.
The dark child yanked its fist down towards the ground and the heavens shook.
Jet looked around fearfully, he wasn’t expecting this.
From the darkness rose a woman the size of several planets, her brilliance was that of a thousand suns.
“With.” finished the child, curling back into a fetal position and floating towards the bright woman. The dark child fused into the brilliance and from that union bloomed an elderly lady, her eyes the color of a moonlit sea.
“Time gave me sight, taught me how to use it, and then took it all away. All I can do is hear a thousand voices and touch the impossible. Child, you are foolish. Do you really intend to take on time?” hissed the woman, her eyes now a tempest of lightening, blood, and knowledge.
The young android blinked at the woman and then laughed.
“I will take on time, space, and everything else that dares to stand against me!”
The woman shook her head and from the tempest of her eyes drew a spear of massive proportion.
“Behold the Gungnir, child, because it’ll be the last thing you see.”
Deadpanned Mother Time; its words intermingled with a child’s voice.
“This spear, like honed lightening, never misses its mark.” She spun slid her other hand below the other and spun it above her heard.
“Run, child, this is your last chance.”
Jet shook his head and closed his eyes.
“My children are depending on me, I can’t back down.”
He opened his eyes and narrowed them at the shifting woman of time.
“If you think for a moment that I am actually afraid of you, you have another thing comin’. You old hag, don’t you know that time must eventually die? In my world, you will no longer hold sway. You will die and with your death knell, my children will become eternal!”
He lifted the sword parallel to his ear and pointed the sword once again at the personification of time.
“Your children will suffer because of your megalomania! Don’t you know that time is essential for growth? Without time there is no order and with...”
Jet jabbed his sword towards the woman to silence her.
“Shut up, you stupid bitch. Now is the time to fight, not talk.”
The woman’s face darkened and she swung her spear towards Jet.
“Your words are as hollow as your head.”
She rushed forward and swung the point of her spear down towards the young android’s head; he jumped back and parried the blow.
“Heh… You never learn do yo--? Oh, shit!”
He dodged another blow that was lunged towards his heart and stumbled back.
“Almost got me there, didn’t you?” he smirked bouncing the sword between his hands and then finally gripping it with his right.
“No matter, now is the time to finish you.”
He rushed forward, dodged a thrust that was aimed at his arms and then blocked the blow that was aimed towards his knee.
She… She’s going for a critical blow each and every time. I can’t let my guard down for a moment.
“It's about time for you to die, you old hag!" He shouted, jumping into the air and swinging down towards the top of the old woman’s head. She looked up just in time to see the side of his sword arcing towards her unguarded head.
“N-no!” she wailed before she was cleaved in half. Jet pulled his sword from her bleeding corpse and shook his head.
“Even time must die.” He whispered, looking down at her fading body.
“You…” boomed the cannon, drawing in more energy.
Jet swung his attention once more to the giant barrel.
“Oh come on, you’ve got to be kidding me…”
The barrel whistled towards the unguarded android and floored him. Jet’s voice caught in his throat and he gargled out his scream.
I can’t breathe… I can’t…Please get off of me…
“Time overcomes all, time is the god of all things.” Clive’s voice roared from the cannon.
Jet looked towards the other planets, his eyes growing dim.
“Sh-shit. Stupid cannon, stupid fucking cannon, get off of me!” He whispered through his bloodied lips.
“Time marches on.” Added the voice gently, easing off of the downed boy. Jet looked up at the cannon and then up towards the dark heavens. From the darkness seeped colors, colors that his eyes had never seen, before, colors that he remembered from a distant past, a memory that he had forgotten so long ago.
“I was never a god; I just wanted to be remembered as one.”
The colors swirled around him and enveloped him.
Time marches on.
He closed his eyes and smiled; death wasn’t so bad after all.
Jet’s planet faded to black and then exploded, hurling shards of steel and flesh into the infinite void.
The cannon shifted towards the remaining planets and once again drew in energy.
“No, no, we’re not falling for that, again.” Snapped the planet enveloped in roses and thorns. The planet of hydras unfurled itself from its dormancy and roared, loudly.
“Time has died and yet you remain. You’re in my way. The world I knew will not leave me behind, again.” The multi-headed planet snarled, drawing in its breath.
Clive knew what was coming next and he also knew he had no way of stopping it; his barrel was still hot and hydras had a tendency to blow icy water in order to defend itself.
“It is the end of you!”
The hydras simultaneously breathed out a sheet of ice and caused the barrel of the cannon to turn a light grey streaked with blue.
“Uh-uh, this is not going to be your victory!” snapped Virginia’s planet as she lashed out her thorns and cut the cannon asunder.
Gallows’ planet laughed and redirected his onslaught towards the planet itself. Bolts of ice slammed into its surface and dented it. The craters created by the assault quickly filled with water and the planet started to sink towards the bottom of existence.
“No, I will not allow this! I’ve overcome the void of my mind, I have averted the end; I will not allow you to win this!”
Clive spun the planet upside down, promptly causing the water to flow down in waterfalls towards the great abyss.
The other two planets groaned and once again they found themselves facing the once kind sniper. The priest’s planet once again rolled up and formed an ice shield around itself; it was not going to partake in this battle; he would simply wait and fight the victor. Or so he thought. The sharp edge of the severed cannon sunk into the icy shield and made it crack. The planet unfurled itself once again and its heads wrapped around the sides of the cannon.
“You never learn do you, you fool?” howled Clive from the cannon’s severed barrel. The planet of hydras let go of its quarry and flew backwards, leaving a trail of ice and its wake.
The scholar’s planet also feinted and pivoted its barrel towards the other two planets.
“I told you my reasons and yet you still wish to fight? My family, no, my world, means more than either of your planets do. My world would be happy, we’d no longer be hunted and we’d all be happy. Don’t you see? We’d all live in harmony; Kaitlyn would be surrounded by friends! Doesn’t that sound lovely?”
The other two planets remained silent; all of the sudden this battle seemed wrong. The silence, however, would not remain for long.
“I don’t care about your family! I want to be back in my world; I want to start over again. I died and then I was reborn into a memory. Imagine how confusing that was for me. All I want is to start a new life and rebuild from that memory opposed to suffering with the reality I knew before I died.”
As selfish as his words were, the surroundings planet acknowledged them with a heavy heart.
“So you’re saying that your memory is more important than ours? That’s rather selfish of you, don’t you agree?” asked Virginia, her voice low and thoughtful. Gallows’ planet drew into itself and once again fell into silence.
“So you’re all talk and no…”
The hydra planet once again unfurled and let lose a wave of ice that covered the two other planets.
The planet of roses twitched and then broke free from its icy prison by puncturing the coating of ice with its razor sharp thorns.
“Was that all?” cackled the young woman’s planet, once again waving the tendrils of thorns around her planet and then thrusting them out towards the others.
Clive’s planet rolled out of its icy prison, evaded the thorny threads, whirled the cannon around on its axis and spun towards the other two planets. The young woman’s planet rolled backwards and wrapped waves of thorns around the cannon just as it was about to cut her planet in two. Having grasped the cannon, she swung the thorny mass along with the planet within towards the hydra’s planet. The hydra opened its mouth and breathed out a thick ice shield that protected him long enough for his other heads to reach behind him and cover his body with a sphere of protection.
The thorny planet shuddered with rage and released the cannon and inertia slammed it into the icy shield.
Her planet shook and then split open, revealing the once kind young woman encased in thorns and rose petals. Her skin was ripped asunder by the biting stems of thorns that crawled across her body like a spiky snake and the blood that fell from her body morphed into sharp rose petals.
“You truly are foolish.” She hissed as she slung multiple rose shaped blades at the hydra and the still reeling sniper’s planet.
The father planet spun on its axis just as the thorny vines inched into the cannon.
It’s going to get to me…
More vines sprung forth and wrapped themselves around the rotating planet and ceased its rotation by tightening their grip.
They see right through me.
He felt as the thorns penetrated the protective shell around him and wrapped around his throat.
It can’t end like this.
The thorns dug into his jugular and let lose a steady stream of blood.
She distracted me with the blades. I…
“I was careless.” Whispered the sniper as the bladed stems relieved him of his head.
I am sorry…
His planet swallowed itself and disappeared from the void altogether.
The other two planets faced each other and the sneer on the young woman’s face was visible even from Gallows’ standpoint.
“So it is just you and I, is it?” she giggled, flexing all of her muscles, bringing forth a torrent of blood. Gallows inwardly flinched; she would surely grasp his repetitive pattern in no time at all. Gallows’ planet once again curled into a protective ball and secreted blades of ice from its scales and sent them into orbit around his planet. Virginia laughed once again and sent forth a hail of bladed petals that penetrated the circulating ice and pierced into Gallows’ planet’s scales. His planet roared in pain and stretched out into its original form, this time revealing the pilot of the planet.
“Why do we have to do this?”
He felt the bullets tear through his skin.
“Why can’t we just…”
Another volley of bloody blades sliced through the rest of his sentence and pierced them to his throat.
I am dying.
The dull thud of bullets gave way into a screaming pain.
“W-why?” he stuttered, trying to fold himself back into a protective ball.
The thorns screeched towards him like a fierce arrow and circumvented his throat, cutting off the blood that flowed to his brain.
The bullets continued to screw themselves into him, each one more painful than the last.
“You lost, you idiot; accept your defeat!” she shouted, her voice spiked with spite and laughter.
All I wanted was to remember what I lost and build from those follies a better future.
It was growing dark, now; all he could hear were the bullets screaming towards him.
“All I wanted was to make everyone happy…” Whispered Gallows as one by one his heads were severed from his body.
Black blood mingled with the ebb of time and once again things were black.
All I ever wanted was to see them smile…
No one heard his thoughts, though, he was silent. Silence was death, after all.
Why are you dying?
Why is it so dark?
It is dark because I am dying and I am dying because I am foolish
Can’t you come back?
That’s not very likely.
Gallows’ planet tucked into a ball and spun, spewing his inky black life-force into the starkness of his surroundings. The dark blood spun around his planet and then encroached it, erasing it from all that was. The insane smile that Virginia’s face bore fell into a look of despair. She had killed them all again and for what? Was it justice or her own selfishness? Regardless of her feelings one thing was certain: she was the victor.
"War makes the victor stupid and the vanquished vengeful."-Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s “Human All Too Human”
It stared at the victor and smiled, soon she would see her friends again but first…
“Their worlds are destroyed; you can come out of your shell, now.”
The world around Virginia folded in around her in a brilliant shower of petals and then disappeared, leaving her naked before the great unknown. She covered herself up, self-consciously and looked up at the darkened form.
“… I thought you said that all of the worlds would merge into one!”
The Darkness laughed and looked down at her with glittering red eyes.
“Yes, the worlds will merge into one but first you must accept the darkness and the light; you must be willing to face yourself and your former allies. There will be no planets to protect you; you will be on your own.”
Virginia tilted her head and looked at It suspiciously.
“’Were you lying to me the whole time? I see no reason to fight my allies again and accept the darkness and the light! You’d best tell me what you mean; otherwise I’m going to get angry.”
The Void closed its eyes and shook its mighty head.
“I knew this question was coming and I’ve been thinking of a way to explain it to you. Sit, child, and listen.”
The female Drifter blinked up at the form and very slowly sat down.
“Okay, I’m all ears.” And, as an afterthought she added “After you give me some clothes.”
The Shadow laughed and from the darkness and stars formed a billowing dress.
Virginia nodded to this, looking down in wonder at her new clothes.
“Yes, now explain things to me.”
The darkness took in a deep breath and opened his eyes; they were now the color of sapphire.
“The darkness is an ocean, an eternal ocean that is speckled with the light of time, circumstance, and happenstance. People consider darkness as evil but in reality, darkness calls forth the beauty of life. This may not seem relevant to you right now but, trust me, it will a little later on. Each world bears the standards of light or darkness, in this light, balance seems to be a bit more sensible; after all, the light and darkness supposedly balances each other. However, by each of you creating your own worlds, you tipped the scales and thusly displaced the very thing that bonds this infinity together. Is this making sense?”
Virginia nodded to this, it all made sense in a surreal way.
“The “ocean” tosses and churns at this imbalance and the other infinities suffer for it. In another infinity, one of you will die due to the actions you took today. It could be any of you, including yourself. By destroying your teammates and their worlds, you balanced things out and allowed a single world to be formed, a world that is composed of all of your wishes and desires. There is but one price to pay: the battle with yourself and the spirits of the people you “killed”. Of course, another battle of the worlds is out of the question, after all, you destroyed them all; but, I think that fighting the shadows that you’ve been running away from all of this time will be a very good opponent. Do you agree with these terms?”
Virginia bowed her head and looked at the star studded ground below her.
“If I fight them, will the world I was hoping for be born? Will I get to see my parents, again?”
It nodded Its head and said nothing. Virginia looked up at the Dark Monstrosity, her eyes glimmering with conviction.
“I will fight.” She rose to her feet and dusted the stardust from her dress.
“You are to fight…”
It leaned down and dropped Its hand down to where Virginia was standing.
“You will fight in the void that you’ve created.”
Virginia’s mouth dropped open for a moment and then closed; realization had slammed into her hard and fast.
“You were the imbalance created from each of our worlds. You knew who we were and what you had to do; you came to us in dreams, visions, and thoughts. You…” she bowed her head, unexpected tears trickling down her face.
“You were the victim of our selfish behavior. I’m sorry…” she looked up at The Void with a tear streaked face.
“I will make it right!” she stepped towards Its hand, her head held high.
“Take me to my battle, I will fight to set you free and to bring my world into fruition.”
Inwardly The Imbalance smiled, It had never felt such pity, before.
“I will do as you say, child. Hop onto my hand and I will take you to your final battle.”
It will take me to my final battle?
Without a second thought, she hopped onto Its hand and held onto Its thumb.
“You are brave.”
They bled so much…
The hairs on her neck stood on end as she drew close to Its mouth, her legs shaking.
They bled because I was selfish.
She could see Its sharp teeth, now. It was then her legs failed her and she fell to her knees.
Their blood is on my hands…
The Darkness popped her into Its mouth as if she were some sort of morsel.
I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m going to di-
The wind of ancient wisdom fanned through her hair as she fell.
I want to end it.
She saw a silver platform.
I want to finish what I have inadvertently started.
Her descent slowed and her feet touched the ground with a light tap. She looked down at the silver platform and noted that the surface reflected her star clad body, perfectly.
“Is this my first enemy?” she asked, looking around at the innards of her devourer and then back at her reflection. The walls of darkness shook with laughter and then the Dark One spoke.
“That depends on how difficult you want to make things. You can actually choose who you want to fight first but let me warn you: there will be a fight that you may not be able to win, a culmination of what you were, what you have created, and what you are to be. Do you understand?
Virginia nodded and looked back up at the blackened ceiling.
“So, what you’re trying to tell me is that I will face my past self: the selfish aspect of me, the team that I created, and the future me, right? So I’m going to have to face my team twice. Once as what they were and once as what they are destined to be. Wait, are you telling me that the ones that will be created will know my every move?”
The Infinite Blackness seemed to ponder this and then.
“Not necessarily, I imagine you could think one thing and do another; the layer effect if you will. The layer effect, in case you don’t know, states that different levels of consciousness run on different wave lengths. Your creation could be on the alpha wave length whilst your actual thoughts can be on the beta wave length. By utilizing this theory it is conceivable that you can be victorious once again.”
-+-+-The Present Passes the Past-+-+-
The young Drifter looked down at her feet briefly and then tilted her head back to gaze at the darkened ceiling.
“I am ready.”
The darkness that surrounded her undulated and then calmed.
Is It nervous?
“Who do you wish to fight, first?”
It took all of a second for her to respond.
“I want to fight my past self.”
“So it shall be!”
The darkness closed in on her and suddenly she heard breathing behind her.
“You don’t know what you’re doing, I’m innocent!” whispered the voice against her neck. Virginia whirled around and found herself face to face with her doppelganger.
“You’re not innocent; you became a tyrant the moment you decided to take “justice” into your own hands. You hurt everyone because you were selfish!” snapped the present Virginia to her past self. The past dipped her head, tears welling up in her eyes.
You were selfish…
The woman of the present glared down at the past. Was she truly that weak?
I was selfish.
“Don’t feign ignorance with me, you idiot! I know what your motives were, I was you at some point, you know?”
The echo of the past glared up at her more knowledgeable self and cleared her throat.
“I was doing it all for the right reasons!”
I did it because I wanted to find the answers for all the wrong reasons.
“Don’t pull that with me, you little brat!” The older Virginia spat, winding her hand back, ready to backhand the foolish bitch that stood before her. The past Virginia’s tears dried up and she narrowed her eyes.
“So you’re going to pull that now, are you? You’re going to slap the past when you could very easily slap yourself. This is your fault as well as mine! You were me, you know?”
Virginia lowered her hand, the past had a point.
Those that don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.
“Okay, I see what you mean. Why don’t we settle this like adults and talk things over?”
Her past gave her future her back, trying to hide the fact that she was scared.
What should I do?
She glanced over her shoulder and then back at the darkness that throbbed before her.
Fighting her would be pointless; she knows all that do and then some…
The Virginia of the past did an about face and faced her future with a smile.
“Okay, let’s talk things out!”
Let’s talk things out.
“First of all, I want to know I got here; one moment I was talking to Jet about how his ARM held the memory of the planet… Okay, okay, so we were arguing about it, but still! I want to know this; being warped from somewhere else is rather… disconcerting? Yeah, that was the word I was looking for. So, yes, spill the beans!”
“Well, you see, the ocean of time brought its vessel from another world to here. That’s as simple as I can put it. Also…”
Virginia smiled sheepishly at her other self.
“I’m sorry that I ripped you from your reality.”
Weren’t memories the reason I started this journey, anyway?
The other Virginia laughed and smacked her more knowledgeable self on the shoulder.
“Hey, no problem; now that I know how I got here, things will be a lot simpler. Now, my next question would be “Where am I?” As clichéd as it sounds, it’s a fair question, don’t you think?”
The star clad Virginia rocked a bit but her smile remained.
“That’s a bit harder to answer. Well, you see, you are in the not so distant future. You are, in all honesty, a wrong that I must right. You’re not the mistake per se, it’s just the actions you took were mistakes. I’m sure that you’re already painfully aware of that.” Her smile drooped into a frown.
“Well, anyway, you killed everyone in an attempt to rectify the position you put your teammates in, came here, and was subsequently the victor of a galactic battle. Pretty soon you will become me and we will face our future self together.” The present Virginia offered her hand to the near future.
“Are you ready to face the future that we’ve created?”
The other Virginia smiled and took her mirror’s hand.
“I am ready.”
In a flash of bright light, the two became one and the one was about to face what she’d become.
-+-+-The Goddess’ Tale-+-+-
Her moon lit face pulled into a content smile.
“I am the goddess of this world.”
Goddess Virginia looked down at her creation and her smile widened.
Everyone is happy.
She watched as Shane listened to his brother’s stories outside whilst Halle’s irritated voiced announced that supper was ready and if they didn’t get their tails in the house, she was going to come out and get them.
I am at home and yet I am here.
She watched as her family sat together and talked in the living room about the old days.
I am upstairs, wondering about target practice opposed to justice.
She watched with satisfaction as Clive read to his daughter.
Her father is with her, she will be happy.
Her face creased into a frown and her brow knitted with irritation.
They will be here soon but I will be ready.
She rose from her planetary throne and ambled across the sky, watching in awe as the stars floated by, lazily.
Here they come.
Sure enough, as if on cue, her past came back to haunt her.
“So, you finally made it, did you?” she looked down and glared at them.
Virginia glared up at the goddess, rolling her shoulders, dismissively.
“What’s it to you? You’re just going to join us, anyway.”
The goddess closed her eyes, a smug smirk on her face.
“You’re pretty insolent, I think I should…”
“Destroy us? Because, let me tell you, the second you do that, you’ll be destroying yourself, as well.”
The deity laughed and waved a dismissive hand at Virginia.
“Please, don’t play the whole “If you kill me you’ll kill yourself.” Card because, well, I already know it’s not true. I have beaten you already, you fool; I have beaten you and your empty sense of justice! Don’t you know, honey? I know what you’re trying to do; you’re trying to make me see things your way and I can already tell you, that isn’t happening!”
The young Drifter rolled her eyes and then closed them; they were in for quite a battle.
But, she’s already me, this is the future me, meaning that she’s already conquered this part of me. Oh, hell, if that’s the case, we’re fighting for nothing and everything is a moot point.
“So, you’re seeing it my way, are you? I have already taken care of your teammates and, let me assure you, the battle was great. I can recount the battle if you’d like.”
The Mother of Creation opened her eyes, looking down at the mortal with pity.
“Fighting was the only way to fuse all the concepts of happiness together. In the battle between you and those that you slaughtered emerged new reasons for each of your teammates to live, thusly creating what they were to become. As I said, it wasn’t an easy battle. The fight was hard to be sure; rest assured that I earned my title as Goddess.”
Well, now Virginia was curious; she wanted to hear how the goddess part of her got that way.
Well, she said that she’d recount what happened.
“Would you mind recounting all that had happened to you? I am actually quite curious.”
The moonlit goddess took in a gale of wind and the exhaled it as a gentle breeze.
“Well, first and foremost your team was magnificent; they had put their hearts into and it showed. There were times when I felt that I had no chance at winning and those were the times I fought the hardest. Jet was, by far, the hardest; he had conquered his impatience and haughtiness post battle and he was so fast that I had a hard time keeping up with him. I have an idea: instead of telling you the story I’ll let you see it. She sat down cross-legged and looked down at her mortal counterpart.
“Look into my eyes and you will see the battle unfold before you!”
The landscaped rolled out within the goddess’ eyes and Virginia cringed at what she saw. Before her lay a battlefield painted with the crimson smear of blood and the chaos of a falling gray sky.
From beyond her reality the Abyss spoke.
“Who do you wish to fight, first?”
Virginia furrowed her brow for a moment or two. Then she smiled and closed her eyes.
“I wish to fight Jet, first. I have a feeling that he will be the hardest.”
He learns from his mistakes. I will not let my guard down.
-+-+-Stability’s Watery Grave-+-+-
Virginia opened her eyes just in time to see Jet claw his way out of the bloodstained ground and pull himself up and out, rising gracefully to his feet.
“I have learned my lesson and, trust me; I will not be such a pushover this time.”
Jet swung his gun toward her and then relaxed his body, bringing the legendary Airgetlamh down to his side, swinging it to and fro towards his leader.
Virginia narrowed her eyes and yanked her pistols from their holsters, spinning them towards Jet before aiming them steadily at his chest.
“I, too, will not hold back. Enough talk, I have a world to rule!”
Beneath them, the ground shifted and groaned, as if it was about to devour them at any moment.
They both darted their eyes down and then back towards each other.
It feels as if the earth is about to swallow us whole.
There was silence and then the first shot echoed through the turbulent sky. Jet leapt to the side, narrowly dodging the two bullets that screamed towards his chest.
I’m an easy target as it is; I need to make it so that she has less of an attack zone.
The young android shifted his body so that his shoulders were facing his former leader.
Virginia’s face twitched into a smile and her eyes glittered wisely.
“I know what you’re doing and let me assure you, it won’t work. I…”
Her words were cut off by the shears of time.
What is within your heart? The constantly shifting waves of knowledge and ignorance?
She tried to blink but couldn’t.
Why can’t I move?
Or, perhaps you would prefer the stability of earth, the unmoving chunk of skin upon the body of the stars?
Damn it, the least you could do is tell me what is going on.
The voice that surrounded her continued, seeming oblivious to her unspoken question.
How about the raging flames of inquisitiveness and enlightenment?
The voice’s questions started to make sense, now.
It wants me to choose an element…
Would you like to dance across the sky on light feet without a care in the world? You must tell me what you want so I can make it so.
Give me a moment.
You have all the time in the world.
Virginia knew that it was telling the truth.
A thousand thoughts ran through her mind, each having their own merit. In the back of her mind, the shadows of what was to be clawed their way to the surface.
What you seek is the unending tide of knowledge, the darkened sea that hides all and will open only to the light of the moon and the sun. Speak your desires and it will be.
Do you wish to become one with knowledge?
Then it will be so.
Time once again weaved itself together for the female Drifter and she found herself standing before Schturdark, shivering as the waves lapped over her feet.
“You wish to be my avatar?”
Virginia nodded her affirmation, an uncertain smile crossing her face.
“May I ask you a question?”
The Guardian’s head bobbed and Virginia swore that she saw the creases of a smile creeping across the Guardian’s smooth face.
“How does this play into the battle I am fixing to fight?”
“It is simple, you will fuse with me and we will fight with knowledge and the strength of a thousand waves. Do you have any other questions? Time is no longer frozen for you but it is for Jet. If you have any questions, voice them now.”
The ex-leader thought for a moment and then her smile brightened.
“I have no more questions. I am ready to fight.”
Schturdark nodded its head just as a bright, warm, light flowed over them. Virginia knew that this battle wasn’t going to be easy but deep down she was excited; she would finally be able to prove that her reality was the true reality.
“Just remember that even the waves can be quenched with a moment of passion. Keep your emotions in check and you will be fine.” whispered Schturdark’s voice from beyond the blanket of light. Virginia nodded as the light was starting to fade.
The world once again came into focus and she found herself unable to move, once again.
“What is going on here?” she mouthed, unable to do much else.
The Guardian’s voice echoed through Virginia’s skull.
“It is to keep the fight fair; Jet needs to choose his element, as well.”
“Can he choose the same element as I?”
“No.” was the Guardian’s simple response.
The Drifter said nothing and waited for her former ally to become unfrozen.
Who are you?
Jet struggled to move for a few moments but then gave up having discovered that the bonds that held him weren’t so easily broken.
What do you mean “Who are you?”? You know who I am!”
Who are you?
The voice’s persistence was starting to get on the android’s nerves.
I am Jet, you idiot!
You are Jet. Are you the wind? Are you the force that creates a summer day or brings forth a crippling tempest?
What are you getting at?
Are you the flames of inspiration and fury?
Jet remained silent, trying to figure out where this mental conversation was leading.
Or perhaps you are the rock, the fortress of stability and stubbornness.
Why do you want to know?
Please choose one.
Please choose one.
Why wasn’t water an option? As I recall there are four elements, not three.
He swore he heard the voice sigh.
The water wishes to remain still and steady; you cannot push away the water’s will.
That doesn’t even make sense nor does it constitute an answer.
If Jet had control over his body, he would’ve given the voice the one finger salute.
Fine, fine, I’ll be the earth. It fits me, after all.
It will be so.
“So you wish to be my avatar, young man?” asked the Guardian of earth. The young android looked around and narrowed his eyes; this was certainly a change in scenery. He was standing on top of a mountain, watching the scarlet sky sneak lazily by.
“That was simple enough. Do you have any questions?”
Jet shook his head and continued to look around.
“Do you wish to stay here a little bit longer?”
The crimson sky slowly sank into a tranquil blue. This was the first time in ages Jet felt truly comfortable.
“No, I need to finish this; Virginia will learn very quickly that I’m not playing around.”
“It is sad but you speak the truth. We only hold sway over so much. The Guardian poked its head up from the ground in front of him and tilted it to the side.
“Come closer, dear child; I will not bite.”
Jet ambled over to the earth Guardian and held out his hand.
“Is this what you want, Grudiev? “
The Guardian nodded its huge head and nuzzled Jet’s hand.
“When you need me, call me.”
The only affirmation the Grudiev got was a nod of the young android’s head.
“Very well, are you ready to fight?”
Jet narrowed his eyes and smiled.
“Yes I am.”
The prison of time unfurled around the Drifters and they were once again able to move. There was little time to celebrate, however, as they had both changed considerably. An armor of swirling water encased every inch of Virginia’s body and her pistols became a part of her hands. With every step she took, a small tidal wave followed. Jet backed off, leaving small mountains in his wake. His body was encased in a chunk of armor composed of different types of rocks and metals; such was the strength of the earth.
“So, this is what happens when one truly merges with a Guardian? Fascinating…”
Jet pondered aloud. Virginia, too, was amazed the change she seen in herself and her former comrade and, for just a moment, she forgot she was supposed to fight him.
“You know, I’m still here.” Jet snapped, raising his Airgetlamh towards the heavens and back towards Virginia. Virginia raised an eyebrow, Jet’s weapon was modified: from the end of his gun protruded a firm slat of steel, sharpened to a razor edge. Virginia’s eyes narrowed and a smug smile crossed her face.
“You’re underestimating me, Jet, and I don’t like that. I can sense your every movement; I can feel the earth shake as you move. Perhaps earth wasn’t such a good element for you.”
Jet snorted to this and buried his Airgetlamh into the ground, lowering his head for a moment.
“You are underestimating me, as well. You may be able to feel every move I make but I can very easily alter your perception. But, enough idle chatter; I have a battle to win and you’re in the way!” He pulled the modified gun from the earth and rested it against his shoulder.
Virginia fused her weapons together and fired her gun. Jet called up a column of earth and blocked the shot. The female Drifter reloaded as quickly as she could and just narrowly evaded a chunk of falling earth.
“Damn it!” she snapped, once again firing her enhanced gun at the unguarded android, smiling as it morphed into a drill like projectile and burrowed into his armor. Jet yelped with surprised, jumped back and to the side, causing the drill to sink into the very hole it had created to form a muddy patch.
“You weren’t expecting that, were you?” he cackled swinging his earthly weapon in an arc around him, creating a convenient plateau of protection. Virginia looked down and noticed with a start that the ground beneath her was starting to crack. She jumped back just as the earth crumbled in front of her. She looked at the ground and then back at Jet, her eyes glowing with irritation.
“That was just cheap…”
Jet peered around the corner of the plateau and gave her a smug smile of his own.
“No it wasn’t you were just care- Crap!”
He pulled back just as another water drill whirled past him and drilled into the ground.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh SHIT!
The earth beneath him shook and then the drill burst out of the earth, nearly relieving him of his private parts.
“Son of a bitch!” he spat slashing his sword in front of him, severing the plateau in several places and hurling them towards his ex-leader. Virginia’s armor left her body and wrapped around the chunks of earth, turning them into harmless mud.
Jet growled and bade the earth to rise once again. The earth concurred and spat forth a shield of iron in front of him, much to Virginia’s vexation.
“Ah, but there’s a way around that, you fool!” she laughed, pulling the armor back towards her and sending watery bullets into the ground. Jet looked around nervously and was promptly knocked off his feet courtesy of a huge geyser that had magically appeared beneath him.
“I don’t think so!” he snarled, flipping off the geyser and firing more rocks at Virginia. The young woman wasn’t so lucky this time and was buried beneath a pile of rubble.
This can’t be…
She felt her consciousness slip away.
I’ve come so far…
“Child, bade your armor to flex, it will concur.” Virginia weakly opened her eyes and within the confines of her mind begged the armor to expand. As if on cue, her armor expanded and blasted the rocks away, wiping the smug smile of victory off of Jet’s face.
“I… I thought I had killed you!”
“You thought wrong, my friend, you thought wrong.” She snapped her finger and Jet gasped, feeling his chest expand.
“Don’t worry, Jet, it’ll only hurt a second.”
He tried to release the air in his lungs and found himself choking on coppery water.
“You… you bitch!” were his last words as his chest exploded, sending chunks of his heart towards his better. Virginia held out her hand and a shield of water repelled them and caused them to fall clumsily at her feet.
“I should have thought of that, before.” She said thoughtfully, sitting down on the bloodstained earth, waiting for her next opponent.
-+-+-Through the Ice and the Fire-+-+-
Who do you wish to fight, now?
Virginia sat in a moment of contemplation and then voiced her answer.
“I would like to fight Clive; he has a lot to fight for and I reckon that he’ll be just as aggressive as Jet, if not more so.”
It will be.
Virginia sank deeply into her own thoughts, wondering which element Clive would pick.
He can choose between fire and air, now. He seems to be more like fire than air and…
Her face creased into a frown.
Fire can evaporate water. I fear I have quite a battle on my hands, either way.
The void whispered into his ears the secrets of the universe. He could’ve listened to it forever and would have never stopped learning. However, knowledge doesn’t always hold precedence over something as dear as family.
Clive slowly opened his eyes and quickly discovered that, aside from simple eye movements, he couldn’t move.
Hello. The voice echoed through the void.
What is going on? Why can’t I speak?
Words are not needed.
What do you want?
I cannot answer that. All I am is an echo of your sentiment.
Okay then, what do I want?
The flames enlighten the idle mind whilst the air whistles above the earth’s grasp. Tell me, do you wish to become the flames of enlightenment or the whispering winds of freedom?
I see what you’re getting at, now.
Please answer me, then. The voice whispered, wrapping itself around him like a mercurial serpent.
I wish to become the flames of enlightenment.
It will be so.
A sudden flash of light prompted Clive to close his eyes; he really wasn’t crazy about being whisked to and fro.
“So you wish to become my avatar?” roared a voice like a raging inferno.
Clive, once again, opened his eyes and found himself staring into the fiery eyes of Moor Gault.
“Whoa!” gasped Clive, backpedaling a bit.
I can move again!
“Why did you choose me?” demanded the fiery Guardian, its eyes not once leaving Clive’s frightened form.
“I chose you because you are like me.”
The Guardian laughed, causing the scholar to flinch.
“Are you sure that you are not like me opposed to me being like you?”
The elder Drifter’s face twitched into an uncertain smile.
“That was rather presumptuous of me, wasn’t it?”
The fire bird nodded but then its flaming eyes dimmed.
“You are beyond the flow of time so you are free to ask me as many questions as you would like.”
Clive pondered the Guardian’s offer for a moment or two before answering.
“Can I stay here?”
The fiery bird shook its head.
“Your destiny is to fight for all you hold dear. Unless you want no part in forming your life, I suggest you fight.”
The bespectacled man nodded to this; it most certainly made sense.
“What about that voice I heard earlier? I am sure you know something about it.”
The Guardian’s head whirled with thoughts and concepts. How could it explain it in a simplistic way? Clive was by no means dumb, but even he had his limits in regards to the unknown; he was, after all, a scientist.
“Think of it this way. We Guardians are linked in some form or fashion, that voice you heard was our four voices branching out simultaneously and linking into your mind. Do you understand, now?”
Clive nodded to this and remained quiet.
“Do you have anymore questions?”
Clive pondered the Guardian’s question and after a few seconds shook his head.
“No, I think that about does it, thanks. I am ready to fight.”
“Prepare yourself, Clive, this battle will not be easy.”
The next thing he knew, he was falling through one fiery ring after another, feeling the warmth of the flames envelop his body and seeping into his soul.
Virginia rose when she saw a geyser of flames shoot up from the blood-soaked terrain.
It’s Clive, I just know it…
The flames died down little by little, revealing a lithe form surrounded by flaming, winged, minions.
“I have nothing of importance to say, Virginia. I want to end this now.” crackled Clive’s voice from beneath the dying inferno.
Virginia shared the silence with the sniper, respectfully, bowing her head for a moment or two.
“I want to end this, too.” Virginia said, her voice low, almost sorrowful.
The fire that had engulfed the scholar was now dancing around his feet and his eyes.
Virginia drew a line in front of her with one finger and a barrier of ice followed the line she had drawn.
“I think you’ve made a mistake. You know that fire can penetrate ice and…”
He started when he felt a warm breath caress the back of his neck.
“You were careless…” whispered Virginia’s voice behind him. He snarled and expanded the flames behind him and to his sides, prompting Virginia to make a quick retreat.
“Hm, not bad, Clive; I knew that you wouldn’t be a pushover.”
She crossed her hands in front of her and pulled her pistols from the void.
“Foresight is a great thing to have.” She smiled, pulling the triggers and letting loose a volley of bullets. Clive waved his hand and a wall of flames roared forth and shattered the incoming bullets, rendering them useless.
Virginia’s face darkened and she reloaded her gun as quickly as she could.
Clive snapped his fingers and smiled as he watched two flaming hands wrap themselves around the young Drifter’s ankles. Virginia shrieked and jumped back, her ankles still on fire.
“Hmph.” She said, simply, drawing her hand into a fist. Clive’s lungs closed in and he couldn’t draw in another breath.
So that’s what she’s doing.
Clive closed his eyes and focused on the bubble of water constricting his lungs. The bubble evaporated and he smiled.
“That’s not going to work, Virginia; I know you can do better than that.”
The female Drifter once again smiled, unclenched her fist, and drew a circle in front of her.
“Cocytus’ wrath.” She whispered, shooting her fingers towards Clive.
The sniper’s eyes shot back and forth, expecting anything.
“Heh, am I missing something here or…?”
The rest of his sentence was curtailed by a bubble surrounding him and retracting towards its center. Clive focused the flames that were shooting out of his body outwards, expecting to break free from the bubble only to have spears of ice sizzle through his shield, temporarily stunning him. The fire died down just as glacier of spiked ice shot out from beneath him, impaling him in the process. His eyes rolled towards her, tearing up.
“You lose, Clive. I’m sorry.” Virginia sniffed, her eyes tearing up. Clive looked towards the sky and then closed his eyes.
“I’m sorry…” was his final, garbled words.
Virginia sat back down, her eyes now bleary and unfocused.
“One more to go and I’ll remake the world in everyone’s best interest.”
And the waiting game, once again, commenced.
I needn’t ask who you wish to fight, now; Gallows is the last one on the list.
Virginia nodded and remained sitting; she knew from experience that the battle would not begin immediately. She also knew that resting was an integral part of any battle. As impatient as she was, she also realized that trying to rush into a battle half-cocked was a bad idea.
Why did you seek freedom?
The question resounded within his skull, causing him to inwardly flinch.
Why did I, indeed?
Did you seek freedom because everyone else was weighing you down?
Perhaps that is the reason…
You are to become the wind: the personification of freedom.
You will hear no complaints from me. But… um, I sort of have a question.
What do you want to know?
Gallows tried to lift his arm and failed.
Why can’t I move?
Time freezes even the wind.
Mm, I get it, now. Okay, so what do you want from me, exactly.
I wish for you only to speak to the Guardian that governs you.
That is good, Gallows; I will see you on the other side.
The ground he had been standing on gave away and he felt himself falling. He found that he didn’t much care for his stomach parading up his throat.
Just as he felt that he couldn’t take it anymore he came to an abrupt stop on top of a cloud.
Uh, shouldn’t I still be falling?
“Hm, this is interesting I must say; I wasn’t expecting you so soon.” A voice whistled around the young priest’s ears.
Gallows shifted his eyes to the left and then the right, trying to spot the source of the voice.
Well, at least I can move again.
“Hello there, child.” The voice whispered from behind the priest. Gallows whirled around to come face to face with the Guardian of Wind, Fengalon.
“Ah, so that’s who it is! Forgive me for asking, but why am I here?”
Fengalon shrugged its mighty shoulders and then shifted its stormy eyes towards the young Baskarian.
“You are here because you are in need of my assistance.”
Gallows mouth formed a silent “Oh.” and he blinked a few times.
“I… need your assistance?” asked Gallows after a few minutes of silence.
Fengalon nodded with annoyance and cleared the distance between itself and the priest in one, windswept, step. Gallows looked up at Fengalon, trying to film his uneasiness with a smile.
“Yes, you will be my avatar.”
“Ah, I see… I think. When was this determined if you don’t mind my asking?”
“It was determined by fate and that is all there is to it.”
The young Baskar priest nodded; his smile fading.
“Okay, I get it now. What am I supposed to do, now?”
“You may ask me questions if you would like; I’ll try to answer them to the best of my ability,”
“Fair enough, Fengalon, fair enough. Okay, first question: Why am I to become your avatar?”
“The answer to that is simple: I will try to help you become your own person. “
Gallows pursed his lips and nodded before he resumed the questions and answers session.
“Okay, now I want to know how you’ll help me out. “
“I will you lend you my strength on the battlefield.”
Gallows averted his eyes from the Guardian, deep in thought.
“So you are going to materialize when I am in need?”
There was a beat and then.
“No, my strength will extend beyond that. My powers will envelop you; you will become part of the summoning opposed to being the invoker of the summon itself. In other words we will be fused.
The priest was befuddled; to be offered the chance to become part of a Guardian was perhaps the biggest honor in his life time.
“I, uh, have no more questions, Fengalon; I am ready to fight when you are.”
Fengalon nodded and leaned forward so close to Gallows that he could see the stormy iris of the Guardian’s eyes.
“Come little pup, we have a battle to fight.”
The tiger like wind Guardian picked Gallows up by the scruff of his neck and jumped down from the heavens, much to Gallows’ shock.
I hate falling…
The wind kicked Virginia’s hair around and she stood up, her eyes now wide and tilted up towards the sky. The clouds parted and a form hurtled towards the earth at an alarming speed. The young woman stepped back, whipped out her pistols, and aimed them towards the descending figure. Just as she was about to fire her guns, the figure came to an abrupt stop and slowly floated to the ground, his toes grazing the ground before the rest of him followed.
“I really, really, hate falling.” The young man grumbled, popping his neck from side to side and then looking at Virginia.
“Well, well, well, it looks like we were destined to meet again. I can’t say that I’m thrilled but I guess that is fate, eh.”
But I am fighting fate, aren’t I?
You are fighting fate but you are also fighting for the right to live the way you want to live.
Odd, Gallows doesn’t look any different…
Looks can be deceiving, child; he is not what he seems.
Schturdark, what is so different about him?
He has the speed of the wind Guardian.
“Oh. Shit.” Was Virginia’s simple response; she rarely cussed but she figured that a giant with almost godlike speed constituted such an occasion.
“Oh come on do I really look that bad?” Gallows asked, his face drooping into an exaggerated, sardonic, frown.
“Nah, not really; but I must say that I, like you, am not overly enthused about our encounter. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to end this quickly.”
“You get down to the point, don’t you?” snickered Gallows, the frown stretching into smile.
Virginia said nothing and pointed at the ground. Gallows looked down and then jumped back just as a row of spikes plowed their way up from the ground.
Pompous son of a…
“Heh, I’m not done, yet.” The young Drifter snapped, rising gracefully into the air, courtesy of a shimmering column of ice.
Gallows’ eyes narrowed and he looked up at his former leader.
“You know…”A violent wind kicked up under the young priest and boosted him up into the air so that he stood above Virginia, arms crossed, a smug look on his face.
“You’re not the only one that can fly…” He lifted his palms to the sky and his weapon, the Coyote, fell into his waiting hands. He wrapped his hands around the shotgun.
“Let’s make this short and sweet; I really don’t like to fight.”
He aimed his weapon at the soon to be goddess just as she shot a pellet of ice into its barrel, rendering it useless.
“Son of a…Tch, fine, you want to play it like that?”
He dropped the gun, watching as it fell several feet before hitting the ground.
“What are you doing?” asked Virginia, tilting her head inquisitively.
Gallows said nothing but held his hands up the heavens.
“It’s time to say goodbye.” He replied simply, his eyes shimmering with confidence.
“I wouldn’t be so sure you…”
She bit her tongue as soon as she saw the whirlwind forming around his hands.
“You were saying?”
Virginia slide back on the column of ice, preparing for the worst.
Gallows spun in the air and then threw the whirlwind at her, slicing her ice platform in two. She fell but not before shooting a spike of ice towards his still floating form. The ice spike pierced his foot and he looked down with irritation.
“That was just…irritating.” He shook his foot and then directed his gaze back in front of him. Virginia called forth another wave of ice to stop her fall and peered up at her former teammate, leery but not afraid.
Gallows seemed to be frozen in time his expression blank, his eyes reflecting the constantly rolling heavens.
“Once again we are reluctant enemies…” he said, his voice as vapid as his expression. Virginia drew back her hand, forming an icicle just incase.
“And yet… you fight.”
Virginia’s hand grasped the fully formed icicle and held it parallel to her chest, its sharp point nearly piercing the ground.
“I fight so that you can be free…”
Gallows floated down to the ground and smiled.
“You truly believe that, don’t you? Don’t you see? The darkness is trying to control you it is…”
The female Drifter lifted the ice spike above her head, ready to throw it.
“You wish to fight me?” He closed his eyes and clenched his hands to his sides.
Virginia nodded and threw the icicle without hesitation. The Baskarian’s eyes flew open and he held out his hand, bringing forth a gale that reflected the blade of ice back towards its owner. The ex-leader evaded the icicle and bade the ice to swirl around her, forming a blinding blanket of snow.
“There’s my answer, eh?” he pulled his hand back and snapped it towards his side. The wind around the two kicked up and the blanket of snow blew away.
“I’m sorry that it came to this but…”
She held her hands out to her side, her palms facing down towards the bloodied earth.
“I can’t go against fate. You are constricting the flow of fate by existing and I simply cannot have that.”
The air grew frigid and Gallows started to shiver.
“Do you know what temperature blood freezes at?” Gallows shook his head, unable to do anything else.
It is as if my limbs are frozen…
He blinked, the frigid wind freezing his eyes open.
She’s going to kill me.
“Blood freezes at negative eighteen degrees Fahrenheit. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the temperature of your blood is somewhere within the range of twelve to two degrees Fahrenheit. You can’t hear me anymore, can you?”
Her heart dropped into her stomach; she was by no means enjoying this.
“Goodbye, Gallows see you soon.”
The air around her was cold but it was not frigid and she found that lifting her arms to fire at her former ally was getting increasingly difficult.
She fired and watched as her ex-comrade exploded into icy chunks.
“This is the end, isn’t it?” she dropped down to her knees, her eyes trained towards the now wavering ground.
This is the end.
“So that’s how things transpired. Are you satisfied, now?” asked the goddess, rising to her feet. Virginia was still looking into the deity’s eyes, awestruck.
“The rest, as they say, is history. Look below you, child, look below you and tell me what you see.”
Virginia obliged and did as her deity counterpart suggested.
Clive was reading to his daughter, a happy smile on his face. Gallows’ booming voice echoed throughout the cave and Shane reprimanded him for being so loud. Jet sat next to Puck, talking about treasure and just what it meant. And then she saw herself. She sat next to her father and mother, talking to them about what she wanted for supper.
“So, what did they say when they spoke to me?” Virginia asked, unable to think about anything else. The goddess smiled and sat back down in front of her.
“Why don’t you see for yourself?” The young woman obliged and looked back into the goddess’ eyes. This time, however, there was no battlefield, nor were there stormy clouds; instead the blue skies were laced with fluffy clouds and the warm wind’s whisper rippled through the grassy fields, sending a few loose flower petals floating by.
“I must warn you, what you’re about to see will shock you. Are you ready?”
The young woman nodded her head and narrowed her eyes, focusing on the green field before her.
“You’re about to experience true love.”
“Love is but a form of hate enthralled in sweet fury.” – Lilori Oclē
“Stand alone and no one will hear you cry.”
-+-+-The Stable and the Foolish-+-+-
This all seemed familiar to her. She had seen it once before and yet she couldn’t remember where. The memories she had kept weaving in and out of her grasping hands and all she could think about was her dead teammates.
Would they forgive me?
“Is anyone here?” she whispered, her voice mingling with the wind and ebbing.
“Of course I’m here! I can’t very well forget the person that has killed me twice!”
Jet ambled through the grass, his eyes glittering with annoyance.
Virginia looked down at the ground; she didn’t want to fight, anymore.
“Please, no more fighting. “ She looked up at Jet, her eyes watering. Jet said nothing but his face softened.
“Hey, listen, don’t cry. I hate it when people cry.”
Virginia’s eyes sparkled through the tears and she smiled.
Jet waved a dismissive hand.
“Whatever.” He paused and then smiled “I should be thanking you opposed to you thanking me.”
Virginia was stumped; she had no idea what he meant.
“Would you care to elaborate, Jet?” she asked, her voice starting to sound a bit more cheerful.
“Well, you fought what I was; you killed the part of me that I loathed. I was stubborn, I answered to no one and I liked it like that… But then…”
His face creased into a frown.
“Then I realized that being stubborn and being stable were two totally different things. You taught me that and for that, I thank you.” He smiled once again and held out his hand.
“You have already won the battle against me. Thank you very helping me realize the true merit of being stable enough to accept change. I will remember this… and I will remember you. We will see each other, again. Good bye…”
He started to fade, but his smile remained.
She reached out to touch his hand just as he faded away.
“You’re welcome.” She smiled, sitting cross-legged on the ground.
“Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you: but when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I: but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”- Christina G. Rossetti
-+-+-Who Has Seen the Wind? -+-+-
The wind had changed somehow; it was still warm but the breeze carried the promise of rain.
“I always loved the rain.” Spoke a quiet voice beside her. She jerked her head to the side, startled.
“What’s wrong? You act as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
She smiled when she saw that it was Gallows sitting beside her.
“Well, I sort of am.”
Gallows nodded his head to this and tilted his head up towards the heavens.
“That is true but…”
He turned his head back towards her, a smile on his face.
“I’m okay with being a ghost. I will soon become just a figment of your memory’s imagination. But right now, I just want to enjoy the rain.” He looked back up at the sky, the smile still on his face.
“Gallows?” she said after a moment of silence. He looked back at her, inquisitively.
“You say that you’re a ghost, right?”
The Baskar said nothing but nodded his head.
“And you say that you’re okay with that, right?”
There was yet another nod followed by silence.
“Were you afraid to die?”
The young man’s face dipped into a frown.
“I was afraid, yes, but then I realized that even the wind needs to rest before it blows, again. The fighting, the bloodshed, the sorrow, all of this was washed away with the realization that you had destroyed the part of me that wanted to fly without a destination in mind.” He threaded his arm across his chest, his eyes still on his leader, a warm smile, once again, spreading across his face.
“These were the things you taught me.” He rose to his feet, dusting his pants off.
“Well, I think it’s about time to go. Take care of yourself, leader, I hope to see you again.”
He, like Jet, started to fade away.
“I guess we both learned something…” she said, looking back towards the sky.
“The concept of man stems from the fire of inspiration.” - Anonymous
-+-+-The Inferno -+-+-
She leaned back, using her arms as stilts. Her mind started to wander and dance with the rays of the sun. In truth, she was waiting for Clive but the warm rays of the sun were starting to make her sleepy.
Perhaps Clive will…
Her eyelids drooped, protecting her eyes from the rays of the sun.
Wake me up.
She nodded and her head lulled forward and before she knew it, she was fast asleep.
She felt a hand gently grasp her shoulder and give it a shake. She opened one eye and then the other, smiling when she saw Clive’s face.
“I knew you would come.”
The sniper’s lips were pulled into a smile but his eyes were filled with sorrow.
“What’s wrong, Clive? You look really down.”
Clive shook his head; Virginia could see Clive trying to make his eyes match his smile.
“Not at all, I was just thinking.”
“What were you thinking about? You can tell me, you know.” She said, leaning forward and giving him her best smile. “Here, have a seat beside me.” She said, patting the grass beside her.
“Well, I was trying to find a way to scold you and thank you all at the same time; needless to say, it is not an easy task.” He replied, sitting down beside his ally.
The female Drifter nodded to this, her smile not fading.
“Why not get the scolding out of the way? Best to get the bad side of something opposed to the good side; when you get the good side first, the bad side floors you, you know?”
Clive chuckled and his eyes decided that they should join in, but only for a moment.
“You have not changed at all, I see; you’re still optimistic and kind. Okay, here it goes: Virginia, when I first met you, I thought you were a selfish, spoiled, brat that only thought about herself and ignored the plight of others. However,”
Clive’s smile was now a ghost and in its place was a grimace.
“Between the world you had created and the transitional void, I discovered something, something very important. I discovered that you had changed in more ways than one: the selfish girl I once knew grew into a warrior; a woman that sought her dreams and followed her heart.” He shifted uncomfortably before continuing.
“I felt, at the beginning, that you had the potential for greatness and yet you were blinded by your own concept of justice. The fire of our fight, however, opened my eyes to your true strength: your determination. Had you not slain us, we would’ve continued to feel the way that we did without a second thought.”
Clive gave her an awkward smile.
“So there’s the long and short of it.”
Virginia nodded; it made perfect sense to her.
“What is it, Virginia?” the scholar craned his head to his leader, his awkward smile slowly lifting into a genuine one.
“Are all of you ghosts?"
Clive’s brow furrowed in thought for a moment and it was Virginia’s turn to shift uneasily.
“In a sense we are, we’re actually incarnations of the threshold; the moment between death and our new lives. The Darkness, before it vanished, told us that we would be able to talk to you before the goddess aspect of you was wiped from our memories for good. Virginia, I will never forget what you did for us. I was very bitter at first but now I see the world you have made for me and I’m happy. It’s time for me to go now, Virginia. Would you like to say anything to me before I go?”
Virginia nodded and stood up.
“I wanted to say “thanks” for being so understanding; I would’ve been honored to have you as my father. I also want you to know that I will always be watching each and every one of you. You may not remember this conversation but I believe you will remember the feeling. Good bye, Clive, I hope to see you, soon.”
Clive also nodded and rose to his feet.
“Trust me, Virginia, we will meet again. Our destinies will overlap once again, hopefully for a different reason.”
“Trust me, Clive, Beatrice will not be coming back; that’s part of my job as a goddess.”
Clive’s smile was now genuine as was the joy in his eyes.
“Take care, okay? Oh, and for the record? You’re going to make one pretty bride.” And with that Clive started to fade. Virginia’s mouth dropped open and she rushed towards his fading form.
“Hey, what do you mean by that?”
Clive chuckled and gave her wink.
“You’ll see, Virginia, you will see.”
Clive’s form faded before she could reach him.
I will make a beautiful bride? What’s that supposed to mean?
She shook the questions from her mind and walked towards her celestial throne; she had a lot of work to do.
“Every story needn’t have a beginning, middle, and end; some stories are allowed to go on forever and some must end before they start. This is the way of things; this is the rule of existence.”
“Every story starts with “It was a dark and stormy night.”. Why can’t they come up with something a bit more creative?" asked Jet, punching Gallows on the arm.
“Hey, ow! Would you mind not punching me, punk? Last time I checked, assault was a punishable crime!”
Jet shook his fist at the young priest menacingly, a smile sliding across his face.
“Yes, I know it is but a punch is not an assault however…” Jet playfully reared back his fist.
“I can happily show you what assault is if you’d like.”
Gallows raised an eyebrow and shook his head.
“When you manage to assault me, let me know, I’d like to hear about such a colossal event.” Jet gave him an unreadable look before nudging Clive.
“He thinks he’s cute but he’s actually a dumb ass…”
Clive chuckled and shook his head.
“I am staying out of this.”
Virginia nudged Gallows and then punched him on the shoulder as well.
“Bam, I just smacked you! Are you going to file an assault charge against me?” Gallows seemed to ponder this for a moment or two before responding.
“Hm, I don’t know; it seems that you two are conspiring against me…”
The female chuckled to this and punched the young Baskarian again for good measure.
“Hey, do you remember how we first met.”
It was Gallows’ turn to chuckle as he laced his hands behind his head.
“It was a dark and stormy night…”
His teammates shared a giggle.
“And then all of the sudden Gallows comes out, sharp teeth and all, and barks like a dog!” interjected the young android, a smug smile crossing his face. Gallows raised an eyebrow.
“Hm, I don’t remember it being like that. As I recall, we met on a train; we sat next to each other and we started to talk. I remember telling you all that I was looking for some sugar; you must understand, Shane cooks the best cookies around. Virginia over there was talking about how hard it was to hit those damn pordages and Clive sat back, observed us all, and pushed his glasses to the bridge of his nose. Speaking of which, Clive, have you actually tightened those things up? You’re a sniper and a scholar so it stands to reason that you could tighten up your own glasses.” Cackled Gallows, stretching his arms out from behind his head and then placing them back into his lap.
Clive shook his head and sighed.
“I have you know that obtaining a glasses repair kit is no easy task…”
The four Drifters laughed and looked out the window, taking in the lush, green scenery with awe.
Thusly, a new world was born and a new thread of fate woven.
All That Glitters Is Cold 4 Fanfic Competition
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