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Sunlight

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I spat out a mouthful of blood onto the dirty floor. “Call them off, Clara.”

She looked down at me with unforgiving, void eyes. “Give me the key, Cora.”

I did not answer, the painful marks being etched upon my face proving almost too much to bear. Invisible creatures flitted around me, their sharp nails tearing at my skin, their angry, garbled language filling up my ears. Yet what hurt more than anything the piskies could ever do to me was the fact that my sister, my twin, would not face me herself.

The key bounced underneath my shirt as I was thrown around. The key. I could not let Clara have it. There was a danger that came with possessing it, a danger far beyond anything either of us could imagine. But the key was everything and anything. With it, Clara could do unimaginable damage. Damage that could not be undone. And that is why I cannot let her have it.

“Call them off!” I demanded once again, daring to raise my voice to her. I would not let her know I realized the shift in power, although the energy radiating off of her was unmistakable.

Clara let out a sigh. “As you wish, my dear sister.”

The scratching ceased, the searing pain dominating a whip lash fading to an almost unnoticeable echo. The piskies harsh words were silenced, and in their absence I was left alone to face Clara, the hollow room closing in.

She slowly approached, each step deliberately graceful, until we were a mere few inches apart. I did not recognize her, though I knew she was a mirror of myself. Her blonde hair, pulled back hastily, was fading in color, her once bottomless green eyes now empty and merciless.

There was no turning back. It was clear from her stony expression that this was going to end tonight.

It was her who spoke first. “Oh, Cora!” she cried, a brilliant smile flashing across her face. “I must say, in spite of our current situation, I have missed you. How have you been all these months?”

There was no time for small talk, and she knew it. Every minute counted. The army was approaching, ready to claim the earth. I would not let them, but Clara would lead them. I could not give her that opportunity.

“I have not traveled all this way to talk about the past. I did not even come here to see you. I want this to end, and tonight it shall.”

There was a twinkle in her eyes. “Are you quite sure that’s how you want it to be?”

I nodded stiffly, lifting my chin a fraction of an inch. “I’m positive. This is how it must be.”

We stared at each other for a moment. I looked at her right in the eyes, willing myself to find the small, delicate light that used to shine so brightly in her eyes. But she knows that I am looking, and her lips curl into a tight smile.

“Then so be it.”

Before I know what is happening, I am being thrown violently across the room with a force I couldn’t explain. My body connected with the cement wall behind me with a sickly crack, but I hardly registered the pain.

Clara? I could not believe she could’ve done this, though there was no one else here. But how? She was only human, yet it was obvious she had a power far beyond what I’d imagined. I had underestimated her.

A crushing weight fell upon me, growing with such intensity that it was difficult to breathe. Through my confused consciousness, I could hear Clara’s soft footsteps approaching, barely making out her face as she crouched down beside me.

“These petty games are growing old, Cora,” she whined. “It was a fight you wanted, and you cannot even raise a hand. Please, Cora, give me the key. This can all end if you just give me the key.”

I blinked furiously, her beautiful features becoming clearer through the fog in my head. There upon her face, for a fleeting moment, was a look of concern. Of love. But the moment she realized I could see her clearly it was hidden once again behind the hard expression I’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

And then I understood. Clara was against this as much as I was. She did not want to lose me. She still wanted to be my sister. But she also wanted to be leader of the army, the one and only person that everybody on the earth feared, and she could not be both.

“Please, Cora. Give me the key.”

The weight upon me grew stronger and stronger, feeling like the sky itself was bearing down on me, until I feared it would snap every bone in my body. I felt like I was breaking apart, an angry, persistent pain coursing through every limb. I could not beat it.

But I did not have to.

At my involuntary groan of pain, Clara lost her composure. It was not a lot, but it was enough. I brought up a hand and grabbed onto her hair, pulling hard.

And then I was free.

I scrambled to my feet, using every ounce of strength to keep my legs from giving way beneath me. Clara fell back, stunned, and I knew it would not last long. I was already moving, knocking her aside as I passed, my eyes darting around desperately.

There. A door. I bolted for it, ripping it open and flinging myself into the hallway. The tiles was cold beneath my bare feet as I ran as fast as I could, not daring to look over my shoulder.

The twisting corridors continued on for what seemed like forever, but I did not stop. I could not. The doors lining the walls passed by in a blur, adrenaline coursing through my veins and pushing me forward until I simply could go on no longer.

I fell against a wall, gulping down air like my lungs could not get enough. My heart was pounding loudly in my ears, so loudly I was sure Clara could hear it from wherever she was, even if that was still back in the damp, chilled room.

Clutching at the key around my neck, I ripped it off, feeling like it was slowly suffocating me. The rusted metal was oddly warmed despite it being the dead of winter. I wanted it to disappear, to be banished from existence, to simply be gone.

“CORA!”

I let out a yelp as something struck my temple, sending me down to the floor. Blackness creeped along my eyes, threatening to close in, but I fought against it. Through my hazy eyes I managed to fumble for the key, somehow still conscious enough to remember I must have it.

“Come back here, Cora!” Clara shrieked from down the hall. “I know where you are! I know you’re there!”

Her fury shocked me, but it was not what left me stunned on the ground. It was the abrupt, piercing fear that shocked my heart. Clara, my Clara. My sister. My twin. Chasing me down empty hallways, attacking me with unseen forces, not caring whether her want for the key killed me.

She was not the sister I once loved.

“Cora!” Her voice was shrill, the venom wrapped around my heart like ice that would not melt.

A tear traced itself down my cheek. She would not stop until she had the key. Until I was dead.

Picking myself up off the ground, I turned and ran, harder than I ever had before.

The world behind me exploded, doors flying off their hinges and the walls crumbling like dust and coating my face as I pushed my way through the chaos. I didn’t know what was causing if, for surely it could not be Clara not even her. There was no explanation, but at the same time, there was no time to ponder.

My lungs felt like they would explode in my chest if I did not stop to simply breathe for a few moments, but I couldn’t even do that. As my hair flew out behind me, there were invisible fingers combing it through before yanking it out. They nearly pulled my backwards, and for a fleeting second I almost let them.

I was tired. So tired. I just wanted this to be done, to have my sister back, for everything to go back to its proper place. But that was not an option.

It took me a moment to notice what was finally in front of me. It came as such a surprise that I nearly tripped over my own feet, but once I recognized what it was, I pushed myself to run harder.

A door, but not just any door. There was something bright shining behind it, sending pale, golden light across the floor.

Sunlight. A way out.

It seemed that the few seconds it took for me to reach the great, metal door took an eternity. I fumbled with the handle, shaking it a few times, trying to make it turn, but it would not budge.

“Cora, don’t you dare leave!”

I let out a squeal, Clara’s voice shocking me into action. I banged on the door with the flat of my palm, but that did nothing. Finally spotting the lock that held it closed, I unbolted it and throw the door open.

A gust of wind blasted me in the face, delicate snowflakes drifting down. Mountains were surrounding the warehouse, which would explain why I could spot the edge of a cliff a few yards in front of me.

And then I got an idea. If Clara could not find the key, how could she use it? I doubted that, even with her level of persistence, she could locate it if it was tossed off the edge.

I dragged my feet through the deep snow that had accumulated while I was inside. There was an awful sound behind me, something like that of grated metal. It was enough to make my ears bleed, though I did not think that Clara would be so affected.

My body was numb with cold, fingers frozen around the key. I was moving at a painfully slow rate. Clara would catch up, probably before I got to the cliff.

But then she would win.

Gritting my teeth, I dragged myself through the snow for a few more feet until my sister finally escaped the warehouse.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she yelled, the wind nearly taking her voice. “The drop is over a thousand feet. That would kill you, Cora. Do you want to die over a key?”

I did not stop, but suddenly my efforts did not matter. Hands were grabbing at me, more hands than I could count, digging their nails in deep and forcing me towards Clara. I tried to hold them off, but I knew I could not. Not for long.

The edge was not that far away now. My only option was to give in to Clara and give her the key, or throw it as far as it would go and pray it was far enough.

It took everything in me to lift my arm and draw it back. But once I did, it seemed that I had nothing but strength, enough to throw it halfway across the world, and I flung it forward with all that I had.

I watched in slow motion as it floated through the air, my wide eyes stinging from the bitter wind. But as it fell, a smile broke out across my face, for it was enough.

I could almost imagine the soft whooshing sound it made as it fell from the mountain.

Gone, gone gone.

“NO!”

My mouth let out a scream that I did not knew I had inside of me, high pitched and inhuman. I could not fight against the hands anymore, but suddenly I let them drag me away, for it did not matter anymore. The key was gone.

I almost laughed as I was pulled to my death. It did not matter anymore, not at all. It did not matter. Chances were that I would not survive Clara’s wrath, but it did not matter.





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