I wake up on a ship. I don’t know how I figure this out before I even open my eyes, but I do.
My hands scrape against the floorboards beneath me, and I feel small slivers of wood sliding under my skin. I grimace and push up onto my knees.
My eyes are caked with sleep, so I rub at them and manage to crack them open. It’s dark, but I make out piles of rope surrounding me and crates lined up against one wall. The whole room seems to rock back and forth, and the salty smell of sea water tickles my nose, further proving that I am indeed on a ship.
I try to stand up, but my bare feet get tangled up in the folds of my dress and I topple over. I whip my head around to see if anyone is there to have heard me, but I appear to be alone. A few pairs of red eyes glow from the corner, just some harmless rats. However, I can make out distant voices above me, probably male, probably not-so-harmless...
I attempt to stand a second time, and I’m able to stay on my feet. I look around for a light source, a lantern, anything to better see with. No luck. But I do run into a staircase that most likely leads to where the voices are coming from.
I take a risk and begin to climb. Each step I take creaks and groans under my toes. There is no way anyone except myself is able to hear it, but in my ears it sounds like the whole ship is splintering apart. Ages have passed before I get to the landing.
At the top is a door. I feel for the knob with trembling fingers. I can tell that it’s made of metal, yet it feels oddly warm. I put my palm against the wood, which feels hot as well. Not unpleasant, just… unusual.
A flickering light is reaching under the door, licking over my feet. Mixing with the briny smell of the ocean is now another scent: smoke. A chill racks through my body despite the rising heat and the sweat rolling down my back and face.
I have two options. Go back down to my dark little room and hope for the best, or open this door and face what will probably be the worst.
I turn the door knob.
The heat hits me before anything else. Blistering, fiery, energy draining heat. It tries to fight its way down my throat but I swallow and take a step forward.
The sounds hit me next. Shouts and screams from the men onboard, desperately trying to calm the flames to no avail. The screeching and stamping of livestock, trapped in their wooden cages already infected with fire. The crackling of the blaze itself, like a million tiny fireworks. How ironic this is, a boat in the middle of the ocean on fire. Water all around, yet none of it can be used against the growing inferno.
No one takes notice of me, everyone much more concerned with the disaster at hand. I’m frozen in the doorway of what I can now tell is in the stern of the ship, the rest of the deck laid out before me in utter chaos.
My mind is whirring, trying to get the rest of my body to react, to move, anything. But all I can do is stand there, inhaling the plumes of smoke rising off of everything. Suddenly, a flaming sail detaches from the mast, gliding down towards me in a triangle of light.
My brain screams at my muscles to move, but they just can’t. My head seems to be frying along with the rest of the ship, and there is nothing I can make myself do.
Just before the sail reaches my paralyzed body, a force pushes me to the side, knocking me into the railing of the boat. I see the black water churning far, far below. It taunts me with its ability to put out the fire so very easily. I look out farther and see dark masses floating over the waves. There are several splashes off to my right and I realize what is in the water. The crew of the ship. They’re jumping.
I turn back to the blazing deck before I get any ideas. I want to see what pushed me.
A bright light flashes into my line of vision. I reel back and grip the side of the boat. It floats right in front of my face, and for some reason I feel it looking at me, staring into my eyes. It appears to be an ember from the fire, but unlike anything I’ve seen before. I feel a soul inside it, like it’s a living being. I think I know it, as old friends know each other, but I have no idea why. A sudden calm envelops me, and I release my grip on the railing. The sparkling yellow ember continues to float in the air in front of me.
Time stops. The only things in the world are this speck of light, and me. Then time starts up again.
A deep groan reverberates through the floor, sending men sprawling and cargo rolling. I look up. The mast has one enormous crack running the length of it, from the crow’s nest into the wooden boards of the deck. My mouth drops open, my body going rigid once more.
I know it’s going to come down. Only a matter of moments. But before I can react to anything, my little ember hovers over me one last time before embedding itself into my skin, right where my heart is beating erratically.
I’m not surprised, I think I was almost expecting something like this to happen. A sort of charge fills my body, like a jolt of pure lightning is coursing through my veins. I feel light, as if I’m floating through outer space. My feet lift off from the deck of the ship, my body rising, rising, rising, far above the boat. Far above the mocking water, far above the monstrous flames engulfing everything in its path.
I take one more look at the Earth before turning my gaze to the sky. The air is much fresher here, free of smoke and fire. I inhale deeply, ridding my lungs of the intoxicating fumes. The stars are so bright tonight. They wink at me, reassuring my belief that I will be okay.
But nothing is brighter than the small piece of light under my skin. I am shining at a higher intensity than all the suns and stars combined. I am more radiant than entire galaxies, more brilliant than the whole universe. The stars know it, too. They bow to me, moving to the side to let me fly farther.
I soar higher and higher, until I finally begin to slow down and come to a stop. The stars surround me, constellations moving under my fingertips, comets flying with the motions of my arms and legs. I am in total and complete control of everything. I feel at peace, finally.
I know what to do.
My hand reaches out into the empty space in front of me. The light emanating from my chest now flows into my shoulder, my arm, my fingers. I pinch the blackness between my thumb and forefinger and pull.
A seam of pure energy appears before me, like I just ripped the stitches out of the sky’s skin, revealing a bleeding wound of light. I reach through, and pull myself onto the other side.