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It’s not who you were…
Time doesn’t change things.
It’s who you are now.
A murderer is still a murderer.
Even if it was all a lie?
Nothing changes that.
Shattered and broken… You’re running through a cobblestone alley, your eyes focused ahead. Like glass… You hear the window breaking before your body connects with it. Picking up the pieces. Only a slight gasp gives away the damage the shrapnel did to your forearms. Until there’s nothing left but the blood… More glass breaking, but you don’t dare turn around. If you see It, you’ll know It’s real. And the body of your beloved. And then you’ll die.
As you charge through the warehouse, you can see It’s black cloak from the mirrors. You try frantically to search for another way out. You trip over a lever. But your intentions were pure… Scrambling to get up, you feel a sting in your eyes: blood – you have another gash on your forehead. And that’s when you hear the scythe cutting through the air. It was the execution that was tainted with ignoble truths.
You give yourself over to instinct, rolling to the side, kicking at It. You feel your foot connect with something akin to steel and you cry out. Just line the pieces up… You don’t have time to decide if you broke anything; you have to get up and run for your life. And show us the way. No matter how much you ignore the pain, it still throbs; you go on. But will you be satisfied with what you see?
You can’t hear anything else but your ragged breath; you’re safe. For the moment. But that moment is enough to make you stop and think. What say you? It’s enough to make you regret almost killing your best friend, even though they had tried to kill you first. Remember, it’s not about why… But you can’t help but feel pity for what they had to exchange for summoning that. It’s about how… The price had been their sanity.
Your breath has calmed and your adrenaline lost. It’s that you hear the lurid breaths of what’s pursuing you. What you gave up… You realize too late and the scythe is coming for your neck. You drop, but it grazes you and you can feel the warm blood creeping down your scalp. What you, in turn, gained… You roll, not daring to look at It’s face, and run. You give yourself two options: die or try your damn hardest to stay alive. Your breath becomes slow, but your legs move faster and your heart races. And then comes the why. You see an exit, through two rows of boxes; you sprint as fast as your legs can carry you.
Boxes start to crash around you; your eyes dart up to see It gliding through the air towards the exit. You can’t fathom it… You don’t stop, but will yourself to move faster. And then, you feel it. Anger? That seed in everyone’s heart; it starts to blossom. Selfishness? Into a striking flower. Jealousy. Doubt.
You skid to a halt as It lands in front of you. Sickening pride… Repulsion etches across your face; hatred seeps into your mind; tears leak out your eyes. Its face, mangled and bloody, belongs to your beloved. It tears everything apart… It’s eyes are blank, vapid, and lifeless. You freeze, unable to move, unable to breathe. The pains are gone; fatigue – gone; all that remains is the blood on your body used to pay the toll for Death’s Door. Leaving only the shattered remains…
Your beloved opens It’s mouth and your trance is broken by an unearthly scream. You drop, as the scythe passes where your chest just was. You’re able to slide through It’s legs and go through the old, rotting door behind It, escaping back into the alley. And the blood. Without looking back, you run into the main street. You can never forget the blood. You knock into a few dozen people, but you pay no mind to their dirty glances. The main priority: blend and lose yourself in the crowd. As you hear the shouts of the police, you turn your head and walk away. But it’s the blood that’s the key to the door…
Steadily, your eyes gaze through the crowd. Everyone’s minding their own business, talking, gossiping, and drinking. All you care about is the fact that you’re alive. You remember your power, your Essence – that which fuels you, which gives you the power to transform your soul into tangible power. It’s your life force – your greatest weapon. The door made of the darkest obsidian. But you don’t know what to do next. And then you see your beloved’s face, through groups of people; you’re frantic and you look again. It’s gone. You break into another run. The pieces you’ve put together don’t say what’s on the other side.
Everyone is watching you, but you’re more focused on continuing your pace. You avoid hotspots with your ears and you effectively maneuver around a construction crew and a band of drunkards; as you get past the conglomeration of people, only the stars and street lamps offer light. What if it’s up to you to decide? You’re on the outskirts of town, a product of your inability to stop. It’s a crossroad from here; go out into the open country – with no supplies – or turn back. The black silhouetted figure in the distance makes the answer. What will you do then?
You run back into town. The shadows are receding, but the lights are growing dimmer. There are fewer people, but one catches your eye. They catch your eye as well, and then they run over to you and embrace you. Leave yourself to fate?
“I thought you were dead,” they said, shaking you. “I saw the body. What were you two doing in there? I thought we agreed to lie off the Arts for awhile?”
Or make something happen?
You shake your friend off and don’t look them in the eye. You shift uncomfortably and say, “It’s a long story.”
“Believe it or not, I got time.”
You look at them, surveying their scantly clad body. “It looks like there’s somewhere you need to be; I have to go anyway.”
But how will you do it?
“You don’t want to hear how they got summoned?”
You stop looking around, anticipating for It to appear; you grip your friend by their shoulders tightly, saying, “What’re you talking about?”
“How your best friend was jealous and came to me to get the blood for the ritual?” As they talk, your grip grows tighter. “How we were planning this from the start?” They sneer at you.
“I thought you said to lay off the Arts!?”
They shrug. “So I lied. If I were you, I’d let go. The mark I put on your back draws It closer. I’d say you got about twenty…”
Remember, it’s the how.
The force of your rage becomes tangible and it pushes your friend back into the stone wall of the building behind them. You see the blood fall down from the body onto the street; then, you hear that sepulchral breathing once more.
It’s your choice. Your rage becomes rear and that becomes energy. You jump, higher than possible, and land onto a nearby roof. Immediately, you jump to the next roof and don’t stop. Right? Your breaths are deep and fast, channeling your overwhelming Essence. And then it appears in front of you, swinging It’s scythe. Choose wisely. With your Essence flowing freely for the moment, you slide below the weapon, using the momentum to fall to the ground quickly.
You sprint down the main road again, but It appears before you, quicker than before. Startled, you back up, but fall down in the process. It creeps forward, and you move back. Wrong choice. You scream as you fall into an open sewer grate.
You land on your back, but nothing’s broken. If anything, it takes away from the throbbing your leg was giving you. You pull yourself up and look around. It’s dark, darker than black. Is this the door? You can’t see anything and although most of your Essence is gone, you can still produce enough to sense your way through the darkness. Or is it something different? As you make your way through the dark, your Essence becomes evermore fleeting. There’s only one way to find out… The seed is blossoming once more as you become blind in an unknown place. The fetid smell and array of textures on your body makes you cringe. Walk through it. You press on.
But what awaits you… You take a moment and feel that the blood has stopped and dried. Will break you. You see it a moment before it hits you: a flash of green and the force of a wall colliding into you. You fly back, landing on your back, again. It will test you.
You fling yourself face first to the side, away from the next blast; you land into the sewage water. Disgusted and gasping for clean air, you leap out of it and use a part of your remaining Essence to get all the sewage off. It is apart of the lock. Your Essence and the green Essence collide, illuminating the area.
In front of you is your friend, the one you blasted into a wall. They’re bleeding and their face is etched with fury. “You think that you can get rid of me that easily?”
“Well, I hoped.”
“I’m going to enjoy ripping your throat out after ripping your Essence from you. Remember? Like you were going to do to me? Do you?”
They’re screaming at you, and as the chorus of hate dances through your ears, you can blood trickling down the side of your face. As you clench your ears, they continue.
It was the truth: you had considered stripping them of their Essence, deeming them too dangerous to be left to their own devices. Too much anger, too many variables that left the possibility of innocent people getting hurt. It was the right thing to do – you had to say that to yourself all the time, even though it was considered an ultimate sacrilege. Your beloved had agreed with you, when they were still alive. Before all this happened, before they had defiled your beloved.
“You know what my Essence means to me?” Everything. “No one can live without their soul. Not even you.”
They send another blast hurtling towards you, and this time, you’re ready. As you pierce through the attack to disperse it, your friend moves forward towards you. And then, it’s silent. Apart from the sounds of the two Essences colliding together, It’s breathing could be heard. It’s time. You’re fighting to keep your eyes open and you can barely breathe anymore.
“How’s this going to end?” You ask, coughing.
“You. Dead. I hope you realize, you just did this to yourself. I only used your lover because I hated the w****.” Your friend smirks. “They just got what they deserved.”
Your friend blasts another force of energy at you, and you attack yourself, your own Essence batting theirs to the side. Open the door. You duck and launch yourself backward, It gliding back as well. You grunt in pain as a blast propels you backward into It. If you don’t… Instead of falling back, it catches you, holding you against its cold chest with It’s scythe. You’ll die.
The seed blossomed into another flower, wrapping its roots around you. You’re paralyzed as your friend materializes in front of you. “It’s over,” they whisper.
Even you feel it, deep in the pit of your stomach. You’re done. Why stop? Your friend gathers her Essence around her hand. Break free… It looks like a sword made of leaves but you don’t really care. Nothing matters anymore. Walk through the door… Your Essence is almost completely gone, your heart beats slowly; all that’s left is the final blow. Live.
Your Essence flares and the roots are incinerated into nothing. You jump up, kicking your friend in the face and flipping over It. You gain the momentum to give you the edge and you use it to throw It down the other end of the sewer.
You had known the voice who talked: your beloved. “Blasphemer!” the friend screams, quaking violently.
“No. I just have nothing left to lose,” you reply as your Essence grows into a torrential barrier. You’ve taken every ounce of your Essence and condensed it to use it all at that one moment – you know that it’s considered unholy and will end with the ultimate sacrifice.
“Fine. No regrets!”
You take a step forward as their own Essence is gathering around them. They cut with their forearm, sending a slice of energy hurtling towards your neck. Your eyes reverberate with power as the attack is redirect with little effort. Your Essence is your blood…
In front of you, you see your friend’s knees buckle. They send two more slices, one for each further step. You brush them aside and you feel your hands become hollow and numb. It is your power…
You inch closer and they scream, a vortex of green essence coming straight for you. In response, you clap, separating the vortex with a slice of your own. It is your strength… You’re standing in front of them, looking down from above. You can’t feel anything anymore; you know it’s going to be over soon.
With the last of their strength, their eyes turn green and a blast juts out of the crown of their forehead. As it comes at you, you raise your hand. It is your soul.
With a ferocious growl, a concentrated blast beams from your palm, going into and through their blast, obliterating it in a shower of green. The beam opens wide and created a cocoon around seemingly devours your friend. Without missing a beat, it continues down the sewer, illuminating a path to an exit. The energy disappears.
Your Essence concentrates itself on your back, ridding yourself of its curse. And then, it’s gone. All of it. The power, the strength. Vanished, except for that one grain that keeps us alive – the most powerful Essence of all. But don’t lose yourself completely.
Your vision is blurry and you can barely stand, but you’re alive. Slowly, but surely, you trudge towards the exit. The only thing that awaits you if you do… All the pain and fatigue that left you is coming back in waves. With every step, you wince; with every breath, you gag. It’s a long and arduous journey, but you survive all the same. Is despair.
To the left is a metal ladder, leading to an open manhole. You test yourself, gripping the ladder tentatively. But don’t be afraid… You climb steadily and wearily. It’s only with agonizing determination that leads you to the top; as you pull yourself up, a sense of relief passes through you. It’s almost over.
A second wind comes to you as you prop yourself up, trying to crawl to the safest place you know: home. You’re almost done. The cobblestones hurt your knees and feet, but you carry on nonetheless. You look into the sky and you see the stars are almost gone and the moon has set; it won’t be long before dawn. Is it time…?
You see your house and feel a fresh wave of relief. You inch to the door, using what little strength you have left to open it. As it creaks open, a new grotesque smell comes to your nose. Rotting flash and blood is why you decide it is. What do you believe?
From inside, you hear a shriek, almost like a battle cry, and that’s when you see them: your best friend - the best friend who used your beloved to try and kill you. As a fresh bout of anger crosses through you, you prepare to strike as they surge towards you. But you cannot move, because It is holding you in place. Or… is it ‘what do you think’?
They’re upon you, and you hold your breath. In that moment, you let everything go. As you’re struck, something came upon you and used your last bit of Essence to disintegrate both of them in an instant. But maybe that’s not up to you.
As you feel that liquid once more upon your body, you realize it isn’t warm anymore; rather, it’s as ice. Walk through the door… You slump down, propping yourself against your door.
Over, past the fields of green, you can see the sun creep over the horizon. It’s open for you. The majestic colors pervade your thoughts and distract you from the one in the back of your mind: you think you’re dying. But, it’s not what you think that matters…
Strangely, you feel at peace, even though you can’t feel anymore. You can tell, however, that tears are coming down your face. You breathe in sharply and close your eyes.
It’s what you believe.