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The Spirit of Dawn
I’m dead, or so they say.
Here, my body is replaced by wisps of smoke, gliding through thick, jelly-like water. I’m hollow. I yearn to feel, to sense, but something inside of me barricades most emotions. I’m quiet. I barely speak to anyone, and barely anyone speaks to me. I keep to myself. That’s the way it is.
But not the way it should be.
I was once an ordinary teenage girl with longings and fantasies. I hadn’t even decided what college I was going to attend yet; death had happened in a flash. I was murdered. By whom and why is a mystery. Yet here I am, floating in the sea of death, expecting my purpose to arrive. Other souls surround me; some are new and grasp my hands for help. A spark inside of me wants to aid them, but there’s nothing I can do. Recalling my first few days here, I cringe. It was tough. But we’re all dead, and their low moans will pass over soon enough. They’ll be washed away in this river of spirits, forgetting who they are within time.
I let my auburn streaked hair drift in the milky water, allowing it to spread out like a pair of wings. I sigh. This meander must be taking us somewhere- hopefully to a place where all of my worries will disappear. Anyplace has to be better than this. I have to admit, this isn’t what I imagined to be the afterlife.
However, I do hear there’s a place beyond this water, a place full of hopes and desires, a place where your imagination is made real.
“It’s a colorful land bounding with happiness!” Olivia had screeched, a new, peppy girl who is too naïve to accept that there’s nothing she can do about being dead.
“Oh, yeah?” I had questioned sarcastically, barely paying attention.
“Yes! Lilly says this is just a place for wafting souls who haven’t found their place in the world yet. It’s like a limbo; where you go before your fate is decided.”
I had shaken my head in disbelief. Lies. Lies created to raise their hopes, lies to give them something to long for. Alright, if this is limbo, when will we be allowed to leave? Without a sun, time feels extinct, like a neglected language or land. When I was new however, I used to essentially count the hours of each day, providing me some sanity. It’s dark, numb and frighteningly dark down here; to pass the seemingly never ending time, some girls play water games or dare each other to cross shore.
“It’s the Calling!” Someone eagerly yells in front of me, waking me from my daze. “Some of us are going to leave!”
This captures my attention. I turn from my floating position in the murky water. Excited whispers surround my curious ears, intriguing me to poke my head between crowds of spirits. They’re cheering triumphantly; it’s the first kind of happiness I’ve ever noticed in their sunken faces. The river’s current suddenly lurches to a stop, directing all of our attention to shore.
“Olivia Pines,” says a booming voice, seeming to spring from the darkness. Squinting, I notice Olivia, at the front of the crowd, literally leaping with joy. She is seemingly catapulted unto shore by an invisible force, walking triumphantly on sand. Yes, she actually walks. Without a scratch or any sign of injury. If the rest of us attempted that, we’d be shredded to bits by the piercing, razor sharp soil put there strategically to keep us all caged inside the river’s current.
“Olivia is still so new. Where in the world could she be going?” I whisper to myself.
An intrusive, older spirit beside me overhears my thoughts and replies simply with a sneer, “It’s the Calling, duh. Haven’t you been here long enough to witness it? It happens every two years. The Lord chooses a few of us to leave for a purpose. If you are not chosen by the time the end of the river is reached, you are judged before the King.”
I shoot her a confused look.
Then, without warning, the river lurches me forward with more ferocity than it ever had before. I tremble violently. Icy water rushes around my body, encasing me in a freezing cocoon. I can’t move a single muscle, as if the water is paralyzing every part of my nervous system. I struggle from the water’s hold, even try thrashing around. Everyone just looks on with wide eyes and applauds at my losing battle.
“Help!” I yell. No one comes to my aid; they just stand and cheer while I struggle within the grasp of the river.
“Alexis Price,” says the same booming voice I’d heard for Olivia.
The current raises me violently out of the water and throws me on the sand. Flesh- I’m made of actual flesh. I’m truly breathing. Gasping with the sudden surge of senses, I grip the ground like I’m anchored to it. How is this happening? I’m dead aren’t I?
A soft, deep and mesmerizing voice whispers in my ear, “You are special, Alexis. You may not know it, but if you wished to travel to the Underworld unnoticed, you should have turned off your Light Orb. Afraid of the darkness are you?” He chuckles. “That figures. You have always been that way. If that’s the case, you are not meant to be here, surrounded by night, are you?”
Chills run down my spine as I contemplate the voice’s owner. How does he know of my weakness? He sounds so familiar, like a long lost memory sizzling at the back of my mind.
The mysterious voice laughs humorlessly again in my ear. I try to swat it away in vain.
“Do not get upset. You will be free, but prepare. Your future assignment will finally shed light on your long forgotten past.” He chuckles at his own inside joke.
“Who are you?” I scream over the roar of the raging river. A few spirits look up at me incredulously; they’re glances are obvious that they haven’t heard the entrancing whispers in the air.
“I am someone you should’ve never forgotten…” The voice fades in my mind, shimmering in blackness.
I wake up on the floor of a giant, circular, white washed empty room. Cradling my head, my vision blurs. I sway with nauseating dizziness.
“Finally; you are awake,” a thunderous voice muses from the other side of the room. My violet eyes roll as I rub my temples.
“Am I still dead?” I manage to squeak. At least I’m supposed to be, but it would be a miracle if I could live again.
“Yes you are, just in a different form. You were murdered by your brother’s command almost two years ago. I have brought you here, for you have a purpose to attend to.”
My thoughts jumble as I strain to comprehend his reply. I groan and try to hold down my lightheadedness as much as possible. I begin to cough uncontrollably-
“Ah. Let me fix that.” The voice snaps his fingers. Immediately, my head stops spinning, setting everything in place. “I am sorry for that; it is just a side effect.”
I regain my balance and carefully stand up from my knees, glaring up at my captor. A black figure stands out immediately against white walls. His long, black hair flutters in an inexistent wind. Incredibly handsome young features observe me from afar, and he stands there, analyzing me for what seems like hours. I recoil slightly until my hands reach smooth, ungraspable walls.
“Who are you, really?” I ask cautiously.
He scoffs in reply, “If you must need me to refresh your memory, I am Lord Thanatos, death itself. I regulate where souls go and when they go.” He makes a swooping gesture around the room and bitterly adds, “In your case, the King has decided to make you an offer.” He spits the word ‘king’ out like venom.
“The-the King?” I stutter.
“Are you really that delusional?” Thanatos lowers his head dramatically. “The King, Hades, my brother!” He shakes his head in frustration. “I gave you hints. I gave you clues. What else could you want from me, Aurora?”
I gape at him. “It’s Alexis.” It’s all I can fish out of the many protests swimming frantically in my mind.
“No,” he says loudly and fiercely. “You are the goddess of dawn! Don’t you remember anything? We were best friends! Your eyes are lilac like the morning sun; your hair is naturally streaked with its rays!” He strides toward me and grips my arms intensely with pale, icy fingers so cold it hurts. “How can you not remember?”
I shake him off violently in disgust. “Get away from me!”
Thanatos mumbles something under his breath as I storm from his presence, shaking my head. I search for a door uselessly. My mind garbles as I try to grasp what this stranger is trying to make me understand. He must have it wrong. My murder flashes before me and I remember the knife that had plunged into my chest. Goddesses can’t die, right?
My past life had been carefree; I was nurtured by loving hands in an orphanage. I never knew my parents or what my previous life was like. But I’m not a goddess. No one can just forget a thing like that.
Thanatos studies me as I pace in the middle of the marble floor. Finally, he speaks. “Allow me to elaborate so you can catch up. A lot has happened over the past two years. Because of your murder, plants are drooping. Animals are collapsing. Even gods are suffering. Aphrodite just faded with the wind. And it’s all because of you, Aurora. Or should I call you by your Greek name, Eos?” After analyzing my confused reaction carefully, he continues, “The human race is in check. The sun does not rise. Your brother, Astraeus, god of dusk, is taking over, adding ruin to the Earth after killing you. It has been dark these few years, and one by one we will all fade along with Aphrodite. Do you wish for that?” He raises an eyebrow mockingly.
Anger slashes through me like swords. “You think I want this? I don’t even believe in those myths!” Thanatos cringes. “I am not admitting to being a goddess. I can’t carry that kind of responsibility. I’m just…” My voice trails off into space. I’m just me. I glare at the floor.
He sighs deeply. “What if we gave you the chance to leave? To never enter the Underworld again, to live a happy mortal life away from us gods. You can still live in civilization when this is all over as a normal teenager. You’ll never have to worry about the dangers of being a goddess again. We will send you back with… a blank memory after all of this is over.”
I scowl but if he’s telling the truth, by agreeing I could save billions of lives. I could live again. I could see the sun, and witness its rise once more.
“We need your powers. Without the sun, we will all die. In exchange for this completed task, you will be mortal again. Hades and I swear. Aurora, just do this for us- for me.” Tears well up in his glimmering silver eyes, drowning my heart in dread.
I watch as his crescent shaped pupils quiver in desperation. He says this with full blown sorrow, and I know it pains him to let me go again. I- or Aurora- was his best friend, or something more. But he’s mistaken me for someone else. I can’t stay here no matter who I was or will be. Going back to a regular life… I can have a second chance; something some people would kill for.
“Aurora, I can’t lose you again. Please, I know you’re in there somewhere. Cronos and Astraeus couldn’t have stolen all of your memory...”
I counter confidently, cutting him off, “What will I have to do?”
Thanatos lowers his eyes. Pausing for a moment, he hesitates to offer me a chance of freedom. He knows I’m his last hope no matter what I choose, but I’m not changing my mind. “Aurora, goddess of the dawn…”
“Yes?” I’m startled when I realize I’ve answered to a goddess’s name.
“You must… resurrect the sun.”