Personal

Red

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This post was originally published through Patreon on Janurary 17, 2018.

Red. The color floods Amanda’s vision, a blinding solar flare in the dark, and she lifts a hand to shield her eyes as a familiar creature advances. She was seven the last time she saw him. The same blinding glow had preceded him, and at the time, she’d cried.

“Go away,” she shouted, pulling the covers over her head like a shawl. “You’re not real.” She spent the next twenty years believing she was right.

But she is not afraid when he approaches her again, nor when he inclines his head and offers her a shriveled hand by way of greeting, nor when he examines the birthmark on her wrist, a dark patch of mottled, mossy black.

“You are destined for great things,” he told her long ago. “Dangerous things, perhaps, but great.”

What he meant he never explained, nor did she have the courage to ask. Now, she thinks she’ll find out.

“You came back to me.” Her eyes have begun to adjust to the light, and she lets her hand fall limp at her side. “I didn’t think you were real, but you came back to me.”

A slow, sad smile spreads across parched lips. “I hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. I wanted you to enjoy your human life for a while longer. But our world needs you now, and I can’t keep my kind waiting anymore.”

She nods. On some level, hasn’t she expected this? On the surface, perhaps, it was easy to dismiss his existence as fantasy. But in her heart? The truth is, she’s always known she was meant for something more.

She clasps his hand in her own, her ruby tears glistening in the crimson light, and says that she is ready.

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Fighting the Storm

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Backward.

The Storm was pulling Beth backward, and if she didn’t plant her feet in the ground and make her stand soon, she would die.

All around her, the cosmos spun and reeled, a fiery explosion that transformed the ordinarily calm night sky into an apocalyptic inferno. A tempest of such magnitude and strength had not visited the Earth for more than a thousand years, and Beth felt powerless beneath the weight of its world-shattering influence.

She reached into the void outside space—the staging ground of reality itself—not with her arms but with her mind. The damage was extensive, and Beth didn’t know if she could fix it.

What would Grandma do?

The woman had been the fiercest Guardian Beth had ever known, and she’d defended the Earth from the Storm for more than three centuries before passing the role on to her.

“You’re stronger than you believe,” Grandma had said on her deathbed. “You have to accept that, or the Storm will win.”

But how could she accept an idea that was so patently absurd? The Storm was cosmic in scale and all-consuming. How could a lowly human like herself, gifted though she was, stand against it?

The wind intensified, and Beth slipped further. Falling back, she was dragged through the ravaged street, asphalt tearing her windswept clothes and opening wounds along her arms and legs.

The Storm was winning, and it was going to be Beth’s fault when the world was swept away.

All at once, a silence fell before her. The Storm was still close, but in another dimension of sensation it was suddenly far away. Here, in this inner depth she’d never explored before, she felt an incredible source of power rooted to the very cosmos itself, humming to the rhythm of her beating heart. Here, she thought, was the power Grandma had passed on to her. It was immense, an entire celestial ocean, and in its awe-inducing presence, Beth knew for certain at last.

She could do this.

She touched it, hesitantly at first, like a child tasting something hot, then drew it into herself in a single draught. It was like ice. Like fire. Like liquid lightning. It surged and throbbed and thrummed inside her, so that the Storm now seemed an inconsequential thing.

When her eyes snapped open, she got to her feet at once, as if she hadn’t just been dragged across yards and yards of asphalt. She turned her gaze to the sky, and she felt the Storm quail against the fury of her newly discovered power.

“Go”, she commanded. “Go, and trouble the world no more.”

The Storm raged against her in reply, but Beth’s will now carried the force of a law older than the cosmos itself, and they both knew it was bound to obey.

“Go,” she repeated. “Leave this place now.”

And the Storm left.

One by one, the stars returned to the sky. Beth released the power only when she was sure the Storm was gone, and when she did, its energy drained from her body at once. She sank to her knees, exhausted. But she was no longer afraid, no longer worried she wasn’t capable like Grandma. She knew now that she had everything she would ever need and more, and she would be ready to defend the world when the Storm returned.

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