by Mar Prax
Arlo's visions are getting worse, but will she give up he peaceful life to stop them?
A spec of black darkness spawned in the sky and I turned toward the castle. My heart rate matched my footsteps as I ran toward the golden gates of the castle, screaming some incoherent warning at the top of my lungs. A man trailed me, his leg was cripped and he ran with the assistance of a type of staff or walking stick.
The spec of darkness grew in the sky. My feet throbbed and my eyes stung. I kept running, but the golden gates got no closer and the darkness kept growing.
Something grabbed my foot and I collapsed on the ground. I looked behind me and saw a dark shadowy rope or maybe a hand wrapped around my ankle, dragging me back. I pounded my fist against the ground and dug my fingers into the ground, trying to claw my way away from the shadowy demon which held me back.
“Go!” I yelled at the crippled man as the darkness broke through the sky and began to run rampant through the kingdom. “Go!”
The man tried his best to hobble his way to the gates, but his leg was holding him back. His staff fell loose from his grip and clattered onto the ground. He cried out then tried desperately to pick his staff back up.
“Run!” I told him. “Go, please.”
Tears slipped from my eyes as the darkness wrapped around my legs then waist and crept up my back to consume everything around me. The world became black and breath was stolen away from my body. The darkness shot through my eyes, filling me with a cold and empty sensation that could only be described as hopeless.
I sat bolt upright in my bed, covered in sweat and tears. I was shivering and confused. I had visions before, but nothing like that.
I rolled off of my bed and unwrapped the sheet from it, revealing the straw. I tiptoed over to my brother’s bed on the other side of the room and stole a little straw from his bed to put in mine. After I did so, I laid down and tried to go to sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, the darkness grasped my heart and shocked me awake again. Tears slipped from my eyes as I got up and slipped out of the house without disturbing a soul.
I found my way across town, the moon lighting my way. I ran into a small shack where two young men, twins, slept on mounds of dirt with sheepskin blankets. I sat down next to one of them and shook him awake.
“Taden,” I said. “It happened again.”
His eyes fluttered open. “Arlo, what do you mean? I live across town from you, couldn’t this have waited.”
Taden’s eyes widened and he murmured, “Oh.”
He sat up and wiped my eyes then grasped my hand. He squeezed it gently then said, “Let’s go outside so we don’t wake Kaio.”
I nodded and left his small dwelling with him. We sat down a few feet outside of it. Taden’s blue-green hazel eyes were full of concern. His tousled paper-white hair looked silver in the moonlight. He looked me in the eye and asked, “What happened?”
“It was worse,” I told him. “Way worse. There was this darkness consuming… everything. I was in this place, this kingdom, with this man. He—he had a sort of staff and his leg was crippled.”
“Who was he?”
“I—I don’t know. I think he knew me or—or will know me. I’m not sure, but I think he was helping me but I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t help anyone. And that darkness consumed me and I couldn’t—couldn’t do anything.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t just a nightmare?”
“No, visions are different. They’re more real. They’re more real than life itself.”
“Okay, I believe you. What do you think it means?”
I put my face in my hands. “I don’t know.” My voice was muffled and weak. “I think it has something to do with the Capital.”
“The Capital? Do you know what it looks like? I mean, the last we heard of the Capital was when they collected taxes—what?—six years back. Then the collectors stopped coming and we haven’t heard from them since.”
“In the vision, there was a castle with golden gates. Where else could it be?”
“What if it wasn’t from this kingdom?”
I shook my head. “No, no.”
“How do you know?”
Taden opened his mouth, agape, then nodded his head. “Of course, a feeling. Not that I have an issue with it, but sometimes having a girlfriend with magic can be a bit confusing.”
He smiled and bumped my shoulder. My face was still solemn.
“I don’t have magic,” I told him, “just visions.”
“Same thing, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
Taden grabbed both my hands and stared at me for a few seconds before asking, “Would you like to?”
“Like to what?”
“Learn about your visions, magic, all of it.”
“How would I even do that?”
“I don’t know, but I could help you find out.”
“I can’t leave here. I have family here. I love my life.”
“You don’t think you need to be looking for something more? For answers?”
I pulled my hands out of Taden’s grasp and turned away from him. “I like my life. I love my family. I couldn’t just… leave. What would my parents think? My brother? You’re the on;y one who knows I have visions. I’d have to leave without any explanation, or worse, actually try to explain. What would they think of me? I don’t want them to see me any differently.”
Taden sighed. “They wouldn’t. I didn't.”
I stayed silent for a moment and turned halfway toward Taden before speaking. “I can’t. I can’t go, it wouldn’t be right.” A chill crawled up my spine like an icy snake slithering along my back. “But my visions…”
“They’re important, aren’t they?”
“Yeah… I think so. They’ve just gotten worse. Tonight especially. That—that darkness was like something I’ve never felt, probably like no one has ever felt.”
“So why don’t you get word to the Capital? Why don’t you act on such visions?”
“Taden, you don’t understand, what I felt, that power… Someone there must have felt it too.”
Taden tried to grab my hand again, probably to comfort me, but I moved it away. I stared at the ground. Taden’s heels clicked against each other continuously. “I don’t know… if it’s as important as you make it seem then maybe it’s worth it to make sure.”
I turned toward Taden to make sure he would get the brunt of what I was about to say. I wanted him to see the emotion on my face, to grasp some concept of understanding what I felt and saw. The issue was, I was starting to understand him. His eyes were wide with concern and his brows were tilted slightly up. His face looked blueish and the corner of his lip quivered. He looked genuinely upset, which in turn made me feel so too.
“I can’t go, there’s too many things—people—holding me here,” I said. “I have a life and a family and I have you. I’d miss you too much. Hell, I’d even miss Kaio. I don’t want to give up my life here. I hope you can understand that.”
Taden nodded. “I do, but I think you may be missing out on an opportunity to find out more about yourself, to do something important. You have abilities that I could never possess, and even though I know you don’t understand them yet, they give you power to make a difference.”
“I don’t want it.”
“You have it.”
I ripped my gaze away from Taden and stood up to leave. Maybe talking to him wasn’t the best idea. I took a few steps forward when Taden leaned forward and reached for my hand. He only managed to graze my finger tips. I wiped my eyes with my other hand and kept walking away. I heard Taden get up behind me. He took a few steps forward and slipped his hand into mine. I looked back at him. Strands of moonlit silvery hair covered part of his left eye. He bit down his bottom lip which gave him an almost “puppy dog” look. The muscles in his fingers were tense. I pulled my hand away from him.
“I don’t wan’t it.”
I started walking away and I heard Taden’s footsteps following.
“Taden,” Kaio said in a waverinvg, groggy voice. Taden’s footsteps stopped.
“Kaio, what are you doing?” he returned.
“You know, brother,” Kaio responded. “I was thinking the same thing about you.”
“Kaio, you’re awake. You’re never awake!”
“Arlo’s here? Oh, I see her. Hi Arlo!”
I turned my head. Kaio was sitting right outside of his house. His ghostly hair was in a tangled mess on top of his head and had a silver glean like his twin’s. His hair was longer than Taden’s and he usually wore it in a shaggy fashion. His eyes were like Taden’s, but inverted, if you ever saw them. He had lazier tendencies than his busy-body brother and mostly slept. At that moment they looked droopy and dead. Besides those differences, the two were identical in appearance.
Taden’s eyes were still wide as ever, but the layer just outside of the iris was shattered. His mouth hung agape. His head bounced back from his brother and me as if he didn’t know whether to go after me or yell at Kaio first.
I turned my head away and kept walking.
“Arlo, wait!” Taden called. I didn’t look back and kept walking.