by Emily Quinn
Short Sci-Fi/Fantasy Piece
She found him lying on the forest floor. His reddened cheeks were no match for the crimson fluid flowing from his right shoulder. The knife lay at his side, still contaminated by the events of the passing night. He was breathing, but only barely. His chest rose and fell, leaving more than a few seconds in between. She remembered him as he used to be, before their fight a year ago. He had been brave to sacrifice himself for her, knowing all along that what they had long ago was shattered by lies and deceit.
“Nate, I’m sorry” she whispered in hush tones as she pulled his weakening body behind the freshly fallen leaves. A quick breath heaved from somewhere within him and he let out but one word.
“Emily” then silence. He knew she had come, he knew she found him again, and that’s all she needed to know. She raced to the edge of the forest hoping for some clue as to how he ended up there. They were miles away from their homes in Brighton Valley, Massachusetts, but she could see the shimmer of lights from the unsuspecting homes down below the cliff. That was where she had last seen him, trailing her every move, showing up wherever she went. That was just a week ago, but it felt like a lifetime.
Light poured from the skies, guiding the way back to her parents’ decrepit cabin. She couldn't look up. The realization was overwhelming. He must have learned to travel, just as she had, and just in time from the looks of him. The end was coming, she was sure of that now. The lights from Brighton would be gone within the hour; she could feel it- never to turn on again.
She walked through the large oak door to find her mother, hovering close to the wind up radio, “Breaking News on this, fifth day of November of the year twenty-forty-six…Our sun has begun its collision course towards Earth, the only means of escape lies with…” Silence. The last transmission cut out before the revelation of a secret the Earth-Bound were not meant to hear. She knew the ending. She wasn’t like her family, she knew things, could feel things, and had found her ability to escape the end rather recently.
The Chosen were the only ones who wouldn’t be defeated. Emily was a part of them, and felt no attachment to this world or anyone in it. Except for him. She had long wondered what would become of her family and friends when the event presented itself, but she no longer cared. Not even while she watched her mother, shaking in anxiety and fear.
“Mom, are you…”
“Just go away.” her mother replied, “I don’t know why you’re even here. You are not one of us, I know that now. Had I known before, my escape would sealed and you would be dead where I found you. No do as I say and get out.”
Without a word, Emily gathered what medicine she could find. If she was to escape, she needed Nate with her. She wouldn’t go without him. A sudden crackling of the dead leaves jolted her out of her trance. Looking up, she saw a figure stumbling towards her and she ran outside, catching him just before he fell to the ground.
“Nate, what are you doing? You need to lie down, I have medicine.”
“No. We need to go. We have to get away from her.”
Emily stared back towards her disheveled looking mother. “Her? Ummm okay, how hard did you hit your head? Does she look like a threat to you?”
Nate didn’t look at her, he couldn’t. He glanced to the west, hoping somehow she would see through him and know this was hard for him to say. “She did this to me. She said she would do it to you. She knows.”
It never occurred to Emily that Nate didn’t known his mother’s secret. His head tilted toward the ground, and he winced as his shoulder let out more blood every time he shifted position. Emily grabbed the antibiotics and doused his shoulder. She watched in awe as the wound closed and a delicate scar formed where it used to be. “Good thing I am who I am,” she said slyly, giving him the slightest smirk she could considering the timing.
Time. They were running out of that. She hopped to her feet and helped Nate to his, being careful not to pull to harshly on the freshly healed shoulder. They walked down the path, not looking back towards the cabin or her mother.
“What does she know… how much?” Emily asked.
“She knows you aren’t really her daughter. She knows I am your protector. That’s all she needs to know to condemn us.”
“Protector? Seriously? I don’t need a protector. I mean, I’m not telling you to leave either, but I’ve been on my own long enough to be able to defend myself.”
“Just like your gifts aren’t presented to you until a certain time in your life, same goes for me. I only found out who I was about a week ago. Then, there was no way I was letting you out of my sight. Just to be safe. I know you can handle things on your own, but I’m not gonna stand by and watch you do it. I guess that’s why we were drawn together to begin with.”
“Do you think she’ll tell them?” Emily was almost at a whisper, for fear that anyone from the Earth-Bound Council could be listening. If anyone found out she was a traveler, they would do whatever they could to stop her escape. It was nothing to be ashamed of, not to her kind, but they were nearly headhunted these days by the Earth-Bound. The human race was begging for immortality and escaping the collision would be one way to satisfy that wish. Her friend Hannah had been tortured when they found out about her, and although she never gave up the secrets of their kind, she knew it was a matter of time before they found the others- and her.
Nate stopped short and gazed towards the heavens. He pointed to the east and grabbed Emily’s hand. “Have you ever seen it so bright?”
Emily looked out over the valley below, Brighton’s lights growing dimmer every second. From their standpoint, it had vanished beneath the black and purple hue of the night sky. An arm of the milky way, outstretched over the mountain tops, trailed through the night sky with billions of stars lit around it dancing like fire flies. It was beautiful, but it would soon be gone. She closed her eyes and took a picture in her mind. It was something she never wanted to forget.
Still clasping his hand, she turned to Nate “It’s amazing, but I still want an answer. Do you think she will tell them about us? Does she know where we’re going?”
Nate sighed, “Em, she knows enough for you to end up like Hannah. She feels betrayed that she had to sacrifice her gift when she kept you… So…yeah, I think he will tell.”
“Then we have to run.” She said, taking off down the gravel slope of the seemingly endless hills. They ran for another half mile, not stopping until they reached the bottom. She needed to find somewhere safe, somewhere that would allow them to escape. She turned and fled for Soaring Swan Inn. She could think of no other place they could flee that wouldn’t have them captured or killed en route. Traveler’s from all over the world congregated there. There had to be someone there tonight who could help them.
After running a quarter mile, Emily stopped short. Thick black smoke rose from the manhole in the center of Kilbourne Avenue. It twisted and whirled before them, no breeze to satisfy their curiosity, until a human form stood half a block away from them on the desolate street. She wore a long black dress, sleek and fitting to her voluptuous body. Her black hair, no longer in tangles about her skull, but slicked into an old-style hairdo. She gazed at them with red glowing eyes, piercing their thoughts and holding them captive to where they stood, no longer appearing stressed or anxious.
“Mom…” Emily whispered.
“No, dear, not mom as you well know. It was foolish of them to agree to place you in my care. They had no way of knowing about me, of course, but once you traveled the first time I knew my day of revelation was soon to come.”
“You’re…” Nate cut out.
“Yes honey, I am. The name’s actually Marilyn, but you can call me mistress,” she said seductively as she looked him up and down.
“Oh, please, don’t act all innocent. My position here was to capture you and your kind, and kill you off if I saw fit. I am the last remaining traveler that was appointed to the Earth-Bound Council of Massachusetts, maybe even the United States for that matter.”
“You’re a traitor!” Emily yelled.
“Nathaniel’s sorry father killed himself after finding out the news of his son just a short time ago. So it’s quite reasonable to believe I’m all that’s left. Fitting since I’m the most powerful anyway. Now please, dearies, surrender yourselves willingly and I will see to it you fry here like the rest and that I don’t go murdering you first.” she continued, not acknowledging her daughter’s accusation.
Emily didn’t know what to think. She had known the connection between her and her mother had died off, but she had never expected she was the one condemning traveler’s to their ill-gotten fates. Tears formed in her eyes, and took one last trip beyond her cheek, falling gracefully to the ground.
“Nate,” she whispered, “we go now. We don’t wait for it to happen, we leave now. Give me your hand.”
Nate obliged, but wasn’t ready for the events that unfolded. He was still new to his position as protector of a traveler and didn’t know what to expect.
“You may get nauseous, you may hear my thoughts, you may see or feel weird things, but promise me you will not let go of my hand.”
He just nodded and Emily closed her eyes. She mumbled something in a foreign tongue that Nate didn’t quite catch. Then they were spinning, twisting and turning with no earth beneath them. Blue and white lights flashed around him as if they were entering the Twilight Zone. As suddenly as it had begun, they stopped. Nate tried to get his footing on the ground, not yet noticing there was no ground beneath them. His realization was met with a look of shock, and he grabbed tighter to the hand wrapped around his own.
Just a little worm hole, you’ll get used to it. Emily’s thoughts dove right into his head. He looked at her curiously, and she just smiled. She gestured with her free hand for him to look around, but he wasn’t ready for what he saw. They were hovering, far above the Earth, like astronauts without their suits.
He could see now why it was so important they left. The Earth, blazing and flaring in the darkened sky, was colliding with the Sun. The spots of land engulfed in flame and smoke. Earth had been knocked out of it's orbit, or the sun had been pushed, he wasn’t sure, but he knew he needed answers. He motioned for Emily to look at what was happening, but he was already hearing the mumbled foreign words in his head. They twisted again.
His feet found solidity this time and his eyes opened wide. “What just happened?” He blurted out within seconds of finding stability.
“We travelled, we escaped. We aren’t dead, anyway.” Emily sighed.
“Marilyn…” he started, but was cut off by a smile across Emily’s face. He hadn’t seen that in a long time and it hypnotized him.
“Marilyn can’t travel here,” she said, “I’m not sure if she can travel anymore, with the Earth-Bound knowing about her. It’s possible though, but only the pure can come here. If the others made it out, they will join us shortly.”
She pointed up to the large building on their left. Nate was in awe. “The Hall of Records,” she began, “The only place worth escaping too.” The tall marble building towered over them, set behind great white pillars withholding the weight of a large silver dome. The other buildings were just as glamorous; large, and sturdy, made of glass and stone. The ground glimmered with a sparkle that could only be imagined, a silver glittering between the cobblestone streets. Emily was smiling, this felt more like home than anywhere she had been. She had made it out of a world that had criticized her people for being different. Shamed them, for being who they were. She could be herself, and no one here would think unkindly of her for it.
The others filed in shortly after, congratulating one another on their return. The Sting Bean looking boy had held out his hand in welcome to Nate and Emily, and introduced them to the others gathered on the steps of Hall of Records.
“We have returned to the Hall of Records. Our stories, once recorded, will be transformed and closely researched to see what went wrong with the human race. We will be able to reassemble on another world, eventually, but for now, we rest in peace.”
There were cheers from the others, but Emily’s heart sank. Rest in peace. Her escape from Earth now felt like a suicide. Her thoughts were countered by String Bean himself. Did you expect anything more? You are one of us, The Chosen. What we do, we do for the good of mankind- whichever universe that may be in.
That was why this place was so heaven-like. It was heaven. She had done everything in her power to cheat the death that would have awaited her had she stayed, but for what? She had killed herself, unknowingly, and Nate… she had killed him too. She looked at him with sorry eyes, but received only gracious thanks back from him. He swept her up and kissed her. His lips feeling alive, not the distant memory she thought they would be.
“It’s not really death, if we get to live.” He said. He brushed a lone strand of hair behind her ear and took her in his arms again. “Em, I don’t care if it seemed or even was some kind of suicide. If I get to be here, with you, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Emily smiled and wrapped her arms around his waist. They walked to the great white steps, and told their story to the keeper of records. In time, all would be forgotten. A new world would be developed, and another life would ensue. For now, they smiled, but days would come when smiles would be forgotten, and new battles would arise.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Mama, why do you always cry when we read that story?” Little Avery sat upon her
mother’s lap, watching the tear fall to her rosy cheek. Her daughter was right, she had told that story before, and it always ended the same- through tears. Avery’s bouncy blonde curls lined her face, as her mother gently stroked her hair, longing to tell her daughter everything. The story had to end this way, for her protection. The less her daughter knew, the better her life would turn out to be.
She looked out the window at the hazy scene before her. The white jagged rocks blinded her view of the silvery sea beyond. She longed for the days that had passed, the Earth she once knew, and the lives they could have had. But that was almost two-hundred years ago. No place like that existed now.
She tucked her daughter into bed, knowing it was for the last time. Knowing that that following day, her daughter would be gone, and the sacrifice had to be made. It was safe this way. Safer she didn’t know the truth.
As the light clicked off in Avery’s room, her mother wept. Her baby girl, off to another land. This time, leaving her behind. She hoped the wickedness and jealousy did not overcome her like it had her own mother once. She didn’t want to be the cause of her little girl’s destruction. That’s why she had called them. They knew where to find her. They would be here soon enough.
“You don’t have to do this, honey. Not again.” Came the soft voice of her husband.
“It’s what I have to do” she replied, “It’s all I can do to save her. She has to believe there’s a happy ending.”
“Not every story has a happy ending” he stated, putting his arm around his wife. She lay her head to the crevice of his neck, letting the tears flow for the soon to be loss of her daughter. She gently traced the scar on her husband’s right shoulder, remembering the day he fought for her. The day her mother had implanted in him the very device that lead her back to them.
“Marilyn can’t know about her. If she’s gone, she’s safe. I am ready for whatever she brings, and I hope one day to see my little girl again. But I can’t put her through seeing anything happen to us.”
A light rap at the door did little to ease her mind. On the opposite side stood String Bean, ready to take her daughter from her. Taking her to the Hall for safety and a new life. She opened it slowly, wishing none of it was real.
“Marilyn is almost here, I couldn’t believe it when you said she had made it out, but her rampage is evident. Two planets in complete devastation looking for you. I guess she got close enough to set off the device she put in Nate. Is Avery ready?” he questioned with a sad look in his eye.
“She’s just fallen asleep,” Nate replied, “no time like the present.”
Nate escorted String Bean to the room where his daughter lay, quietly in a deep sleep, not knowing what to expect when she woke. He and Emily kissed the forehead of their sleeping baby girl, and watched as String Bean closed his eyes, muttered foreign words, and vanished with their little girl.
When Emily awoke the next morning, she ran to Avery’s room. Nate had cleared everything overnight, no trace of their little girl ever having been born. She wept in silence for the loss of her daughter.
As dawn cast shadow over the new day, Emily and Nate stood on the front porch of their home. Reminiscing about their lives in this new place. How they would miss the endless silver ocean, and the jagged rocks providing an unusually calming shade in their shadows. How brightly the two moons shone in the darkened skies, reflecting their life off of the rings of Saturn and giving a new glory to their mostly vacant planet.
Black smoke twisted and turned before them, revealing the devil herself. Marilyn had returned. With Emily’s destruction, Marilyn’s power would weaken. A fate of the powerful, that Marilyn did not know existed, awaited her. She knew nothing of Avery, or the others, and it had to be kept that way. Their sacrifice would stop her hunt, at least for the time being. That would give their little girl enough time to gain strength in her powers. She would be safe with the others.
Emily and Nate stepped forward into the blistering heat of the sun. Marilyn laughed, looking into the eyes of her once beloved daughter, and the man who was standing by her until the very end. With a wave of her hand, a fierce energy raged from Marilyn’s fingers like lightning, striking down the pair who, even in their death, clung tight to each other’s hands.