Alina has to make a quick decision,but will it be the right one?
|Word Count: 1202
She paced. Quick steps. She kneaded her hands in front of her, drawing in long breaths, exhaling short puffs. Soon. It should be soon.
A chill from the window sent goose bumps down her arms. She paused, turning her body toward the glass. He never entered through a window. No, he’d always stepped out of the inky shadows.
She glided across the uneven wooden floor, stopping in front of the closed window. The velvet drapes, tied on the side, tossed from the draft. The glass rattled, threatening to open.
Praxis filled the night sky. Her breath hitched. Long shadows fell over the full, imposing moon. The Crater of Copernicus shimmered in the decreasing light. 200 years ago, Praxis was struck by an unusually large meteor. Its orbit grew more and more elliptical. Her father’s High Priest predicted that Praxis would soon collide with their world, Denair.
She did not want to die, yet accepted what was going to happen with resigned fate… until he stepped from the darkness. He brought confusion and guilt, yet a glimmer of hope.
The wind howled through the forest, tossing heavy branches, threatening them to the breaking point. The chapel heaved, rattling the gargoyles and ancient godds that rested on the corners of the building. The glass panes blasted open and the wind pushed Alina against the cold, stone wall. After a minute, the tempest subsided and she lurched forward, slamming the panes shut, relocking them with a weakened metal latch. Alina exhaled a long breath. Denair’s weather at dawn and dusk had grown increasingly violent in the past month.
She brushed her dark hair away from her face, and turned again to look at the foreboding moon that filled the sky. Twilight danced over Praxis’ features, accenting the moon’s hills with light from the sun, filling the craters with darkness.
“Your Grace, are you all right?”
Alina turned to find Jaxon, the High Priest’s apprentice. A seventeen-year-old youth, he possessed an eager energy and awareness beyond his years.
“I’m fine. And Nicholas?”
“The astronomy spire collapsed. Stones and wood fell to the floor and one smashed Master Nicholas’ ankle. I’m going to fetch a healer.”
“Where is he?” Alina’s voice broke with concern.
“On the stairs that lead up to the spire.”
“Go – get the healer. I’ll help Nicholas.”
Jaxon rushed off. Nicholas had been the High Priest for over 40 years. Her father selected him when Nicholas was in his twenties. He came from the north country where powerful aurora borealis events had allowed the people who lived there to adapt, developing the ability to manipulate magnetism. Nicholas also possessed a knowledge of the stars she was still trying to master.
Darker shadows filled the hall as the wind shook the chapel’s façade. Built over 1,000 years ago by her ancestors, the church had stood several tests of the temperamental weather over the centuries. Granite and wood held the foundation. Carved marble statues of the ancient godds and gargoyles protected a ledge above the massive entrance door. Two columns dared to reach to the sky. Flying buttresses provided extra support to the heart of the keep,
While Nicholas’ astronomy spire rose up to the heavens in the rear of the grand structure. The stairway to the tower was stone, but the spire itself was wood. The chapel was on the highest mountain in the land. Initially built to honor the eight godds of the sky, it was abandoned centuries ago until Nicholas had converted it into an observatory to study Praxis’ erratic orbit.
Nicholas was old now, yet spry, and kind. His gray hair dropped past his shoulders and his hip often ached, but his blue eyes still sparked with knowledge. He understood what was happening with Praxis better than she or her father did.
Alina rounded the corridor that would lead to the observatory’s staircase. The dark blinded her and she drew back.
“I need a candle.”
“Darling, where we are going, there is warmth and light and heat. No more shadows.”
His soft, red lips curved into a smile. A mask covered his eyes and nose. Brown curly locks framed his face. He wore all black, but his body was solid and firm, a knowledge she possessed from previous visits.
“Alina, we must go. Gravity’s force between Praxis and Denair will ruin both in the coming days. The collision is imminent. This is the last time I can use the shadows to come to you.”
“I can’t just leave my father. He’s working hard to find a way to save the planet. Him and Nicholas--”
“You’ll die if you stay here. I couldn’t bear it. Not after our kiss the last time I saw you.”
“I care for you.”
Her heart filled with a longing she’d never known. Her man in black had started to visit her three weeks ago. Their first encounter was in the astronomy spire at twilight. Oh, this mysterious stranger made her body tingle and stirred a desire in her that she hungered to explore, but it didn’t seem right to leave the chapel, her father, or Nicholas when there was so much to do and not enough time.
“The High Priest needs my help. I have to go.”
Her shadowy stranger put his hands on her shoulders. “He clings to life.”
“How do you know?”
He reached into a pocket, withdrew a vial and opened it. He blew the dust onto a wall. She saw a world with metal moving conveyances, and carts that flew in the air. People were dressed in slim brown and gray clothes and wore funny bobbles.
“What is that place?
“It is Denair – just another time and dimension. Your Nicholas discovered my world several weeks ago trying to find a way to save your world. We can go there and live.”
The blood in Alina’s veins froze. “What about the people here?”
He straightened his shoulders. His face grew tense. “The opening is narrow and doesn’t stay parted long. If we had more time, we could expand it, call for your people – but your Nicholas found me too late. As Praxis comes closer, the moon is accelerating. Your world has a day, if that, to live. I can only save you.” He drew in a long breath. “You can stay here and die, or join me and live.”
She hesitated, unsure of her choice.
He removed the mask and held out his hand. “Come.”
“Nicholas?” She muttered. His eyes, once shadowed, sparkled like aquamarines.
“Yes, I am – from the dimension I showed you.”
“Aye. It is another time there – a time when Denair is industrialized and I am younger.”
“I don’t know—“ Her voice trembled.
“This opening will close with your Nicholas’ death. He is old and fragile and this injury is mortal to him. You must choose now.” He paused. “Please.”
The chapel shook. The floors heaved. The walls rocked back and forth. Alina pushed fear and sadness aside. She tried not to think of her responsibility or duty, but with her heart, and prayed she could live with the guilt. Nicholas clasped her hand and drew her into his world.