Darkness

Darkness
March 18, 2009
Darkness.  Surrounding him.  Penetrating him.
He sank his dagger into the ground.  Nothing on the horizon. Nothing anywhere.  Simply darkness.
He clenched his teeth.  It was his fault.  He took her.  He had ruined his life, and he would pay.
He rose to his knees and yanked his dagger out of the ground.  The blade glinted, though there was no light.  Perfectly clean.  From her touch.  He slid it into his boot and stood.  She was near, he could tell.
He had searched for her to the ends of the earth, to the depths of the darkest ocean, to the highest mountain peaks.  He had evaded him for ages, but he would find her.  And get his revenge.
Now she was finally close.  So close he could sense her.
He scanned the dark horizon and started searching again.  She was waiting, he knew.  She knew he would come for her.  He knew it too, he just didn’t know if he would be in time.
His foot slid into cold water. He hadn’t even seen it in front of him, the darkness was so intent. He kept walking.  Water was nothing to him.  Fire was nothing to him.  She was his everything, and she was gone.
Taken.
 Stolen.
 By him.
The world hadn’t always been so dark.  Only since she vanished.  Once it was light and beautiful, warm and peaceful.  Now everything was hard and cold.  She was the light; she was the life; she was the softness. Now that she was gone…
The water was up to his chest now.  He stopped and got out his dagger.  It was his only remnant of her he had.  His only reminder of her perfect beauty.
It glowed softly in the darkness.  It wasn’t much, wasn’t anything compared to what the world had been, but it was something.  And something was better than darkness.  Anything was.
He pulled it close to him. It was his only hope. His only light in the emptiness of his world.  Of his life.  Until he found her, it was his all.
He continued through the icy water.  It was just another complication in his life, just another thing in his way.  But he would face it.  He would conquer it.
He must.
He started to ache.  The water was too much; too cold; too hard.  He flinched.  How long had he been wading through it?  He didn’t remember. 
Sickness won’t help you, he told himself. Move.
He turned and started to go back to shore, but the shore was farther now.  He strained his eyes, searching for any glimpse of anything.
The ground beneath his feet disappeared. He started, and his head went under the water.  He struck out with his hands, to find something to grab onto to save himself.  He couldn’t die.  Not before seeing her, one last time.
He sensed motion in the water just as his hand gripped a slab of rock.  It was burning to the touch, but he held on, kicking to get out of the water.  Who knew what the depths held.
He rolled onto the platform just as a huge pair of jaws snapped out of the water where he had been.  He struck out with his sword, coming into contact with something hard that gave way after a moment.  A horrific screech rent the air and the creature slid back into the water.
He stood on the burning platform in soaking clothes that were icing over and shivered.  The only thing worse than dealing with nightmares was dealing with them in the darkest night. Or day.  He had lost track.
He made his way carefully over the terrain, knowing that it wouldn’t do her any good if he fell into the water and was eaten by an angry scaled monster because he was running to save his feet from getting burned.
He didn’t know how much longer he continued, he only knew that the ground eventually changed from rocky and molten to cold and shifting. It was hard to stay upright; he couldn’t seem to steady himself.
Eventually the ground stopped moving and he found out just how crisp his feet had gotten, walking on molten ground.  He cringed with every step.  He paused to look around, seeing if he had gotten any closer to finding her.
His head swiveled back, his eyes wide with disbelief.  Light! REAL Light!
He gasped and ran, stumbling, over the rocky ground towards the tiny globe of light in the distance.  It seemed to get farther and farther as he tried to get closer.  He wanted to cry out, but he couldn’t.  His breath caught in his throat and he couldn’t speak.  He could hardly gasp for breath.  The cold air stung his eyes, and the pain in his feet was almost unbearable.
He sank to his knees, tears streaming down his face.  It was hopeless.  His head bowed to the icy ground, his sides burned, his legs ached from running.  The light had disappeared, and he thought he was over.
The first sound since the monster hurt his ears.  A door.  Opening?
An otherworldly glow spilled onto the ground beside him.  The ground was still invisible, but the glow was comforting somehow.  He looked up to the source of the shine and saw a figure framed in the sea-green burn.
A child.  A small girl, clutching a small stuffed animal. She looked less than ten years.
He stood, his already spilled tears freezing on his face.  He started towards the girl, but she held out her hand, motioning him to stop. She walked to him, motioning for him to follow her.
He followed her to a small shed behind the tiny house. She pointed inside, and he understood.
They were coming, and she needed to hide him.
He settled into the hut and heard her leave.  She would be hiding too.  No one wanted to face his minions.
Against his will, sleep crept in, blurring his vision around the corners.  Breathing in the dark, he was afraid they would find him.  His worries were strangely calmed.  He was glad, and that was his last thought.

The girl woke him.  She pointed to the door.  Strangely, his tiny hut was gleaming with the child inside.  He wondered if it was her power, but the look on her face stopped him from communicating such.
He followed her out, into the ever-present darkness.  A luminescence followed the girl.  It wasn’t light; not so pure as she had, but it was not darkness and cold.  Maybe one day it would be pure light.
The girl started towards the house, and then stopped deliberately.  She pointed. Away.
He looked at her, and her face told him all.
The underlings had killed her family.  Because she had saved him.
His hand went to her shoulder, but she shook it off.  She pointed, her eyes hard as steel, as far away from the house as she could.
Her tiny frame, standing, framed in a green ethereal flush, would be emblazoned into his memory forever.  Maybe someday he could liberate this poor girl also.  His mind only lit on the thought for a moment, and then he flicked it away.  He doubted he could save the girl as well as her.  And she came first.
He started away from the house and then he heard them.  They were pursuing him.  He hoped the tiny girl was safe from the monsters, but he doubted it.
She had sacrificed herself for him.
He drew his sword as he ran.  So many had died.  Had they all died because of him?
His sword lashed around, sinking into enemy flesh as he ran- from what?  He did not know. He only knew they were out to get him, and they could see.  He could not. 
It was kill or die.
He stopped and twisted in a circular motion.  A soft thud followed, and he stopped, breathing hard.  They were dead.  He no longer heard movement.
He sighed and pulled his sword away.  He wiped it on the ground gingerly and continued, trying not to think about the girl at the house.
He continued longer.  A glimmer of light caught his eye.  His dagger.  Was it glowing more than usual?
Ever since she had touched it, it bore some of her light.  It had kept him company in the darkest of nights, and now it would serve as a reminder of where he was going.  He slid it out of his boot and pointed it outwards.  Could it guide his way?
He turned in a slow circle and walked forward at its brightest point.  He walked, finding that the girl had probably tended to his aching feet that night.
The young, young girl, who probably suffered a horrible end at the hands of horrific-
The dagger glowed brighter.  He returned his thoughts to his pursuit of the light and its keeper. 
He had entered a cave.  He paused, looking around the empty room.  His dagger illuminated most of the cavern, but his eye caught on one dark corner.  The darkness was everywhere.
His dagger went dark, and they attacked. More were here this time, and he lashed out with all of his might against the nightmarish creatures in his service.
It seemed as though they would never stop coming, right as he stopped expecting them.  His lungs felt like they were about to burst, and his head pounded lightly.
Finally he stopped, alone once again.  His hopes were crushed as he gasped for air.  The lightness of the dagger was just an illusion.  He forced air into his lungs and held his head. His eye caught on the same corner and all of his breath vanished from within him.
It was her.
She looked at him, smiling, her eyes radiating peace as light filled the cavern, and her smile transformed into a hideous grotto of teeth, emitting a horrible screech. He glanced at his hand just as the dagger swelled with light again.
He breathed in and struck the foul creature with his sword.  It fell to the ground, dead.
Yes, she had been just an illusion, but it renewed his hope and he continued into the cavern with renewed vigor.  She really was near.  And he would find her.
The caverns twisted and turned with thousands of tunnels, and he wandered in them for days.  He even had evil creatures in this beautiful cavern that attacked him from time to time, but he conquered them.  For her.
He blinked, struggling to stay awake as he trudged through an arm of the cave.  These rocks were looking familiar.  He hoped he wasn’t walking in circles, but it was impossible to tell.
He rested for a moment against the cavern wall, letting out a breath.  He would keep his eyes open.  He had to.
He started forward again, trying to force his eyes open.  They finally did, right as he started to fall off of an edge.
His eyes grew wide, but he couldn’t scream. He hadn’t come all this way just to fall to his death in a remote cave.  He clenched his mouth closed and reached out.
His arms brushed rock wall, but he couldn’t grab on.  Finally his feet got holds and his arms grabbed onto a ledge.  He eased himself down, only to find that the bottom of this endless drop was right below him.
He dropped down to the ground and looked around.  A large underwater river rushed in front of him.  The room would have been completely dark, but strange mushrooms were creating a light similar to the girl with the house had floating around her.
He started to walk again and didn’t spot a tiny ledge.  He slid down it onto his back on the hard ground.  He blinked away the glimmer of pain and sat for a moment, his eyes closed.  A breath awoke him.
He looked up and saw him. But he hadn’t made the noise.
It was her.  Really.
He gasped as she drifted to him.  She was softer than before; transparent, almost.  She glowed, mirroring the mushrooms, not her natural glow.  She motioned to the waters before him.  Somehow he knew. 
She was dead.
The waters had swept her away.
He was too late.  He wanted to die.  There was nothing worse than living without her, in the darkness, alone.
She started to walk towards the river.  He reached out for her foot, afraid he might have to watch her die again.  His hand passed through her foot and her skirt hem beyond it.
He drew back his hand, afraid, as she cupped her hand and scooped up the water. A single, shimmering tear slid down her cheek and fell into the water.  She brought it to him and enclosed his hand around it. Strangely, it did not trickle away.
She wanted him to drink it, but he didn’t.  He was afraid.
He wanted them to say their goodbyes. She looked back at him, her eyes filled with understanding.
He held the water and looked down at her hands on his.  He could feel them now.  He looked into her eyes.
She gazed back, portraying more love and compassion through her beautiful eyes than expressible in words.  The back of her hand brush against his cheek, and she was gone.
He reached up to where her hand had been, but could only feel cold air.
He looked back down to his hands, clasping the water, and thought about what he could do to fill the void she left.
He climbed back up the incline, and somehow he made it to the top.  He paused, looking back at the river.  He thought he could see her, but he knew it was only his mind.
As he emerged into the hall of rock, his emotions hit him like a wall.  She had died, because he hadn’t been there. He slammed his fist into the wall of the cave, enraged and fuming.  He stood there, hot, angry tears streaming down his cheeks. He allowed himself, for a moment, to think about what had transpired in the cave.
She had looked at him with a certain light in her eyes.  Understanding?
Why understanding?  Had she wished to go with him? The thought caught him off guard, and he brushed it away quickly.  No, it was impossible.
He started back through the cave and he began to understand.  She wished to stay, but she knew she must go.  It wasn’t his fault she had died in that cavern, neither was it his. It was fate, her being whisked away by the waters. Her fate.
But why had fate let the light depart from the world?  Why was it so dark and cold, now that she was gone?
Ignoring his thoughts, he traveled out of the cave.  It was surprisingly easier than coming in.  He emerged into the darkness, but his dagger no longer glowed.  He hardly noticed.
He went, as fast as he could go, back to the girl’s house.  She was most likely dead, but there was every chance.
She was lying on the doorframe, torn and bleeding.  His heart went out, and before he could stop himself, he slit the water and poured some into her mouth.
She was motionless, and he closed her eyes.  She was too far gone.  Tears blocked his vision, but he stood and walked out of the hut.
He sprinkled some water around the house, not understanding why he did it.  Then he heard a noise. He turned and blinked, astonished.
The girl looked at him, completely whole. She looked a decade older and the alien green glow was gone.  She had a strange look in her eyes, and she smiled at him with everlasting gratitude before bursting into radiant light.
He blinked, astonished.  The light grew and grew, until finally it was overbearing, and he couldn’t force his eyes open.
The light diminished, just a bit, and he opened his eyes.  After being in perpetual darkness, it stung his light-depraved eyes and brought tears to them.  Though the sight would have brought tears to his eyes anyway.
The world was pure again. There were trees, grass, flowers, water, earth, and sun. Glorious sun! He watched as people emerged from their hiding places from the darkness.  People!
He turned to the girl, who gave him a gracious smile.  She motioned to the water he still held in his hand, and he understood.
He drank, and was gone.