Short Story: May We Meet Again

story_war

How long had it been?

Once upon a time she could have spewed the exact amount of time at the drop of a hat. Down to the hour probably, time drumming out every single second in the forefront of her mind. But much like the old cliche goes, time also dulls the sting of loss to the point of being bearable. To the point of no longer consuming every waking moment, pushed to the back of her thoughts in favor of survival.

Survival.

What a joke.

She heard talk of it everywhere she went, the camp filled with defiant declarations that they might one day eradicate the plague that had ruined the land. They might take it all back in the name of humanity… in the name of the living. The latest patrol was laden with an annoying soundtrack of boisterous bragging and meticulous planning. Unus Camp’s raids were becoming increasingly more successful, incrementally more brazen. They were invincible, they claimed amidst raucous cheering. It was laughable at best. She wanted to scream at them, to call them fools. But alas, the face of hope mustn’t ever break character. Ever. Rebellion had no room for grief, no time for wallowing.

Time heals all wounds.

Time heals all wounds.

Time heals… who was she kidding? Thirty-six years ago, she had lost it all and though she wore quite the game face, nobody ever completely recovered from such a thing. It plagued her thoughts and haunted her dreams, the ever present spectre of doom looming over her like a reluctant reaper prepared to torment her but not quite end her suffering.

Two moons high in the sky on a crystal clear night lent a pallid reddish glow to the lands, tucking uneasily the blanket of night in against a backdrop of stars. She could rest well in a city that never slept so long as she had her husband at her side and her children were slumbering soundly in their beds. Precarious peace is all too often shattered though and hers was no exception.

A realm like RhyDin lives in a constant state of flux and for the longest time, she had admired both the instability of the chaos and the tenacity of those that lived there anyways. Tumult came and went, seldom upsetting the balance for long until the organized insanity returned to its predictably unpredictable status quo. The capricious nature of the land made it difficult to discern any change of consequence so it wasn’t until the cataclysm that she found herself begging for normalcy.

Sleep had fallen so easily upon them that evening, unaware that everything was on the precipice of change. She had woken from a dead sleep, jolting upright in bed. It was enough to wake her husband too and he squinted through the darkness at her, blinking sleep from his eyes as he too sat up.

“What is it, L?” He mumbled and leaned to check the time. Two minutes until three in the morning. Or was it four? Looking back, she couldn’t quite remember. His wide eyed wife looked around, swung her legs over the side of the bed and got to her feet.

“I… I don’t know… something’s wrong,” confusion and sleep clouded her mind. A minute passed and with it, an overwhelming feeling of dread washed over her. A sharp cry came from down the hallway, the wail of a toddler in distress. Both parents bolted for the door only to reach the doorway in time for a second scream to sound from another room. They parted, one moving north and the other south to address the simultaneous sobs. A crushing weight upon her chest had her faltering and behind her, she heard the crash of a shoulder meeting a delicate wooden doorframe. Still she pressed on, sluggish steps sweeping her into her son’s room. Delicate motes of gold and emerald danced around him, drifting away slowly as he clung to the side of his crib, face red with the effort of his high pitched wails.

“C’mere buddy, Mama’s gotcha,” she tried to console him even as it felt as though her blood was boiling in her veins. Thin smoke-like wisps of purple-black seeped from her pores as she lifted the child and cradled him close. He only cried harder and with a wince, she stumbled back toward the door. Nearly running into her husband, she caught herself just barely and met his panicked gaze.

“What the hell is happening? I can’t… I can’t do anything…,” typically navigation in such a frenzied state would have been as easy as porting from one location to another and the look in his eyes along with his fumbled phrasing confirmed her fears. He couldn’t do it.

“We’ve gotta go. Have to get them somewhere safe…,” she eased past him and back into the hallway, gesturing for him to follow. Each and every one of them had been imbued with some sort of magical ability and it seemed to be the common theme behind their suffering. If RhyDin was to blame she had no choice but to leave. Unfortunately the jump to Lucis required exactly what she wasn’t sure they had and as they stumbled down the grand manse’s staircase, she nearly tumbled across the safe room’s threshold. The wards crackled angrily, energy dissipating quicker than the self sustaining spell could recreate it.

”How… do we…,” he had huffed and puffed, keeping their daughter tucked tightly to his chest. In the center of the room a circle of gold and navy runes lit the way, welcoming the final touch needed to take them home. Apprehension creased her forehead, a hand lifting as she pushed her Will into the air around them. Elmo’s Fire danced over her fingers and a wicked stabbing pain ripped through her chest. Her hand dropped and the gate looked no closer to open.

“How much do you have left?” She asked, voice low to try and keep the toddlers as calm as possible. Suffused with uncertainty, he shook his head. It didn’t look good. A tight breath escaped her, the pain waning under her lack of exertion. The longer they stood there, the more she felt their collective power fading and finally she decided what had to be done.

”I don’t like that look on your face,” her husband grimaced. Rightfully so. Stepping toward him, she leaned for him to take their son. The toddler let loose a fresh wail, pulling and grabbing for his mother. Anything to keep her from letting go. But soon he was situation with a child on each hip, staring at his wife, his consternation plainly etched across his dark features.

“I’ve got it… I can do it. But you have to hurry through when I do,” she said urgently, nudging them gently toward the ring of runes. Quick action was critical lest he find time to argue and without a second thought, she pushed everything she had into opening the gate. A cloud of inky black pulled itself free from her very being, tinged with tiny bursts of electrical energy. Her head spun but she had enough in her to give a shove to her husband’s back to send him hurtling for the serene blue opening.

”Light! Come on!” He yelled back at her once he met the edge between realms. She felt the pull of RhyDin’s disruption threatening to force shut the narrow gap and she shook her head frantically.

“GO!” She choked out through the haze that had overtaken her mind and she felt the world toppling sideways. Or maybe that had been her. The trio made it through just in time for exhaustion to overwhelm her. From her newfound spot on the floor, she looked up at her family one last time as the veil closed in their wake, faces burned forever into her memory. Her husband’s frenzied panic, torn between safety and his fallen wife. Her daughter’s serene concern, the star child’s silvery gaze quietly resigned to her mother’s fate. Her son’s golden eyed confusion, his tiny fist clutching the blue crystal on the chain she hadn’t even realized he had yanked free.

Those faces.

They had haunted her every night since and though the camp’s mood was light and celebratory, she knew tonight would be no different. Time could heal the wounds but never would the scars fade.

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