Part 3, here we go! In case you missed last week, here is the link.
“Why are you doing this?” I cry.
“Your answers are in the book.” It turns away from me, face lit up in pleasure, body held in triumph.
“Finally!” he shrieks, addressing my people. “You knew you could not keep me out forever.” He swings toward my Father and flicks his hand. Somebody screams as my father’s body crumples, and I feel a wrenching pain in my heart, as if somebody took it in their hands and crushed it.
“Don’t kill him!”
The monster turns to me, his eyes shrewd slits. “He’s not dead,” he says. “But he will be. You have a choice. You can fight me and try to save these people.” His hand flings out to encompass the victims of his mind game. “Or, you can save your father. If you save them, he will die. If you save him, they will be mine.” He laughs, throwing his hands in the air like a performer. “Make your choice!” His eyes dance in twisted pleasure as I gape in horror at my Father’s still form, and the people now trapped by his power. I have done this. I have destroyed their lives.
“I can’t choose,” I whimper. “I didn’t want this.”
“And yet,” the monster says, coming to pat my shoulder in false compassion. “You did. You chose yourself over them. Now choose again.”
My Father’s face was ghostly white, his lips turning purple. My people trembled in fear, their eyes tormented as they waited for my decision.
I open the book, tears dripping down my cheeks. Maybe the answers are in the book.
The pages are blank.
“Make your choice,” the monster whispers again.
“How can I choose this?”
Suddenly, words the color of blood seep onto the page, coming from nowhere.
“Save the people,” the words say. The creature grins.
“No,” I whisper. “I can’t.” I let the book fall to my side and force myself to look at the people I am condemning. “I’m sorry.”
The monster screams in pleasure, and then the shrieking starts again. He dances away, my people forced to follow while I stay behind with my Father dying next to me.
When they are gone, I drop to my knees and lay my head on his chest. His heart beats, but it is weak. I don’t have long.
“How do I save you?” I whisper, my eyes darting around my home, hoping for inspiration. They fall on the book. I open it, staring at the pages.
“How do I save my father?” I ask, desperate.
“Do exactly as I say.” The response seeps up in the same blood red color.
“Okay,” I whisper.
Words begin pouring onto the page. “Your father’s heart is held by magic. His body is not a vessel for magic; it cannot contain it. To free the heart you must give to him the thing you value most.”
“I value nothing.” I answer. “I don’t care if I live or die.”
“Why did you open the gate?”
“Because I want to be free.” And then I see it. The thing I value most is freedom. The thing I sacrificed my people for was freedom.
“I give up my freedom so my Father can live,” I sob.
The book glows brighter, a brilliant light in my hands. Slowly, the light encompasses me and I feel something pulled from the depths of my body. It is torn away, drawn into the light. When it’s gone I feel empty. Then, the light encompasses my Father, pouring into him what has been taken from me.
I gaze at the scene, feeling nothing. Moments later his body twitches, then he groans. Slowly, he sits up, his eyes bewildered.
Then his eyes fall on me, and his mouth drops.
“What have you done?” he asks.
“I gave up my freedom to save you”.
“No!” he cries, scrambling toward me. “You must take it back.”
“I can’t. It’s done.” I hand him the book. “This is yours now.”
He shakes his head, flipping through the empty pages. Finally, he turns to one near the back.
“I revoke the freedom given me,” he cries. “I refuse the gift offered!”
Nothing happens. My father drops to his knees, begging. “Please! I don’t want the gift. Let me die.”
“It’s too late,” I say, emotionless. “What’s done is done.”
He glances up at me, his face streaked with tears. “You don’t understand,” he said. “This is what killed your mother. Whatever power is in this book is the reason she is dead.”
I watch my Father’s tear-streaked face, and hear the pain in his voice, but I don’t regret what I’ve done. “I wasn’t going to let you die,” I say. “My life isn’t worth anything anyway.”
He sighs, his body slumping in resignation. “Your life has far more value than you realize,” he says. “I know you’ve wanted answers. It’s time you hear them.”
He opens the book again, turning to the middle. “Show her the truth,” he says, handing me the book.
I gaze at it as an image opens in front of me. I see people laughing together, joyful, excited to be alive. The homes around them are immaculate, the streets perfect. I see my father and a young woman, her belly swollen. The look in her eyes is pure pleasure.
Then darkness descends and a cloaked figure walks into the midst of the people, stopping in front of my mother. “You carry what I seek,” he says.
Instinctively, my mother’s hands fell across her stomach.
“Yes. The child.”
“No,” my mother whispers.
He pulls the book from the folds of his cloak, opening it and staring intently at the pages. Then his eyes move back to my mother. “The child you carry is dangerous. I must take her.”
“No.” The answer comes again.
Slowly, the figure holds out the book and magic begins swirling around. It grows and expands until the wind begins to gust around him, the cloak snapping as it catches it. Lightning flashes in the sky, and the clouds churn, a boiling mass of fury.
“Give me the child, or I will destroy everything you love.”
My mother’s eyes flash anger. “You will not have my child,” she hisses.
Suddenly, the heavens unleash. Lightning crashes, great bolts launching into the people, the buildings. More and more come as people run, shrieking to get away, to find cover, but there is nowhere to run. My father and a few of the men rush toward the figure, attacking him in a desperate attempt to save their lives. The lightning rages on, the men drive the figure back as their own fury increases. Finally, the book drops to the ground. My mother picks it up, opening it and whispering words above it. The color of the magic changes, bursts of light surge out of it. Then, without warning, a dagger flies through the air, burying itself in my mother’s chest. The cloaked figure scoops up the book and vanishes before anyone can stop him. The survivors stare in horror at the scene before them. Where before there had been homes, now there are ruined structures, charred and useless. The streets that were so immaculate are now destroyed, riddled with the broken bodies of the people.
I feel sick.
Lying in the midst of it all is my mother. The only indicator that she is alive is the faint rise and fall of her chest.
Crying, my father drops to her side. “Save the child,” my mother whispers. “He was right. She is something none of you understand. I’ve known since she was conceived. I’ve changed since she was conceived. I feel the magic swirling in my chest. Protect her. If not, they will use what she is to destroy you… and they’ll destroy her.”
As soon as these words are spoken the vision fades. I close the book, biting my lip in fear.
“What am I?” I ask my father.
“I don’t know,” he says. “But evil is attracted to you. That’s why we built the wall. It senses you. It knows how to find you. It always comes. And it killed your mother.”
“You should have let me die,” I say.
“I couldn’t. You were her dying wish. And,” he hesitates. “She was right. We don’t understand you, but you do not naturally possess evil. I do not destroy what is good.”
“Kill me,” I say. “I already killed her. I’ve destroyed the lives of these people. I’ve forced you into hiding because of me. They were right. I am dangerous.”
“She didn’t think so,” he said.
“But you do?”
His eyes dart away, “I don’t know.”
Glancing down, I see a dagger at his hip. The same dagger that killed my mother. I yank it from the sheath, holding it out to him. “Kill me!” I scream.
“Fine.” I turn the dagger inward, pressing it against my heart. I’ll kill myself. I’ll stop the evil before I make it worse.
“Stop!” he cries.
I push harder.
My hands tremble as the dagger pushes further. Can I do it? Can I end my own life? A trickle of blood slips down my chest.
Or, a new thought pushes through, do I destroy the book?