“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 emerges, do I destroy the book?
I pause, glancing at the seemingly harmless pages folded in leather. I’m not inherently evil. I wasn’t born to destroy lives, but the book is. It’s the source of the trouble. I let the dagger drop to my side.
“Give me the book,” I say to my Father. One look in his eyes and I am clear he knows my plan. He passes the book into my hand. “You don’t know what destroying it will do,” he cautions.
“I know what keeping it intact has done.”
“Can you destroy magic?”
“I don’t know.”
I open the book and set it on the ground. The dagger is heavy. As it nears the book, it gets heavier. My arm weighs down, barely able to hold the weight. Determined, I position the blade over the pages; my arms tremble.
The book pulses as if it knows what I’m about to do. Guilt pricks at my chest and I glance away, looking to my father for strength.
His lips are tight, his eyes drawn, waiting. There is no strength there for me. I close my eyes, and plunge the blade downward. It pierces the pages, shredding a hole right through them, and I am thrown back, clutching at a hole in my chest. In horror, I hold my hand up. Blood drips down my arm. My eyes are suddenly swimming in red.
“Take the blade out!” I scream. My Father scrambles to the book and yanks the dagger out of its pages. Pain slices through my chest. Gasping, my body flops uncontrollably on the ground. I’m dying. I know it. I’m dying.
Suddenly, my chest feels ice cold. The pain escalates and I find myself clawing at the hole, desperate to stop it. I feel my chest rise, my body now off the ground, but I don’t care. My one focus is the searing cavity that exists inside my rib cage. My mind is scrambling, trying to make sense of what’s happening. I stabbed the book, didn’t I? Of course I did. I can’t be lucid. I’m losing my mind.
To the side, I see the book rising with me. The shredded pages are restitching, the holes slowly closing. My effort was fruitless. I only succeeded in destroyed myself. But I can’t take the pain.
“Kill me!” I scream to my father. “Please!”
He watches me in horror, but refuses to take a step closer. His eyes are naked with fear.
“Please,” I sob. “I can’t take it. Please.”
He shakes his head, but the look he’s giving me isn’t one of compassion.
Slowly, my body returns to the ground. Slowly, the pain in my chest fades. Finally, it leaves entirely. I lay on the ground, trembling and weak, tears sliding down my cheeks. I can’t stop them. I don’t want to.
My Father doesn’t move closer. He’s backing away from me. The book his whole. I am whole. But something is wrong with him. Carefully, I pull myself to my feet.”
“What’s wrong?” I gasp.
He shakes his head. “Your mother was wrong,” he whispers. “You and the book, you’re evil.”
It’s like I’ve been punched in the chest. “No,” I croak. “I’m not.”
Something swirls deep in my belly, and I sense that the words I’ve just spoken are a lie. The book still pulses, and my chest pulses. Terror floods my soul and I know what’s happening. The book and I are connected. It dies, I die. It lives, I live.
“I’m not evil,” I cry again, this time louder. “I’m not. Please don’t leave me.”
He shakes his head. “You should never have stayed with us. I should not have listened to your mother.”
“Don’t leave me!” I shriek, angry now. My hands are tight balls, my stomach hot with fury. “I am not evil!” My hands fly out, grasping and open, and a swirling blue ball crashes into my father’s chest. His body trembles for a moment, then collapses. He doesn’t move.
“No,” I whisper. I stumble toward his still form and drop to his side. “I didn’t mean to,” I sob. “I didn’t. It was an accident.”
He’s not moving. His face is cold. His eyes are open, but I know they see nothing. My Father is gone. I killed him.
Sobbing, I back away from his body, from the book that I am now tied to, from the life that I destroyed.
I must be evil. I killed him. The thought repeats itself over and over. I killed him. I killed him.
“I killed him!” I scream, rubbing my hands against my legs, scratching the flesh of my palms as if I can somehow remove the magic.
My eyes fall on the book, and I know what I have to do. I have to destroy it. I may die with it, but I don’t deserve life any longer.
I hurry toward it and pick it up. It’s warm against my chest.
“Are you enjoying your freedom?”
The voice comes from my right and I whirl toward it. The creature watches me, his face lit up in triumph.
“Go away,” I hiss. “You did this.”
“Actually, I was nowhere near you when this happened.” He flings his hand toward the body. “That was all you, my dear.”
“I hate you.”
He grins. “I like to be hated. But that doesn’t matter. I imagine you’re wondering what to do next.”
I don’t answer, but he doesn’t stop. “When you gave up your freedom to save your father, you tied yourself to the book. If the book dies, you die. If you die, the book dies. I will warn you that you cannot kill yourself. Oh no. While you are not immortal, what you now possess is a close second. You can only be killed after you kill the purest of souls. Then you are welcome to do anything to yourself that you wish.”
I gape at the creature, my heart pounding. I can’t murder another person.
“Is there no other way?” I ask.
“You can choose not to murder the purest of souls. The evil inside you will grow, and you will murder far more harmless souls than you wish to. So you have two choices. Kill one or kill many…”