By the Shores of Time
Footsteps echoed in a thin veil of fog spanning the foreseeable darkness. She focused on her breathing, clenching her shotgun. Her eyes darted, glimpsing whatever she could while the subtle gnawing sounds persisted. Like so many times before, she was left to wonder where the path would take her. A sudden gust gave pause as she stood in place, aiming her shotgun with her nerve-wracked handling.
“Show yourself,” she shouted.
A mad dash of something large became muddled in the strange atmosphere, her senses bombarded in every direction. Frozen in fear, she could only swing to the perceived direction, expecting it to strike from the darkness. It wasn’t long before the lingering decay filled the air, followed by a woman’s agonized moans.
The thing was near.
“C’mon,” she raised her voice, masking her nervousness. “What are you afraid of?”
The gnawing went silent, prompting her shallow gasp. A sudden thud was the last thing she heard before her body skid along the fleshy ground. Her shotgun fired, managing to strike whatever it was as it squealed before the weapon slid into the abyss. She caught her breath, struggling to get on her knees. Gritting her teeth, she staggered onto her feet as her eyes sought the creature.
It could’ve killed me if it wanted to, she acknowledged.
It trotted around her, still sounding off on its pain. She didn’t know where the shotgun flew as she kept her attention on its movements. Glimpsing the metallic barrel, she dove toward it as it spiked tendril slashed against the grounds. The gnawing turned into lowly shrieks, which she ignored when she got up. Her lilac eye lit up, granting her better visibility. A pair of women’s unsettling wails came with horrible, audible convulsions, sending chills down Celeste’s spine.
It knows, but how do I draw it out? She wondered.
She couldn’t find an end through the plain of nothingness. It would only give chase if she proceeded. Having slung her shotgun over her shoulder, she ran to her left. She’d soon glimpsed the monstrosity pursuing her.
“C’mon,” she yelled. “I know you can run faster than that!”
Its sudden burst launched it closer to her.
“Why did I open my big mouth!” she panicked.
For all its might, it still hadn’t killed her. It was as if it were trying to guide her to where she needed to go; She couldn’t rationalize it any other way. Another lunge knocked her off her feet as a trembling gasp left her lips. She slammed through another door, breaking it away from its hinges.
Her body tumbled through the thin layer of gravel while somehow holding onto her weapon. Disoriented, she found herself on the precinct’s gray rooftop. Her clothing changed; the white sundress was left untouched by the tumble. Using the shotgun’s barrel, she slowly picked herself up, watching as the creature burst through the stairwell entrance.
“What the hell is going on?” she muttered. “This dress—"
The horrific monster was finally on full display. Its disjointed body was a mix of melded corpses. Greg’s face was amongst the many adorning it's rotting body. Celeste staggered backward, seeing Victoria and Elizabeth’s bodies slowly being absorbed against it. Half of their bodies stuck out, leaving her torso dangling to the side. Her pained gasps were overcome by sinister laughter by the creature’s head. Nathanial’s chest sprung from the shapeless form he inhabited, although fully conscious. Four different voices overlapped as it looked upon her with an unsavory grimace.
“Nathanial?” she uttered.
“There’s nowhere left for you to run,” he spoke with the agonized voices of Greg, Elizabeth, and Victoria.
“You could’ve easily killed me in there.”
“I’ve come to learn… That I can’t do that, not yet.”
“Why?” she winced, trying to process the grotesque being in front of her.
“I had to lead you to—What you would call safety. Otherwise, you’d only be able to come back, stronger than before.”
“I—Don’t understand,” her voice cracked. “Speak normally!”
“You were always reflective, Celeste. Always observing—Seeing what others couldn’t see. Yet, you couldn’t look within yourself. This world we live in… It’s all because of the power within you.”
Something innate struck a chord when the twisted voices responded. Memories of the past lingered and she’d do anything to forget them. Her relationships, her goals… everything, but she knew she couldn’t get away from the ugliness within or the sins she committed. She clenched her stomach, her hands reluctant to let go. Warms tears trickled down her face, accepting the reality she created.
“Now you understand?” they asked inquisitively.
“This isn’t what I wanted,” she wept, falling to her knees. “I—I always wanted an escape, yes. But I wanted to be far away from all my problems. Instead, I made a private hell for myself. The things I’ve done, my child—What choice did I really have? I wasn’t ready to be a mother… And Alex, he—”
“Shifting blame? That’s not what this is about. He didn’t want to be a father, either. So, why should I bring a child into a world that wouldn’t love them? I had nothing to give but my debt.”
“Ever the selfish one,” he replied indifferently while pacing around. “You’ve learned nothing this whole time. How many people had to die for you to live? Look at the world you left behind? Yet, you ask for sympathy?”
“How was I supposed to know?” she raised her voice.
Her right eye illuminating its violet tinge, putting Nathanial in a defensive posture. A low bellow followed as it took a few steps back. Somehow, she was able to control herself upon seeing the blood beneath her, serving as a reminder of the weight of what she’d done.
“How was I supposed to know this was going to happen?” she asked while looking away from her hands. “How was I supposed to know I’d find a place in the world? How was I supposed to know I’d fall in love again? You stand there and judge me, but what kind of sin does someone commit when they don’t know where they’re going?”
Celeste stood up, finding the hem of her dress soaked in blood. She unclenched her hands, letting go of the ill feelings that permeated her heart for so long. The mask she wore slipped with a mature outlook. If it took her until the end of the world to realize. Tucking her hair behind her ear, a sorrowful smile crept with an understanding of what needed to be done.
“Who here hasn’t committed a sin?” she questioned.
She took a few steps forward, stoking fear within the towering beast.
“No one knows the path they take,” she continued. “Life branches from the day we’re born. And with fate—There can only be one way. Everything I had now—Gabriel… I wouldn’t change a thing. But, if this is the end, then so be it.”
She slowly reached her hand toward him, light emitted from her palm. A pale green orb hovered as she flicked her wrist to hold it. A cool warmth encompassed her hands, bringing them closer to her chest. A multitude of spinal tendrils sprung from his back, lashing out at where she stood. Nathanial kept his distance as it whipped up a frenzy.
Within the bombardment, a green flash burned away at once, blinding him in the process. The collected wails echoed in pain as he thrashed about. Blinded in one eye, he glimpsed her standing amidst the destruction around her feet. She was unscathed by the deadly attack he unleashed. The orb she held shone brightly, defogging her surroundings.
“H—How?” he stuttered, stammering away from her. “You’re supposed to be dead.”
“Does it have to do with what you said about darkness?” she asked curiously. “Maybe, you missed the point.”
“No, it couldn’t—”
“This goddess you spoke of—Ethos, was it? This other world is her, no… My creation. That would mean I can bend the rules, no? Why would I allow myself to be killed?”
“Because that is your fate? A god must sacrifice to recreate the world again.”
She chuckled, drawing his ire.
“You think—This is funny?” he growled.
“No,” she responded with a somber smile. “I’m not some goddess, I’m just a woman trying to find their way. But, if I had to die for something… Anything—It wouldn’t be to fulfill whatever the hell your goal is.”
“It’s the natural order you’re fighting. Once your powers awaken—”
“I’m free to make things right.”
She looked toward him, determined to put an end to the hell she created. If she had a choice at all in the matter, she could fix things so the next world wouldn’t have to suffer the same fate. Nathanial tried in vain to lash out against her, but the orb shredded it in contact. The orb expanded in her hand, pulsing with every shift, and as quickly as it grew, it exploded.
The violent gust eviscerated everything as their figures lingered in the basking green light. The creature’s screams were overshadowed by the celestial devastation that eventually took caved in the roof. Erased from existence, Celeste felt the weight of her body as she plunged into the darkness below. She felt at peace, letting everything go as she caught the ominous red sky above.
“So,” she thought aloud. “This is the end of the line?”
Without ever posing the question, she let the descent guide her.
Things are coming to a close,
Who knows where the descent takes her
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