[ The Administrator ]
‘So this is the end…’
In a hospital room, a young girl was lying in bed. Around her, alerted by the abnormal signals of the ECG, three nurses were getting restless. One of them was standing beside her, checking her vital signs, while the other two were busy trying to reassure an old couple.
« Has someone called the doctor?! » shouted one of the nurses.
« He is on his way! »
Powerless, the elderly couple was standing a few meters from the bed. They weren’t listening to anything, they just stood there. The man was holding his crying wife in his arms. She was screaming all the pain in her heart, burying her head in her husband’s chest, unable to watch the scene any longer. Her husband kept telling her that everything was going to be fine, but his voice was shaking. While he was trying to keep his composure, actually he was frightened too. All his limbs were shaking.
Only a few seconds later, a man in his forties barged into the room. He was dressed in a white coat and showed a serious expression. As soon as she saw him, the woman freed herself from her husband’s arms and rushed to him. She immediately collapsed in front of him, grabbing his coat.
« D-Doctor… Please… I’m begging you save her! Save my daughter! »
« Someone take the parents out of here! »
Complying with his command, the two nurses lead the couple out of the room. At first, the woman refused to leave her daughter, but her husband managed to convince her that it was for her sake, in order to let the doctor do his job.
Unable to move, the patient, a sixteen years old girl, watched her parents exit the room, as a single tear slowly fell down her cheek. She was dying and she knew it. As someone who had been bed-ridden almost all her life, it wasn’t so difficult to accept. She had been prepared for this day for years, for the moment when she would fall asleep and never wake up.
She wasn’t crying because she was afraid of dying –actually, she even felt relieved. She was crying because she felt sorry for her parents. Life has always been unfair to her. But at least, all her worries and suffering would end now. But what about her parents? Will they be able to move on after she’s gone? She had always been a burden for them alive, she didn’t want to be a burden for them even in death. She was sorry for them. Sorry for being a burden, sorry for being sick, sorry for being born. They would have been happier without her.
Her name was Aileen Woods. Her parents were very kind people, everyone loved them. Unable to have a child, they lived just the two of them for years. They were a little disheartened by this, but at least, they weren’t unhappy -until she arrived. Aileen was a late surprise. After years of failure in conceiving a child, her parents had already given up and weren’t expecting anything anymore. Even the doctors called her a miracle. She was a gift from the gods. At first, the little family couldn’t have been happier. As their little miracle, her parents raised her with unconditional love. However, their happiness did not last long.
Aileen started to show symptoms at five. She would often complain of being tired and slowly lost her appetite. It was only a year later that they found out she was sick. After fainting from anemia, her parents took her to the hospital. Noticing the weird symptoms, the doctors decided to take a blood test, just in case… The results were clear: leukemia. The little family’s happiness collapsed that day.
At first, the doctors made it sound like it wasn’t such a big deal. With nowadays treatments, they said that the success rate among children patients is 80%. Unfortunately, Aileen did not belong to that 80%. The leukemia did not respond well enough to the treatments and came back. After failing a couple of times in her treatments, the doctors finally concluded that a blood and marrow transplantation was the only way to save her. Naturally, her parents were the first to volunteer as donors, but the chances of parents and children being a match were low and they weren’t that lucky. They restlessly tried to find a donor without success. They were powerless, they could only wait. But they knew: it was hopeless. The waiting list for a donation was long and the chances of finding a match before it was too late were low.
The doctors gave her a year, although once again, a miracle happened. A year became two, two years became four, and in the end, she managed to survive until her sixteenth birthday. To the others, she was truly a miracle child, favored by the gods. ‘Miracle my ass…’ Aileen thought. If the gods truly existed, then she cursed them. It wasn’t a gift, it was a curse. The gods didn’t protect her, they mocked her. If they were going to take her away from her parents just like that, then they shouldn’t have given her to them in the first place. At least, they wouldn’t have had to suffer like they did. If the gods were going to kill her, then they should have killed her then, instead of keeping her half-alive, bed-ridden her whole life.
For Aileen, the worst part was to watch her parents changing. Her parents were not so young anymore. She was born when they were both in their forties, but they still did everything they could to give the best to their daughter. They were a modest family. They lived just the three of them in a small house. They weren’t rich, but they had everything they needed. However, when Aileen got sick, everything changed. Her hospitalization and her treatments were expensive, they couldn’t afford it, and money started to become an issue. First they borrowed money from the bank, but Aileen’s hospitalization lasted longer than anyone thought. In order to pay back the loan and cover the treatments’ costs, her parents had to sell the house and get a second part-time job. They tried to never show it to her, but she could see it was exhausting. Over the years, they aged even faster and lost a lot of weight. Aileen couldn’t stand it. She had ruined their lives.
Life was truly unfair. She started to resent everything and everyone.
The only thing that kept her from depression was her little hobby. Aileen always had a lot of imagination. As a child, she enjoyed inventing stories and drawing new things. Being stuck in the hospital all year long, she had a lot of free time, so she decided to spend her time creating a whole new world. At first, she only drew fantastic creatures: dragons, unicorns, anything a child would dream of. Then she started drawing cities: a city in the sky, a city under the ocean, a city hidden in a dense forest. Once she was done, she added descriptions and details to everything. In a few weeks, there were mountains of paper everywhere in her hospital room. Every month, her parents would take them to put them in the small flat they rented since she didn’t want to throw them away. Every sheet was full of information.
Aileen also studied during her free time. At first, it was because she thought she would stay at the hospital a few days, maybe a few weeks, and didn’t want to fall behind once she recovered. But she wasn’t stupid, she soon noticed something was wrong and understood she would probably never recover. Still, she kept studying on her own. It made her parents happy, and besides, she had always been a curious child, she liked learning new things. It also allowed her to understand the world better, and elaborate her own.
After a few years locked in her hospital room, Aileen had created a real encyclopedia, a whole new world with its own ecosystem and governed by new laws. She had drawn thousands of creatures, cities, landscapes. Everything was so detailed that every country had their culture, their legends, every creature had their description. She named her world Erthia, and it was her proudest creation. This little hobby allowed her not to be bored and to escape her cruel reality.
Then, a glimmer of hope began to dawn. It was a few months ago, the doctors decided to announce the big surprise for her sixteenth birthday: they had finally found a donor. Because she had stopped believing in it, Aileen first thought they were joking. But thinking about it, it was very unlikely. What kind of sick person would joke like that to a nearly dead patient? Still, she just couldn’t believe in it. It took her a while to realize the situation. The happiest ones about the news were, of course, her parents. They cried so much that day, maybe even more than the day they learned about her leukemia. Their little girl who struggled for so many years to stay alive would finally be saved.
Yet, once again, the gods mocked her.
Even though she was supposed to be fine now, even though she was supposed to be saved, she was now dying. Only a few weeks after the operation, something went wrong. She had recurrent abdominal pain, weaknesses, nausea and the doctors detected problems with her liver and her intestine.
Aileen was showing symptoms of transplant rejection.
‘Haha, of course… I should have known… Until the very end, the gods won’t stop toying with my life. Ah… Life is really unfair after all… Why me? All I ever wanted was a normal life…’
As her last strengths left her, her vision became blurry and she could see darkness enveloping the white walls of her room. As if she was going to sleep, she slowly closed her eyes. Except that this time, she knew, she would not wake up. She suddenly remembered her parents and all their hardship trying to keep her alive.
‘I’m sorry…’ Those were her last thoughts.
A flat alarm suddenly sounded. The ECG was no longer recording any activity from her heart. Instead of showing regular pacing spikes, the screen was showing a single straight line.
“D-Doctor! We’re losing her!” One of the nurses shouted.
“The defibrillator!“ immediately responded the doctor.
While the nurse was preparing the machine, the doctor placed the electrodes. As soon as he made sure it was charged, he delivered the shock. But Aileen did not regain a pulse. So he tried again. Just like this, he repeated the operation a dozen times, without success. After a few minutes, he finally ordered to turn off the machine.
He wiped the sweat from his forehead, looking at his unconscious patient. Frustration surfaced on his face. He sighed loudly, shaking his head. Understanding what it meant, the nurse silently headed to the door, so as to invite the patient’s parents to come in. The doctor pulled up his left sleeve, revealing a silver watch.
“Time of death 8:36 pm…”
Having resigned herself to her inevitable fate, Aileen allowed darkness to slowly enclose her. She silently waited for the gods to claim back her soul and for her existence to be erased. Yet, for some reasons, nothing happened.
She had died, she was sure about that fact. Looking around her, she saw nothing else but an empty void. She no longer had a body, only her soul remained.
‘Is this the afterlife?’
It was completely different from what she was expecting. Aileen was not a believer. Even though she liked everything about fantasy and magic, she did not believe in it. In fact, she was quite the scientist type. She only believed in logic. Aileen was the kind of person that needed rational explanations to everything and if there were none, then she simply didn’t believe in it.
After her death, she had expected to simply… vanish. Yet, here she was, one and whole –except for the body part. Even if there was indeed an afterlife, it surely was different from the general idea humanity had about what comes after death. No angels to greet her in a land of peace and happiness, no demons to torture her soul for eternity. Just nothingness… In a way, it was maybe worse than any kind of hell: eternal boredom. Or so she thought. Strangely enough, she didn’t dislike it. There was nothing to do but it also meant there was nothing for her to worry about. There was a weird feeling of warmth in this gentle darkness. For the first time in a long time, Aileen felt at ease, so she simply let herself float in the void, slowly falling into a deep sleep.
As time went by, Aileen was drawn from the unconscious state she had fallen into as the darkness started to reject her. She suddenly felt pressure all around her, as if the world itself was pushing her away. Disoriented, she started to resist when she noticed that she had unexpectedly regained some control of her body. Hum… Wait, a body? She had a body again? Aileen didn’t have the time to think. She kept struggling as the darkness was rejecting her, but the pressure was too much. Resigning herself for whatever would happen next she stopped resisting, allowing the pressure to overpower her.
A few moments later, Aileen felt an acute pain as air suddenly penetrated her lungs. She felt her whole body renewed with an unknown strength. Out of reflex, she started to scream, only to surprise herself hearing a soft cry coming out of her mouth. The warmth of the darkness she once knew was now completely gone. Instead, she was assaulted with a bright light and she was freezing. It only lasted a few seconds though, as she felt being embraced by something.
Confused, Aileen tried to inspect her surroundings. The blurry world around her became clearer and started to take shape. She was in a small room with white walls and ceiling that immediately reminded her of her hospital room. Aileen first thought that she might have come back to life and suddenly regained consciousness in the hospital, but looking carefully, she noticed that room was quite different from her hospital room. The flooring was old, the walls were stained and the pieces of furniture were worn. On the corners of the ceiling, there were even some cobwebs. Yup, definitely not the hospital.
Aileen then noticed a woman above her, looking at her with tender eyes.
‘She is so biiiig!’ she thought.
The woman looked to be around her early-twenties. She had black raven hair and blue eyes. She looked exhausted but she was still a beautiful woman. A little detail caught Aileen’s attention: the woman had long and pointy ears. No matter how she looked at them, those were definitely elven ears.
‘Huh? Cosplay? Miss, aren’t you a little bit old for that?’
They were very realistic. Unable to resist the temptation, Aileen raised her arm trying to reach them, only to surprise herself seeing a tiny little hand.
‘This is… A baby’s hand, isn’t it? A big woman, a baby’s hand… No way, it can’t be…’
Aileen then realized. It wasn’t just the woman who was so big, even the ceiling appeared to be so high. Actually, the whole world seemed abnormally big. Or… Was it just her who was tiny? Aileen suddenly understood. She had been reborn.
On the spur of the moment, thousands of thoughts assaulted her mind. She couldn’t believe it. She wanted to, but what if it was just another trick by the gods? However even if it was, shouldn’t she take the bait? Life has always been unfair to her and now she has been given a second chance. Trick or not, Aileen wanted to live this second life to the fullest. Then she suddenly remembered her parents. Was it really alright for her to forget everything and move on? Not like she had the choice, but it felt unfair to her parents who had given up everything for her, all for nothing in the end. And to begin with, why did she remember them? Weren’t you supposed to forget everything about your past life once you’re reborn? Did something go wrong with the reincarnation process?
A soft voice suddenly called her. “Hello, my little angel.”
Aileen froze, staring at the young elven woman –probably her new mother. She looked down on her with such loving eyes that all her worries vanished in a second. There was no point in thinking anymore, she will live. She wanted to live. For herself, for her past parents and for this new mother of hers from whom she already felt an endless love.
Aileen was then startled as a little face suddenly appeared out of nowhere, staring at her. It was a young boy with messy brown hair and beady black eyes.
“What’s her name?” he asked.
“Aoban! Don’t sneak behind me like that ! You scared her!” exclaimed her mother.
“Sorry mommy…” The boy apologized, lowering his head.
“Her name? Let’s see…” Her mother stayed silent, thinking for a while. Then she smiled at the little boy. “How about Lynett?”
“Lynett? Lynett… I like it!”
A gentle smile spread across the face of Aoban, as he kept repeating his sister’s name.
“Hello Lynett! My name is Aoban, I’m your big brother!” the boy said proudly.
For the first time in a long time, Aileen felt lucky. She finally had the normal life she had ever wanted. Judging by the room she was born in, they didn’t seem to be a wealthy family, but it didn’t matter. After all, she was now a healthy child, blessed with a loving family.
“Mommy, look! Lynett has golden eyes! How strange!” Aoban exclaimed.
Filled with curiosity, the boy’s small eyes were looking at his baby sister in awe. He could feel himself become hypnotized by her beautiful, deep eyes. They were shining, framed by thick and long lashes. They reminded him of the sun. Beautiful, warm, blinding.
“That’s so cool…” he murmured.
His mother sighed. “Yeah…” She did not share his opinion. While it was the truth that her daughter’s eyes were captivating and beautiful, such an unnatural color would only bring troubles. She knew it and couldn’t help but worry about the future. Noticing his mother’s reaction, Aoban tilted his head to the side.
“Mommy, is something wrong?” He asked.
“No, everything is fine.” Her worried expression quickly subsided as she gently smiled at the boy, stroking his hair. “Aoban, you’ll protect your sister, right?”
“Of course, I’m her big brother!” He answered as if it was obvious. His mother chuckled.
Meanwhile, Aileen just looked at her new family. She was grateful to have been born to such kind people. She could tell their love was genuine and even though it had only been a few minutes since she met them, she already cared deeply for them. Looking one more time at her surroundings, Aileen started wondering where she had been reborn.
As if to answer her unspoken thought, her mother approached her face to kiss her forehead, before whispering something in her ear. “Welcome to Agraal, my child. May the Goddess Naia protect you.”
Aileen grimaced at the revelation, staring blankly at her mother.
‘W-What did she just say? Agraal? The Goddess Naia? It… It sounds awfully familiar…’
Back when she was still stuck in the hospital, she invented something similar. Strongly inspired by Medieval Europe, Agraal was the name she gave to the first kingdom she drew. It was inhabited by humans who worshiped the Goddess of Light, Naia.
‘Surely it can’t be a coincidence… Right…?’
The fact that she kept her memories, an elven woman, Agraal, and the Goddess Naia… Cold sweats started to form on her forehead when Aileen came to suddenly realize her situation: she had been reborn in Erthia, the very own world that she had created.