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“No," I insist. "You can’t do this. There must be another way.”

Goodbye, whispers the voice that has been my companion for so long.

The dark shadow in my doorway laughs, the sound a dark chorus of countless stolen voices. “What part of ‘we’re here for your soul’ makes you think there’s another way?”

I rise slowly, weariness warring with adrenaline. It’s been a long time since I was involved in that world, a long time for my reactions to slow and instincts to fade. But not so long that I’ve entirely lost my skill.

“I came here to be free of you, to live as a human rather than a weapon. I did not run in fear. That was your first mistake.”

“Your mistake was when you stopped running.”

I imagine I can hear her voice in the chorus, her soul still a prisoner. Old memories rise up in my mind, old losses, old companions long gone. How many of their voices are silently screaming, trapped in that darkness?

Soon there will be one more, one more weight upon my spirit, one more regret to carry through my eternity until the next threat catches up to me.

Don’t do this, I plead in my mind. The voice doesn’t respond, though I can sense its presence. It’s gathering itself for one final, final act. One final sacrifice.

And for what? So I can go on living alone? To outlive my grandchildren as well as my parents? To survive until everyone I’ve ever known is gone? To watch the slow rises and falls of civilizations?

Don’t do this.

But I feel the spark, the shiver of power slowly spreading through my body. The pulse syncopated against my heartbeat.

“And I did not come alone,” I whisper. “That was your second mistake.”

Though Earth is without power of its own, it is an open conduit for powers from other worlds. Powers like my oracle, the last surviving companion from my homeworld.

I’ve never been entirely alone.

But there’s a first time for everything.

Not yet, I plead. Not yet.

It’s already too late. The seals are breaking, the powers whispering in my fingertips, ethereal energy thrumming through my skin and echoing in my blood.

Some doors were meant to stay closed.

The shadow laughs. “I will always outnumber you, however many fools you hide behind.”

For a moment, my resolve cracks.

What use is living on? Perhaps it would be a more fitting end to simply stop. Rejoin those I’ve lost rather than clinging to myself. Perhaps there could be reunion even amid eternal despair.

But the thought is fleeting. There’s too much to live for. Even alone, there are lives I can change. People I can help. It’s not all about me. Not about my sorrows alone.

And then the tear between worlds peaks.

For a moment, everything shifts. I am the oracle, I see the paths of the future laid out in myriad twisting paths, instinctively leaping between them as I scurry forward endlessly.

My breath catches as the meaning of it all dawns on me.

I didn’t understand. I never understood.

This was always going to be the ending. Every time the voice whispered a warning, every time I evaded death mundane or mythical, it was all in service of this moment.

This sacrifice.

Power flickers and fades, the Sight consuming everything I hold and more. I stagger backwards, vision fading, and collapse back into my chair, otherworldly strength expended in an instant.

The shadow’s laughter is mocking. It drifts closer, the room darkening at its approach. “Now you understand your helplessness. No power is stronger than mine!”

I smile, weariness all that remains to me. Weariness, and silent resolve. I sit up a little straighter, though I’ve no strength to stand again.

“I do understand. This was always your destiny. To come to me, in the end.”

“Yess,” the shadow hisses, swelling as it nears, wrapping me in complete darkness. The voices surround me, echoing from every direction. “In the end.”

“But not mine,” I whisper, then inhale in a gentle breath that goes on and on and on. I feel the light of each soul as I pull them out from their long prison, sliding them into the perfectly fitted places within my mind and spirit, carved with gentle persistence over a century for just this purpose. Every place the oracle had once resided, every crack was built for one of these souls.

The darkness around me fades, shrinking and condensing as I draw away its power source. When the last soul is pulled free, the shadow flops to the ground, small and limp and voiceless. The afternoon sunlight nips at its edges, dissolving small pieces of it even as I watch.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

The voices whisper by turns, no chorus, no overlap, as though coming to me in a line. Then, gently, quietly, each one slips away. Finally freed to follow the thread within me back to their homeworld and rejoin the endless cycle.

My mother lingers a moment longer, whispering her own farewell at greater length. My friends, companions, those I knew in person do the same. But they too leave me, following the conduit I was built into. And finally leaving me alone.

Almost alone.

I stare down at the writhing shadow on the ground, squirming as it tries to outrun the sunlight slowly eating it away.

“It’s been a long chase, you and I.” I sigh, deep and slow, then regard the deflated shadow before me. “You were created empty, weren’t you? The malice was never your own.” I lean down and offer my hand to it. “What do you say we start over? I happen to have a recent vacancy.”

It hisses wordlessly and wraps itself around my fingers. I gently lift the tiny remnant out of the sunlight, sheltering it in my lap.

“You don’t have to stay with me, but something tells me it’ll be a long time before your masters can find us here. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got something I’d like to show you.”

It hisses in query, snuggling deeper into the shadow in my hand.

“What is that, you ask? Something a few more of our kind should learn.” I smile. “Being human.”

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About the author

Asviloka

  • Just Add Magic!

Bio: I've been writing longer than I can remember, but only started taking it seriously around '08 when I discovered nanowrimo and started attending conferences. Since then I've written several million words of practice stories leading up to posting here starting in '19.

My goal is to continue to perfect my craft and find a way to make writing my fulltime occupation rather than an obsession pushed aside by the necessity of working to support myself. Whether that means traditional or independent publication, building a strong patreon following, or something else entirely, I have yet to discover.

I always welcome suggestions for improvement and gladly accept all feedback, positive or negative. Don't hesitate to let me know what you think, and please consider leaving a rating or review! :)

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