Lightning sparked through the clouds in quick successions, setting the sky alive with it’s sudden bursts of illumination and only to allow it to darken once more. These rapid fire occurrences were soon followed by the roaring sound of thunder. The sounds made their way through the sound of rain pelting the ground of the gloomy forest.
The whole scene was terrifyingly beautiful. Somehow, among all of this chaos—the trees swaying unsteadily from side to side, brushing against each other, branches snapping horribly like the sound of human bones breaking—there was a sort of strange serenity.
Ah, but if that was all you saw, then you surely weren’t looking close enough.
If you looked closely, you’d be able to see a slight barrier between rain and grass; a sort of… force field.
If you eye it carefully enough… there—can’t you see?
Something moved in the skies above. Something that wasn’t lightning, or thunder, for it made no sound and moved—almost deliberately—slow, slinking through the parted areas between the clouds like a snake making its way over the ground. Finally, it paused, drawing itself together to form a tight ball. And then, almost as if it had been pulled back inside of a giant slingshot, it spiraled down towards the ground, and… disappeared. Just like that.
Ah, indeed it had disappeared. But, you see, it disappeared from the human eye.
And now, as we switch locations and go through the barrier, we come across five figures. One—a young woman—seems to be standing in the middle of the little area, a hand hovering over the other, eyes shut as if she were trying to concentrate on something. Though, by the looks of her exasperated expression—she had her eyes shut so tight they looked as if they had been glued that way, and she looked like she had eaten something sour—her attempts at focusing weren’t working.
There was the sound of wailing coming from not far off (probably one of the things that was distracting the other girl), joined by the sound of quiet murmurs. A male and female stood, the female shaking and whimpering like an injured animal, her nose bloody, eyes wide and red. A young man, who had her shoulders gripped in his wounded hands, stood in front of her, a perplexed expression on his face. His lips were moving, though whatever he was trying to say wasn’t helping the young woman calm down.
She was quaking. Her hands were raised and her fingers were curled into claws. Most disturbing of all: her pallor looked disturbingly white, almost sickly. She’d been repeating one five word phrase, over and over again. A chant.
“I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go—“ She sobbed, shaking her head violently, trying to shake herself free from the man who was trying to calm her down.
“Someone, please, shut her up. Loren looks like she’s about to explode—” An irritated voice—which came from a girl who had been pacing for the entirety of this—shouted.
“You shut up, Hailey! You shut up!” The woman yelled back, her voice cracking half way through her sentence with the effort of raising her voice.
Two legs pushed the white figure into a standing position and arms sprouted out from the tall figure’s sides, along with the faint outline of a facial structure—by the looks of it, female. As she become more detailed, one could tell that her features were tired, and her skin grimy. She looked like she had been running for days. But, despite her weary countenance, she didn’t appear to be physically wounded. The only real wound that seemed to be on her was a split lip, and the slight limp she walked with.
Their sixth party had arrived.
The man lifted his head and nodded, his grip on the girl’s shoulders loosening slightly (being that she had finally managed to silence herself at the newcomers presence). He arched an eyebrow and asked casually, with a nod in her general direction, “And what’s this one’s name?”
The woman sighed, lifted her arm and rolled the sleeve of her shirt back. She eyed the skin of her arm carefully, squinting her eyes until they were slits. It was as if she were trying to read something, but the writing was old, or faded—perhaps washed away with time. It took a good moment or two before she finally responded: “Leah Harris.” She lifted her head, lowered her arm, and asked in return, “Yours?”
“Jimmy.” He pursed his lips and nodded down at the hyperventilating mess in his arms. “Kristen.” He paused to heave a sigh, lifted a hand, and pointed over to the girl in the center, “Loren—“
A smug voice broke through Jimmy’s speech.
She sounded rather amused, though by the looks of it, she seemed pretty shaken. Like the rest of them, she was soaked to the bone, her hair running in a straggly pattern down her neck.
She crossed her arms and blinked. “Regretting being the only male now, aren’t you, Benev—“
“—We aren’t allowed to call each other those names any more—“ Jimmy hissed, eyes narrowing. This only threw Kristen even further into her potential state of full blown hysteria, to which he had to attend to soon after, which left the others—minus Loren, who was now shouting rather offending curses above her—to argue.
Leah tried to interrupt. “No time for jokes now, F—“
“—You heard ‘Jimmy’, no more names, remember? I’m Gemma now—“
“—Gemma, then. As I was saying, we have to…”
“—Oh, I already know what you’re going to say. ‘We have to stop messing around, because we don’t know which day will be our last’. Don’t think we don’t already know that? That we’ve been cast off? Oh, believe me, we do.” Gemma paused, pointing an index finger at Leah threateningly before she continued. “Is that what you were going to say, then? So, what do you think we’ve been doing here this whole time?” She leered up at the taller figure, hands balled into fists at her sides, and eyes now slits. “Sitting around, drinking tea, playing board games or some shit—“
“—No, no, that’s not what I thought—“
“—Oh, are you sure about that? Because it seems that way. No, no, don’t even try, it’s fine, we get it, don’t we Jimmy? Kristen? Loren?”—Loren was still screaming insults at the air—“Hailey?” There was an eerie silence which followed Gemma’s angry words; the only thing that broke it was the sound of a timid voice from a couple of yards away,
“I don’t want to be in this…” She’d stopped pacing, and was now sitting on the ground, with her legs crossed. She was tearing fistfuls of grass out of the ground and throwing them over her shoulder, in a strangely compulsive manner.
“Of course you don’t.” Jimmy mumbled grudgingly, rolling his eyes. Hailey didn’t seem to have heard.
“I’ve gone through three vessels. Three. It’s only been a month, do you know what that means?” Gemma continued, and although her question was rhetorical, the sobbing Kristen choked out a response:
“We’re cut off. He left us. He left us to die, and now we’re going to, and… I don’t want to…” She mumbled, pushing herself away from Jim and holding her hands over her ears. It was as if trying to block out the sounds of their arguing.
The group of six fell quiet; none of them spoke. And, for a while, there was a dull peace.
Then, Loren—who threw her hands up after letting out an odd, infuriated sounding noise—yelled at the very top of her lungs:
“YOU SON OF A BITCH!” She blinked, and her arms dropped to her sides with a very light thump. For the first time in nearly hours, she fell still; though the aftermath of it all left her hair gnarled and her clothes disheveled. A defeated look plagued her features, and she stumbled backward, shaking her head slowly.
The others stared at her strangely, heads tilted and eyebrows raised. Even Kristen had stopped bawling long enough to notice the change in Loren’s demeanor.
“I never left you all—I could never do that.” Came an injured voice from nearby.
When they turned, expressions shocked, eyes wide and jaws dropping, they were met with a rather gangly, thin looking man. His head was tilted down, and his hands were knotting themselves together. The gentle breeze brought with him tousled his sandy hair in a way which made him look rather… small. Less severe, compared to how untidy the rest of them were.
He tilted his head up, face pulled into a tight, pained expression. “How could I?” He asked, a small, nostalgic smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he stepped toward them with an outstretched hand.
None of them knew how to react; they were in the presence of their creator, the one who gave them the orders to carry out—their master.
But not any more.
Yet there was that small, aching feeling that they all seemed to share. It struck them hard in the very pits of their stomachs, causing their faces to crumple slightly; the feeling of guilt is what had hit them so hard—so hard that is caused Kristen to begin to cry again, and to which the newcomer responded with a soft, gentle smile. Though it faded as soon as it came, and just as it did, the thunder from outside seemed to break through the little dome; it invaded their hearing, causing them to look up simultaneously.
A small piece—of what appeared to be glass—floated (yes, floated, what else did you think I meant?) down from the very top of the rotunda and down toward them, light and flimsy as if it were paper.
Loren lifted a hand, snatched the thing up out of the air, and turned the thing—now solid and gleaming—over in her hands a few times. Her expression darkened as she did so. “He’s getting closer.” She muttered, turning slightly and lifting the object up for the rest to see.
Jimmy’s expression turned solemn; his jaw was set, eyebrows knit together. The others, however, shared similarly horrified looks as their eyes locked on the reflecting thing in her hands. A couple of them turned towards the ungainly newcomer, lips drawn into straight lines, expressions betrayed. He could only mirror their faces, though they weren’t as severe on his as they were on theirs.
Finally after a few seconds of stares and silence, it was him who finally spoke. He heaved a defeated sigh.
“You all are… right. Right to judge me.” He mumbled, raising an arm and rubbing the back of his neck. “You feel… alone, abandoned—and I don’t blame you.” He trailed off, expression anxious as he turned his head back to gaze up at the sky.
Out of all of them, he could hear the thunder the loudest.
“But…” He finally continued while turning his gaze back towards them. “We mustn’t fight. Now isn’t the time for that, because I’m sure you’ve all come to realize this.” He licked his lower lip rather nervously. “And, as you all surely must know as well… time cannot be rewritten. What’s done is done, I’m sorry.” He whispered, eyeing each one of the six carefully before he carried on.
“I can’t promise you all that things will go back to the way they were, because they won’t. I’ve watched time and time again, as worlds collapsed and stars fell, and as people died, that once things are over—well, once they’re over, nothing is ever the same. From spending so long with me, you all should know that.” He splayed his hands, and rocked back onto his heels. “And I understand your devastation.” He added quietly, gaze sliding from one face to the next as he drank their expressions in.
And, he was right. They knew it, deep down—even though some had difficulty admitting it—that every word he had spoken since his arrival was true. And, why wouldn’t they be? Though none of them spoke.
It was Hailey, the one who had been so silent for that whole time, who finally raised her voice. “So what happens now?” She asked with a slight nod of the head, dark and matted hair falling into her face.
Her question was met with a rather blank, odd little smile from the young man. He sighed and tapped the side of his wrist—which must have meant something, because their responses to this movement looked rather… appalled—and leaned forward until he was balancing himself on the very balls of his feet.
“Like I said, I can’t promise that things will ever be the same—but I can make them better. I can try.” He blinked, and extended an inviting hand—he looked as though he were speaking to a batch of children—and spoke softly, “But you all have to trust me.”