The last glimmer of starlight dims and goes out as the holes in the sky are sewn up. I look around me, hoping to somehow find out where I am, where I came from, and who I am. But all I see is black.
"Haley." A female voice calls out softly to me, almost a whisper. I drop a crumpled up piece of paper I didn't realize I had been holding, but I pay no attention to it. I turn around, but see nothing. The floor of wherever I am is covered by water, about half an inch deep. It is warm.
"Who are you?" I am confused. I am worried. I am scared. I have no memory of what I was.
"My name is Vix. But that hardly matters. We are here to focus on you, and what you have done."
I say nothing, but look slightly to my left. I see the tip of a tail vanish in the darkness, and I can't tell what animal it belongs to.
"What have I done?" I can feel my voice rising, along with my panic. "How am I supposed to know when I can't remember anything?"
It is Vix's turn to say nothing, and I bury my face in my hands. But when I look up, an elegant fox stands before me, its pelt dark as night, shimmering with stars. I look into its black eyes, which reveal nothing. Its paws are white, and with each step it takes, water ripples outward in perfect circles around it. The beautiful fox neatly sits down, wrapping its tail around its paws.
I walk up to it and sit down beside it.
"You will remember."
I find myself not surprised that it is the fox that now talks. It is the same voice I had heard earlier, and I realize that this perfect creature with a pelt of stars is Vix.
"What are you?" I ask. "Some magical fox of some kind?"
Vix laughs softly. "Something like that. I am a star spirit."
I am more confused than ever. Vix stares forward, not even casting a glance towards me.
"Star spirit? What does that mean?"
"All of the stars hold their own spirit. We are the star. When it is born, so are we. But when they die, we are released to the Council of Spirits, where we are moved to something called a Spirit Void." Vix lifts her right paw and gestures around us.
"To humans, a Void is nothing but a vast world of emptiness and darkness. To us, it is a lush forest filled with wonder, life, and perfection. There are six Spirit Voids in total."
"But why am I here?" I ask.
Vix looks over to me, and stands up. "To make amends. I am to be your guide; to help you along the way. When my work is done, I shall be returned to the Council of Spirits, where I will be sent to the next Spirit Void. Follow me."
I find myself running to catch up with the beautiful spirit. "Where are we going?"
"The Cave of Memories. It holds all of your mistakes, proudest moments, and, well, everything." Vix lowers her head. Her eyes cloud up, but she shakes it off and continues. "Here is where you will make up for what you have done."
"Be patient, Haley. You will see."
As we continue forward, memories of my life flash through my head. My mother singing lullabies to me, gazing at me with love and affection. My father leaving before my younger sister was born. My mother turning cold and distant. My best friend, Iris, helping me get through just about everything in life while my mother did nothing. My mother hurting my sister, Camryn...
"Stop," I say, tears welling up in my eyes. "We need to stop." Vix turns around, staring blankly at me.
"It's too much. I can't take the pain." I collapse, letting emotion flood over me.
"Haley. What you are seeing is what leads up to what you did."
"But it was my father's fault! If he hadn't left, my mother still would have loved me and cared for me. Camryn wouldn't have been abused, and I wouldn't have- what did I even do?"
Vix shakes her head. "As a Star Spirit, we aid humans in making up for their mistakes. We have a strict code, and telling you what you did before you find out yourself is against that code. I took a vow, and I will honor that. We must move forward."
I slowly nod my head, picking myself up and taking a deep breath.
Vix turns and continues forward, and I can't help but be mesmerized by the way her smooth, perfect pelt glides across her body with each step she takes. But more memories begin to flood back into me, and I watch myself become full of hate and anger. I get worse and worse, as does my mother. Just as I think I couldn't possibly get any worse, my mind goes blank and I shake my head. I blink my eyes to find myself standing before a looming cave. It towers above me, but inside, it is full of light and warmth.
I glance at Vix, but she shakes her head.
"This is something only you may do. At the end of the Cave, there is something called the Pool of Recollection. That is where you will find out what you did. I will await your reappearance right here." She sits down and licks her right paw, then rubs it on her sleek head. I slowly enter the cave, not daring to look back.
The Cave of Memories is not long; not deep. After only 20 feet, I remember everything about my 17 years of life so far. Secretly making Christmas cookies with Camryn when Mom was away for the weekend, then stuffing ourselves with them so they were gone before she returned. Scoring the winning goal of a championship game for my high school soccer team. Staying up until four in the morning with Iris, releasing hushed giggles every now and then. Except what I did that brought me here.
Before long, I find myself standing at the edge of a pool of water. It is crystal clear, and a jet of water shoots out the middle of it. Everywhere else in the room is pitch black, unlike the rest of the Cave before it.
I slowly reach out to the water, and as my finger makes contact with it, I find that it is cold as ice. It sends a chill down my spine, and as I shiver violently, I have one large, clear memory.
I sit in my room, humming softly and staring at my ceiling. For the first time in many weeks, I feel content; I feel calm. It is unsettling. I close my eyes for a brief second, but it's not long before my bedroom door is thrust open. I sigh, knowing it wouldn't last long.
"What do you want, mother?" I snarl.
"Haley, for years I have cared for you after your father left, and you still need to use that tone of voice with me?" Her voice is shrill.
"You have done nothing for me! You left me to learn everything by myself while you moped about, hurting Camryn and not being a real mother! Right now, I have no parents."
My mother's once beautiful, once lit with joy eyes widen in surprise and hurt. Tears fill them, and she turns, running out of my room. I feel no regret.
A few hours later, I softly knock on her bedroom door.
"Mom?" No answer.
I open it to find a clean room, something that this room has not been in 13 years. On the freshly made bed sits a piece of paper. I slowly walk to it and pick it up. It reads:
My dearest Haley,
For years, I have shut you out of my life. In return, I was shut out of yours. I wanted to fix that, I really did. But earlier tonight in your room, when I said I had cared for you? I know I haven't. I somehow wanted to believe I did, because I regret not loving you and caring for you like I should have. I kept telling myself it wasn't my fault, and I guess I thought I would believe it.
I'm sorry, but I need to go. I can't be around you anymore, not because I don't love you, but because you turn into something you're not whenever I'm around you. Take care of Camryn. I love you forever and always, my sweet pea.
I gasp, crumpling up the paper in my fist. Collapsing onto the floor, sadness, regret, and anger at myself cascades over me. She left, and it was my fault. What would I tell Camryn? Would I ever see my mother again; tell her I'm sorry? I love you forever and always, my sweet pea. Tears run down my face. She hadn't said that in 13 years.
I am no longer cold. The Pool of Recollection is once again before me, and I realize what I have done.
I reach the end of the Cave of Memories, eyes puffy from crying. Vix has not moved, but when I look into her eyes, she smiles. I am confused. She glances behind her back, then slowly fades away, leaving only a wisp of stars above where her head had been.
It moves in the direction that we had come from, stopping a few feet away. I take a step forward, and as I do, the wisp does too.
I follow it for what seems like hours, until it stops. I glance around, only to see nothing but darkness once again. I slowly reach out to touch the wisp, but it shoots up, becoming a small star in the darkness. But then, it dims, sewn up like the star I had first seen. I take a step forward, and my foot hits something. I look down to find a crumpled up piece of paper; the one I had been holding when I arrived. I cautiously open it up, and gasp. It reads:
My dearest Haley,
For years, I have shut you out of my life. In return, I was shut out of yours...