The Girl Who Returned

Submitted into Contest #194 in response to: Write a story inspired by the phrase “Back to square one.”... view prompt

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Black Fantasy Fiction

I was told, once, I cannot remember by who, that the luckiest thing that could happen to us is to die old amongst family and friends. Whoever told me that was right.

A long time ago, I was a high school senior with no plans for life after graduation, only a list of maybes and didn't-wants swirling in my head. Now, at two hundred and thirty-seven years old, I was the greatest hero this world had ever known. I've slain dragons, ruled a kingdom and faced the Unspeakable Evil. Who could say they've lived such a life? How many on earth could claim such a feat?

I thought fondly of the memories.

Family filled the room and though I didn’t know all of them by name, it still filled my soul with joy to see my lineage, to see all I've accomplished, the fruits of my accomplishments, here with me at the end. 

I beckoned Heldera, my last child, forward, her cane gently tapping on the tile floor. She took my hand in hers. 

She was wrinkled and soft, her nails a pale white, her skin sallow when it was once a golden-brown hue, but her smile and those wonderful amber eyes were as bright as they were on the day I birthed her.

She squeezed gently as her son pulled close a chair for her to sit.

My tongue weighed heavy in my mouth, struggling to form the words. But as if reading my thoughts, her gaze softened and a familiar smile spread across her face. She was one of my favorites, and for good reason. "I used to hate you for how you treated us," she began. "But now that I have children of my own, I understand. You knew that one day you wouldn't be here to protect us, and you wanted us to be brave, to be strong, to survive in a world without our mother, Kaira, The Slayer." She nodded, a single tear streaming down her face. It hurt to see her like that, looking so much like me.

She leaned forward, her voice a mixture of emotions. "We all just knew you would be the last to go. You always had more life in you than all of us combined. But it seems I got the last laugh," she chuckled, shaking her head in disbelief.

Heldera then leaned forward and lifted my hand to her lips. "Thank you, mother. For all that you have done for our realm and for our world. We’ll take it from here. Let the youngins do what they will with what you left them."

Her voice cracked, tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. "Go be with Father and the others. Tell them I'll be with you all soon enough, I’ve got some things I need to take care of first."

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and let go. My spirit left my body. It was a familiar feeling. This wasn’t my first brush with death, but I was thankful for it to be my last. I had lived long enough and was tired and ready to put life behind me.

As my spirit soared into unseen realms, my vision blurred. The ethereal light that surrounded me was warm and golden, casting its glow as far as I could see. Somewhere in the distance, maybe it was all in my head, I could hear what felt like a singing, a choir similar to how the songs sung in gospels on Earth. That was a bit amusing. I glanced over my shoulder to see the land below me move in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, like swirling stars in an ocean of energy. A potent force surged through me, driving me towards my just rewards.

Just as I was about to completely surrender myself over, an intense pulling force yanked me back to the present. The vibrant colors, sensations, and lightness vanished as if a vacuum sucked them away, replaced by the heaviness of reality.

My eyes snapped open, and a sudden rush of breath filled my lungs, leaving me gasping for air. Making sense of my surroundings, I noticed that I was in a familiar room. A bedroom to be more exact.

 The room was dimly lit, with the faint glow of the streetlights outside filtering through the closed curtains. Outside I could see the sun slowly beginning to rise.

I was in my old room, the one I had back on Earth. The walls were painted a soft blue, and my old posters and decorations still adorned them kept just the way I left them. My bed was the same one I had slept on as a teenager, with its well-worn comforter and fluffy pillows. The air felt different too, less humid and fragrant, with a slight chill from what I could tell was the AC.

I sat up, my still heart racing and got out of bed. I motioned toward the window, pulling back the curtains to peer outside. The street was empty and quiet, with only a few passing cars in the distance. It all felt so surreal, like a dream. But as I looked down at my hand on the curtain, I saw the three wedding rings still on my finger, given to me by the three different men I had each given a piece of my heart to over the centuries and I knew then that this was all too real.

A chuckle escaped my lips before I could stop it. It wasn't a funny kind of laughter - instead, it was a strange sort of understanding. I had been robbed. Cheated from my afterlife. I would never see my husbands, friends nor my children again.

I wanted to scream, but I knew better than to do that. It would only wake my parents and I was ready to see them. Not like this, not when everything was so fresh. But as I stood there, staring out at the empty street, something shifted in the room, a pressure change. 

I spun around to see a man leaning against my dresser. He didn’t seem to be much older than I was, but that didn’t really matter all that much. "Pardon my intrusion," the youthful figure said in a voice that seemed to transcend reality. His eyes met mine, and he gracefully inclined his head forward in acknowledgement. "I didn't mean to startle you."

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" I asked, my tone shaking slightly. But as I stared at him, something clicked, and years of honed instincts flicked online.

He wasn’t human.

"What are you?" I added, taking several steps away from him.

He looked the part, but that wasn't saying much. It’s not hard for creatures to assume the shape of a human, we like to think we're the apex evolution, the most highly complex lifeforms in existence and yet this man did have an ounce of mundanity about him. He was far too beautiful, his hair too straight and those eyes…there was power in those eyes, no sadness, lust, anger nor hope, just plain amusement and power. 

These were the eyes of a god.

"I am an Auditor of Reality. In charge of making sure your world stays in balance with the terms of agreements of our creator. The Creator. The One who fashioned Something From Nothing" he said with a light cough, shaking head as if slightly annoyed by something. Though he had spoken it all smoothly enough that I’d almost believe it hadn’t been the start of the most insane thing I had ever heard. "I apologize for barging into your personal domain, especially after you had just gotten back from your incursion, I'm here to warn of this world, your homeworld’s impending doom."

I couldn’t help but to stare at him. I've met my fair share of powerful beings, dragons, gods, demons, whatever and I never really liked any of them; they always found a way to make it sound like what they were doing was for the greatest interest of all and an "Auditor of Reality" just sounded like another fancy term for a god. "What are you talking about?" I asked. 

"I understand if you're hesitant to believe me," he said, a note of sympathy in his tone. "But at least try and hear me out. I have humanities best interests at heart."

See what I mean? They always said to lure you in before clasping on the shackles of their terms of service and the next thing you know you’re blah, blah, blah’s herald. Champion who gives a fuck. I had done it all before and I wasn’t doing it again.

“Hard pass.” I deadpanned. The Auditor blinked at my response, evidently not expecting me to refuse. “You were the one who placed me in that other world weren’t you.”

“Yes, I was. There were quotas I needed filled and I-”

I held up my hand, stopping him. “I don’t care about all that. Take me back.”

The Auditor blinked again. “You want me to take you back? You understand that you died in that world, right?”

“I don’t care. I had loved ones waiting for me in that life. I had friends, husbands, and children. I’m not doing all that shit over again. I’m not your playtoy you get to order around. I’m nobody's bitch. Say Earth’s about to be destroyed? I say let them have it. We’ve had good for far too long and have done next to nothing with it.”

The Auditor’s lips curled into a smile of amusement. “Don’t you think you might be being a bit biased?”

“Perhaps,” I sneered, folding my arms. “I was seventeen when I left. I’m two hundred now. I think I’ve earned the right to be picky, don’t you think? Now take me back.”

His smile slowly faded as he processed my wor. “What did you say? How long did you say you were in the other world?”

“Two hundred and twenty years, give or take a few years. I might have lost track.” I shrugged. “Why?”

“You were only supposed to live in that world until you died of old age.”

“I did die of old age.” Another goofy smile, one that showed a row of perfect white teeth popped up. I didn’t like that smile, so he covered it with a hand. “What?”

“You weren’t supposed to live that long.” He said, beginning to pace back and forth through my room. His eyes began to glow an ethereal blue and thought to himself. “The path you lived is all wrong. You and the Demon Lord, Kasilrius were supposed to both die in your final battle and in the event of your death you were supposed to be transported here so that we could have this conversation, but you’re telling me you lived another two hundred years until you died of old age?”

I gave him a confused look, not exactly understanding where he was getting at. “Yeah?”

“Fascinating. You somehow deviated from the projected model.”

“Which means?”

“Kaira, the probability I placed of you ever defeating Kasilrius and surviving was 0.0013 percent. If I believed there was ever chance of you surviving I would have altered it so that you’d return home.”

I didn’t like those words. I found myself fidgeting with one of my rings. The one my first husband gave me. The husband who died taking a blow that was meant for me so that I could kill Kasilrius. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, but a voice, robotic in nature, like those automated messages you hear when you're on hold, spoke inside my head. "Dear Citizens of Earth. You have failed the minimum requirements necessary to retain the autonomy required of a free, intelligent species. It has been determined by The Reality Control Bureau, or RCB, that humanity is no longer an endangered species. Earth is no longer in a prohibited zone. Open season may now begin. If there are any concerns, please reach out to your nearest Auditor for additional help and further clarification."

“What the fuck was that?” I asked rubbing at my temples. It never feels good to have some intruder inside your mind, but having someone play an automated message is definitely just as bad. I’m sure I heard someone scream nearby, but I had more pressing issues to attend to.

“That was what I was trying to warn you about. I had hoped you’d have a few more hours, maybe even days. Perhaps they sensed my interference?” The Auditor curled his finger under his chin and began mumbling to himself.

"Ok, let's say I'm convinced, but why come to me? Why do any of this? I have no power here on Earth. You sending me to another world just to bring me back to square one and expecting me to save the world is a bit of an insane stretch if you ask me. Magic doesn't exist on Earth."

The Auditor stared at me, his amusement never leaving his face. "First, magic does exist, it exists in almost every world. It's a fundamental force of reality, like what you humans call gravity. It's just that your leaders have kept it well hidden from the masses."

I rolled my eyes. "Of course, they did."

“Plus, I wouldn't say that you don't have any power here. Consider this life as more of a new game plus," he said pointing a finger towards my wedding rings. "Try summoning that old sword of yours.”

I looked down at the rings on my fingers, turning them over in my hand. I hadn't even thought to try summoning anything since I'd arrived. If the Auditor was right that would mean...

I closed my eyes and focused, picturing the weapon in my mind. It had been so long since I'd last called upon it, but the memory of its weight and power came flooding back to me. I felt a surge of energy through my body, and then -

A burst of bright light filled the bedroom, and when I opened my eyes, I was holding my old blade, Soulrender. I never liked its name; it wasn't exactly something you'd see a hero wield and yet I couldn't think of a more accurate title for a blade capable of ripping souls from their body. 

Though you could hardly call it a sword, not in a traditional sense, it was more like a sharpened slab of stone with crimson veins running through it that flowed like molten lava. It also had a metallic scent, mixed with hints of smoky sulfur and scorched earth. It was heavier than I remembered and, yet I could still feel its familiar, almost corruptive power coursing through me.

The Auditor nodded approvingly. "I cannot give you back your old strength. Too many alterations to your reality and my superiors might simply opt at your complete annihilation rather than a simple culling. Any skills you gain from here on out will have to be earned, as you had learned before and just like before you are also not alone. There are people like you as well as beings from other realities who do not want your world to be destroyed. You'd be wise to find them if you wish to save your family."

The Auditor reached a hand towards the door. "Also, I am not forcing you to do anything. I've seen your life and I understand. I’m not one to judge if you simply were to get back into bed and go back to sleep and let things progress naturally. Your people will fight back and they will survive. This has all happened before. This is certain. However, whoever survives, these days matters just as much as who dies. I hope to see you again in the future." 

As soon as he left the room there was a pressure pop in my ear. Screams engulfed my ears, as my father bursted into my room. He was dressed in night clothes, having been woken up from his sleep by the message I assumed everyone all over the planet had heard. “Kaira? Are you ok? Did you not hear me knock!”

He asked as he rushed over to me, pulling me into a hug. He hadn’t even noticed Soulreaver in my hand, nor was I the one who was about to tell him. I hadn’t seen my father in centuries. I had no words to express my shock. 

“Baby, did you hear that voice as well?”

I took a moment to respond with a slight nod. “Kaira, I need you to listen to me, don't be scared.”

“Where’s mom?” I asked, peering towards the doorway.

“She’s packing the car. We need to go now. The news says the city isn’t safe anymore and that we need to leave. Grab a bag and stuff it with clothes, food, anything that is essential. Do you understand?”

I nodded my head. Not exactly knowing what to say. The roads were going to be packed, but we didn’t have time to argue. My dad gave me a weak smile and cupped my face. He gave me a look I easily recognized, but I had given it to my own children the eve of a battle. It was the look you gave someone when you weren’t sure that you would ever see them again. He quickly left the room and ran down the hallway towards his office presumably to get his gun.

I stared down at my weapon, Soulreaver, and felt a sense of calm wash over me as I gripped its hilt tightly. The crimson veins on the blade pulsed ominously, yet I was unafraid. The world could burn for all I cared; my family was my only concern. I would do anything to protect them.

April 22, 2023 03:58

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4 comments

Mary Bendickson
13:46 Apr 28, 2023

Did the name of the sword purposefully change from 'Soulrender' to 'Soulreaver'? Have you been here a while but this is your first entry? Or was that a typo? 2022? Either way great story. I barely understand the world I live in so have a hard time getting other-worldly vibes.

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21:21 Apr 24, 2023

I loved your take on the theme! Was a fun read, thank you.

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Viga Boland
16:20 Apr 22, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy. You should do really well here if this story is typical of your writing preferences. Fantasy fiction that explores real issues is popular with Reedsy writers and judges. Enjoy the experience. Keep writing. Good beginning ✌️

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Timothy Frazier
00:11 Apr 24, 2023

Thank you for the comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I was kind of rushed near the end, but I figured it didn't really matter as long as I got it out.

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