Once upon a time, my name was spoken to be feared and admired. I was rumored to be a demon that defeated an entire army with his bare hands. Once, I had a family who cherished me, and a little sister I had to look after. Once, I believed that my name would be spoken for generations to be admired and loved, and to be known as another hero in the line of history.
However, that didn’t happen.
I had decided to visit home for the holidays. I was excited to see my younger sister again, who was about ten years younger than me. It was already snowing in the town where my family lived, and I was eager to get away from the palace for once and see my family. It had been months since I last saw my parents. The letters they sent me weren’t enough to replace the missing place in my heart where they belonged. At the palace, memories of them were the only thing that kept me alive within the palace walls.
Everything was like it should be.
It wasn’t until after I tucked my sister into bed that I realized that something was different. Not wrong, but something had changed. Suddenly the shade of the floor was faded and the room smelled of rotting wood. I noticed that there were many worn stains on the walls of the room and heard droplets leaking through the roof. The window of the room appeared blurry, as if a fog had smeared itself over the glass. Looking over at where my sister’s bed was supposed to be, was a hauntedly, empty bed. It occurred to me that my house that I grew up in appeared to have aged many, many years.
I decided it was a good idea to take a trip down the stairs and see what else had changed. I wasn’t worried, but rather intrigued by what had just occurred. After defeating armies and legends, I came to the point where even death did not seem to reach me or terrify me. Walking down the stairs, I took note of all the changes and the emptiness of the seemingly abandoned house. Pictures were replaced by tearing walls. The air seemed dry and cold, just like the winter when I came here, but more harsh, as if the cold was a rabid dog, wanting to bite me. Looking back on this memory, I wondered if things would be the same even if things happened the way they were supposed to. If I hadn’t met him. If my parents were still alive. If I never came home. If I died.
I walked to where the front door was supposed to be. Instead, the door was hanging loose, allowing the sharp wind to push its way into the abandoned house. The wind screamed, like a crying ghost on it’s grave. Outside the house, the streets are piled in sheets of snow.
“Nice view isn’t it?”
As I turned to the direction of the voice, the screams of winter subside, and the walls of the house almost fades. As if it’s still there, but more like a memory rather than a presence. In front of me was a young man wearing a red cloak decorated with different patterns. In his hand was a long wooden staff with a curved hook towards the top, like a question mark. The young man doesn’t appear to be any older than his early twenties, but considering what he was holding, he could've been decades, or centuries older than he appeared to be. The young man gave me a friendly smile and I caught a glimpse of his silver eyes reflecting the doorway behind me.
“Who are you?” I dared to ask the question. Judging from his appearance, it was possible that he was a mage. However, mages were from fairy tales and folklore. Most of the time, there were rumors of one appearing around town or a nearby forest, but no actual proof of their actual existence. Well, that is, until now.
“My name is Zeras.” The young man watched me in amusement. He didn’t move from where he stood. However, beneath us, the ground slid away, almost as if we were gliding in air. I watched as we traveled over towns and villages, moving away from the abandoned house, away from the place I called home. I watched as people in the streets, many of them strangers, continued their daily lives. The only thing that clearly changed was the house that I appeared in. I stayed silent as I observed the place around me, wondering what else has changed between this reality and the one I knew. I watched as the mage's staff faintly glowed, and suddenly we were transported into a brightly lit room.
It took me a few seconds to realize that I was back at the palace, standing at the center of the room. As always, various servants and guards walked through the palace, rushing to finish their duty or to tend to the royal family’s needs. The palace doesn’t appear to have changed, and it made me wonder if I had woken up from a dream, until I hear a voice calling my sister’s name. I watched as a young woman walked into the room and began to speak to a few of the guards. It took moments for me to realize that she was an older version of my younger sister. I watched her for a few moments, and noticed that no one in the room had seen us, or made any sign that the mage or myself are in the room.
It’s almost terrifying.
It’s not long until the mage used his staff once again. I watched as the staff takes a faint color of gray and the world around me changes. I expected to be in a familiar place, a place that I would know all too well, but instead, I watched as the walls of the palace are replaced by mountains blanketed with layers of snow. Around me, bulks of armor and corpses litter the ground. In some far away distance, I heard screams and cries of a battlefield. I almost forget that in this reality, I am nothing more than a ghost, and my hand reached towards my side to find my sword, only to be empty handed, followed by a trickling of uneasiness.
“What are you showing me?” I snapped at him. Something felt wrong, or maybe I didn’t notice it before, but for some reason, everything I’ve seen started to haunt me. The empty house, the harsh winter, the sounds of war and death on the battlefield. Many things are missing. What happened to the house? The people in the village? The corpses buried by snow and blood?
“Your greatest fear.”
The mage eyes watch me, once again reflecting what is behind me, the snow, the bodies, the dead. However, that doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me that his eyes reflected the world or the winter snow or the emptiness around me. What bothered me most is my reflection, which has never appeared in his eyes.
“My greatest fear?” I wondered, thoughts racing through my head. What is my greatest fear? I am not afraid of pain, or of death. I am not afraid of violence, or of war, of losing hope. I have nothing to fear. The mage waved his staff once again, and we returned to the abandoned house with the loose door and the fading walls. To what was once my home.
“Don’t you realize I’m showing you your future?” I watched silently as the room transforms into a more familiar color and surrounding. The reality I knew is returning. However, his answer confused me.
“I’m afraid of the future?”
The mage sits on the bed, where my little sister sleeps, undisturbed. I don’t move, in fear of waking her up. The mage continued to watch me, and speaks in a low voice so only I can hear, and only I will know.
“You’re not afraid of the future, but you’re afraid of what it holds.” His eyes felt as if they were peering into my soul, yet his eyes only reflected the walls around me, as if I’m still a ghost.
“One day, you will fight in a war you cannot win.” the mage paused for a moment, watching my reaction. “You will not be remembered as a hero, or as the man you are now. Your name will not be uttered for years because no one will remember it. No one will mourn for you, nor praise you. Your sister will take your place as a member of the King’s Court, and will rule a kingdom in your place. No one will remember the sacrifices you have taken, nor the name you have built with pride.You will become a ghost in your own country, completely forgotten.”
My hands were clenched at my sides. Tensed with anger, I almost wanted to laugh at the mage for trying to play a trick on me. I hated that some part of me almost believes what he’s saying, as if his words define my fate. There’s a blind rage in me that wanted to resist against his words and proudly proclaim that his words are full of lies. I hated that a part of me has changed already from his words. I hated that the words he’s said make me feel afraid.
When was the last time I had felt fear?
“You expect me to believe that? What makes you think I’ll believe you?” I wanted to scream, to hit something. I hated this feeling of helplessness and fear, of no control. Once I spat out the words, I’m filled with a feeling of uneasiness and terror. I wanted to hide it, to erase this feeling, but some part of me was saying that each word the mage says is true.
“Would you like to see it for yourself?” The mage watched me, hesitating, as if considering a thought. “If you’d like, I can prevent your death.”
I wanted to refuse, to tell the mage to leave and to never return. I wanted to forget all of this and think of it as another dream, from another exhausted day. I don’t want to believe the words that haunted me, or the fact that even my own sister poses a threat to me. But why am I hesitating?
I don’t want to be forgotten, to disappear, or be erased.
The mage didn’t wait for me to answer his question. Instead, he sighed, and got off the bed. I watched my sister’s sleeping face, trying to imagine her future, forgetting me. At the time, I couldn’t understand how I could prevent my own death from my fate. How I could be forgotten even by the people who loved me most, and knew me? Even if I could change it, at what cost?
I don’t want to be forgotten.
The cost and the risk doesn’t matter.
In the mage’s eyes, I finally see myself.