Pitch Black

Submitted into Contest #136 in response to: Write a story where hard work doesn’t pay off.... view prompt

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Fantasy High School Sad

A doorbell rang in the blackness of the night, sending a wave of disturbance in the pin-drop silence. Despite it being so late, however, it didn’t take long before the bell was responded. 

“Karlile?” the woman who opened the door asked in mild surprise. “What are you doing here so late? Is something the matter?”

The boy addressed as Karlile stood quietly at her door, a look of deep sorrow creasing his face. “Hi, auntie. Can I come in?” he asked in a tired voice.

The woman stepped aside and opened the door wide. Karlile walked in and straight to the living room, the woman following. “What’s wrong?” she asked again. She could see the dark bags under her nephew’s dull eyes.

The boy sighed. “It’s Pitch,” he said. “He’s making my life hell.”

A frown appeared on the woman’s face, out of understanding and experience. Pitch Black. A dark magic that resided inside all members of the Venem family, marking their bloodline as the most unique. No magic in history was known to transfer into every magic wielder within the same family before. Pitch was a powerful magic, the pride of all Venems… except for two of the recent generation … Karlile and his aunt, Siara Venem.

For some reason, Pitch had assigned himself to disobey their will and control them, instead of the other way around. Siara could vaguely remember the days of her childhood when his toll on her was far greater than it was now. It seemed that even though Pitch wasn’t done toying with her, he had directed his tyranny towards her nephew.

Siara sighed, seating herself beside her nephew and pulling him towards her. “It’s been years… I still don’t know how to get rid of him,” she said quietly, feeling terrible that she couldn’t offer her nephew any comfort. “He just won’t stop hurting us.”

Karlile leaned on his aunt and closed his eyes. “Us? I thought it was just me he hated?”

Siara shook her head, sour memories flashing from the subconscious of her mind. “He’s hurt me plenty. I… I still remember the pain he put me through. I was your age. We… I was in grade twelve. I put a lot of effort into getting the Valedictorian award and the best grades possible. I was looking forward to getting scholarships and getting into a good university… but I didn’t.”

Karlile pulled away and looked up at his aunt, a look of curiosity and pity plastered on his face.

Siara’s eyes looked distant as she began to relate her story.

Both Siara’s parents had died two years before her grandparents did, and the loss hindered her grades at school. Her brother was called in often after school to meet up with her teacher and discuss ways she could improve her grades. Unfortunately, Siara couldn’t get over her guardians’ death and barely passed grade nine. During that time, her eldest sister - Karlile’s mother - got married. Her eldest brother went out of the city to get a high-pay job to support the family and her second eldest sister, Sean, went to university. Siara was the youngest and lived at home alone.

Eventually, she was sick of grieving and renewed her soul with the goal of getting into a good university, so that instead of being a burden to her siblings, she could become a way to ease their financial problems. She would then get a good job and a successful future.

It was her second year of high school and Siara went ready and determined. With a goal of ninety percent average in mind, Siara worked hard in her second year. She avoided the other kids so that she would not get involved in anything that would side-track her. It cost her potential friends but she didn’t let that annoy her. She gave up her favorite walks to the park or her well-deserved internet time. She gave up all her hobbies, immersing herself in her assignments and tests. Her commitment seemed to be paying off as her grades began to climb and she was headed for a promising overall grade… but Pitch was stirring a plan all the while to tear her plans apart.

It was the week before the end of school and Siara had only a major assignment and exam left. Her current standing grade was in the mid-eighties, raising her confidence in herself. She was walking home from school one day when a sudden pain grasped her heart. Weak at first, stronger as she neared home. “Pitch,” she gritted her teeth as she stumbled inside, securing the lock behind her. “Stop it. I know that’s you.” The pain only increased as she climbed the steps towards her room and she began to feel dizzy. “Pitch…” she called weakly.

A dark chuckle echoed through her head. “You’re not anything great, Siara. Your efforts, your dreams… they’re all pointless.”

Siara felt her grip on the railing loosen and she fell. She didn’t know what happened after that as her head made contact with the ground and the world went black.

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When she awoke, Siara sat in a sitting position, scanning her surroundings. She was in her room, she noticed as her eyes fell on her study table, where her brother, Sabastian, lay asleep. Her eyebrows raised. How did he end up here?

She walked over to him, noticing that the pain she had felt earlier was all gone. She shook him awake. His eyes slowly lifted and fell on Siara’s face. They suddenly went wide and he jumped up to embrace her, “Sia! Thank God!”

Siara stood there startled and confused, pushing him away tenderly. “What happened?”

Sabastian grabbed both her hands and smiled at her. She could see the tiredness in his eyes that gave away how much he had overworked himself. “You fell unconscious,” he said. “I came home to see you lying at the bottom of the stairs. I don’t know how long you had been there but I tried to wake you up. You wouldn’t.” A lump had appeared in his throat. “The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with you either and couldn’t get you to wake up. I… I thought I lost you.” His eyes teared up and Siara frowned.

“How long was I unconscious?” She asked.

Sebastian’s lips tightened. “Two months. September starts in a couple of days.”

Siara’s heart stopped for a second and a pain clutched her heart. “Two… months,” she whispered. “What about school? I – I didn’t give the exam.”

“Who cares,” Sabastian said, pulling her in for a hug again. “You’re alive. That’s what matters.”

Siara pushed him away again, this time more aggressively. “But - but my marks. What did I get? Did I pass? Tell me!”

Sabastian sighed. “You passed, Siara.” But the look on her face gave it away. She had passed maybe, but with terrible scores. The pain her heart began to feel was one she knew well. It was the feeling she got when something important to her was lost. She worked her head off the entire year for nothing.

“It’s okay,” her brother comforted her when he saw the tears that streamed down her face. “You have next year and the year after that. I’m just glad you’re okay.”

She had wanted to make her siblings proud. She had wanted them not to worry about her. Instead, she got terrible marks and made her brother stay home with her for an entire two months. How had he managed to work and take care of her at the same time? She pursed her lips for fear of crying and making his task harder. She took a shaky breath and wiped her eyes, forcing a smile on her face. “You’re right,” she said. “I’ll do better next year, I promise.”

Her brother chuckled, “I know you will. But don’t worry about that too much. You must have fainted because of overworking yourself. You should take it easy, Sia. How are you feeling right now? Does anything hurt?”

Siara shook her head. “I feel fine. Great, even. I’m not sure what happened back then but I’m okay now. You don’t worry about me, Sabastian. You should take a rest before getting back for work.”

Sabastian smiled and did just that. He left the next day after making arrangements for her for the year ahead. “Call me if anything happens,” he had said, pressing a phone into Siara’s hands. “I’ll come right away.”

The second his car left her sight, Siara closed the door and her tears erupted. They streamed like a waterfall down her face and her lips wobbled with anger and hate. “Damn you, Pitch!” She shouted aloud. “Why do you have to ruin my life even more than it already is! Can’t you just leave me alone?!”

A low chuckling filled her ears that made her blood boil. He spoke no words but Siara could hear a thousand insults swirling in her mind anyway.

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Grade eleven. Siara made a promise to make sure nothing stopped her this time. If her midterm marks last year were in the eighties without the exams, she would have to get a midterm mark of a hundred before the exam, so that even if Pitch did what he did, she would still pass with at least an eighty or ninety percent. The teachers emphasized how important marks were in grades eleven and twelve. They would determine her academic future.

However, Pitch wasn’t a predictable being. Siara began to get frequent heart attacks that hindered her marks. She tried to fight it, to press him down the way magic users were supposed to be able to do, but it wouldn’t work. She ended up with a final mark in the fifties and sixties.

Sabastian stayed quiet as he came home from work one day, having heard of Siara’s situation. He entered the living room where Siara was staring at the ceiling with dead eyes. He sat down beside her.

Many times, Siara had wanted to tell Sabastian about Pitch’s villainy towards her, but every time in the past that she had tried, he had threatened her with potential death. Siara secretly wondered whether her parents’ and grandparents’ death were Pitch’s doing, but she had never come up with concrete evidence, and telling her older siblings about it might have ended up with another death.

A while later, Sabastian spoke. “Samantha’s son is a year old now,” he said.

“I know,” Siara replied quietly.

“You know?”

“I visit them every time I get the chance.”

“Oh. Well. He reminds me of you.”

Siara closed her eyes and a bitter feeling washed over her. “I hope his life doesn’t end up like mine.”

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It was Siara’s last year of high school. She was putting in everything she had left in her in this year. She had to make up for her poor grades in the past three years or she’d never make it to university. The night before the new school year started, Siara pleaded with her birth magic to not interfere with her goals anymore but was responded bitterly by the dark voice in her head.

“The day I am free of all you humans will be the day I stop interfering with your lives.”

Siara took night school to boost up her grade eleven-course marks and took more than the required number of courses. Pitch was inactive for the first term which made Siara wonder if he really listened to her plea, giving her hope that she might make something out of her hard work this year. At the school assembly, the principal came in to make an announcement to the graduating class.

He stated that joining extra-curricular activities, volunteering as much as possible in the community, and joining the student council would all help in receiving scholarships and a higher chance of getting accepted into university. Siara made a mental note of that.

She tried the student council but was immediately destroyed by the competition. Known as the self-absorbed nerd of the school, the only thing she got was a round of insults.

All the clubs she tried to join ended up similarly, cutting holes in her determination.

Siara gritted her teeth and broke into a sprint away from the school parking lot. Humiliated and angry, she decided she wasn’t going to give up.

She tried again the next day after having stayed up the night before to make posters to advertise herself. She needed to build up her popularity if she wanted to join the student council or any club.

A classmate sat beside her during recess with a haughty glare. “You say you’re intelligent?” she asked, referring to the information Siara had written on her poster.

“Yeah,” Siara said quietly. “I should think so”

“Can you do calculus?”'

“Yeah.”

The girl humphed. “We’ll see. If you can help me get a ninety on an assignment, I’ll vote for you for the student council. The assignment’s due tomorrow so come over to my place after school.” She stood up and left. Siara was both hopeful and stressed. She only had three hours after school to work on her own homework and assignments before night school, which lasted until nine-thirty at night. She swallowed but furrowed her eyebrows. She would do it. If it would increase her chances of making it to the student council, she’d do it.

Her classmate did, in fact, get a ninety for her assignment and voted for Siara. It came with a downside, however, as Siara had to finish her own work after she had come home from night school and slept late. Apart from that, many other students had begun to come to her for homework assistance. Her schedule was crammed and she slept late every day. However, she had gotten enough votes and surpassed her competition, becoming the president of the student council. Relieved, Siara continued helping her classmates and other class students with whatever they needed.

It was nearing the end of the year again, and the student council was asked to plan out the graduation. Siara was given the responsibility as head of the council to make arrangements. On the day, she was to give instructions to everyone who was contributing to doing what they had to at what time. Siara’s schedule was busy, but she was happy. She felt purposeful and accomplished after so long. She called Sabastian late one night and filled him in on everything she was doing. He praised her and told her the one thing she wanted to hear, “I’m proud of you, kiddo. Good work.”

But, as it goes, everything must come to an end, including happiness.

The day before the graduation date, Pitch struck again.

Siara was preparing herself at night for the big day, making sure everything was in place when Pitch’s deep voice sounded in the quiet of her room.

“You work too hard for the most worthless things,” he said. Human beings are so worthless.”  

A chill ran up Siara’s spine. She made a brave face despite feeling terrified inside. “Don’t,” she cautioned. “Don’t you dare ruin tomorrow.”

“I don’t take orders from anyone,” he laughed. “If you thought the last sickness was bad, you’re in for something new, Siara,” his laughter loudened before fading away into the silence of her mind. Her body suddenly began to shake madly. “Stop it,” she cried, reaching for her cellphone, her hand hovering over it for a second before withdrawing. She didn’t want to bother Sabastian. The pain would go away when Pitch wanted it to. Nothing anyone else did would cure it.

“Please Pitch, leave me alone this once. Please.”

The shivering gave way to a severe headache. She tumbled towards her bed, eyes bordering with tears, and pulled her blanket over her. She covered her face with her pillow to muffle her crying.

The pain never left by the morning. She was hurting so much that she couldn’t walk. She stayed in bed, tears of defeat dripping down her face. This is it, Siara thought sourly as the clock ticked away, soon indicating the end of the school day. Nothing matters anymore. Everyone at school is going to be disappointed. Sabastian, Sean… they’ll be disappointed. I’ll never get to university. I’ll never be anyone great.

The laughter that echoed in her head didn’t bring about anger or determination anymore, only the wild thumping of her heart as the fear of the dark being engulfing her until she let go of every last dream she had.

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Siara’s eyes focused back on the present as she felt a hand clutch hers. Tears had fallen from her cheeks as her empty eyes met with her nephew’s. “I was never able to escape from Pitch. He haunts me to this day. Every loss I experienced taught me that hard work… is useless.”

Karlile furrowed his eyebrows. “That’s not true. Don’t let anyone make you think that.”

His aunt gave a sad smile in return but didn’t argue. She didn’t want to believe it, either.

“You know what, Auntie?” the boy said. “I’m graduating this year. And I’ll prove to you that hard work does pay off. I’ll get that valedictorian award you always wanted. I’ll get into university. Just watch me. Pitch can try whatever he wants, but he won’t stop me. No one will.” He stood up in fierce determination. “You’ll see,” he said. He leaned forward and kissed his aunt’s forehead, wiping her cheek with his hand before pulling away. “Thanks, Auntie. I needed to hear all that. I won’t live the same life you did. I’ll do what you couldn’t.” And the shine that Siara saw glinting in her nephew’s eyes brought a smile to her face.

“I know you will,” she whispered as he walked away. She heard the door close behind him and a flicker of hope burned inside of her.

March 08, 2022 01:54

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4 comments

Sharon Hancock
02:00 Mar 17, 2022

Very interesting twist on magic. I think I’d like to know more about what’s troubling the boy and maybe a weakness of Pitch. Unique storyline and interesting way to tell it. Thanks for sharing!😻

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Duha Khan
22:20 Mar 17, 2022

Thanks, Sharon. Glad you liked it. The story is less about the boy and more about the countless troubles his aunt went through. If not for the prompt, I would have elaborated more about the boy - Karlile. He's my OC. As for Pitch's weakness - I've been plotting up this story for so long and still can't think of any weakness Pitch may have. Honestly, I've been imagining this storyline for years now and just can't find a way to get rid of him. Anyway, thanks for the comment, Sharon! Much appreciated! Also, if you liked it, please share!

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Sharon Hancock
23:57 Mar 18, 2022

Pitch is a booger-head, huh (my kid’s word for $&%@ head😂). Which of course, makes me want to read more.

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Duha Khan
19:09 Mar 22, 2022

Thank you, thank you! I usually imagine Pitch scenes when I'm angry or feel like my life is miserable. That's why I can make him seem so evil. He comes from my darkest moments.

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