This world had always been a prison of solitude splattered with blues, purples, reds and grays. Bruises and pain. You were the last brilliant streak of gold. So warm. Like how I imagined the sun would have felt like once upon a time as my brothers have told me. I reached towards the reflection sitting atop the Silver River. The poison tapped water rippled out of a point at my chest where my heart would be if I had one. Well, I didn’t know that mine was absent…but there had also never been anyone to tell me that it was not. “Tell me Ayla,” I prayed, “Can a creature without a heart ache in this way? Can a creature like me feel this way, these unfiltered pangs of being a finger’s touch out of reach of what it so desperately…?” I was only met with a kind of silence made of a single note that sang me a thousand songs. The difference between bleakness then and bleakness now, however, is that I wasn’t enshrouded in this guilt. It’s the raw anguish that reeks of spilt human blood, the crushed bones, the shattered spirit.
What would you have said Ayla, if you could see me again, in that moment where things stood on the brink of something great, or something awful? Would the clear amber in your eyes have twinkled like that time you found a hidden flower that dared to thrive in the wreckage of a once tall and formidable city? Would you have crossed your arms behind your back, reaching up to tug at your ebony curls in trepidation? Oh, how those curls shined, despite the grime, the heat, the sadness in your face. I was struck by a sudden flash of you sitting by a fire at night. It drew you as a silhouette adorned in an orange halo. How daringly beautiful you were when you chose to be human despite hanging on to a world drenched in evil and filth, rage and selfish cruelty, by your very fingertips.
You were the only one to see me as I am. As I was, I mean. The ever-rising smoke devoured the clouds, and obscured what was once the moon and what was once the vision of faraway stars that blinked in blissful ignorance of the wishes made upon them. A woman, not much older than you were dragged herself to the edge of the river where I sat. They were always like this when they finally came to visit me. She mustered the last dregs of her energy to bring herself up in a position that she could peer into my face. Searching for something I could never give. I always hated this part.
“Darling is that you?” she whimpered. She looked as though she were young and had aged centuries in the span of months. It wasn’t really me she saw gazing back at her. The dust in the air, the poison of the past took every last spark that was left. She’d been robbed of every color until nothing remained but a gloom in which she could sense the vague presence that my non-corporeal body cast onto the human realm. It was in this gloom that the prison I resided in and pitiful residue of human hope coexisted.
“My dear,” I whispered. “Do you remember what the scent of autumn was? That day we met for the first time?” I raised a hand to graze her cheek. “How the sun felt…?” I pulled her brittle body closer to mine, and cradled her as though embracing the very fragility of human empathy. She felt so tired. There was a kind of desolation that became a cold epicenter of her soul, and leached away at whatever inclination of survival might have been left. I couldn’t help her. All I could do was hope she made it back to whomever had left her behind. Whomever she saw when she looked at me with a final moment of peace. Hope…what a strange and human thing. You’re the one that taught me of its strength, Ayla.
The only wisp of clarity was the ghost of you, but how can memory of the sweetness in your innocence strangle me when I’ve only remained half lucid? What could I do when the other half was forever suffocated in the nightmare that I couldn’t save you from? I can help them sometimes, when they have crawled backwards from the end. They might wake up and realize the will to fight, the will to survive, the will to simply be against all the odds. A shared spirit of that flower. Against the affliction cast upon a once beautiful Earth, by my eldest brother.
He approached you Ayla, appeared as a wish splashed in honeyed yellow. I’d never seen that color before. No human had ever worn it. And then I could no longer see you. It was as though you vanished when he was near, the warmth you found in his color had swallowed your radiance whole. I didn’t understand why until it was too late. There was something in the way it moved, that veil, it billowed in ways the wind was not howling, and shimmered where there was no light. Yellow after all is the color of betrayal. Honey too sweet. But the fact remained: he was real and I was not. Or so I thought.
I slipped the woman into the Silver River, the body slowly embraced by the odd substance, ushered into an unfamiliar silence. It was last mercy I could gift, lest some other thing find her and steal away the final softness that accompanied her to the after.
There was no softness in your face, Ayla. It was the first and last time I’d ever seen that kind of emptiness in your amber eyes. It was also the first time you looked at me, beseeching, and saw someone else looking back. He’d stolen it all, the innocence, the kindness, the humanity, the hope. All that was left was a bloody silver arrow, a deception, a distant wailing lost in the depths of a dried-up ocean. It was never supposed to happen.
“How could you! She was all that this world had left!” I glared up at him, my brother, through dripping shadows in blues and reds. The veil was gone; it had been but his illusion. The final fragments of your sunshine, a remnant of my memory of you flitted about in this mist of treachery.
“My dear little sister. That was precisely why. I’ve been thriving in this new world. Why would I dare to let alone a glowing ember to one day spark a fire that rages amongst the humans?” he sneered, this embodiment left over of Narcissus’ curse. Narcissus himself may have perished. But the poison that created his curse had become this thing before me. The greed, the violence, the selfish hatred, the corruption. “We couldn’t have humanity mend itself, now could we?” he stuck the bloodied arrow deep into the dirt and ash, then yanked it out in one swift motion. It was clean.
“I beg, to whatever monstrosity that brought us both forth cursing this land, to consume you tenfold in all the evil you’ve unleashed on these poor souls,” I reached out in attempt to snatch at his throat, only for my hands to slip through, as though I were but part of the mist myself.
“I’d be careful, love, those are threatening words from a creature that can’t fight after all,” the contempt filled his body, the red tainting him. “Fulfil your purpose, Angel, and lead these rotten masses to their deaths. I will not ask again!” The red grew into flame, enveloping him. “Should I find you distracted like this again, I will drag you back to the very darkness you came out of,” and just like that he was gone. Escaped to whatever corner of this world he desired to pillage next.
Ayla, I relive those moments, again and again. I refuse to play into this sick delusion. This cannot be all there is to my existence. Hope…the thought of it flickers back and forth. I turn my gaze to the sky, the thick clouds of smoke, the snowing ash, and imagine what it once looked like. The stars. I would have loved them, Ayla. As much as you did. I draw myself up, and will every last bit of warmth you gave me to help me soar.
I soar into that smoke, into the forever darkened clouds, in the hope that I’ve left one darkness behind to reach for another.
That I’ll find the twinkling of the stars there.
That they may banish me to their world, stardust to stardust.
That they consume me in a fashion so romantic, so bright.
That I’ll fall into the eyes of any curious gaze.
That a moment of the heavens falls into those hearts and creates this hope.
That those long ago wishes might lie somewhere in the beyond.