Everything about me is fake.
Everyday I plaster on the same manufactured personality, everyday I’m terrified that someone will see through me, see that I’m not ready to be a knight.
Everyday I put on fake bravery, fake cool, I fake that I’m not afraid to have another loved one’s blood on my hands.
Everyday I practice my routine, I’m the best actor I know.
And today, will there be another innocent’s death under my name? The stranger lying prone in the grass, am I going to be too late to save her too? Not strong enough, not smart enough, not quick enough. Never enough…
My vision clouds as I rush to her side. I push back memories of my parents’ deaths as I kneel down beside her.
The girl, about my age with long brown hair, and green tinted dark skin. I grabbed her shoulder, and shook it vigorously, fighting panic. “Proszche zyie!” I beg.
No response. I turn to Eshoy’e, Hand outstretched. He drops the device, and I turn to the girl. I wave the scanner over her prone body, and the meter flails wildly. My heart speeds up. I’ve never seen it act like this before.
I use it to tell if a person is in fact frozen or not. Many times it has told me bad news. Maybe too many times. It’s probably broken. Suddenly the girl gasps and coughs weakly.
I whip around, my hand leaping back to her shoulder, my heart in my throat. “Heaj, wes porzeadstu koshanyea, co syea staeto?” I ask gently, relief flooding my senses.
She looks up at me “W-what?”
“Oh, you speak English?” I ask surprised.
The girl sounds distressed as she asks “Where-where am I? What happened??”
I put my fake personality back on, as I lean back and smile good naturedly. “Well, I just saved your butt from a couple of shadows, and you’re three sectors into the outer Teakan plains, sweetheart.”
Tears glimmer in her eyes “Shadows? Sectors? Plains? Who-who are you?? What’s going on?? This doesn’t look anything like New York!”
Something stirs in the cobwebbed vault of my memory. I tilt my head “New...York...?”
She stares at me, her brown eyes huge. Suddenly it clicks “OHH! You must be from Earth!”
“Where else would I be from!?”
“Well then you’d be headed to Portas! Eshoy’e and I can take you if you want! For a small fee of course, but if you don’t have any money, other methods of payment are acceptable…” I give her a roguish wink.
The girl bursts out in frustration “WHAT’S GOING ON!?”
I frown, something dawning on me “Is-is it your first time in Portas??”
Tears stream down her cheeks “Yes, yes it is.”
“Oh boy.” I breathe. “What’s your name?”
“Great, I’m Cara, and... I’ll try to keep this simple.
So, our capital city is named Portas because it was built around an interdimensional portal, named The Beacon, linking Earth and this world together.
Earth and Portas had a very delicate and symbiotic relationship. Your universe gave mine all of your dark energies, which The Beacon destroyed, keeping Earth healthy. Your dark energy fueled my Beacon, and the Beacon fueled my universe. Everything worked out, right?
“But….. one day the Beacon went out. The portal became unstable and dangerous to use, Earth’s dark energies had nowhere to go and began to form into what we know today as shadows.
“And all of our most powerful magicians, and witches have tried to relight the Beacon, but nothing has worked for years. Most of the people who go through the portal never reach the other side…”
Nadia’s face falls. “So you’re saying…”
“That I can get you to Portas, but I can’t guarantee that you’ll get back to Earth.”
I stand up and offer my hand to her “But hey, we’re not getting anywhere if we just wait around here for the shadows to get us.”
She takes my hand, and I help her onto Eshoy’e’s back. The sun has really gone down now, and the night sky looks empty without the milky glow of the Beacon.
I turn to her. “Hey, look…. I’ll take you to Portas for free, wherever you want. I can help you out…”
“Thanks” she whispers, and she places her hands at my waist as Eshoy’e sets off gently. A couple butterflies stir in my stomach, but I turn around and keep my gaze focused on the horizon for shadows.
I don’t know how long it is before my eyelids start to droop, and I’m slumped against Eshoy’e’s neck, his steady rhythm lulling me into a deep sleep...
I’m transported five years back in time. I’m nine years old again, safe in my parents house. I water the bonsai… the door flies open. My parents' panicked voices reverberate around my head. Light flares all around us. Fire spreads. Not strong enough… My parents die in front of me, just like they do in nightmares all the time.
The dream shifts and I’m taken to the day the Beacon went out. The streets are crowded and the light falters. Darkness spreads, and everyone in its way is consumed by it. I draw my sword. I’m fast, but the shadows are so much faster. So many I could have saved…
My dream changes again, and this time I’m in Teaka with my new passenger and Eshoy’e. “No…” I know I’ll be too late to save them too. Never strong enough, never fast enough, never smart enough… Never enough.
Maybe Shoiba is right about me, and I’m not fit to be a knight.
My dream dissolves as Nadia’s voice rings out. “Hey! Whatsyourname, Cara!”
I sit up abruptly, my eyes bleary “Wha-”
Nadia peers into my face, looking concerned “You were talking in your sleep, are you okay?”
I glance at the sky, still aware of the non presence of the Beacon. “...Yeah I’m good.” Am I??
Suddenly Nadia gasps and seizes her arm. Eshoy’e stops as I twist around. Nada shows me her left arm where all of her veins stood out in stark contrast to her skin. Her blood has turned pitch black.