It was the nightmare again. Again as it always came. Without fail.
The drifting ice. The empty sky.
She was all alone in a world where no one cared. No one knew. No one was.
She was a miserable figure in the dark. Her mistake had destroyed her. She was trapped in an endless universe of darkness and ice, where only she survived.
But barely. Her soul was gone. Her heart with it. The only thing that kept her alive was the vision. The vision within the vision.
The dark blossom whose purple tips looked a lot like her own hair. Whose green leaves looked like her yes. Whose sharp, yet sweet smell reminded her of her mother’s stew.
But yet, it was unfamiliar. Nothing looked the same. It had something. Something she couldn’t quite grasp. Something frightening. It always engulfed her the moment she realized it was there, always. She never could figure out why she didn’t see it sooner. The best she could assume was that the power seemed to come to the flower only when her consciousness fueled it. But she knew she was wrong. She would always be wrong.
Why would a force so powerful need her? A puny child? She thought. Then she would lose consciousness, like always. The “something” would consume her entirely. The darkness was her. She was the darkness.
The pulsation, the rhythm.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
This was where it ended. Where it always ended. The pain was unbearable.
Leora Dale opened her eyes, straining to stifle a scream. It felt so, so real.
But she managed to ignore the tingling in her nerves.
The pain isn’t real, she said to herself as she glanced at the window, wiping her wet eyes.
There was a soft glow on the horizon, but the sun hadn’t risen yet. She was up far too early. Trying to fall asleep again, however, was a lost cause.
She stood up silently, so as not to wake her sister sleeping beside her. She couldn’t risk another overprotective interrogation so early in the morning.
Slipping on her cloak and satchel, Leora tried to make sense of what she saw in her dream. No. Not a dream. It was too scary to be a dream, she thought. Not even a nightmare. More like a curse.
When she was finally free outside in the cool autumn air, she let out a deep sigh. The same exact thing had been happening to her every day for the past few weeks. Before that, it happened less often, but it was still there. All her life, it was there. All she could do was ignore it. Just enjoy her life for a little while.
But it was impossible.
The same exact dream. The same exact sequence. The same exact pain.
She dropped her body onto the lush, dew-covered grass. “What’s wrong with me?”
She knew the answer. The physician had told her a thousand times.
Maybe she’ll manifest a power. Everyone who does manifests a different way. Maybe she’s just having a recurring nightmare because of that.
Leora hoped the doctor was right. Hoped that she wasn’t truly cursed. She thought about it. It would be cool if she ended up getting a power. Only about one in a hundred people had one, and they were usually quite interesting, although maybe not very useful.
She was also about that age now. Thirteen. Most people manifested at the beginning of their teens.
There was something else though. Something she didn’t want to think about that was nagging her. So she didn’t voice her thoughts, even just to herself. She didn’t want it to happen.
As she lay there for a while, trying to just relax, she started to feel calm. The sun was slowly rising, its light dappling everything with streaks of red and orange. The sky itself was an overarching blanket, serenely giving comfort and warmth to those below it.
The lake at the bottom of the cliff was tranquil, reflecting the peace that seemed to be everywhere.
Leora started to feel drowsy again.
But far too soon, the cold set in. Frigid daggers stabbed her every time she took a breath. Her fingers went numb, and her lips turned blue. Everything seemed to get darker.
She contemplated starting a small fire to keep herself warm. It was better than going back inside and twisting around in the covers. All she’d need was some dry wood, which was in the storehouse. The flint and steel were inside her satchel.
When she returned with the wood, Leora found a dry, rocky spot to sit. She conjured the fire, lay down, and before she knew it, she was sound asleep to the sound of the soft crackling flames and crickets.
It felt like only a few seconds later when Finian, her little brother, jumped onto her stomach, waking Leora up with a gasp. She had a dreamless, drowsy sleep, and the bright light shining on her face when she opened her eyes was too much to bear.
“Lia, Lia, WAKE UUUP!” Fin’s baby voice yelled.
“He’s right. Wake up, sunshine.” Mom said, maintaining her little vegetable garden.
Leora groaned. She didn’t realize she was on a rock until she hit her head on a small ledge right above her. “What? Ugh. Morning.”
“Nightmares again?” Mom asked.
“The same one. I came outside to relax, but I guess I fell asleep.”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Go get ready and come for breakfast. After that, let’s have a talk.”
Leora didn’t see her sister anywhere, who was usually the loudest in the house. “Where’s Kaira?”
“Kaira? Oh, she left for the market. Now hurry! I can smell your breath from here.”
“Oh, okay.” Leora put her hand in front of her mouth to check, and, yes. Her breath did smell bad.
She cleaned her teeth by the lake and took a quick bath as well. The sun was well up in the sky, and she was ready to start her day.
As she rushed back for breakfast, Leora’s vision swam, but she didn’t think much of it. It was most probably just from her lack of good sleep and her hunger. Breakfast would fix everything, as it always did.
She plopped onto the chair in the main room. As always, porridge was on the table. Her family wasn’t very rich, but they were better off than others they knew, who had to beg for scraps.
She inhaled the food. Mother’s cooking made everything taste much better.
Now, all she had to do was. . .
“Young woman, come right here.”
Oh yeah. The talk. Leora didn’t want a huge lecture about her dreams again, but she still braced herself.
“Now, your dreams,” Mother said as she mended her garden.
Leora sighed. She didn’t mean to be rude, but she’d heard the same thing a thousand times.
“See, recurring dreams are common. But for the past few weeks, haven’t they been happening repeatedly? Every day?”
“So, do you think that means you’re seeing a prophecy?”
Leora closed her eyes. She had been trying not to think about that. Many people who seemed to have absurd dreams about the same thing over and over again, every day, ended up experiencing the same exact event in real life as well. It happened to very few people, but it was always something bad. In her case, it was terrifying.
“I don’t want that to happen to me.”
She had told her mother a few times every single detail of the dream. The “something,” the flower, the pain.
Mom straightened the carrot leaves. “Don’t worry. These are just future possibilities. None of this will happen if you don’t want it to. You can change your own destiny. Always remember that.”
That didn’t sound too hard. If whatever that was was truly just a mere possibility, and not a certainty, then she would make sure she would never stray to that path.
“Yeah.” Leora agreed.
A loud rattle sound came from somewhere not too far. It was Kaira and the groceries. Since they lived in a rural area, Leora’s family always bought items in bulk. Not that they needed much, anyway.
The rattle came from Kaira’s bag. She insisted on putting it on there so that we’d know if she was nearby. She was crazy that way.
When she came she dropped the groceries on the ground and scooped her little brother up, greeting him with a high-five. Then she seemed to remember something and ran off to the road.
“Lia, come on! Follow me! It’s. . .” The rest of Kaira’s words faded out as she ran off into the distance, but Leora knew what she was talking about. She had been waiting for the day for weeks, and now scolded herself for forgetting such an important event. It was Manifestation Day, in which the Council would call out the latest news of people manifesting. It was always fun to watch, and happened once every six months, with the cool displays and just the surprises. It was about two years ago when the baker’s son, Joshua, manifested. He ended up being able to crush and move around small pebble-sized rocks, and even had a whole “show” of a sort to display it.
Most of the time, the “power” would be based on a natural element. Mostly, “air, water, earth, and fire,” which were the big four, but sometimes stuff like “lightning, metal, sound, nature,” and other stuff like that.
But for now, she didn’t have to worry about that. Right now, she needed to pack some stuff quickly. They were going to walk, of course, and it never hurt to carry a few supplies. Leora packed two apples and a container of water in her satchel, along with all the stuff that was usually in it: flint and steel; an ink bottle, a quill, and some paper; some bandages; string; a book to read; some money; and various other knick-knacks that she didn’t really deem completely useless.
“Are you coming?” Leora asked Mom and Fin.
“Yeah. I didn’t know that needed to be specified.” Mom replied.
“Yeah. It’s fun!” Finian agreed.
And so the three slipped on a pair of boots each and ran. As she met the first real road in their neighborhood, Leora found Kaira waiting for her there. She was worried she had gone on without her, but she hadn’t.
The four traveled the three miles together. Not very long, but tiring if your little brother was nagging you so much. It took a little longer than an hour to get there, and by the time they were at the town square, it was already noon. Luckily, they learned, the only thing they had missed was a droning speech about the importance of the younger generation.
They started announcing the names a few minutes later. Most were those of people she didn’t know, but one was a person she had seen before. She was just eleven, but it seemed that she could make her hair stand up on end. Leora figured it had something to do with electricity.
And she was right, she realized as she heard Councilwoman Leona announce, “Breena Sylviey has received the gift of Thunder.”
They always had cool names for stuff like that. No one other than the Council really used them, though.
It was near the end, at exactly the twenty-first person when Leora felt a small pain in her skull. It was just a little headache at first, so she didn’t report it. She decided it was probably because of all the noise around her. But soon enough it increased. It still wasn’t so bad though. She was fine.
“Leora, are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Just a little headache, is all.”
“You look pale.”
Mother’s voice sounded distant. Where was she?
Oh, wait. She was right there.
“Lia, what’s that?” It was Kaira’s voice.
But Leora was dazed. She was tired. She needed to just let go. There was a sharp pain, the same one she “felt” in her dream. But this time it was real.
Everything went dark and silent.
Leora didn’t know what was going on. Was it an eclipse? No. Just darkness.
Then she realized. It was coming from her. The dream. . . she understood what the something was.
And then it was light again.
Everyone stood in silence. They knew the culprit. The new manifestation.
She gasped for a breath.
Her entire life would change after this moment. Leora would be cast out forever. The dream was somewhat of a prophecy, but more so what the physician had said.
She remembered what her mother had told her. She could change her destiny. She wouldn’t turn out to be evil like the others who had before her. She was ready when the Councilman announced her fate, stuttering as he said,
“Leora D-dale has received the gift of. . . Darkness.”