Fight or Flight – Andrei

I’ve been called foolish, careless… Reckless even. I don’t listen to conventional instructions. I mean, I live outside of the natural flow of time, don’t I? Since the age of seven, I’ve been hoping timelines like a kid would hopscotch. Of course, that takes years of practice to even control, but I got the hang of it.

Finding someone to share that with was something of a dreamed-up fantasy to me, until I found her, Kat, my dragoness fire goddess. To me, she’s more than the Guardian of fire, princess of the dragons and soon to be mother of our beloved daughter. To me, Kat is everything, my world, my reason for living. Without her, I don’t know what I’d do.

She’s the only one who gets to tell me if I’m being unreasonable with my magic or overthinking things in my head. She’s the only one I have to share all of time with, past, present and future. That’s why, if I lose her…

My feet feel rooted to the ground, my eyes petrified open as they stare straight ahead. My heart thumps loudly, the double beat slowly resounding as everything around me falls at a painfully slow rate. Time lulls momentarily as the tip of the blade of void touches her chest, splitting the skin and slowly drills through her chest bone, effortlessly.

Her fire does nothing to stop the void, for as soon as it comes near the figure of blackness, the guise of a man once host, now living memory, it vanishes. His wretched face splits into a grin of pleasure as his blade drives through her heart, into her very soul.

My wrist burns, a voice in my head screaming louder than anything I can comprehend. I grab my skull, feeling like my head will split open or explode. Her fire wreaths, thrashing before it dies, not an ember left to smoke. My heart bleeds. Gears grind… the fire goes silent.

My hands fall limp at my sides as her lifeless body falls from the blade, hitting the ground with a dull thud. Her amber eyes stare out at me, unfocused.

All goes quiet.

“Ahh, as simple as it was the first time. Fire is so easy to put out,” The black figure before me says in a disgustingly pleased tone. His smile reveals strikingly white teeth, his hair slicked back, not a hair out of place. He holds the blade of void up before him, running a finger through Kat’s blood, still dripping down the edge and onto the ground beneath it. “With it out of the way, it’s only a matter of…” His black face turns to me, and I feel a weightlessness in my gut, “Time.”

I feel my lips peel back in a snarl, hatred for this ghost of a man standing over Kat fueling the rage as it fills me. The turnkey spins inside me, activating my magic.

“Ahh, a fight this time? How interesting, considering you ran the last time,” He hums as I zip toward him. I command the weight of his form to hold him down, and he merely laughs.

“I am absolute nothing. Nothing has weight, boy,” He says simply.

I scream, drawing my blade as I circle him. “I will not let you live,” I growl, blood racing through my veins, pumping with adrenaline.

He sucks his teeth before sighing, “Ohh, do I look like I care about living or dying? I’m the void, boy!” His voice suddenly rises to a shout. “Life and death are nothing to me!”

“Well, they’re a part of the cycle, and you will pay for ending hers!” I yell back, darting forward. My reinforced blade clashes against his void one, an ear-splitting ring sounding as their edges grind against each other.

“Oh, reinforced steel? Void proof?” He giggles through pressed lips. I feel the cool rush of air billowing off him as the black fog of his void form does. I have to think. How can Time end Void? How can I make him pay?

He pushes me back and I spin around, faster than the human eye can follow, slashing for his back. He smiles, taking a small step to the side as my sword slices thin air, vanishing through a veil of blackness and appearing again a moment later.

“You can’t touch me if I’m not on this plane, boy. I am a whole nother level of Guardian,” He taunts me.

“So was she!” I grind my teeth.

“And look how easy it was to snuff her out. It was almost boring, really. Nothing like her predecessor,” He pouts.

“Argh!” I feel Time pulse within me, and my attacks move faster and faster, each meeting his blade and bouncing back. We parry for minutes, neither one gaining on the other. It seems almost effortless to him.

“Why won’t you die!” I bellow, jumping into the air, cutting my weight in half as I float over him only to come down heavier, trying to pierce through his skull. He slips through the veil again, out of range.

“You’re just not trying hard enough, boy. Come. Let me show you the essence of Void.” His voice echoes in my ears and suddenly, a wave of energy pushes out from him. Darkness encapsulates me, surrounding me from all sides. A cold dread fills my bones, and my breath grows shallow.

I look around me, my feet on a solid surface as my eyes look into pure darkness.

“I can create a black hole… if I wanted. End you here, now. You are in the void, Time. A place as deadly as any to one who exists merely to move forward,” His voice echoes around me, as if on the air.

I spin, eyes searching the darkness. I see nothing, feel only cold. I look down to see my hands shaking around the hilt of my sword. “Where are you? Show yourself!”

“I could send you to space, suck the living breath from your lungs, but… What a boring way to die. And besides, Time still ticks in space,” He continues, his florid accent grinding on my ears. “Do you know how Time began?” He asks.

My heart flutters, my feet dancing as I search the darkness. I refuse to answer his questions. I need to find a way out!

“Time began with nothing. It all exploded, creating the universes, the stars, sun, moon, planets even. Nothing created everything, and it all goes back to whence it came. There’s no escaping your destiny, Time. It all comes to an end,” His laugh follows, echoing around me, hauntingly.

“Oh,” He moans, “It’s almost too easy! I don’t want it to be this boring! Please, fight harder, make me bleed before you die, please?” He begs, whispering past my ear.

I swing my arm out, sword slicing through the darkness. That’s when I notice a faint light, like fire, glowing in its wake. Wait… a fire? In a plane of void? That doesn’t…

Time… flows in all places. Nothing remains the same…’ A new voice enters my mind, filling my head. ‘Remember how the river flows… with time…’ I vaguely recognize it.

My thoughts are disturbed when a blade slashes through my left arm, blackness searing my flesh. I scream, dodging to the side.

“Don’t zone out, boy. I want a fight,” Void reminds me.

A -Andrei…’ I feel tears sting my eyes as Kat’s voice drifts to me. I can’t think of that now. I must make him pay! I let my voice roar, slashing at the blackness around me. 

Time… Andrei…’ Whispers echo around me, pulling me in every direction. 

“You cannot escape the nothingness,” Void repeats.

“There is no such thing!” I spit. “Time is everywhere, even now. Only I can control it, otherwise, none of us would exist!”

Void laughs, “How do you come to that conclusion?”

“Simple,” I huff, biting my lip to keep it from trembling. “My heart still beats… for the three of us,” I whisper.

I close my eyes since there’s nothing to see in the first place. I feel for the particles of time, weighing them down with everything I have. I triple their force, no… more. Ten times the weight of everything around me. The space groans painfully as the weight increases. 

“If Time came from nothing, then nothing came from Time,” I whisper, barely audible from my own ears.

“There was no time before that!” Void shouts, groaning as the weight increases around us again. I feel a strain in my chest, but I continue the spell, reversing the time around me at the same time.

“Time is always. For nothing to change, Time had to be there first.”

“I’m done listening to your nonsense. Time to end this,” Void shouts. I feel a space open, an area in front of me where the weight vanishes and time stops. He’s opened a black hole.

“What you don’t realise is blackholes must go somewhere. They are endless gravity, bending time and stretching it,” I say, thinking on my feet. I feel the time slipping in front of me, but I hang on tighter, zeroing the gravity on the center of the black hole. “Even if time is stretched, weight can be applied.”

The air around me begins to thin, everything keeping me alive being sucked into the center. Everything is cold, my toes and fingers numb. My sword arm shakes with the effort of holding it, but I force my left hand to join my right, gripping the hilt with both hands. To make the black hole, he must be…

I stumble forward, a pain blooming in my temple as the gears grind. This might end me, but… without her, without Kat, there’s nothing for me anyway. We’ll… find each other again, I have to trust in that. If Time is continuous, no matter what, we’ll be together again in another lifetime.

“You can’t cut a black hole!” Void’s voice comes, less echoey than before. I turn toward the sound, following the pull of the black hole.

The hilt warms in my hands and I glance down, opening my eyes to see it flare with a flame, like pure light. The flames flow off the blade, their tips being sucked into the blackness before me. My eyes lift to see his twisted snarl behind the hole, just as I expected.

“For you… Gorgeous…”

I let my feet slide across the ground, into the void as I hold the blade steady. I glimpse Void’s snarl twist into a grin as I let myself fall into his black hole. 

“And like that… it ends,” He says with finality, voice fading as the sound gets sucked into the hole around me.

I feel like I’m falling, weightless, but that’s not true. As the light from the blade and the sound of his gleeful laughter swirl around me, I plummet through the center, flaming sword pointed out in front of me. I drop into the hole and come crashing down with the greatest weight of all, right into the heart of the Void.

The flames grow, spreading like wildfire and a scream erupts around me, ear-splitting. I drive the sword in deeper as the tightness in my chest increases. I know I’m pushing my limits. I could break Time again, ending my life, but… there’s no other choice. I will the flame to grow hotter, bigger, consuming the heart of the blackness.

“Fire… lights up the dark,” I breathe, her image filling my mind, flaming hair, amber eyes, pink lips turned up into a smile. I feel heat on my cheeks, my heart throbbing as the flames rage in front of me.

The hole collapses, the screaming cut short. The darkness starts to fade around me, I can see it through the lids of my eyes as light grows from all around. I lose grip of the sword, my lip trembling as I sag to my knees.

I hear a thud as Void’s shell falls to the ground, but I don’t want to look at anything other than her face…

“Kat,” I keen. 

Minutes tick by, twenty of them before I have the courage to open my eyes. My sword stands in the ground in front of me, a pile of black dust surrounding it. My breath comes in short gasps, my mind numb of all thoughts except one – why aren’t I dead?

My hands rest on my knees, fingertips black from being exposed to the void. My eyes catch the glimmering flame on my left wrist, Kat’s mark. Shouldn’t that be gone? We were told once… when our chosen partner dies, the mark would fade.

My heart thumps and I spin around where I kneel, eyes searching frantically. “Kat,” I huff, looking for her body. I scan the battlefield around me, charred remains of trees and the air dense with smoke. Nowhere can I see her.

“Kat!” I try to call out, my voice weaker than I expect. I shakily rise to my feet, stumbling in circles as I search. I can’t have gone that far in the curtain of the void, unless… The blackhole moved space.

I try to calm my heart, closing my eyes and filling my head with her image, zeroing on her location. I step forward blindly, draining the last of my reserves as I skip to her.

I open my eyes as I fall to my knees beside her. Seeing her laying on the ground forces my eyes to spill over again and my chest pain grows. “No…” I hiccup. I hardly pay attention to the way her chest glows green through her shirt. I grip the material in my shaking hands, ignoring the pain of curling my fingers around the fabric.

“Please… Don’t die on me… Your time isn’t up,” I mutter into her shirt as I press my nose against her stomach. 

‘Andrei…’ I hear her voice in my head. I cry harder, remembering the sound of her only hurts more. The green glow grows and my strength starts to fade. If only I could… reverse… time…

~*~

By Kayla West

3 thoughts on “Fight or Flight – Andrei

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