Eleven years ago, Earthside
“Let’s go Keiran!” A little girl, around the age of eight danced happily as she twirled around in a circle, her hair floating around her. She grinned at me, finally stopping and pulling hard on my arm. I shyly smiled at her, and let her pull me along.
Even at the age of nine, I was not a very tall boy. The girl in front of me, Gale, was even a little taller than me. The two of us were running through the streets of the small town with smiles on our faces. Around us, the sun was bright in the sky and the noise of the breeze whistling through the trees was like a lullaby. We ran through the fields of wheat and corn until we were exhausted. Giggling, we collapsed onto the ground to stare up at the bright, cloudless blue sky.
“What do you want to be when you are older, Gale?” I asked in the quiet field. Behind us birds were chirping happily as they found their food. I heard the sound of rustling as Gale moved around to look over at me. She grinned brightly.
“I want to be a doctor! That way I can help anyone if they are sick! Maybe I can even cure Mama!” Gale and her family lived in this small town because her mother had a disease that no doctors could find a cure for. She had been sick for most of her life. Thinking that this would fit a girl like her perfectly, I smiled. She nudged my arm, her grin still bright. “What about you?”
It took a while before I answered, and when I did, my voice came out soft. “I want to be someone that everyone knows and that everyone likes.”
“Like a movie star?” Gale laughed out loud. I knew that there would be no way I could explain this to her. How could I tell her I wanted to just be able to be accepted like everyone else was. In this small village, I was almost like an outcast because of my mother. No one wanted to treat me the same because I was fatherless. Everyone whispered behind our backs that my mother was a witch and that she would seduce even married men for money. I wanted to be someone that could get away from that and in the process, find people who didn’t make their entire opinion of me based on my mother. I wanted to be looked at like I was actually a human, not some pest that they had to chase away.
Instead of explaining all of this, I just nodded, letting Gale think that was what I wanted. We stayed within the fields until the sun began to dip below in the sky, turning it a dark shade of purple with flares of orange. Hungry, we began to make our way back to our houses. Dimly, I was aware of this burning pain in my stomach, but I just thought that it was due to being famished. However, I soon found out that was not the case as the pain began to encompass my legs and arms. Groaning, I clutched my stomach as I kneeled on the ground.
“Keiran! What’s wrong?” Gale dropped down beside me, her face full of worry, her hands soft and warm against my now cold skin. I clenched my eyes shut tightly as I fought against the pain. Within my body, it felt as though all of my muscles were ripping apart and my veins exploding. Panting and groaning, I opened my eyes to see a strange scene. In front of me, there seemed to be the illusion of a large black panther. It’s eyes were pitch black and all around it, the lights would bounce off as if it was a black hole. It’s ears twitched at the same time it’s tail did. With each flick, it took one step closer to me.
Terrified for Gale, I reacted before I thought. I shoved her away from me, her yelp was cut short as she tumbled backwards, striking her head hard on the ground. She was unconscious before I even noticed how hard I pushed her away. That black panther was still making it’s way toward us.
Predators ran after their prey, right? With this the only thought in my mind, I threw a rock at it and ran, not caring about the pain in my body. Making sure it didn’t stay with Gale, I looked behind me and noticed that it was indeed running after me, keeping the same distance between us at all times.
With each step, the pain in my muscles and ligaments became worse. As the sun completely vanished from the sky, I lost all my strength and I collapsed. I hit the ground hard, the rocks and dirt in the area digging into my skin, gouging and leaving trails of blood trickling down my skin. At this point, I didn’t care if I was eaten by the panther, as long as Gale had gotten away safely. I glanced behind me at the panther, it was still behind me, looking on curiously, then it continued forward until it’s nose was touching mine, it’s breath hot against my face.
It was going to bite me. I was done for.
But the pain never came. Well, not the pain of being bitten. Instead, as I watched, that panther in front of me seemed to evaporate into the air as it collapsed into a large black ball of blackness. I sucked in a shocked breath, and that breath started it all. The black gas that was once the panther entered my body, invading my lungs.
A wave of pure power flooded me, and I began to choke as my trachea collapsed on it’s own. Grabbing my throat, I struggled to breathe, my next breath stuck on the other side, unable to escape. I gagged, my arms reaching for something, anything to help me breathe. That’s when I noticed it.
All along my skin, my originally pale skin was now nothing but black. Every inch of it was the color of that panther, a black hole of nothingness.
Frightened, I began to scratch at my skin. It did not even register to me that I could breathe once more. I was more frightened about the change in my body. As I struggled, that glacier cold reached every part of my body, freezing my nerves. I sucked in a breath, unable to move. Inside my mind, I felt the presence of that panther, and somehow, I felt it open it’s eyes.
Then my body was moving and I was no longer in control.
Even though I no longer could control my body, I could still see and feel everything around me. I could feel the grass touching my calves, the wind that gently hit the cuts and abrasions all over my arms. They stung and throbbed with each step that my body took. The panther that was controlling my body was taking me to an area of the village I had never been to before. Stretched far in front of me and all around me were thick woods and tall trees. I don’t know how long my body walked before the woods seemed to end. It must have been at least an hour, I could feel my feet throbbing with every step.
On the horizon, as I got closer, I could see a wall wrapping around the forest. This wall wasn’t very large, it must have only been maybe four feet tall, but I could not see any beginning or ending to it. As my body got closer to the wall, I felt an incredible sensation of immense pain. Every fiber of my being began to scream in agony.
When I looked down at myself, I noticed that somehow, all of my skin was on fire. Literal fire, the color of cerulean flickered and nipped at my skin. Since I was being controlled, I couldn’t even scream. But with each step my body took, that flame moved farther and farther down my body, until I was encased in it. Each step I took caused the grass beneath my feet to burst into flames, and from there they began to slowly spread, inching closer and closer to the trees surrounding me.
Terrified, I wanted to close my eyes and have this all just be a dream. But the pain radiating throughout my entire body told me otherwise. I wasn’t dreaming, and I would somehow be the reason an entire forest burned down. Even as I thought this, there was a sudden strong wind, and all the flames surrounding me seemed to float into the air before they condensed into a large ball.
Beyond that large ball of flames stood a man. His bright silver eyes looked confused as he stared at the flames. Then, he opened his mouth and swallowed the mass. He engulfed it like it was candy, his eyes narrowing on me as he walked near me. He had long flowing white hair and red tinted horns wrapped around each side of his head.
He looked like a devil in the night with the moonlight cascading down upon him. My body shuddered at the sight of him, and only one phrase echoed in my skull.