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Ashes


by ikkin_with_attitude

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I suppose that it is only fitting that all that anyone will ever find of me is ashes. My life was nothing but a consuming flame; all I have left is destruction and regret- ashes. And from the realm that I am trapped in, there is to be no second chance.

      I am not, as I may seem to be from what I have said, dead. I am not a ghost, though I lack life like one. Even a ghost has the ability to see those whose lives were entwined with theirs, to have some sense of the world they once belonged to, even if they cannot truly be part of that world. I do not have that. I have lost everything, the promised price for failure. It was a terrible promise; one that I now wish I never had made in a momentary lust for power, but a promise all the same. So I exist, sightless, formless, in an empty world without even a glimmer of hope. I had been told, by one much wiser than myself, that a fate worse than death exists. I scoffed at the one who said it- I could not understand how anything could be worse than death. I understand them now, though I truly wish I did not.

      The complete lack of my senses is not the worst part of this existence. That alone could drive one to insanity, but I would gladly take that fate over mine. My sanity was lost long ago. And, for one such as I who has perpetrated such horrors as I have, an even worse punishment exists. When one has fallen in this way, they are overcome by a blindness of sorts; they do not realize what they have become until it is too late. And so I must live, if this can truly be called living, with visions from a time when I was blind.

     Before I was brought to this miserable plane of existence, I was a veritable monster. I spared no one in my quest for power. Friends and foes alike fell by my sword and by my laws. I would have power, no matter what it took to obtain it, even if it meant making deals with some unsavory characters or disposing of a few challengers. In order to retain the remaining shreds of my sanity, I had embraced the blindness that is often the result of following one's terrible ambitions. So, while the pleas of my enemies fell on deaf ears, I could sleep soundly at night, free from any shreds of conscience that I may have had - at least as long as they, those spirits of malice incarnate, did not hound me. But that blissful blindness was torn away along with everything else, leaving me nothing to block that awful knowledge of what I am. I have been forced to look into the mirror of my soul, and I do not like what I see.

      Time after time, I relive scenes from the last few months before I left that world, images of the destruction and pain caused by my heartless ambition, my overwhelming greed, and my insatiable appetite for revenge. I watch again, from outside myself, as I coldly dispose of enemies who no longer wished to fight, who are unarmed, or who have turned their back for a second. I try to turn away from myself, revolted by my own behavior, by my own thoughts, but I cannot. These wisps of memory, of regret, are all I have-there truly is nowhere I can hide. So I am forced back into the darkest regions of my own mind, to watch anew within myself horrors that I had previously doubted the existence of.

      I watch myself as I stand outside the village, commanding my army. The buildings have already been mostly ruined. Villagers crouch behind whatever they can find, hoping to hide themselves. I cringe as I hear myself give the order- burn everything. I can only watch, helpless, as houses go up in flames, while that monster- myself! -laughs at the scene, until nothing is left but ashes. My warriors ask what to do- I order them to destroy anything that remains. I can only watch, helpless; I cannot change anything, and I cannot separate myself from that monster.

     How could I have done this?! And how can I change anything?! I cannot... I cannot make anything right. I cannot escape this fate, and even if I could return to that other world, I would be unable to restore anything to the way it was before. I have gone too far; there is no return for me, or for those who were unfortunate enough to get caught in the wake of my destruction.

      My memories now turn to him, one of the few brave enough to stand against me. Even at the edge of the Citadel, unarmed and barely able to hold himself up, he defies me, refusing to let me win. I try my hardest to force him off that edge, but to no avail. He is too heroic for that; he will not give me the pleasure of defeating him. His last words seem out of place- he is helpless, and has no chance of survival, but his words are hopeful. "There is always hope. It may be hard to see, and you may have to fight for it, but no matter what happens...no matter what happens..." I step back, wondering what he means, removing myself for a moment, unconsciously, as the cause of his demise. Then, he lets go of the side. I cringe as I watch myself laughing at his downfall. But his words resonate with me now, in this hopeless world in which I am trapped- "there is always hope." How can there be hope here? It is impossible...but there is always hope! Hope to make things right, hope to remake myself, hope to live again. But I have to fight for it...I must escape this realm!

      I can see a light. It is quite far off, but it is a light, and it feels wonderful after being in darkness for so long. I am not blind- I can see that light. I have form- my arms are starting to feel tired. I try to move them, and realize that they are chained to a pillar of stone, a pillar that I could not feel before. Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, however, I regain even more of the hope I had lost in this realm. As long as I am real, as long as I am truly alive, there is hope for escape! I peer into the distance, trying to get a better view of the light. It is fitting, that light of hope in my darkened world. I will have the chance to redeem myself!

      The light grows brighter, as the bearer of that light moves closer to me. The light is as bright as the rays of the sun, both as beautiful and as deadly, shining forth from a sword. The sword is carried by...him. How can he be alive? He fell off of the Citadel...and I was responsible... Or was he nothing more than a ghost returned to finish his worldly affairs? Had he returned simply to ensure that I would not? Would he come bearing the justice that the sword is a symbol of? Or would he give the hope of redemption symbolized by that shining light? I look to him, unable to speak- what could I say to such an apparition?

      He recognizes me, with a gasp of horror and a look of disgust on his face. He raises his blazing sword, the symbol both of redemption and justice, preparing to bring it down on me. All I can do is watch as he makes his decision about my fate. Scenes from my past sprint through my mind, though they are more pleasant this time, images from that past before I had fallen. He holds the sword steady for a moment, as if he can see into my mind, as if he can see the good in me that had been lost when they arrived. His face is blank. Suddenly, he brings the sword down in one rapid movement.

     I remain for a second, mouth wide. He had not brought his sword down upon me, but upon my chains. I am free to seek my redemption. The darkness of that world in which I existed slowly fades away, though he does not. He remains momentarily, partially translucent in the sunlight, and smiles for the first time. There is always hope, Kass. But I must go, before my sister forgets that, he says cheerfully as he vanishes. Perhaps he was no ghost- how can a ghost give hope to his sister? And if he is alive, perhaps my wrongs can be righted!

      I am no longer strong, not as I was before I fell. I can hardly stand, and walking is painful. But physical wounds can heal. I will be able to make things right, to fix what I had so carelessly broken. It will be difficult, but not impossible. I will return, and I will repay. Like the phoenix of legend, I have been restored to life. With the second chance I have been given, I will have the opportunity to be redeemed- to truly rise again from ashes.

The End

 
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