Collaborative Story: Day Two:
Erin York here. Sorry for the delay in the second part of the story. I hit some real writer’s block this past week. Maybe it had to do with all the turkey and stuffing I ate. But here’s the second piece. Look forward to Jere’s and Tamara’s posts coming up!
From within the flames, I watched cloud cover darken what had once been my world. But no rain fell. Instead, ashes came down like snow or tears. They swallowed Steph. Then I saw nothing. Only grey. All that was left of planet Earth.
Somehow I always knew the world would end this way. If not by ice, then by fire, as Robert Frost said. But—
I turned to face the two figures. “Is Earth really gone? What’s happened to Steph.”
"Your world never was," replied the first.
"Khet is a nonbeliever," the woman who held his hand said. "Even now that he has seen Earth, he refuses to believe he has seen it."
"We go and come," the woman continued, "whenever and wherever the match is struck. Now you will travel with us."
"Fireborn." The man held his palm out to me. Burnt into the flesh was an emblem of flame. "She called us, so we could take you away. Far away from that place."
Still, I couldn’t seem to understand. Who were these people? Why was I meant to go with them? Where would we go, if not to come home again? Home to Earth. Where I’d been raised. Where I’d convinced myself I belonged.
"What if I want to go back?"
The woman threw back her head and laughed. The walls of flames danced around her, blanketing us all. Then, I could not even see the grey ash, all that was left of the Earth, any longer.
"Why would you go back when you can go forward?"
She swept her hand out. This time, the flames gave way, as if her gesture carried all the wind in the world. I looked through the tunnel. Saw the city beyond.
I’d thought Hell would be a city made from fire, brimstone, and lava rock. Perhaps Hell still was just that. But the city beyond was too beautiful, too beckoning to be Hell. And from rafters I had to squint to see, I heard music. And the music drove the flames. And all here was as one.
All except for me.
Let go. Let Earth and Steph go. You can be a part of this place,the voice in my head chanted.
But I couldn’t. I was like the diamond heart flames could not reach. I could never go forward if I didn’t know what had become of the world I so loved.
I took a step backward, then another, and another.
"Where are you going?" Khet asked.
"Once you leave this place, we may never be able to bring you back." Sweat beaded on the woman’s high forehead. Her hands trembled as she reached for me.
"I’m sorry," I said. "I’ll try to find you again."
I stepped out of the wall of flame. The fire shrank. White ash buried it. But in the blanket of ashes, I saw Steph’s matches.
I picked them up, turned, and vowed to brave a dying Earth to bring her with me.