The story so far:
A plain name. A name that had never held any meaning to me at all. A person I had never met. But now, here he was. The most important life I had ever encountered. The life I was supposed to end so that mine could begin.
“This isn’t fair,” I whispered into the darkness. I began to shake my head back and forth. My hands slid away from Jared’s body and hung carelessly at my sides. My eyes started to burn. They filled with tears and stopped; poised on the edge of my eyelids. My throat began to constrict as I tried to hold it all together.
“Fair?” Ephraim’s voice wafted into my ear. I could feel the heat emanating from his body. I was making him mad. Fear began to rise in the belly of my stomach. “This...isn’t...fair?” Ephraim spoke again. His voice was calm and yet I knew that he was growing more and more agitated.
I jumped as his hands grabbed my waist. He pulled me towards him. I didn’t fight. I let one foot slide backwards behind the other until my body met his. He wrapped his arms around me and pressed his cheek against mine.
I began to sweat. The heat from his body was getting more and more uncomfortable. I wanted to push him off. I wanted him to go away forever. I wanted to go back to when life was simple. A life where I wasn’t put in a position to take someone’s life to fuel my own.
“I don’t think you understand just how long I have searched for you,” He stated simply. He turned his head and kissed me on the cheek. “I don’t think you understand how important you are to me,” He whispered in my ear. Ephraim took one hand and ran his fingers up the base of my neck, pushing my hair away and exposing my skin underneath. He kissed the base of my neck. “I don’t think you understand that you have no choice!” He spat at me. He grabbed my chin viciously and turned my head to the side. The heat had become unbearable and I began to struggle. Sweat poured down my face as I tried to break free.
Fire erupted from an unknown source illuminating the room we were standing in. I gasped and froze. I wasn’t in a room. I was in a stadium. I could see dark figures sitting in the stands. All eyes were on me.
I didn’t want to look at them anymore. I lowered my gaze until I found Jared. Sadness welled up inside me. Real sadness. I wasn’t pretending. Every emotion I had down here was real. The thought surprised me. What I was feeling actually made sense. I didn’t need to think about it. It just happened. In a way, everything sort of fell into place. I felt like this was what I had been waiting for. My life had been taken off the pause button and I was actually moving forward.
I reached out. I wanted to touch Jared again. I shook out of Ephraim’s grasp. I could feel the heat dissipating from the air. I took a few steps forward until I was standing over him. The light from the fire made the shadows dance on Jared’s face. I ran my hands through his dark brown hair. My fingers lightly caressed his eyebrows. I slid them down over his eyes, past his nose, to his dull red lips. My fingers lingered there for a moment longer. I placed my palm over his heart. I could feel the light thump from his heart pumping.
Ephraim placed his hand on my shoulder and stood next to me looking down at my sacrifice. He spoke softly, “You, as well as being Queen, are the Guardian of the souls. As long as you wear that pendant you control the Gate to Hell.”
My eyes grew wide. THE Gate to Hell? That was news to me. This whole time I thought the Devil was the evil one. Turns out, once this ceremony was over, I’d be the one trapping the souls to burn for an eternity. The thought kind of excited me.
“So how-” I began to ask but Ephraim placed a finger over my lips. My shoulders deflated.
“It is time,” Ephraim stated simply. He walked around the table until he was facing me. The fire died down and I could barely make out Ephraim’s form. The crowd disappeared into darkness. It was just Jared, Ephraim and I again. “For you to begin your duties as the Guardian you must introduce your first soul,” Ephraim began reciting a speech he obviously had given before,“ The soul must be human....blah,blah,blah...of pure heart....blah, blah, blah...” He paused and looked up trying to remember the rest,“Oh, and the human must die at your own hand.”
Ephraim grinned at me. He then gestured to a spot on the stone slab next to Jared’s arm. I looked down to find something masked by the darkness. I carefully placed my hand on the object and lifted it closer to my eyes.
It was a dagger.
My eyes grew wide. My heart began to pound. Perspiration began to build on the base of my nose. I instantly felt scared and self-conscious. I was the one who he had been searching for? The one who would be the next Queen of Darkness? The Guardian to the Gate to Hell?
Hands slid down my arms to my hands that clutched the dagger. It was Ephraim standing behind me. I hadn’t noticed him move. He carefully turned my hands until the blade of the dagger was pointing downwards. He leaned into my back forcing me to bend down until the dagger was positioned right over Jared’s heart. Then slowly, he began to slide away.
“Ephraim,” I called into the darkness. I couldn’t see him. I turned my head looking for him. I needed him to be there. To force me do what I was supposed to do.
He did not answer. I knew I was being watched but as I looked down at Jared it felt as if it were only him and I. I didn’t know if I could do it. Could I really drive this blade through his heart? Could I take his soul-a pure one at that-and open the fiery Gate to Hell to keep him prisoner? What would come of me after this? Would I lose myself? Would I like the new self I would become?
I suppose it was better to not have the answers. To not be able to see into the future to know what this decision would cost me. As I stood there with the dagger in my hand, I didn’t know where my life would lead. What I did know was that I had come this far and to turn back now would be the greatest mistake I ever made. I steadied my hands. My face became grim. Emotionless.
With one swift motion, I drove the blade through Jared’s heart.