The Guild – Chapter 185 – Caroline

I feel so very cold. Why is it so cold?

My thoughts drift in and out of focus. I briefly think about wearing a sweater, then asking Kaede to turn on the heater. Maybe I should run a bath. They tumble in my head like leaves tossed on the waves of the sea.

As soon as I think about the sea, I feel pain, all over my body, like a steel brush rubbing against my skin. I want to cry out in pain but… I don’t have a voice. The water keens for me. I want to tell someone it hurts. Is this a cold? A flu? Did I catch a virus? I vaguely remember someone telling me I was foolish. I did something wrong. I made a mistake. What was it again?

It’s so hard to keep track of my thoughts and actions when your entire body feels like it’s being stabbed.

How long has it been? Time seems endless. Maybe this is already death. Does Selene feel like this when she dies? I wouldn’t want anyone to feel this. Why am I feeling this again? What made me sick? My mind grapples with the facts, trying to keep them straight, but every time I come close I lose my train of thought. I can’t hold it long enough to remember.

Occasionally, I feel something over the pain. I sensation on my arm. It sort of feels like a feather running up and down it. I don’t know what it is and it quickly passes with the constant of the pain. The cold returns. My dreams shift. I find myself on a beach, the gentle waves lapping the white sand at my feet. I stare out at the sunset over the water and heave a sigh as the pain fades from my thoughts.

I jump when a hand touches my shoulder and a woman with long wavey dark hair dressed in a white robe with gold bangles on her upper arm and a golden laurel of leaves appears beside me. She smiles, but it seems pained. I bring a surprised hand to my chest and take a step to turn and face her.

“Oh my gosh, I didn’t see you there. Where… am I?” I ask her.

“I’m sorry. You should not be here. You try very hard to hold on, but still…” She trails off.

I tilt my head curiously at her words. “What do you mean? I just found myself here. Why can’t I be here?” I ask her, glancing briefly back at the sea, but something about her gaze draws me in and I turn my eyes back to her, not wanting to look away.

“This is not a place you stay long. Your body is fading, and so you are here. It won’t be long now,” She says sadly.

I’m confused. “What won’t be long? I don’t understand,” I frown.

She sighs, looking to the sea. “You’re being erased. Void is a testy element. To be void means to not exist. Not many who come into contact with the Void can contend its strength. Of the main elements, you are no match. Only Life and a strong Spirit can hope to stave its power. There’s a reason the user of Void doesn’t last long.”

My brows crease with confusion. I try to process what she’s saying, but I feel like I’ve been dumped into the middle of a book without any clue what the premise of the story is about.

“Who are you? How do you know so much?” I ask, hoping she’ll answer me this.

“Well, two among you know of me. Even that should not be so. I was an agent of Time once. Now that torch has been passed. As for your second question, I know because I have seen it. Being outside of time has its benefits,” Her eyes gleam with knowledge.

“So this place is outside of time? And I shouldn’t be here? Which means…” It finally dawns on me… I’m dying. My heart pounds and I feel a heavy weight on my chest. I stumble back, fearful and suddenly heavy. “No… I- I can’t!” I stutter, my voice faltering. “What about… What about the others? I can’t leave them behind! Kaede, he’d be alone!” I shake, looking for something to lean against for support.

The woman looks at me with mournful eyes. “I’m sorry, It’s not often the dying come through here. It seems more common of late since the portal was opened. You young Guardians are pushing yourselves beyond your means. It is admirable but risky. It’s common to lose a potential who is not careful, but a Guardian who has been realised, that is a tragedy. You were meant to live and govern for so much longer,” She says.

I’m so preoccupied with her knowledge to understand the gravity of the meaning of her words.

“Wait, you said… Life and a strong Spirit could save me?” I confirm.

She tilts her head in thought. “I said they could hope to contend with.”

“But, we found the Life Guardian. She’s here, with us. So why am I dying?” I ask, trying to clear my thoughts. It’s hard when you’re confused and thinking about dying while trying not to think about it.

“One who does not yet know all she is capable of. Without the right knowledge and ingredients, she cannot help much. Trust me, I know this. I’ve been there before.” She gets a faraway look in her eye as she recalls something. I look down at my trembling hands as the weight of what she says sinks in.

“So, I’m going to die. There’s nothing I can do? What about the water? Why can’t I heal myself?” I ask, my mind jumping to all sorts of half solutions and questions.

“That seems like a likely solution, yes, but you would have to be conscious to do such a thing. You are far from such a state.”

“There has to be something! Are you saying I’ll never see the water again? Never hear it?” Just the thought brings tears to my eyes.

“Magic cannot be used here. Your magic is of your body. It is rare for one to use their magic in the space outside of time. No ordinary mage can do such a thing unless their spirit is also part of their magic. I only know of one.”

What does that mean? I exhale, eyes wandering out to the water. I long to hear its voice again, its little ramblings in a poetic tongue. I miss the voice now. I never thought I’d get accustomed to hearing it. It used to reject it, even after turning into a Guardian, passing the test and proving I was worthy, I still sometimes resented its presence, but now… Now I yearn to speak to it one last time – to tell it I’m sorry for screwing up and sorry for all those times I ignored it in the past. If only I could have one last moment with it, maybe then I could find peace in myself.

My lip trembles and I feel hot tears on my face. My vision grows dark as the woman leans down and embraces me with her slender arms. For some reason, her hug only breaks my dam further and I start balling. I’ll never see Kaede again, or Kaitlyn and Andrei! They jumped before I got sick! Do they even know what’s happened? Are they even back yet?

Then there’s Hitomi, she’s so young and inexperienced. Will she be okay with the others? She’s always so quiet!

And Heath? He nearly tried to kill himself. I promised I would help him. Selene seems to be having an effect on his progress, but what will become of him, of them when the Lava comes back? Will there be a conflict between what he wants and what the Lava wants?

And then Nik and Gwen. They both seem like strong individuals, but still, I’ll miss them. I told my parents I would tell them before I died. I have to keep my promise! Is she seriously implying I won’t get to say goodbye to any of them?

Suddenly, now of all times, I wish I could hear one of Kaede’s stupid pop-culture jokes about a movie he once saw or a game he plays. They seemed so annoying before, but in a way, I really kind of liked them. They made him stand out. He has his own kind of smarts… Much different than mine. I miss his smile, his silly hair that keeps falling in his eyes. I wish he’d just cut it, but then, I guess I wouldn’t see him flick it out of his eyes like he does.

I want so bad just to see his face one last time, to say I’m sorry and that I love him. Does he know I love him? Does he really know it? I’ll never know… he’ll never know… Why?!

“Shh, there, there. I know what your feeling…”

“How could you possibly know?” I call out before I can think about what I’m saying. I pull back to see her face and her eyes, they seem to ache with a memory, something that haunts her.

“I just do. I too was once alive. Unlike you though, I remain here of my own free will.”

“Then why can’t I? Is that not allowed?” I ask, desperately grasping at straws for reasons I don’t know.

She shakes her head sadly. “That’s just not possible. It had to do with my magic when I was alive. You are already separated. You can’t stay here.”

“But, it’s just not fair! I was only trying to help! I only wanted to be good enough… To be strong enough to be… To be apart of the team! I wanted to help her because it makes him happy. It’s not fair!” I start bawling again, my flood of tears uncontrollable.

I don’t want to die. I want to be with them! I don’t care what the afterlife is like. I don’t want to go and I certainly don’t want to go alone!

All of a sudden her touch vanishes and I look up through my tear-filled eyes to see nothing. The beach is gone, the water, the sunset. The woman is simply not there. I look around wildly, jumping to my feet. I spin around in the darkness in panic.

“No! I’m not ready to die! Not yet! Please! I need more time!!” I beg to the darkness. My skin crawls and I feel a distant pain as the cold returns. Is this death or consciousness? It’s hard to tell the difference.

The darkness seems to glow with a faint light and suddenly I’m not alone. I see two figures, one of a glassy blue-green colour, the other, an oily black. They seem to be locked in each other’s arms, hands held out in front of them. The blue-green figure starts to bend under the weight of the oily black one, and I realise one is Water, the other, Void.

I stare, unsure of whether to call out or not. With each inch the Water bends, I feel a pang in my chest. I reach a hand out toward it, wanting to help.

A smooth, sharp voice cuts through the darkness, ringing in my ears as it speaks. “Give up. You will be erased and all the suffering will end.”

Images flash through my mind, tidal waves, tsunamis, whirlpools – all powerful forces of nature centred around water. Still, she fights back against the blackness of the Void despite it coursing through her figure.

“Let it end!” The Void persists.

Water uses the image of a damn to hold up it’s front. It will not go quietly.

I notice then, her face, if she had one, turns in my direction. I feel her eyeless gaze on me and I tremble with the emotions that course through me. She wants to protect me, even to the end of her existence.

He gaze draws the Void’s piercing look as well, making me freeze on the spot. I see a grin spread across its oily face, wider than natural. It’s like a horror film, except, real. I feel the pain on my skin again. I sink to my knees, hugging myself with the chill in the air, if you could call this air. Everything aches.

“I don’t want to die…” I whisper to myself. “I’m not ready to die… Please… Let me live,” I say to no one… Who would hear the voice of a Guardian? How can we turn to for help when we are falling? Is there anyone, anyone to help us?

The darkness fades along with the pain and I let out a sigh as the end approaches. 

I don’t want to die…

By Kayla West

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