Inspired by my feeling so not okay it’s bordering on ridiculous. It’s a first rough draft that may or may not get polished down the line. I sorta starved myself to stay in the flow of ideas so now I have a headache and the hopelessness has caught up with me.
I met him on the day of my death.
That day, that beautiful day, that day painted by gold and by fire and by the promise of another glorious morning soon to wake once more, I stood on the edge of the promontory overshadowing my home village.
Long had I visited this place, dreaming of the lands that be beyond the fields and the forests and the hazy mountains that I had come to call home. A makeshift home, even though I was born and raised in this small community. Something, deep in my heart, had always pulled me away; pulled me towards the unknown, the unseen, the unfathomable.
But after so many years of struggle to fit in, to adapt, to exist as my little community deemed I should exist, I found I could struggle no longer. When I looked down at the little human ants scurrying about their daily lives, my vertigo no longer affected me.
All I knew was the pull of the first, and the last, unsteady step. Trembling despite my peace of heart, I rose my foot and let it hang over the edge. I had long wondered how it would feel to die. What dreams might I have during my fall? What regrets might assault my throbbing heart? Would anyone even miss me? Of course they would.
But did it truly matter? For nothing mattered to the dead. And I, dreamer of death, was already dead.
I tensed my fists and braced myself.
Then, I dove.
The wind supported my thoughts;
The skies divulged their secrets to me;
The earth welcomed every ounce of my weight;
The Darkness. I was home.
But a strange sensation, a warmth and gentleness such as never I had felt, coursed through my blood. I opened my eyes to golden fire spreading across my homelands, and my feet firmly planted at the edge of the precipice. I was yet here. I was no longer alone.
“Haven’t you lived in darkness for too long?”
The man I saw standing behind me shimmered with red and golden scales. His face, square and aged by more than time alone, made my heart jolt with fear. Something lurked beneath skin and sinew; something as ancient as the world, something that was boring through my soul with its human mask’s eyes. I felt… threatened.
“What matter is it of yours?” I called out to the armored man, rising my chin to command an authority I knew I didn’t possess. “Who are you to tell me how I should live?”
He scrutinized me. I felt ripped apart from within.
“All that burns is my concern. Therefore, so are you.”
I couldn’t help but scoff. “Burn? Hah!” After derision, came anger. “And where have you been my entire life? You come at the end of it, claiming concern, but where were you along the way!”
He took a moment to answer, I first thought out of guilt, but his tone spoke of nothing but truth. “I’ve always been here.”
I felt destabilized then. A waft of heat came over me from nowhere. It felt… familiar.
I frowned. “Who are you?”
“One of many memories.”
“I’m hallucinating,” I stated with certainty. My frown deepened. “So I am dead. I have crashed to the ground. This is… my afterlife?”
Unexpectedly, the corner of his lips rose. Gentleness exuded from this crooked smile. “Yes and no. All things end and begin anew. You know this better than anyone.”
Colour suddenly faded from my surroundings, and in its wake a storm grew thick and menacing, lightning casting shadows within shadows within the crazed winds. The heat only grew stronger. I knew he was standing behind me.
Atop his white horse, the Black Knight faced me. His hollow orbits contained worlds.
In my panic, instinct took over. I kneeled before His divine presence. Strangely, now that I saw Death with my own, living eyes, I began to worry. Had he come to reap my soul? Was today truly the day that I would die? Was there truly nothing left for me in life?
As abruptly as the climate changed, so did it return to its warm, fiery palette.
The Black Knight was gone. Only the man in scaled armour remained, and he spoke behind me.
“There was a time we received this level of respect from you. What changed?”
Reeling from all that was happening, I somehow managed to make sense of the man’s question. The truth of his being was crystallizing – consuming lies and pretense.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I grew up? Life took me down a different path?” I turned towards him now, wiping tears from my eyes. “What difference does it make to you?”
“What difference does it make to you?” He retaliated. In reality, his words should have been a frustrating mystery to me. Here, in this moment caught between time, every word made sense. I saw the scales scintillating beneath the semblance of skin.
And I couldn’t help but sneer at myself. “I die.”
“He found you before we did, but we have always been here, for you have always been you.”
As I looked down at my hand and noticed the glint of dark light shimmer across bone and dream, I understood what he meant. I had forgotten. For so long, I had forgotten. How could I ever have forgotten what the Fire meant to me?
“I am not Death,” I whispered, watching my fingers elongate, fleshen membranes spreading between them.
“But you are of Death.”
“I am Fire.” As I spoke, I felt a delicate twitch to my jaw. My bones, my muscles, stretched and grew into something else.
“But you are not of Flame.”
I could no longer speak these mortal words, but we understood each other. He heard my every thought: that within Destruction, there is no Life. Death, and Fire, is not of Destruction.
He shimmered like stars upon sunlight, stretching, coiling, raging, until as Dragons we stood equal in form. I rose my large, claws hand to my eyes. My scales shimmered with blackness and heat. Something, deeper inside, caused the vision to jitter.
I will not remember, I thought to him, panic surging through my human heart. I will lose everything again. I am not strong enough!
And never will you be, he said, gentle words echoing through my frazzled mind. You misunderstand strength. You know its truth, yet you turn a blind eye.
How dare you!
He shifted his stance to sit upon his hind legs. Night-shattering blue eyes locked with my gaze, which I imagined as red as flames. In this moment, I felt nothing but awe before this slender, elegant, breath-taking incarnation of all that I was not.
We are the beginning, and never the end. We are the spark after lightning strikes; we are the seeds after devastation. If you live by darkness alone, how can you ever see the sunlight?
In the distance, the sun glowed copper. Beneath its brilliance my homelands shimmered as never before. Details began to form that never I had noticed. I saw the specks of black where crows attacked our fields, the white spots of owls seeking sustenance amid the trees. The mountains grew hazier, until they disappeared. The world I had always known was no longer the same. I knew not how to feel, but I felt… exhilarated.
My companion spoke. Welcoming as the darkness will be to its agents, it cannot reproduce true warmth. The darkness speaks of peace – peace, of complacency. Without the Fire burning within, no struggle can be overcome, no fate truly altered. Do you understand?
I did not – not at that time. But I could feel it in my mind: a link had been made, a comprehension acquired. Fragile as the connection was, and always might be, it had been born.
No: it had returned.
Do not forget us, my companion said. His body shimmered, and began to fade from view. That is all that we ask.
As my body returned to its mortal shell, I answered him.
And as I turned back to face my homelands, a warm chill ran down my spine. I did not need to look; I knew the Black Rider was standing behind me.
“I will forever be yours,” I said to Him. I sensed his approbation.
I hesitated. “But… You will have to accept that I am not yours alone.”
Again I sensed his approbation, and I sighed in relief. Within moments, his lukewarm presence was gone.
All that remained was the world spreading beneath my feet, and the renewed vision with which I observed it. Some part of me had died, but like embers it may one day revive itself. Would I be strong enough then? And what was strength to begin with? Was I asking myself too many questions? Perhaps all of this had been a hallucination.
Slowly, I set a hand at my throbbing chest. I felt heat underneath, and sensed fiery scales coil around my fingers.
As long as I don’t forget you.
As long as you are here.
Death will only be a beginning.