In the distance, a vibrant glow crackled over the horizon line, a wispy, dark grey slowly dancing upwards into the clouds. But this was not the end. The battered girl standing upon the rock’s edge raised a hand to allow fingertips to trace over the long, curved scar that ran across her cheek down to her neck. The war had only just begun. And technology was winning.
Anina heaved a sigh, a gloomy gaze casting downwards to her stained and grimy hands. The civilization had been at it’s greatest peak not even a month before, but she had always had a feeling, for years, that the central government of the lands was developing something too powerful for their own good. There had been many nights of worry and dread as she watched the late night newscasts, nights she had lain awake. Tossing, turning, sheets bundled and unbundled. Her cell phone had been burned the week prior to her insomnia, her touch screen computer, smashed to miniscule pieces and tossed into the fire along with the mobile device. She was terrified, determined to escape, but absolutely, completely, and utterly terrified. Electrical fires were what sparked the alarm within the cities—but that wasn’t what had been the beginning of the chaos. A man by the name of Dr. Denzel had been on the rise within the last decade, his face upon billboards, awards named in his honor; he was everything to the people, he was worshipped for his advances in technology. Until his true intentions had been revealed. Denzel had programmed every single manufactured item that had gone through the process to destroy unless surrender was given. He didn’t care for the people, he did not want to better society. He wanted to take over. And he was winning.
The government had tried to overthrow the madman, but he was too rooted in to be stopped by them, even the government had fallen; their security monitors that stretched from wall to wall held them captive, snake like coils that sparked and sizzled keeping them from escape. The defense armies had been kept the same way, like animals locked in a cage. The citizens were left all on their own, and Anina couldn’t even imagine the casualties.
But she hoped and wished that there were some left, because she could not do this on her own—she wasn’t like the heroine she had always read about and admired from the plethora of books she had nestled by her bed, books that were now likely gone, along with all the memories they carried. ‘Gone’ was a word that left a foul taste on her tongue, and the word ‘alone’ leaving a new fear nestled in her mind with all the others. Anina had never considered herself to be strong, she had just been a college student, a bookworm that kept to herself and her work. Reading had been her strong point, but what good would that do her now?
Her mind continued to travel, winding and unwinding as she scrambled her way down the rocks, uncaring for anymore scrapes or bruises that she obtained, it would only add to her collection of many already. What would harm her more is having to fight on her own. She knew she could fend for herself, to survive in the wilderness—but fighting, she knew that the millions of sparking villains that manifested in the remains of her city would crush her in milliseconds. Anina had a bit of stubbornness within her, but she knew now the only rational reason would be to not let her hardheaded trait get the best of her.
Anina had set foot towards the dense forests at the edge of the zone, she could still smell the stench of smoke clinging to her, as if the presence of fire had absorbed into her and had no intention of leaving. She drew in a breath before she let her feet do the thinking for her, rushing across the dry lands, the crackle of buildings burning that had imprinted in her mind were temporarily replaced with the drum of her adrenaline filled heart, a sound that kept her running even if her lungs fought to keep up. She knew where she had to go, but she had to move fast. She needed to find Iefaris.
As soon as the small cottage came into view, hidden in a niche deep in the woods, was when Anina finally came to a slower pace, out of breath and with sweat trickling down her neck, she stumbled her way to the old wise man’s door. But he got to her before she did him.
“Anina?” a soft voice rang out to her, normally, it would have been relieving. If only there wasn’t an impending sense of doom slowly spreading its width outside the very forest the man called home, and where many had found a sanctuary, whom were clever enough to realize the sense of danger days prior.
“It’s happened. Denzel has finally overthrown the city-I need your help, please, Iefaris! We don’t have time!’
The man’s eyes sparked a light gold, the air around them seemed to freeze. Anina could have sworn her heart stopped, too. He stepped forward, his long, crooked walking cane making small impressions in the soil as he did, his wrist slowly flicking before his palm was raised to the skies, his fingers uncurled, and a nearly blinding light was released skyward before dispersing in a light smoke, three crystal orbs lay in his hands.
“I knew this day was come...though I did not think it would come so soon. However, the future can be changed. This may not truly be the end, Anina. The path that leads to the future can be changed again.” The old man smiled gently, his eyes becoming a calming gray once again, his hand holding the glimmering spheres overturned to place securely into one of hers. His free hand raised to touch her shoulder with a pat, a calming warmth radiating from his powerful hand. The entire world seemed to shift.
Suddenly, the forest and Iefaris were gone.
The smell of metal surrounded her, the orbs clenched in her hand. Fear struck into Anina’s heart. She was standing behind a sleek grey column of the city hall, the heart of where the horror began. The center of where the horror lay.
Anina glanced down, the orbs in her hands—the wishes and help she held to help her through this began to turn black, as if a smoke were filling them. It felt as if someone had punched her in the chest. She looked up, stumbling back against a wall, a sizzling could be heard somewhere, but her mind was spinning, whirling. Her frantic eyes glanced back down again, a reflection of Iefaris in chains, a solemn expression over his old features. He had been waiting for her, but not under his own will. The lights cut off, leaving the room black, empty. Metal upon metal could be heard scraping across the floors and the walls that surrounded her.
Her last thought was this, drawn back to her beloved books, among her heroes and heroines.
The hero didn’t always win.