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It seemed that even though I had never walked this street before, I knew this bench intimately, like a long lost friend or the first meeting of a soul mate.

By Meagan DionPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 17 min read
Illustrated By Meagan Dion

I was young enough to fear what was in the shadows, but old enough to pretend like I didn't. So as I walked the street alone I held my chin high and wore a confident smirk. The night was beautiful but unassuming. The fallen leaves littered the wet pavement like confetti after a parade. The moon was high in the clear sky and the only sound was the echo of my heels on the empty street. It was just me and the unknown.

Even though I pretended not to be bothered, I also casually glanced at bushes and trees for lurking villains while I slowly slid my house key between my index and middle finger. But even my wildest fears never could imagine what I was about to wander into. I found that what stalked me that night was no forty year old man in sweatpants and a ski mask, but instead it was a strong force. A powerful feeling that pulled at my soul, saying “look, look at where you are.”

I found myself standing before a bench under a friendly Victorian street lamp. Its outstretched arms held aloft four glass orbs offering light for my path, like a footman with a lantern. Its warmth washed over the bench, creating a little circle of safety.

I stared, oddly captivated by this normal bench. I was always partial to those scrolling iron arms but this was something different. As I took this scene in, my mind began screaming - not words - but images and flashes of passion, hope, and sorrow. My entire being was throbbing, pleading with me to stop and pay attention to this moment. It seemed that even though I had never traversed this particular street before, I knew this bench intimately.

Every second after felt like the worn pages of a story I had already read. A story that was just beginning but somehow I already knew the words —the bench, the square of concrete where I stood, the filigree of the iron, even the bulbs in the lamp. I knew it. I knew it like a long lost friend or the first sight of a soul mate.

I was overcome by this unique almost sixth sense that wasn’t smell or touch or anything I had felt before. It was its own incredibly powerful sensation. I lowered myself onto the bench’s weathered wooden slats. As I did so, I noticed the bulbs in the street lamp were unusual too. They appeared to be faceted, like crystals.

“Strange,” I muttered to myself as I peered at their refracting blue and purple hues. I’d never seen a lightbulb like that before. It was really quite pretty. As I watched, mesmerized, the light bounced off the edges. Even the behavior of the light was odd.

At first the light glinted like glitter but as I stared at it, the light began to fade in and out. At first, it came and went like the movement of waves, and then it began to flicker rapidly. Faster and faster it fluttered until suddenly the light was dramatically snuffed out. The darkness swallowed everything.

For a moment I was completely lost on a street I didn’t know, devoured by the shadows. No one could see my eyes wide with unashamed fear. I tried and tried to strain my eyes to see any shapes. Any movement. Then just beyond the lamppost I could swear I saw something crawling toward me.

I had only begun to separate shades of shadows when the lights abruptly returned. At first I was relieved to have the friendly glow back, but with the light came the realization that I was no longer alone on the bench.

The girl didn’t even look up. She just sat bent low, elbows resting on her knees while she stared down at her hands and anxiously dug at her fingers. She was wearing a knit hat and a purple sweater with a floppy cowl. Just under the edge I could see the bottom of a red heart pendant peeking out. She was similar to me in a lot of ways: height, I’d assume weight, and build. We even had a similar style apart from one peculiar accessory.

Draped across her face was a black cloth mask. It seemed similar to what I had seen nurses and doctors wear but instead of the regular papery material it was a solid black cloth. Poor girl. I wondered if she had cancer or something.

Illustrated By Meagan Dion

“You’re the First, right?” she barely uttered, not breaking contact with her hands.

“I’m sorry?”

She just snickered and looked straight ahead at the shadows beyond the street lamp.

“I’m sorry I don’t understand,” I tried again. “Are you okay? Do you need help or something? I could call a doctor.”

“Yep. Definitely the First,” she chuckled to herself dryly, and looked back down at her hands. She wore a dingy wedding band on her left ring finger which she gently turned.

I didn’t know what she was referring to by “the First”, but I couldn’t help feeling offended. I looked down at my hands, embarrassed that I didn’t know what she was talking about. The glint of my diamond distracted me. I gave it a little twist just to see the pretty color bursts. The bouncing light briefly lifted my mood and I smiled.

“It’s still new isn’t it?” She was staring at me now.

“Oh, the ring?” I asked awkwardly, a little unnerved at her watching me. “Yeah, he asked me last week.”

“No,” she said, “the feeling.”

I furrowed my brow. Who was this negative Nancy anyway?

My phone chimed. I pulled it out to see my mother’s newest complaint.

“No picture?! I NEED TO SEE IT!”

I knew she couldn't understand just how busy I had been. I rolled my eyes, and slid my phone back in my pocket.

“Mom?” the girl said nodding toward my phone.

“I’m sorry, could you mind your own business?” I sighed.

“You know, I thought my mom was annoying too when I was your age.” Her voice broke a little. After clearing her throat she continued, “ You never know how much you’ll miss them when they’re gone.” Suddenly she was preoccupied with digging her sneaker into the ground.

I didn’t have to sit here with this stranger and listen to her scrutiny. I decided to continue on my way and began to stand.

“Don’t!” she demanded and grabbed my hand.

The instant her hand touched mine the lights died, but that didn’t keep me from seeing the most vivid images in the darkness. They were brief flashes of moments, some I knew and some I didn’t. I saw myself. Me in a white dress, me laughing with Brian, little kids running around a tree, and then all of a sudden, my mother’s head stone.

Shocked, I yanked my hand out of her grasp and the moment I was free the lights came back on.

“What? Who are you?” I demanded.

She didn’t say a word. She simply removed her hat and pulled her mask down.

Astonished, I stared at her with my mouth gaping. I could not wrap my mind around who sat before me.

It was me.

Her eyes were duller than mine and bags had begun to form under them, but in all other ways I was looking straight at a mirror image of myself.

“What is this?” I managed to mutter before my legs gave way and I sank back to the bench.

“You’re new…so you don’t know yet."

"Know what?" the words escaped my lips before I realized I might rather not know.

"The world is a lot stranger than you ever realized. This place is proof.” She motioned toward the streetlamp. Admittedly it was a little odd because of the bulbs but it didn't seem important.

“Of what?”

“That science is bigger than we ever thought. That there are points intrinsically intertwined no matter the distance." She leaned back on the bench and let her head rest against the back and closed her eyes like she was bored. "It could be miles…or lightyears." With her right arm she nonchalantly motioned at the sky. "Places where time simply…slips."

“How old are you?”

She rolled her head toward me and said "I'm the Second."

“That’s not an age.”

She straightened up, smoothed her shirt and then paused to consider. Shrugging she replied "To us, it is.”

I was on the edge of my seat. “Why do we wear that mask? Do we…get sick?” I asked nervously.

She apparently found this question hilarious as she burst into a genuine belly laugh. I stared at her blankly. Realizing the joke was lost on me, she sighed and looked up at the sky. Smiling, she replied “You could say that…”

For a moment we both sat there awkwardly. I wasn't sure how much I could ask without messing up the space-time continuum... or whatever. I was no stranger to Sci-fi but wasn't sure if all the rules actually applied. It was always fiction before.

Suddenly she turned to me, leaned closer and looked at me hard, with a gaze that pierced my soul.

“There are hard things in life. Things you could never imagine. Fears you don’t know yet." She sat straight up again and returned her gaze to just beyond the street lamp. "But that’s why I’m here."

“To tell me it will be alright?” I allowed for myself that little bit of hope.

“No," she chuckled. "To tell you it won’t be, but you can handle it.”

I was not comforted by these words even though she seemed to think it would give me a sense of peace.

Something just past my shoulder seemed to catch her attention and she squeezed her eyes as if she was trying to focus on it. As she gazed at the black night she also slowly reached up for her heart pendant.

Motioning with my head I asked “what is that?”

“You’ll see,” she replied dryly without breaking her eye line with the object in the dark.

I turned around to see what she was so intently staring at. For a moment I could only make out a black blob, but as my eyes adjusted it began to take shape. It looked a lot like a slowly moving panther, headed toward the lamp post.

Scared, I turned back to her to ask her what it was. But she was gone. I gasped and was utterly consumed in darkness.

Panic flooded my body. There was something out there lurking that I couldn’t see. What was it? Could it hurt me?

As I considered these questions something else pulled my attention. It was the sound of a little girl crying.

It began softly and then grew louder. The cry was so close. Then the lights returned, illuminating a small girl with pigtails next to me. She couldn’t have been more than 6. She was looking down at her hands where she cradled the same heart pendant. But this time the cord was broken.

“It’s okay,” I said, sighing with relief. “It’s okay the lights are on.”

“Are you the First?” she asked.

“Apparently,” I said.

“I’m the Third.” she said with a sniffle.

She was cute. “Why are you crying?”

She looked down at her hands and took a deep breath. Then she just looked up at me, her eyes filled with terror.

Illustrated By Meagan Dion

Disturbed, I pleaded “please tell me how I can help.”

She shook her head and looked back to the necklace.

“No, I’m here to help you."


"I want you to know that we’ll be okay. We'll be okay because I’m going to lock it away where we can’t find it anymore.”

“Lock what a way?”

“The memories,” she muttered.

I was stunned. What memories? She had the same pendant so I could only assume that she was also me, but I had no memories that were so terrible I would want to forget them. What could she be talking about?

Suddenly she looked past me and began to softly whimper.

"What is it?"

The wind began to pick up.

“Oh no, he's here!”

As she said this the ground around us began to shudder causing the crystal bulbs to nearly extinguish. Leaves began to rush past us like they were being sucked into a giant vacuum. The wind grew into giant gusts and the dust kicked up a mighty whirlwind.

“Who?” I shouted over the roar of the wind.

“I think I can stop him if I just give him the necklace back!”

She raised her tiny hands in the air offering the red heart pendant to something I couldn’t see at first. But then, as the wind intensified something else grew in the shadows, coming up from the ground like giant vines. It became taller and taller. The little girl’s eyes were wide with terror and she was sobbing. The pillar of darkness towered above the lamppost several stories. As she held out the necklace the mountain of darkness opened it’s haunting eyes and over the wind I could hear a horrid malicious laugh. The little girl climbed up on the bench and was holding it out to the monster on her tiptoes.

“Please! Take it back! I don’t want it anymore! I don’t want to be your friend!”

I snapped my head back towards her and gawked at her with horrified disgust. By the terror in her voice I could tell that her use of the word "friend" had dark implications. My first instinct was to deny it. Nothing like that had ever happened to us. I would remember that.

I glanced back at the giant monster I never knew, who opened its mouth and laughed victoriously. I could feel his evil seeping into my skin. She was so small, but I was bigger. I didn’t have anyone to protect me then, but she did.

The nightmare hovering over us didn’t appear to be interested in the necklace. It was clear that he only wanted the girl. Slowly he outstretched his long tendril arms. She made a little sigh of relief. Did she think he was accepting her offering? She was deceived but I knew he was only going to devour her. I quickly pulled her down to the bench and wrapped my arms tightly around her.

As I held her in my arms, squeezing my eyes tight, horrible things flashed in my mind. Unspeakable things. Secret things. She had truly endured a nightmare. She was so small.

I was so small.

I was undone.

I opened my eyes wide with the realization and began gasping for air. The childhood I always thought was good, cheerful, and safe was a complete lie. I pulled away from the little girl.

Immediately everything calmed. The lights restored themselves, revealing that she had gone with the dark.

I raised a hand to my cheek to find hot tears streaming down my face. Looking down at my other hand I found that I was tightly clutching something. It was the necklace. She left it for me to remember — a key for what she locked away.

The Second was right. Not only would I have to face horrors in my future, but I had to face horrors from my past. My life as I knew it had come to an end. I didn’t even know who I was. All those years, I didn’t know what I had been through. I was so ignorant all that time. So blissful. What did that make me now that I knew?

I sat sobbing on the bench with my head in my hands. How could I ever overcome this? I’d never be the same.

Anger grew within me. The world was a wretched place. What else was lurking in my future? How could I possibly move on from this bench? What would be the point? Just as I began to sink into a spiraling depression I heard something terrible.

A magnificent roar shook everything around me. I bolted upright thinking the monster was back, but saw nothing. I heard the shuffling of feet like a giant beast prowling outside the door of a room. The mysterious thing roared again, sending shivers down my spine. I darted my eyes back and forth trying to make out any movement. Then, she emerged into the light.

She was fully dressed in Roman armor, complete with sword.

“Nah… that can’t be right,” I muttered to myself.

Illustrated by Meagan Dion

As she sat next to me she gazed at me with a knowing smile. She was much older. Her hair had clearly gone white but she had dyed it purple. The lines in her face told the story of where we had been. Now I knew some of what that entailed, so how could she be smiling?

“You’re the First?”

“Yes, but you can’t be me…unless I was… you know, reincarnated or something” I motioned with exaggeration toward her get-up.

“Ah, you are the First,” she grinned.

I tittered sheepishly and crossed my arms across my chest.

“Time doesn’t behave the way you think, remember?”

“Ok, but why are you wearing that? What are you, some kind of soldier?”

“Yes.” she replied warmly while casually resting her chin on the handle of her sword.

Disregarding the audacity of the rest of the night, I was still taken aback for some reason.“For who?”

She chuckled. “You know, there are more places like this in the world. In other worlds too. Someday these little holes will rip and things will…well, slip through. Terrible things... and someone will one day ask for people to stand against those dragons. That’s who.”

“Why are you so kind? I know what we’ve been through now and that we will go through so much more. Why aren’t you as angry as me?”

“Ah,” she said as she gave a little nod. “Pain is a great motivator. It can motivate you to be hard hearted or it can break you down, exposing you to the whole experience of humanity, and make you empathetic. Gentle.”

“But I’m so angry.”

“That will linger, but it won’t last.”

I looked at her with her confident peace and saw something more than an older woman wearing a Roman warrior costume. I saw hope.

“Everyone experiences pain. It’s part of life. The trick to pain is that while it hurts, it also helps us grow. You can be a weed or a fruit tree, you choose.”

“But how can I ever overcome this horrible pain?” I was shuddering now and tears were rolling down my cheeks.

She put her arm around me, being careful to not actually touch me, yet. “Pain can be conquered. We will fight all kinds of monsters, both real and figurative. Monsters like you have never seen," she said this with a broad sweep of her hand. "But understand this, we can be victorious only if we choose to be kind.” With that, she gently brushed a tear from my cheek.

I saw dragons, monsters, shadows and great pain. I also saw her wielding her sword and laughing with joy.

When the flashes stopped I saw just her smiling face looking at me. I imagined that was what true strength and true courage looked like. The acceptance of pain, the confrontation of fear and still acting in love.

Suddenly kindness seemed so strong.

Overcome with shame for feeling so angry I said defeatedly, “I’ll never be as strong as you.”

“Of course you will" she laughed and slapped her knee, "you are me.”

With that the mysterious beast cried out from beyond our realm and she jumped to her feet.

“Have to go,” she said and gave me a wink.

The lights blinked out and I was alone again on the bench.

Here was my moment. What would I do? I decided to let the fear and pain in. With tears streaming down my face I refastened the heart pendant. Then, slipping it over my head, I stood to my feet and left the bench.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Meagan Dion

My life is a little crazy. Four kids, homeschool, hotel clerk, write, create and coffee. Coffee is a verb. Do you coffee? I aspire to blow glass and finish / publish my novel. I would like to have an impact. Also, coffee.

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  • J. S. Wadeabout a year ago

    Wonderful piece of writing. The imagery and story are powerful. Well done!! Love your artful illustrations.

  • Emily Marie Concannonabout a year ago

    Wow I just saw this shared on the vocal page on Facebook. Absolutely breathtaking and the images really added substance to the story :) thank you so much for sharing your talent with us!

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