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By: J. D. Everly

By J. D. EverlyPublished 3 years ago 3 min read

Ashes were thick in my throat, but I had to keep going. 

They were here…somewhere.

I knew they were. They had to be.

But wading through the piles of broken and charred bits of what was left of the town made the fragile shoot of hope within me wilt more by the second.

Dragging my feet through the debris and ashes was like swimming through mud. My legs ached with each step. My lungs screamed for more air. 

There was no more air to be had.

The entire region had been turned into the inside of a fireplace after a long week of burning, and it wasn’t going to clear until someone found a way to change the world. 

Magic was supposed to do that, and it had. But like this?

All my life the stories were the same: The Dragon King’s magic helped the country, the Dragon King’s magic protected the country.

What kind of magic did this?

Or was it not magic at all, but something worse?

Tears poured down my cheeks, the soot and ashes falling from the sky stuck to the wet tracks leaving smears of black and gray on my hands as I tried to wipe them away.

I cried black.

The land around me was unrecognizable. Was I in the farmer’s field? Was I in the orchard and stepping on the remnants of the pear trees? Or was I standing on the shattered dreams in the walls of someone’s house?

For the people who were part of the pieces falling from the sky, their lives extinguished as the fire was born and grew into a monster.

And for my parents—who I still couldn’t find, who led the forces out here to fight the invaders, who would have been on the front lines. 

But where was the front line?

Where did I begin to look when the entire world I knew, the whole of the lands I grew up on, no longer existed and were drowning in all this gray?

I screamed for my parents again, coughing at the end as the ashes hit my lungs, singeing me from the inside out.

Yet no one answered. 

There were no answers.

Nothing to tell me what to do now, where to go now, and how I was supposed to move on, to live, when all I could do was choke as my grief rained down on me.

Collapsing into the heavy drift of ashes, I coughed and bent over, dripping my black tears onto the dry, brittle pile of cinders below me. 

How many?

I couldn’t get the question out of my head. My hands shook with it, my stomach roiled against it, and my mind played with it like the worst toy. 

How many people burned to death here? 

And how many of them did I breathing in?

“Why did you come here? This isn’t safe. Come home with me,” my brother said some indeterminate time later. 

“But what do we do then? There aren’t any answers here. There’s no meaning,” I said, not sure the words came out as anything other than a hushed wail muffled by the devastation around me.

“Meaning will come when we get revenge.”

Of all the things I thought he would say, that wasn’t one of them and it froze me as much as this season was frozen in place, trapped forever in the gray.

“Revenge on who? On what?” There was no way to get revenge on magic. And if this was because of an act of man, not magic gone wrong, there was no one alive to target for justice.

“We get revenge on the next in line to the magic. We get revenge by killing the new king.”

I balled my hands into fists so tight my knuckles popped, and I set my jaw, grinding my teeth on the ashes in my mouth.

The new king’s father destroyed my world in blood and flames. Now I was going to kill the new king and send his magic to the grave with him.

For true justice, I would have to make sure there was nothing left of him when I was done.


About the Creator

J. D. Everly

As a writer in the PNW I spend far too much time in the woods, but that inspiration and an unhealthy dose of insomnia has led me to be the author of multiple books and stories in a range of genres.

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