I shut my eyes for a moment and breathe in deeply. After letting out a sigh, I open my eyes again.
There's no difference.
I look back and forth and see the same pitch blackness. I feel myself walking forward, but I can't tell if I'm really moving. My eyes rapidly jump left and right.
I can hear a quickening beating noise come from my chest. My pace picks up. It feels like I'm running. I know I'm running, because I'm telling myself to run. Then I feel something tug on me. Not like a person, but some strong force—more of an urge—telling me to stop.
And so I do. It happens so fast, I almost lose my balance. Skidding to a halt, I mean.
It's a good thing I do, because in the next instant, I hear, feel, and see a loud, cold purplish red light skate past me. It's concentrated like a beam, coming from and running towards the darkness.
Another beam comes from behind. I don't see it coming, but I know it's there. I'm drawn to my left, so I step that way. Another close call. This one barely misses my cheek. A few pink strands of my hair get singed by it.
The beams disappear, and I'm alone in the dark again.
My heart hasn't stopped racing. And with no other sound in this place, its loud thumping is the only thing I can hear. Then a quick, loud, shrill causes me to jump in place. I feel a cold, heavy force of wind pass by in front of me.
I need light. There's gotta be something I can do to see in this place. Am I cut off from the spirits? Is this some evil version of the Axis? I need help. Come on. Concentrate. They said they'd help me. Turn on the light.
I wave my hand in front of me, and something flashes. There's a loud crashing sound. It sounds like a gunshot. It happens in an instant. The gunshot crashes again. Then I look at my hand, and see it ignite. Not like a flame. No, this is more excited.
Then it dawns on me. This flash is lightning. This crash is thunder. This spirit is Thor.
I turn around and wave my hand again. The thunder and lighting strike once again. It's all around me. It's coming from me. And with each flash –
I see the dark spirits attacking me now. Like thieves in the night, they leap at me. One shadowy creature tries to claw at me. I step aside and evade it. Then I hurl a blast right at it. Direct hit. The creature disintegrates.
Another falls from above. I throw myself back and watch as it crashes into the ground and melts within it. Then it—or some other one—appears to my right. It's only by instinct that I turn towards it and fire a bolt at it. Another one gone.
They're coming in numbers now. Two by two. Three by three. Each one appears. Each one attacks. Each come from a different direction. Somehow, I'm just one step ahead. I dodge their lasers. I avoid their slashes. I pick them out from the darkness and fry them in thunder.
Their numbers grow. Their attacks are more frequent. I hear a snarl as one strikes at me from behind. It was too quick for me. But I manage to force it off me with another lightning bolt.
I can feel chills. It's cold in here. No heat whatsoever, save for the sparks that I'm making, but even that's not enough to combat this.
I raise my hand in the air—large bolts of energy surging from it—and slam it on the ground. A huge blast erupts from the impact. It spreads out like a bomb setting off. In this instant, I can see—truly see—the army of black shadow creatures surrounding me. And I can see how at least a third of them just got annihilated in the flash's blast radius.
Still, countless more remain. If I were to guess, there's a good hundred or so left. And they're all rushing at me. I can see them, though. I can tell that they're fast. I can tell that their movements are impossibly inhuman, but I can still see them.
Five appear in front of me. I raise my hand just as they strike and watch as their claws clash against my forcefield. Three more are on my left. Each of them firing forth some sort of large stream of energy. I spin my body out of its path and watch as the energy envelops half of the battlefield around us. Then, with all my might, I will them to leave, and before my eyes, I watch as they literally fall apart from the inside out.
This next one actually makes close-quarters contact with me. It throws its punches, its kicks, and even tries to come in to bite. Without knowing exactly how, I manage to raise my arms in defense. Each punch is met with a high block. Each kick, a low one. And its final bite is greeted with lightning so grand that is tears through it and every shadow behind it for miles.
I don't mean to do so, but I think I'm enjoying myself. I almost don't mind that I'm fighting for my life because I actually have the power to fight back. My mind goes back to something the Morrigan said.
“This is all your doing. I'm simply showing you the way.”
I've lost track of how long I've been here. I've lost track of how long I've been fighting. I know I'm killing these demons—they're definitely not coming back—but there's still so many of them.
Then, in the midst of all my lightning, I see a large stream of green fire. It comes in like a hurricane, striking through all the demons in its path. It comes in fast. I barely have enough time to get out of its way, myself.
I roll to the side, and look up to see where it came from. My fist is clenched, ready to strike at a moment's notice. Another demon reaches out from the ground, but I immediately strike it down. More demons come out of the darkness. I do what I can to get rid of them, trying whenever I can steal a moment to see where this green fire is coming from.
After some doing, I see a guy. I don't immediately recognize him, but I know he's a student. I've seen him around in passing. He's dressed in a burgundy sweater and some dark blue jeans. He's fighting the demons, too.
I see him raise a wooden staff of some sort in the air. That's where the green fire is coming from. The fire swirls around him as it grows in size. The demons are incinerated.
I just about take out the last batch of demons on my side of the field, too. We turn to each other. He sees me now. I can tell he's not sure what to make of it. He keeps his staff at the ready. I try not to make any sudden movements, but I do move towards him.
“This is a trick,” I hear him say.
“I don't,” I watch him watch me lower my guard, “think so.”
His emerald eyes narrow behind his scrappily shaggy brown bangs. The green aura around him is intense. I can tell by looking at him that there are a few spirits by his side. I can't make them out, but I can feel them. Like something nagging at the back of my mind telling me that they're there.
“You were fighting demons,” I say almost in the form of a question.
“And so were,” the more he examines me, the less tense he seems to become. I'm doing my best not to come off as menacing, but the lightning that my body shoots off might make that difficult. “You?”
“Yeah. How long have you been here?”
“I don't know. I think since lunch.” By now, he's lowered his guard as well. His aura is still fiercely bright, but I can look past that to see the older boy standing before me.
He's definitely older, by the way. I think he's outgrown the awkward phase of his teen years. He's tall, kind of slender, but lightly toned. His skin has a tannish, almost olive hue to it, especially in comparison to my pale self.
“And you haven't gotten out yet?” I ask.
“I didn't think there was a way out.” He folds his arms and looks up at the black void sky. “After I got on to them for what they were doing at school –”
“So you saw them there, too? Good.” I see him raise an eyebrow at me. “I thought I was the only one.”
“We've gotta stop them.”
“I'm with you, but we have to get out, first.”
“How do we do that?”
“Have you heard of the Axis Mundi?”
“It's this place that connects the spirit world to everything else. If you can get there, you can get anywhere.”
“Oh that place where it's all white and empty? Yeah, I've been trying to get there since I got here. I think the demons are blocking me from it. Can you get there?”
“I haven't tried.”
I take a step back and think for a moment. All I have to do is imagine myself there. I close my eyes and concentrate. By now, I should feel a quick and cool wind, something to let me know that the spirits are here, acknowledging my presence. When I open my eyes, I'm disappointed to find that nothing's changed.
I'm still in this dark, barren place. I'm sure my face reflects that disappointment.
“See? I've been trying that for the past week,” he goes on.
“Past week?” I look at him crossly. “You said you've only been here since lunch!”
“And starving ever since.”
I think I hear his stomach growl. It's either his or mine. I still haven't eaten, either.
“You mean we're really trapped here?” I ask again.
“As far as I can tell.”
“No, no, no.” I hold my head as I walk a few paces away. “No, no, no.” I look to my left and my right and see the same thing. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I'm certainly not finding it. “I can't accept that. There's too much – we can't be trapped. No!”
“Well maybe.” He walks up next to me. I look over at him to see him stroking his chin as he scrunches his eyebrows together. “See, I was thinking about that. From what I can tell, you're a magic user, too, right?”
I nod my head in response.
“And magic works by us drawing on spirits. I thought I was the exception, because I was using this staff.” He holds the wooden rod out in front of me. It's jagged around the edges. It almost looks like a beat up walking stick. “It's got spirits tied to it, but if your magic still works with you here, then that means whatever spirits you draw on are still connected as well.”
“Okay?” I say, raising an eyebrow.
“So that means one of two things. Either we're not so far off from that Axis, or our spirits are trapped here with us.”
“What difference does that make?”
“None actually. For all we know, we could already be in the Axis. If it's where spirits live, who's to say demons can't be here, either? But like I said, that doesn't matter. The bottom line is we can still draw on their power, and if that's the case, maybe the only thing stopping us from actually getting back home is not drawing enough power.”
“I think I'm following. We should work together? If we draw on the same power we've been drawing on, and somehow combine it?”
He shrugs his shoulders and says, “It's worth a shot.”
And so we stand apart and face each other. I close my eyes and think about home. I imagine he's doing the same. I hear the wild, untamed sound of thunder crack every which way. And then I feel a breeze. I smile, because that breeze is what I'm looking for.
With my eyes still closed, I imagine my way home. Not my house home, but home in the city, back at school.
I open them, and I'm here. Back in the hallways. Alone. I look up at the clock to see that it's 2:35. Darn, that means –
I hear a loud buzzing sound over the intercom. That means class is over. I didn't mean to spend all my time in some shadow realm fighting demons, but I did.
The halls flood themselves with eager students looking to leave.
“One more class to go,” I hear one say as he brushes past me.
I should probably be on my way, too. But these demons are still a threat. Major threat. If I could find Chris and the others, then maybe –
Or maybe I should find that other guy?