Chapter 28 || The Dark Crystal
Batchaser was floating.
⠀⠀His paws were nestled in clusters of stars and his mind swept away all the negative emotions. Ease was all the ShadowClanner had felt here, and it was all he hoped to feel for the rest of eternity.
⠀⠀There was nothing here, though. No where to go and nothing to do and no one to talk to. Batchaser somehow hadn’t lost his sanity yet. In fact, he felt like this was some of the best peace he’d had in several, several moons. My last good day was back in the pine forest, sitting under that oak tree we shared between the ThunderClan border, eating a few finches under there time and time again... it was so nice. So calming. Just like this.
⠀⠀He loved it. No one to bother him, no hunger and no emotions other than blissful happiness. Batchaser couldn’t really remember how he got here in the first place, but what did it matter? He was here, and that was all that mattered. He was alone, and that was even better. Batchaser could never have asked for more.
⠀⠀And it’s like I can’t even remember my sorrows or regrets or grief. It’s all numbed into the back of my mind and I... I can’t remember anyone, I don’t think. Just places. And some of my life in the real world, when I truly had been alive. But faces are still hard to decipher and I don’t know what those piercing amber eyes are doing there. A memory I can’t put my claw on but.... but whatever. I’m fine here. I am.
⠀⠀It’s too peaceful to let go.
⠀⠀Batchaser floated like this for a long, long time. He knew hours had passed, but he also wondered if it had only been thirty seconds. Time here was different and the ShadowClanner was having the time of his life trying to figure it out. His life? Boring. But this place? It was a magical, magical wonder.
⠀⠀He flinched, hard. A voice?! But whose voice? It had been days! Days since he’d been here and Batchaser hadn’t heard a thing! So why were voices suddenly spilling out from the void? All his hard work to figure this place out was crumbling because of this stupid voice distracting him from his thoughts and making him focus on something else other than this place. This was not acceptable!
⠀⠀Batchaser huffed, turning his back and kneading his paws into the stars, which seemed to evaporate into a soft sheet of fluffy white clouds. He purred, laying his head down and closing his eyes. Peaceful once again.
⠀⠀The black tom jerked up, blue gaze sharply scanning the empty galaxy around him. What was wrong with this idiot?! He froze, slightly taken aback. Woah, why am I so angry all of a sudden? That doesn’t seem like me. I’m not angry. I’m happy. Always happy.
⠀⠀Batchaser felt his heart drop. Something about this place suddenly felt very wrong. Very, very wrong indeed. Where am I, anyway? And.... how did I... even get here..?
⠀⠀“Batchaser! You’re not dying on me today! Please, just... just walk a little farther.”
⠀⠀That voice was so familiar. He couldn’t put his emotions into words right now—confusion, perhaps? Annoyance that his peace was being broken by this annoying, all-too-challenging voice that was acting like they knew him? Batchaser wasn’t dead! He was just in.. in a nice place. He was fine. And walking was impossible, anyway! There was nowhere to walk! Only empty space and.... and... stars, the space suddenly filled his head and his lungs and he choked on his breath and broke into a coughing fit. He cried out when the comforting stars disappeared and he was left with nothing, all that surrounded him was black and darkness and despair and all he saw were crimson waves through his eyes and he began to panic, paws flailing in a desperate attempt to move but nothing was helping, he was stuck here, forever, and perhaps it’s what he deserved (why did he think that? Batchaser didn’t know) anyway. Right?? This had to be the answer! Why was everything disappearing? The happiness was leaving him and he felt grief blow through his heart and crack it open into a million pieces until he was left with nothing to pick up and no one to help him do it. He was alone. Batchaser was alone forever in this terrible, closed space with no way to move and only his mind to figure everything out and—
⠀⠀“Hey, calm down, calm down...”
⠀⠀Warmth. It flooded through his body like a comforting wave lapping at the shore of the lake, heating his organs on the inside and filling him with a fire he hadn’t realized was even there before. Determination was the only thing he felt at this moment and..— StarClan— StarClan! He was remembering— He could see light. He could see light spilling into this nightmare like Lynxbite pulling him out of the depths of his mind— Lynxbite! Oh, thank StarClan! He—he remembered! He was starting to realize his life was so much more than sitting in a vast, empty void with nothing to do and only the fantasies of his brain to entertain him.
⠀⠀“Yes! That’s it! Come on, we— we made it to the top. Just a little further. Just open your eyes...everything will be okay..”
⠀⠀The voice was so soft, sweet like honey but as prickly as wasps stinging him all over. Batchaser loved it. This voice. He was pulling himself towards it and the yellow light grew brighter and brighter, like he was leading himself through a tunnel that never seemed to end, but also did have an end. StarClan, what was he saying? His thought process was so jumbled and he wasn’t even sure what his own name was. But he knew Lynxbite, he knew ShadowClan and what he’d done to the Clans and oh stars he’d messed everything up and now it was all crumbling again and he just needed to die and return back to that dark place because he deserved it and Jackalstar could shut up and leave him out of this whole saving-the-Clans thing and... and—
⠀⠀“NO! You don’t get to do that! Come back to us! Come back to me, Batchaser. You’re so close. You can undo all of this, help yourself and all the cats down below. Please. Just listen to me. Follow my voice. Please, Batchaser.”
⠀⠀Batchaser. He remembered who he was now. The snarky, rebellious ShadowClan cat with a distaste toward sending ridiculous omens to his living counterparts. And I’m dying. I was dead. Was I dead? Is that why everything was so peaceful and bliss and fluffy? No, I’m not dead, the light is bringing me back! I can do this! I can reach everything I wanted—maybe not to be the hero, maybe not to save the Clans, things I never really dreamed of—but maybe I can finally reach the pride of not having let everyone down in my life. Perhaps... perhaps I can make some changes to myself. And maybe someone will finally trust me.
⠀⠀Maybe Jackalstar will finally trust me.
⠀⠀His voice was like a puff of fresh air into his collapsing lungs. He breathed, blue eyes snapping open and taking in everything around him. A large, stone dome was curled around the six cats— wait, six? Oh, StarClan—
⠀⠀“BATCHASER! Y-You’re alive!” A little gray-blue tom came streaking over, burying his tear-stained face in the ShadowClanner’s chest.
⠀⠀Jackalstar shoved the apprentice out of the way and gingerly took Batchaser’s paw. “Turn around.”
⠀⠀The black tom wasn’t sure, but he knew he trusted Jackalstar. He trusted her more than any cat, ever. So if she said to... well, then, he would. So the ShadowClanner groaned, turning and blinking in awe at the sight before him. It was—?
⠀⠀A huge crystal dancing with speckles of turquoise and emerald. Ruby red lined the naturally sharpened edges and cast an eerie but beautiful light across the cave wall, sinking into the six cat’s shadows.
⠀⠀Batchaser dragged himself forward, softly shrugging Jackalstar off and staring into the depths of the crystal. Everything was going to be okay. It was. He was alive— well, as alive as a StarClan cat could be— and he wasn’t in that dark place anymore. They were escaping from The Forgotten Eternity. Maybe they’d be the only ones to truly succeed. And even then, Batchaser didn’t care if they were.
⠀⠀He just wanted to go home.
⠀⠀The black tom took in a shaky breath, running his paws down the crystal. Everything inside him seemed to light up and he gasped. Doing the only thing he’d know how to do— maybe the giant crystal had even called out to him— he touched his nose to the side. And the light flashed before his eyes, clashing with the looming darkness and spinning him into green and red and blue spirals until it felt like he was flying through the air, the bliss sneaking back into his heart and keeping him under that sweet control and....
⠀⠀Everything turned black one last time.