This is it, isn’t it? There’s really no going back, huh? All this time that you’ve prayed and begged, all of this was for nothing. Because the outcome will be the same no matter what. The facts do not change, no matter how you look at the things. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. The more you struggle, the more you get hurt. The ropes on your hands get tighter, the words thrown your way get harsher. This is the fate, your fate and there’s no escaping it. So why do you not want to give up? It gets more difficult to move, the steps get a bit steeper. You can barely hear anything because of the winds, it seems that they get stronger and stronger as we climb the stairs. Yes, the Sun Queen awaits, she’s cheering, it’s her triumph. Isn’t it ironic? The myth about Himiko was always your favorite (and you guess it was because Japanese blood runs through your veins), you have always liked Himiko and her powers. Now, whenever you hear her name, you want to vomit, you shake uncontrollably.
You never thought that the mythical person you have always admired will want your body. This sounds like a fantasy, a children’s tale, but it isn’t. It’s very real and very painful, and as you and Mathias get closer to the top of the monastery, you grow weaker and weaker. This can’t be happening. And though you don’t have much enthusiasm, there’s a fire inside of you that won’t let you to give up. What does the fire remind you of? Lara. Lara, because she always has that spark in her eyes, the fire, the fierceness. That fire can either warm you up or burn you to ashes – that’s how intense she was. You loved that about her, her eyes always sparkling, fire behind them, igniting everything in her way. But there was something very odd when you saw Lara just minutes ago. Her eyes were empty, as if someone had snapped their fingers and extinguished all of the flames inside of her. You don’t judge her, you guess the winds, the men and all the pain have finally got to her. Lara looked exhausted, that she could burst out in tears any minute. You smile to yourself. No, Lara never cries in front of anyone, she has had this façade throughout all the years, as long as you can remember. She never loses it, no matter how helpless she feels. Lara is strong.
“Come on, Samantha, we need to go faster” Mathias says as he pushes you forward. He’s being careful, the steps are steep and neither of you want to fall down. His voice is softer, not the usual harsh tone, but does it matter? You guess he’ll completely transform into a nice person when you’ll reach the top of the monastery. Just because he is so close to his goal, he can almost smell freedom. And you, you don’t know how to feel anymore. Like someone has taken away all of your emotions.
“What will happen after the ritual?” you ask, sadness evident in your voice. It’s ok to ask, you will not be able to know what happens next. You stop for a bit and sigh. This is not how you’ve imagined good time at all. It seems that Mathias doesn’t mind that your pace has slowed down.
“The Queen will calm down, and she will rule like she did hundreds of years ago” Mathias also stops. “She will rule this god forsaken and forgotten land and we, my men and I, will be able to finally go home”. Mathias looks genuinely happy, the madman finally understood that there’s nothing in his way. The path is clear.
“Samantha, you know that this is an honor, to be able to shelter the Sun Queen’s soul?” he tries to reason with you. It sounds as if he’s offering you the most fantastic thing ever to exist.
“Do I really care about the honor of some myth taking over my body?” you spit out the venom. It’s true, honor or dishonor, at this moment you don’t care about it at all. You still can’t understand why you, why this, why now… You don’t want to give up because hope dies last (hope will die with you).
Lara gives you hope. She’s alive, even when you were separated at the monastery’s entrance, you saw that she was fine. Though it is hard to define the word “fine” here. Lara still had major injuries and scratches and she looked like she haven’t slept for a while (which is true). She looked lost and her confidence has dissipated but she never showed it. To Mathias at least. She pointed the arrow right at him and he looked really concerned. Who is this girl to mess with his grand plans? He never did understand that it was a mask of Lara’s and it was cracking. You have noticed how badly her hands were shaking, how there appeared a vast emptiness inside of her eyes. Of course Mathias hadn’t noticed that, he didn’t know Lara as well as you did. But that moment, when you saw the look in her, you will remember it for the rest of your life. You have never felt so scared. Not even when Mathias had kidnapped you, or when you saw the Oni for the first time, not even when they tried to set you on fire. The single scariest moment was when you looked into your best friend’s eyes and saw that there was… nothing. Absolutely nothing.
“Can you hear it?” Mathias
distracts you from your thoughts as you both go up the stairs. How many stairs
are there? “Can you hear the bells and the drums?” he looks fascinated, his
dark eyes wide open. You try and listen but you hear nothing.
“No, I don’t” you say simply. It’s true, you’re not lying, you hear nothing but the wind.
“But I can hear them clearly” Mathias says with that insane look in his eyes. “The beautiful sounds, only for you and me, Samantha” he says loudly and then looks around the monastery. He’s ecstatic and you guess that he’s hallucinating a bit. Or maybe not, maybe his men are really ringing the bells and playing the drums. It’s their victory, not yours.
“I don’t care about all of this bullshit” you finally snap. Mathias carefully looks at you as if you had just killed somebody. You swore quite often but for the time being you were unable to, you had no strength. You think this burst of emotions showed that a painful realization hit you.
“No, no, don’t say that, it’s an honor, an honor” he mutters. You guess there’s no point in arguing with him, you’ll still lose. You already lost. You lost the same minute you trusted this bastard.
Lara never trusted him and you guess it’s because she had great instincts. If she didn’t like people, she would still talk to them politely, but if it was possible to avoid any confrontation, she’d do that. Though it doesn’t mean she’d ignore them, she’d throw casual “hello”, “goodbye” and “How are you doing?” but that’s all. Lara never did have a lot of friends, only a couple but she trusted them with her life. And you, you had tons of friends. But no, they weren’t your friends, not real ones. You never told her how alone you felt with all these people constantly around you. You never knew how to explain it. Lara was the only company you’ve ever wanted. She was smart, caring, lovely and blunt. Also, naïve in her own special way, but it was nonetheless charming. You are being completely honest when you say that sharing a dorm room with Lara was bittersweet. You loved it at first, having a new friend with whom you could hang out and talk to, watch movies, drink, share your ideas. But then you fell in love with her, with that weird archeologist that wouldn’t stop talking about history. You fell in love hard and then it became painful, sharing the room where you’ve lived together. You would secretly watch her as she read her books, her face would always show immense fascination. You’d always look away when she’d change in front of you, you were afraid you won’t be able to control yourself once you see that body. Though now you can clearly remember the most painful memory of them all. It have happened a couple of weeks after you’ve realized your feelings for Lara and the greatest battles were then fought within. There was a party in your room, there were about six girls in total, not counting you and Lara. Even Lara had joined and was dancing to the music which was blasting through the speakers. You think you were celebrating the end of the semester or something. Then you and a couple of girls got onto your bed and started jumping on it. There was this terrible noise and all of you have realized that you broke the bed, but you didn’t care at that moment, you were partying. Only when the guests have disappeared did you notice your broken bed. What will you do now?
“It’s ok, Sam” Lara said. “You can sleep with me”.
It was torture just thinking about it, how you’ll sleep with Lara on a narrow bed. But it got even worse when you crawled into that bed with her. You could barely turn without falling out of the bed, you could feel Lara’s breath on your neck and her hands on your waist. Later on, when you carefully turned around, you could feel Lara shift and get closer to you, her breasts were pushing into your back. You couldn’t sleep at all that night. The next morning you called your father to make arrangements for your new bed. You smile as you look up. You smile because of all of these memories you have. They provide you warmth and joy. Then you concentrate on your lips trying to recreate the feeling of Lara’s lips against yours. Lara has kissed you and hell, it was the best kiss you’ve ever had. She held you in your arms and you felt safe, you did. When she held you, you felt as if you’re both somewhere else, not on this forsaken island. Somewhere far far away from here and in that moment, only the two of you existed, no one else.
“It’s almost time” Mathias says as you take the last couple of steps. But you don’t feel scared, you know that Lara will find a way, she won’t abandon you, she’ll help you and you’ll get out of here…
“Come, Samantha, it’s almost over” he drags you to the middle of what was left of the monastery. It’s cold and you’re only in the white ritual dress. Only then you notice a lonely tomb there. Mathias commands you to sit down on the cold ground and raises his scepter. As he does, you notice something, as if something has surrounded you and Mathias, some sort of circle, it was barely visible but it existed nonetheless. The wind is gone inside the circle but when you try to look further, you see pieces of wood flying around, snow getting out of control. A protective circle, huh? Then you look at the tomb and you get paralyzed from fear. In front of you, still inside the open tomb, the Sun Queen is sitting and waiting. She’s just like you’ve imagined, though you never imagined her being the reason of your death. Fear takes over you, you’re shaking uncontrollably, your palms are sweating and you can barely stay conscious. This can’t be happening…
“Oh, great Queen” Mathias yells to the Queen. “Through the trials I have brought you the vessel. Pour forth and return to this mortal coil”. You look up and see her, she sits there, she doesn’t make a move. Is she really alive? Maybe Mathias misunderstood this. But deep in your hearth you doubt it.
“Pour forth and be reborn”. You pray, you have never prayed harder in your life but you know that this won’t save you. Prayers won’t ever save you. This can’t be happening…
“Pour forth and awaken!” Mathias shouts in ecstasy, raising his hands. The Sun Queen then raises her head and you have never seen a face more terrifying than hers, you gasp. A loud scream can be heard as the Sun Queen throws her head back and some weird mystical energy surrounds you both. God, it’s painful, it’s painful. You hear Mathias laugh and cheer. You scream from the top of your lungs and you start shaking. Your body is floating now, it’s floating in the thick air and it gets harder and harder to see something.
“Lara” you whisper as the darkness engulfs you.