Astra

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11.) Pressure

My stomach feels sick, it threatens me as my whole body shakes with a cold sweat. I pace in my room, my bare feet slapping the smooth wooden floor. The events that occurred yesterday keep playing through my mind, each run through making me feel more sick than the last.

I don’t even know if Beckett is alive. Did I murder someone? Someone who is a jerk, but did not deserve to die. We were just playing around and I brought it too far, much too far.

Angrily I kneed my palms into my temples, trying to think about anything besides the blood pouring from his head. A knock at my window jumped me from my pacing, my heart thudding as I looked through the open curtains to see Nova pressing a paw against the window.

“Nova?” I asked, opening the window for her. “What are you doing here?” I blink, and then human Nova is sitting on the roof outside my window.

“Checking on you, obviously.” Nova replied, cocking her head to the side so the tendrils of her curls fell over her honey face. I shake my head and wave her off, retreating back to my pacing.

“No, no, no. Not me, you should be with Alatar and…” I trailed off. Even his name makes the throat thick with illness. Last thing I saw was his lifeless body, and Alatar’s angry face sending me away. I’d somehow ruined everything in just a few seconds.

“I was there, you know, in the training room.” Her voice is low and dreamy so I need to strain to hear her. “I saw everything that happened. It’s beautiful, the stars.” I snapped my head to look at her, she leaned perched on my window sill, the moonlight from outside making her cat eyes gleam brighter than usual.

“So you watched me kill your friend?” I demanded, my anxiety portrays itself now as irritation.

“I was named after the stars too. Did you know that? Supernova, did you learn about those in school?” I rolled my eyes at her reply, which completely ignored my previous statement. She had a tendency to do that, I realized.

“Yes of course I learned about supernovas-” I started angrily, but I stopped myself. Nova’s done nothing to deserve my frustration.

“Do you know what a star is, Astra?” I tried to not sound annoyed as I sat on the edge of my bed and faced her.

“Can’t really recall at the moment.” Damn, it came out annoyed. I can apologize later, if they keep me around.

“Stars are like people, in an oversimplification of things. They’re born, they live a hard life, and then one day they die.” I snort, stars are nothing like people. “They are chemical giants, the fuel centers that will one day burn out. Now, it’s when they burn out that their own source of gravity pushes in on them until they collapse suddenly and creates what they call a supernova.” She smiles at me then, as if realizing I’m listening curiously.

“So they run out of fuel and explode? What does that have to do with-”

“A star lives a tough life, Astra. Girl made from the stars. A star has constant pressure pushing on them, while their own fuel pushes back out. Sometimes the outside pressure wins and it’s catastrophic. Do you understand what I’m telling you?” I blinked dumbly, no. I have no idea what she was trying to say to me.

“I’m sorry, should I?” Maybe if she wasn’t so damn cryptic.

“Don’t burn out, Stargirl. The pressure can be the end of everything.” It clicked, and just like that her crazy metaphor made sense. I laugh dryly, unable to muster anything else.

“Why couldn’t you just say that? Save us the trouble?” Nova shrugs at me, flicking a silver eyebrow teasingly.

“I read lots of books, and I like to brag about how smart I am.” It’s enough to make me laugh, but only just for a moment until I remember Beckett. His body. I felt sick again.

“Beckett...is he going to be alright?” I gasp out, trying to control the waves of unease. It makes my hands glow, the fear, but I push it back.

“Oh, him? Yeah he’s good.” My eyes snap her to hers as my jaw drops open, what?

“He’s alright?” I said, my voice a bit too loud for the room. “Why didn’t you lead with that?” She smiled at me but I didn’t smile back, the mix of emotions was too much. He’s ok, I didn’t kill him. But I did hurt him, enough that Alatar had to take time to heal him and wake him up. I’m a monster.

Maybe I should just burn out, save everyone the hassle of teaching me and training me.

“Astra? Are you alright?” I say nothing as I curl onto my side on the bed, clutching my knees as if my life depended on it. Nova comes into my room and peers down at me, but I don’t even look at her. I hurt him, because I’m temperamental and couldn’t control myself. He’s alive, but he could have died. Because of my hands.

“Should I get Ember?” No, no Ember. I nearly killed her brother. Her flesh and blood. I’d thought of her as a friend, but now I think I’d be lucky if she would even look at me.

Nova took a blanket and wrapped it around me, but it does nothing to fight off the cold that scours my core. Maybe she says something, but I cannot hear it. If I could go back and choose I would choose to be human. I hadn’t known how to answer before but now I know. My aunt was wrong, this cannot be great. All it’s lead to is murder. Parallax wouldn’t be on a rampage if it weren’t for my creation, my family would be alive, and Beckett would not be hurt. Ember would not have had to grow up to be a Defender, and neither would Beckett.

All of this is my fault. A tear falls and soaks my cheek, absorbing into my pillow. I pressed my lips to stifle the cry that begs to free itself, my chest aches with pent up emotion.

I guess you could say, the outside pressure is winning.

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