“You can’t just steal private property, Astra!” Ember hissed at me, taking the parchment from my hand and hiding it under a book.
“It’s not very private if it’s about me,” I argue. “Telling me I’m going to die!” My eyes burn, threatening to let loose. Of course I’d known it was a chance I would die, I hadn’t known it was already decided.
“Is this what the king was hiding? That you’re being pampered to die?” I swirled and looked at my friend, her bluntness bringing tears. “I’m sorry, that was insensitive.”
“Why wouldn’t they tell me all this? They said I would explode, if I really did that it would kill everyone.” I pause, “everyone there would die. Even you guys.”
A heavy silence fell over the two of us, we sat there on the couch in our sitting room, pondering. What kind of sick joke is this? They created me only to kill me, hoping my death would demolish the Umbra Realm?
“Who even makes these prophecies?” I asked, my voice loud in this suffocating room.
“The stars,” Ember sighed. “If they write it, it happens.” Her eyes are red too, as she comprehends that myself and Beckett will both not live through this.
“I don’t want to die, Ember.” My sadness was replaced with anger, “Who do these people think they are, signing a bunch of kids up to die.” I ball my hands into fists, trying to hold my energy in.
“How do we even know when this all happens? Can we even prevent it?” Is there any way to stop my impending end?
“It said that after eighteen years the dark bringer would go to war in the place of it’s home, so maybe after Beckett turns eighteen? Whenever that is-”
“Two days.” I felt my heart stop.
“What?” My voice, so quiet, so unbelieving.
“Two days,” Ember said again, gulping. “Christmas day, that was the day Beckett was born. We have two days,” her eyes water again and I try to breathe but it’s nearly impossible.
Two days. That’s all? To come up with a plan for a best-case scenario? We need to do something, now.
“I need to see him, I need to find him.” If I talk to Beckett, get his opinion on this, maybe we could come up with a better idea than just lying down to die.
Falling asleep did prove to be difficult. Opening my eyes I shot myself up, searching for him. He’s not here. “Beckett…” I whisper, trying to reach out to him. This place, usually comforting, creates the ghost of an ache in my body. I cross the empty library to the window, on the sill is the book he’d read nearly every night.
Picking it up, running my fingers over the smooth cover, standing in the room where we’d danced, I tried to feel him. I push the edges of my mind, trying to reach his mind. I shove, feeling a breath of him in the distance.
“Beckett.” I whisper, trying to reach him, I reach my hand out for him. He doesn’t acknowledge me, I can feel that. So I push, and step through the pressure that sucks me forward.
When I open my eyes I’m in a dark cell, one that I recall too well. Beckett is there, his hands behind his back as mine had once been, he sits there with his head down.
“Beckett?” His head snapped up, cold eyes wide in shock. “I’ve been looking for you-” he cuts me off by scrambling to his feet, coming close to me quickly. His face is bruised and swollen, dried blood covers his shirt.
“What the hell are you doing here?” He demanded, close but not quite touching me. Looking down I see my hands are see through, because I’m in his cell but not quite there.
“I just said I’ve been looking for you,” I said slightly annoyed. If he would just let me speak-
“You can’t be here, go back.” Beckett hisses at me, his voice low and fierce. I shake my head, trying to touch his arm but no contact is made.
“No, we need to talk. I found this prophecy, it’s about the war. Ember and I, we need your help to figure out what to do-” he cuts me off again.
“You already know what happens, Astra. Don’t you listen? We are going to meet when Parallax says it’s time, and you will kill me.” At that, his voice cracked slightly. I do not let that deter me.
“If you would just listen to me! I’m trying to explain, we have no time left. I found a prophecy that said we will go to battle on your birthday, and we will both die! Not just you, not just me! Both of us, and anyone else in that field.” For once, he stopped cutting me off. I watched as the blood drained from his already pale face.
“I don’t understand,” he started. “Alatar always said it would be so simple, cut and dry. One of us would die and the other would live on to do as they were told.”
“That’s what I’m saying! Why is that? Why did the stars and two old men decide what we could do? Why did they decide our fate? I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to live a life without you.” He laughed, dry and cold.
“Don’t you have a prince?” I think of Theodore, kind and gentle, our kiss together, his confessions. They make me feel dirty, like I’ve betrayed Theo somehow, maybe I have.
“I don’t want him, Beckett! I want you, and I just can’t help but want you! You think I haven’t tried not to? I will die without you-” his voice raised as he talked over me. His eyes damp with sadness and despair.
“No, you’ll die because of me! Why can’t you see that? Damn it, Astra. You’re just so stubborn, you know that?”
“So you’ve told me,” it wasn’t the first time he’d told me that. Only, the last time it had seemed more playful, and a lot less angry. We stood there for a moment, both of us breathing heavily in frustration. Maybe it was for the best that we didn’t...except.
“I spent 18 years feeling absolutely nothing, you’re the first person to make me feel anything, and now you want me to give it up? You expect me to just roll over and let this happen?” The words spilled from my mouth before I could even consider holding it in. He stares, his face crumbling with realization and agony.
“You assumed I could never care for you. Being near you feels right, Beckett. Are you telling me you don’t feel the same?” Please tell me he feels the same. Tell me that there is something to fight for.
“I want you to be happy, Astra.” He finally whispered, shrugging his shoulders the best he could.
“We could all be happy, Beckett. You and me? Your sister and Nova too,” I told him, trying again to touch his arm even though I couldn’t. He doesn’t look like he believes me.
“Could you kill Parallax if it meant I would die?” I shake my head no, “I can’t fight with you unless I know you’d be willing to live a life without me.”
“I want us all to get through this, and I will fight for all of us.” I state, my sentence is drowned out by the loud clap of our eavesdropper.
“Touching, truly. Brings a tear to my eyes.” Parallax, Beckett moves in front of me even though I’m not really there and he’s the one who could actually get hurt. He stands outside of the cell, and he opens it with a smug smile.
“There’s no reason for you to be down here,” Beckett growled, his body tense. His father laughed, leaning against the dirty cell wall.
“I’ve been torturing you to do my bidding for a month now, son. Something has kept a rod in your spine, and I always wondered. Hm, what does he possibly have to keep him from standing faithfully by my side?” Parallax indicated at me, and my skin grew cold.
My body remembers the pain he put me through, the smell and sight of him bringing me back to that red room where I nearly lost my life. I recoil, trying to keep my distance.
“I don’t stand by you because I don’t want to kill innocent people!” Beckett argued, but his dad put up a warning finger and shushed him.
“I pondered, and now I see. The girl has kept you going, so silly you two are. Don’t you understand your fate? So foolish, that you believe your souls could ever intertwine.” My blood boils, he had overheard our proclamations. I feel invaded.
Still, he continued, loving to hear himself talk. “Further, I noticed, you both seem rather protective over one girl in particular. What was her name? The little dark haired girl? Now, she’s a sight. I understand she looks like her mother…” Beckett tried to lunge and attack, but a quick burst of black smoke crumbled him to his knees.
“You don’t get to talk about her! Especially after what you did to her mother!” The idea of Macy’s assault is overwhelming, then for him to sit here and talk about it so casually? He knew it would make us angry.
“So she is very special to the both of you? Good, so that means I pounced in just the right place…” it was my turn to try to attack, but my energy does not work here and I’m useless. “Ah, ah, ah. No powers here, my darling. What are you without that little gift from the stars? I know my dear boy is nothing without the darkness in him, which is exactly why he can’t live without it.”
“What did you do to Ember?” I demanded, my voice louder than his, and Becketts gasps of pain from his spot kneeling on the ground. Sweat dripped down his temple as the black smoke licked his bare arms.
Parallax smiled, “I sent her a little message. Do be good and go find out what it was? Oh and Astra? Be a dear and stay out of my court.” I open my mouth to let a slew of names fly from my mouth, but with a wave of his hand I feel my body being shoved until I’m back into my own.
“Ember!” Her name is my first thought as I opened my eyes, I’d laid on the couch in the sitting room. I sat up, my head a little dizzy, and looked for her. My heart sank, and a rock landed itself in my gut. I saw her there, lying in a heap on the floor, her dark hair covering her unconscious face.