The sweat drips from my burnt face as I travel across the sun-scorched earth. It has been ten months since I discovered my curse - the curse that has ruined my life and everything I loved. Forcing me to become an outcast, skirting the edges of society to cling on to what is left of my miserable life. Taking the last few bites of jerky and a gulp of water, I hiked on, crossing the lonely land that is the Gobi Desert of southern Mongolia.
I was named River, for my parents loved to travel and Ireland was their favorite destination. There favorite part, however were the rivers that swept through the countryside and through the old-growth forests. They traveled to Ireland every year until I turned eighteen, when I was doomed with the curse that ruined my life and threatened to hurt everyone I loved.
As the curse began to tear my life apart, I left my aging parents in hopes that I could preserve what little life they had left. I had traveled all over the world, moving from one place to another, spending a few weeks with the locals, restocking supplies and food until I moved on, hiding the curse from all those I encountered. I had been to the remote stronghold of the Vikings to the parched sands of South Africa and back to the place I where I was named in Ireland. I had trekked along the base of the Andes in Chile to the wide open prairie of the central United States and to the wild and rugged Sierra Madre of Mexico, hoping to find a place to call home.
The curse had started when I had just turned eighteen, free from grade school and ready to enter freshman year of college. I had chosen to study at the college in Fairfax, Virginia because they had the best statistics. Even though it was somewhat expensive to ship me across seas from Great Britain to America, my parents had quite a bit of money and were happy to spend their money on me, the only child and possibly the last of their powerful family. Before I could leave for America though, I began to notice changes in myself; my hair changed shades from a warm, rich brown to the icy black of a raven’s feather. My parents had suspected that I dyed my hair, but said nothing more.
In more than a couple cases, I had put my parents life in danger by trying to recall happy memories as I sleep. These unnatural abilities cause me to sit down and think, why was this happening and what had allowed me to do this. I got my answer.
I felt a slight tremor deep down inside, like a small explosion. Before I knew it, the cold green eyes that had never wavered, disappeared. I ran to the mirror, to see what was happening. As I reached the mirror, my eyes swirled with a black mist and the black gave way to blood red. It was nothing I had ever seen before. I closed my eyes and opened them quickly, hoping that is was just an illusion. It definitely was not. As soon as my eyes opened, the mirror shattered, sending shards flying across the room and I was thrown backwards. The shards rained down around me, a few slicing my skin, creating little rivers of blood, but the main pieces strangely avoided me.
My parents rushed up the stairs and saw me crouched on the floor, surrounded by a ring of glass shards. I saw the horror on their faces, and I remembered, the red eyes that I had few seconds ago. I grabbed a shard of mirror and held it up to my face. The red had mysteriously vanished and my eyes had returned to their normal green. I began to clean up the mess without saying a word to my parents, who followed suit and began to clean up the broken glass.
When we had finished, I returned to my room and began sorting through the stacks and stacks of books on ancient history. After a few hours of intense searching, I finally found what I was looking for; a few isolated cases that appeared in ancient Greece were mentioned but not explained in full detail. The symptoms described were similar to what I had experienced and as soon as I read that last few lines, I immediately dropped the book and it landed with a crash on the floor. The full truth left me speechless, my mouth hanging open in utter shock. My mind and body was being possessed by demons.
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There was a death of someone dear. The blackness that seemed to close around me and not let go. And bloodshed of someone that I loved. And the harrowing cries of a friend in pain. And the waking and screaming from a nightmare. But there was still some on there to comfort me. Hayden. He was always there to hold me close and tell me that everything was going to be alright. But nothing lasts forever. The demons had left me, but now they were in Hayden. I did not ask about what he and Wes had been talking about before we reached the mountain. There were too many painful memories attached to that. Besides, I was pretty sure that Hayden hated me after what I did to his best friend. The demons had destroyed everything that I loved and there was still no escaping them.
There was the darkness that asphyxiated me, drowning me in the pain and sadness that I had caused. It grips me, holding me prisoner in a dungeon that I can never escape. I am forever lost in the forbidding recesses that are my mind, fearing what could come next. Every night I feared sleep because of the nightmares that would shortly follow. But there was a small ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Someone that cared and understood me. Hayden. He held me until the first rays of lavender light bled into the sky.
The next morning, Hayden and I left Suvraga Hairhan behind, but without Wes. I felt so terrible because I had been the cause of his death. Nothing could change what I had done. He was gone forever. Because of me. I carried his bronze sword with a certain heaviness. Although Hayden carried the one that I had killed Wes with, Wes’ own sword felt empty.
Wes gave his life to me so I could be free. I am forever in debt of him. Without him, I would definitely not be here. I had hoped that the demons would be vanquished when Hayden’s necklace with the ruby had been broken by his silver sword, but the demons had taken over Hayden. His hair was already the raven black that my hair was only days ago. I wore the remaining part of the necklace, a golden dragon with a gash from Hayden’s sword, in remembrance of Wes’ final gift.
And I am constantly reminded of the damage I have done every time I look at Hayden’s shoulder; cut by my own hand, bloodied and bandaged. Not to mention the scars of his past that I saw when I washed away the blood. I’m a monster. It’s always there, reminding me just exactly what I am capable of. I could take away the very life of someone that matters tremendously. I would almost rather suffer in silence then put the lives of those I loved in danger.
It had taken us days to reach Burgaasatayn Hiid because we did not really want to leave the mountain where our best friend was buried. We finally left Suvraga Hairhan on day three, on a cold, windy day. The thick grey fog swirled around us as we made our way back to the Ulaantsutgalan Waterfall. The rushing water looked dark and unforgiving on this particular morning. The dark churning water threatened to engulf us both at any second as we traversed the slick boulders in attempts to make it to the other side.
I could see the tears in Hayden’s eyes as we reached Tsetserleg four days later. We made our way through the thicket of bodies in the open market to Wes’ ger on the outskirts of town. As we approached the door, we could hear the faint voice of someone singing. A light was also on, so we proceeded with caution.
Hayden slowly opened the door and we were hit with the delicious smell of barley soup. Hayden went first and I followed and we cautiously made our way into the kitchen. When we entered the kitchen, much to our surprise, there was someone sitting at the wooden table. Someone who looked very familiar. Someone with a kind smile and vibrant blue eyes. Wes.
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