19.3: The Cost of Fulfillment

“Stop!” I screamed, not out of pain, but out of concern for Celeste.

She gasped and pulled her hands away from me, then took a few breaths to regain composure. “Y-you should be able to channel Essence fine now.”

“Forget about that!” I yelled, “Are you okay?” I lowered my head in shame, “I shouldn’t have told you to push yourself like that.”

“No, no.” She wiped the tears from her eyes, “How else would you be able to find your parents? Without Essence, you’ll just be wandering aimlessly. At least, after your training, you’ll be able to find a lead.”

“At the cost of hurting you, or Solana, or...whoever wants to help? It’s not worth risking people for my problems.”

My eyes slid towards Solana. “He’s right Celeste. Go get some rest, please.”

“Alright,” she slowly stood up, using Solana’s hand for support. Solana guided her to the exit of the tent, and returned to me.

“Thank you,” Solana whispered to me.

“Why are you thanking me?

“For putting her above yourself. During these past few days, you’ve been so fixated on finding your parents. When I met you, I wondered if it was eating away at you. At the motel, I really thought it did. The way you lost your self-control made me think that this crusade was tearing you apart.”

I remained silent, lowering my head again.

“But you proved to me that I was wrong. You just need to dial it back and return to reality. Your parents are not going to be found in a matter of days. You need to keep calm, yet remain hopeful.”

Part of me wanted to believe her words, but another part of me wondered if I was truly being consumed by my selfish campaign. I’ve already hurt so many people: Wyatt, his grandmother, that Dweller, and now Celeste.

“If Celeste was right, you should be able to channel your Essence now. Do you want to try again?”

I thought about it, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

I closed my eyes once again, and took paced breaths. Blood poured through my veins like a river and its many tributaries, invigorating me. I could feel my lifeforce swim around my arteries. My heart beat calmly, like a toy drum beating to a fixed tempo.  At the center again, there was a hole, an emptiness.

However, out of the hole came a dazzling white light. The cadmium Essence pierced the oblivion, like a needle and stitches mending the open wound. The aura pulled the chambers of my heart together and tethered them in place.

“Elijah!” Solana cried out, stunned by whatever she had seen.

I opened my eyes, mesmerized by the beautiful radiance that shone from my body.

The End

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