I sit, crossed-legged, gazing into the flames of Nether, thinking about how they are the most unpredictable thing in the world. They can go wherever they please, light all that is in their path and burn it. I keep trying to focus on one, trying to predict where it may go, but it just ends up blending in with all of the other flames. Corruption is a flame. It only takes a spark to light it, and in moments, it is a blaze that will burn everything. It takes all your air to keep itself going, then burns thoughts to ash that blows around in an empty shell that was once you.
I focus on another, trying to prove myself wrong. It doesn’t work. I do this over and over and over, until I find a flame that burns a little brighter. I watch it for a second, and it stays where it is. I stand up, moving as close as I can, my eyes never leaving the flame that is not like the rest. Promise rains on the blaze in my own chest as I try to see where the flame is coming from. I press myself against the invisible wall between hells, looking down into the canyon. The flame begins to move towards me, slowly and with purpose, until it is almost directly below me.
I can make out now that the flame is not alone; it is attached to something, something distinctly human in form, though whether it is a demon or a Nether soul I cannot tell. The brightness of the flame hints at a silhouette. Eyes, big and blue and bright, gaze up at me from the flame. They are familiar to me, but they are riddled with pain and knowledge and age. They are eyes I know and do not know, and they scare me.
They focus on me, and the tickling sickness runs through my burning body. Mocking, tinkling laughter begins. Stephanie’s laughter, and tears build themselves up into a shell over my eyes, blurring my vision a little. No. She could not have traveled to Nether. Stephanie was a good soul, if not a little tortured by her own issues. She did not deserve Nether. The burning embers of anger are stoked, and with them, it seems as if the singular masses of flames grow beneath me. More of them move to peer up at me.
The tickling turns into a tingling that reminds me of The One’s electricity. A sea of blue interrupts the color of burning, though they do not bring comfort for the pain. Each one brings more tinkling laughter, and though they are not all exactly the same (some of the eyes a little bluer, some more slanted, some a little more gray; the voices hold tones a little deeper, some a little hoarser, some tinted with accents and some bolder), they are all similar enough to make fear ignite in the fire inside. Millions of Stephanie eyes stare up at me, and they each pierce me with tinkling laughter.
One particularly wide, electric blue pair of eyes moves from behind the original and stands in the front. This pair is not as riddled with age as the others, but is just as tortured. Hope’s questions become a background to the tinkling, and I close my eyes. Everything goes black.