He quickened his pace as he sought to reach the stone structure. The orbs cackled and buzzed, unsettling electricity enveloping them. He looked up at the incandescence, and found himself momentarily blinded. The heat burnt into his face and body. He looked away, and stumbled towards the grey monolith, the soft earth quivering as he plodded his way through it. He repeated the igniting incantation, squeezing the stones in his pocket. The stones had never failed him before, and he found himself panicking, his survival instincts overpowering his own melancholy.
He reached the stone structure, the orbs following him, merging and cackling as they did so. The air around him felt warm and dry. He touched the stone, cold and soothing to his naked skin, even as the rest of him felt hot and uncomfortable. He looked up into the night sky, and at the towering structure. Smooth and black, cool and aloof. Drawn to the shiny dark surface, he caressed it, and rested his head against the surface, feeling the cold replace the warmth in his skin. He watched his own reflection stare back at him. He watched the tired face with its hollow melancholic eyes, and at the remnants of the dried scales on his face that had peeled away to expose his ugliness to world. Dark and despondent, he stared into himself, his dark soul reflecting off the stone.
He found himself touching the scars of his past, bestowed upon his visage by his cruel peers, a reminder of the times he had sought long to forget. Except his reflection didn’t do the same. It remained static; trapped in stone. It took him by surprise, and he pushed himself from the wall. He moved his hands away, to find a gentle outline of his hands embedded in the stone under them. Trapped in the darkness of the wall was his reflection and a handprint, translucent and ghostly. Of the many worlds he had travelled and the times that he had visited, he had never seen anything quite so like this. He looked around, hoping for some clues to unravel this strange inertness. In the background, the orbs continued filling up the sky and merging to create larger orbs.
He moved away from the monolith, wary, yet intrigued. He studied the stone, uncertain if he should touch it again.
Have I sullied purity, yet again? Has my dark soul seeped into the stone, corrupting its essence?
Like it did Millicent. Her name popped up in his head for the umpteenth time.
But just then, in the depths of the stone, he thought he saw something else. It was faint and barely noticeable. A fleeting movement, that seemed to dance within the monolith. His eyes darted across the face as he tried to lock on to it. And then he finally did.
“Millicent!” He exclaimed out aloud. It was definitely her. He could never forget the beauty that she held within and without. The radiant smile that played around her lips, the jewels sparkling amid the waves of her shining hair, and her body the untarnished mirror of glorious toil. It was her. He blinked in disbelief.
What black magic is this? Is this where I am made to face my darkest pasts?
He stared at her, frolicking through the forests that were her home. He watched her pick flowers, like she had on the first day he met her. She was happy, and he found himself smiling as he watched her. But as he watched her, he saw a shadow creep up beside her and he watched her face contort, her beautiful face no longer smiling. But the look on her face was not one of fear, but of loneliness and pain. Confused, he sought the comfort of his own pained reflection, only to find it had vanished. He looked back at Millicent, and watched her embrace the shadow. The monolith seemed to grow darker, and felt colder. The shadow turned and he caught a glimpse of an outline, it was of his own. He gasped and took a step back.
His head spun. He looked all about him. At the coalescing orbs that slowly moved towards him, at the cold monolith that reflected nothing but demons from his past and at the endless expanse of land that held nothing but emptiness.
What kind of blasted hell is this? Have I been bought here to atone for my past? Am I to lose my mind in this loneliness of this place, an apt end to the agony to my life?
He looked back at Millicent, still with the shadow, his shadow. And he could resist no more. He caressed the monolith, touching her gentle face with his fingers. He watched darkness trickle from his fingers to the shadow, the shadow becoming more and more distinct.
A loud explosion distracted him and he turned around. The electric cackle was now over, and an eerie silence hung in the air. The orbs had coalesced to become one. The large incandescent orb hung next to his face, its heat pouring into his face. It continued to gradually float towards him. He backed away, his back against the face of the monolith. He stood, trapped between heat and cold, brightness and darkness.
In his head he heard a voice welcoming him. A loud and clear voice that echoed in his mind. Confused, he looked back at the monolith and watched as entrails of black scattered from his back, and were absorbed by the stone structure. The voice called out again. This time it was a request to move towards the orb, but he was paralyzed, mesmerized with the murk that his body was feeding the monolith. The shadow in the monolith grew darker and darker, while Millicent slowly faded away, only to be replaced by other memories of his past. Scenes changed, but the shadow remained a constant, getting darker as his own body provided it fuel. He felt light-headed and weak, the transfusion sapping his energy.
The voice called out again, and he turned to face it. It was the orb, definitely the orb; which had begun buzzing and cackling once again, reverberating and discharging electric currents all around. The orb asked him to keep calm and then shot out a current through him. He felt his soul ripped into two halves. His body shattered, and then he found it back together, the current flowing through his body reenergizing his mana. He raised his arms to the orbs, and found himself pulled into it. He glanced back at the monolith. The darkness from within him, was now a shadow trapped in the stone, and he found himself merging with the orb.