30 Nov

I laid peacefully with my back in the sand on this secluded patch of beach, blocked off from the rest of the island by several large rocks and boulders. Millions of stars scattered across the twilight sky. I sat and stared for hours, admiring each light and its beauty. A few miles south of here, my village was hosting a festival. But honestly, I don't like being around people, let alone all of them, dancing and singing and feasting over big bonfires and the likes. Just thinking about it brought up complicated emotions that I’d rather not dwell upon. 

These people are the same I’ve known all my life. Very few have left the safety of the island and ventured onto open waters. And of course, I was never given the opportunity to. My people... gah. Telling me what I can and can’t do. Judging me for every action and misstep. They are... frustrating. Not to mention annoying. 

The deep jungle is the only place I’ve been able to find peace. I came around here so often as a child that eventually I built my own hut out here, away from the village and its festivities. 

They’re probably happier without me anyways. 

I sighed.  

I’d spent hours out here on this beach stargazing, and eventually had rested my eyes, the sound of the gentle waves on the shore comforting me into a light sleep. Suddenly, I was startled out of sleep by the sound of several consecutive explosions, almost like a volcano erupting. Our island was neighbored by several oceanic volcanoes to the south and west, and these explosions sounded close. I ran towards the source, worried if we had actually had an eruption on our hands, or if it was something else. 

But what else could make such a sound? 

Something about it seemed off. Worryingly so. 

After a long time of running, I finally made it to my home village. Or rather, what was left of it. 

I was stunned into silence, and I couldn’t bring myself to move my feet. 

Flames danced across the tops of walls that once had roofs on them. Craters that looked more like empty tide pools scattered the once well-worn dirt roads, and the bodies - Curse the skies, the bodies… 

I couldn’t see a single survivor in all the carnage of my small village. Something caught my eye - what looked to be large birds flying off into the distance. I scanned the horizon - there was no plume of smoke, seemingly no volcanic eruption to explain the carnage.  With nothing else to go off of, those birds were the only things that made any sense as to the origin of the sound.They did this. They were responsible for the death of my village.

As I ran furiously towards the water, a large multi-colored light came down from the sky, and I watched from behind the arm I used to shield my eyes as it stopped itself right in front of me where the sand met the water. The light faded, revealing a woman. Her long glowing hair seemed to contain every color in the spectrum within its magnificent locks. The woman's crystal-blue eyes pierced into mine as if she could see into my very soul. 

That gaze I felt could wipe armies. This was clearly a woman of great power. 

She then smiled and said, “Woah there, you really gonna just swim out to sea with no plan or idea of what even attacked you? Your either incredibly brave, or stupid. Judging by how you look… I'm gonna go with stupid.” 

“Wha- Who do you think you are, calling me that?!” I screamed back, not really grasping who exactly I was staring at. 

“The only hope you got at getting revenge on the ones that did this,” the strange woman said smugly. 

“How?” I replied.

“Well if you promise, to A.) Not get yourself killed and B.) You wont turn evil and betray me, I'll give you extraordinary abilities capable of getting the revenge you seek,” she said. 

She watched me intently as I looked away and shifted my feet, considering the proposition. 

The crackle of fire from the burning village mocked me. 

“I’ve barely spoken to anyone from the village in several years. I don’t… I don’t owe anything to them,” I said in a low voice. 

“But despite that, they were still your people, weren’t they?”

I had a hard time meeting her gaze. 

“I can see that you resent them, young Aku. They put you through a lot after your parents left.”

“How do you even know all of this?!” I asked, upset. 

“I am this world’s guardian, Aku. I’ve watched it for billions of years. And I’ve watched over you and your people, too. I know that deep down in your heart, you didn’t wish them ill, and you certainly didn’t wish anything like this upon them. And I’m giving you a chance to honor their unjust deaths.”

“Get out of my head!” I yelled. I turned away from her, kicking at the sand with my woven rattan sandals. 

“What would I even be able to do? I’m barely 23, barely an adult… I-I don’t know the first thing beyond this stupid island, and I certainly don’t know how to sail!”

“You have great potential, and the natural ability to learn this stuff quickly. Have more faith in yourself,” she said benevolently. 

“Alright,” I said quickly, curiosity and rage winning over caution. “Deal. do it then.”

The woman’s eyes glowed even brighter now, piercing not only into my soul but the air around her. A beam shot from them directly into my tricep, a small flame symbol searing into my flesh like a tattoo. It was excruciating; my entire being felt like it was set ablaze.

I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t.

I was going to die.

Flames engulfed my entire physical body as the air evacuated my lungs. My hoarse screams continued as they danced around me, rising high into the sky, even piercing the clouds themselves.

I was no longer myself. I was the fire; I could see high above in the column of flames, and I saw just how small my island truly was. Only 24 people lived here. 24 people who were now gone, completely erased from history.

They deserved better. 

Once the flames finally settled down, and the smoke cleared, the strange woman was gone. I stood now back in my own body, a small ball of fire in my hands the only thing left. Strangely enough, I could feel the heat, but it didn’t burn me whatsoever. “Good luck…” I heard on the wind, but it came from nowhere. I looked around, and my stomach dropped.

The flying creatures were headed back this way. And even from this distance, I could tell they were just like me.  

People. But with wings.


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