The mouth of the river met with the ocean, a rocky shore rising around it. Waves broke against those darkened stones. They were slick, climbing them. Having staggered to the farthest outcropping’s edge, I could see the roiling water straight to the black horizon, standing doused in salted spray.
Half of me was so disappointed to be here.
I looked out on the waters churning. I’d come back just to die again. But it wasn’t that which made me angry. It was the sickle in my side. The shallow breaths that rumbled deeply in my chest as blood bubbled up inside my lungs.
And now I was here, at the end of my line.
A gentle rain began to fall. I almost laughed at it.
This is who I was. This is what caring too much got you.
I was so angry and it didn’t make sense anymore. Porter had cheated me out of victory, Christopher had won, in a way. It’d been satisfying to kill that fucker, regardless. And he was dead.
But this hadn’t been what I’d wanted.
The other half of me was utterly unsurprised.
I’d known it once before when I’d lost my arm. I’d realized what Aziacht never could. What had kept me together for eternities past was my drive. My singular will to end it. Doran had, in the end, realized what I could only know now in defeat.
There wasn’t a point to that drive. I was wrong about the ending.
“Oh, Christ,” I swore, looking at the blood on my hand.
All this suffering for nothing. They couldn’t see two seconds into the future. No sane person could believe this fucking pyre existed in positive utility.
I tried for a second to pull out the sickle, looking up and clenching my teeth. The searing pain began and I couldn’t feel it move. I couldn’t do it.
You can stop. Just stop. Please.
Releasing my held breath, I gasped in pain. Lightning shot through my body, every muscle screaming, a groan barely escaping my lips as I tried not to gasp again. The hurt woke me up like a blazing light when I inhaled again.
I was a dream, then I awoke to the sound of tumultuous noise.
Disorientation wracked my head, sending me to my knees. Tremors lanced through me, running to the tips of my hands as they caught the stone to stop my fall. Matted hair clung to my face. I may have been having a seizure, but I didn’t care.
I was awake for the first time.
The sound of blood rushing in my ears thumped like drums. My eyes affixed on the ground, staring at trembling hands, widened.
I was finally dying.
My head shot up as I tried to stand, barely able to sit up before I lurched forward again, catching myself on the rock’s edge. I coughed up blood into the crashing waves.
I don’t want to die.
The irony of that was painful.
Through hell, with friends, demons, tyrants, soldiers, and people I loved. Through all that, I’d wanted to prove myself right so I could die. So that I could be complete. In the end, when I’d been distracted, moments before I’d realized my failure, I’d been thinking of her. That was what had stopped my hand.
I had cared that she was still alive somewhere. I’d heard her voice.
Porter was right. I’d glimpsed the collateral in that sound. I was selfish.
Fuck it all. My hate was a resentful thing.
I had brought forward the conditions of life and I called it a Curse.
With the forest to my back, dead trees swaying, a breeze took me from the front. It came in across the seas, washing over me with the rain that soaked down to my bones. A stream of my blood ran over the rocks into the water.
I refused to make up my own answers. There was only the boulder and mountain, no summit or cheat to make things better.
I refused responsibility, I refused freedom. I wouldn’t worship my suffering or fight it. That was who I was. Now I faced it.
“Here I am,” I whispered, barely a sound. “A light in the darkness.”
Tears started to stream down my face.
You can’t show truth without a lie to kill.
I couldn’t think my way out of this. I’d tried so hard.
“I understand,” I said.
I coughed and choked on my own blood. My skin was growing cold. As I lowered down onto my back, my eyes fell on the depthless sky.
The world was silent and calm from the ground. My head rested against the hard rock. My legs were going deaf.
My hands shook with the pain. The release of rain drifted down on my face. The oceanside air was crisp to breathe, as much as I could bare.
My arms suddenly fell limp at my sides.
I snuck a peek at the blood welling out from the sickle in my chest.
“Hell…” My head lulled over. I was too tired. It cast my gaze on the horizon as my cheek met the stone. “I kept going for so long. I kept on this damn path just to die here.” I started hyperventilating, each breath bringing more pain. “I’m sorry I… couldn’t do this sooner. Heh.” I managed to find a small grin. I’d lived too long to see anymore. It was all just fog on a window to me.
But I finally understood.
Bleeding out under the starless sky, my fists clenched and my heart thudded.
None of it was wrong. Only me. The rest will go on. Only I end.
I was dying on the shore, alone, awestruck by the tossing ocean. I couldn’t speak anymore. I didn’t mind.
My gaze finally relaxed on the air. My mouth hung open and dry, arms burning with pins and needles before going silent. My chest heaved twice more.
I wished that I could tell someone about what I saw. As the smallest consolation prize. Unfocused as they were, my eyes saw beauty. The chaos told me something. All the pain and death, even my own failures. They meant something. I was made a light in the darkness.
It comes to good.
As I began to slip from the wet stone, my hand grasped to hold on, trying to stay me from the edge. My last thoughts washing away with the rain, I knew what I wanted to do.
Fingers digging into the jagged rock, I saved myself from the plunge. With my other hand I reached over, grabbing the Sickle’s handle. I held my breath and pulled. It slid from my flesh and I cast it back across the rocks. It had let me go.
Fingers strained. My empty lungs begged me to breathe again. I didn’t want to.
It’s time to make things right.
I screwed my eyes shut. I held on for a moment more.
Finally, I let go.
Slipping from the rock, I broke against the ocean below. The water was soft and dark, taking me deep into its quiet. Sinking into the sand’s embrace at the bottom, I settled in limply. Everything had come to this. I could only accept it, as much as I hated to. I wouldn’t resent anymore.
I watched the last hint of light beyond the waves. As it faded, my eyes closing, I knew it would rise again, but for someone else. Not for me. It was okay, now. It would always be.
In the stillness, I knew it.