~ a short story
Again, she whisked herself away on the words of another. Her tears drying, her mind flying, she escaped once more.
He wasn’t coming home. This thought came returning to her head. For some odd reason, she braved the instinct of an inkling of a dropping dread. It was the only thing she clung to, other than Beans, her trusty, stuffed friend. Physically, she was numb. There was only the beating of her heart stayed of all expectation. Occupied by the recurrence of images and words she didn’t have the wherewithal to comprehend, her body tensed against an unseen opponent. But she wasn’t crying. Not any longer. Momma was doing enough of that just a room away. She was silent in this, perhaps trying to hide it, but Mara still heard. He wasn’t coming home. Daddy was never going to return.
The light from the screen reflected, twinkling over dried tears upon her ruby cheeks. She stared unblinking into the swirling, mystical radiance of a transformation scene, a kiss, a destiny unveiled — all of it scored by invigorated notes of a life far, far away from the here and now, this princess living happily ever after, the shadows relented upon her for all time. She’d seen this one before, of course. Mara had seen them all. But she needed it now more than ever. Things weren’t going to be the same anymore. She’d probably remember this moment forever.
It was over. Nells had decided to end the relationship. It was mutual between them; admittedly, they wouldn’t be able to maintain this thing going their separate ways. But it really wasn’t mutual, not in her heart of hearts. A hidden devastation wrecked Mara, but she hid it quite well. It had been her first love. Part of her believed it wasn’t really close to that at all, and maybe she had deftly imagined the whole thing to be true right up until the end, and maybe she wasn’t capable of being in a true relationship, and what was the point anyway, she would always be alone. It became easy to think it would be her last. None of this had ever been easy for her. Nothing important ever was. Nearing graduation now, this whole thing compounded the anxiety of starting all over again, in a new place, surrounded by different people, compelled into strange experiences she knew she wasn’t ready for.
Turning away, she swung her blade from over her head, with ferocious, bided power behind it, into the winged beast’s maw. It took the hit, but it steeled its resolve, not ready to die just yet. It continued with fight, ferociously growling and snapping those deadly jaws. Mara backed away, preparing a new spell from her now recovered well of mana. Charging the arcane incantation through her avatar’s form, watching her final energies deplete once more for this hopeful final strike, she watched an inferno engulf their surroundings, these two combatants locked together in this dance of death. The creature dashed forward out of desperation, trying its own hand at a death blow. Mara smiled as she released the trigger, unleashing the victorious hellfire the moment before oblivion enraptured her avatar. Nothing could stop her.
No more sun. Mara embodied the fatigue that had become commonly attributed to her awakening deep into the morning. Each day was a tragedy not of her own volition. For the same general reasons, she no longer had the time or the patience to participate in her life. Mara found such ambitions as preparing food, leaving the house, interacting with friends, smiling — much too tiresome to be engaged with anymore. She slept in an empty daydream much of the day’s light, compounding into a special kind of mania deep into the night. These days she’s unconscious. But not resting. She’s not doing either. There is nothing to do.
Mara pours into it and begins to be taken away on the page. Through exposition and action, she steadily enters the hearts and minds of heroes marching into darkness with swords of light. The kingdom is under siege, from within and without. Ancient evils awaken and the forces of darkness mass at the gates of sanity and peace. Mankind, Dwarvenkind, Elvenkind all come together, bringing their own unique and disparate wisdom and powers to bear against the monstrous hand fate has dealt them. Mara fights in these serial wars against the villainous hordes alongside comrades, friends, and lovers she knows all too well. She knows where she stands, in righteousness. Understanding the stakes of the conflict, she’d be there no matter what for the end. No matter how long it took. Everything was on the line. And she’s there for all of it, learning and living in a world only she can imagine. It is achieved with more than just blades; victory is companionship, collaboration, the consonant notes of a song devoted to better days ahead.
The diagnosis was in. Mara laid down. The amount of her now missing was staggering. She closed her eyes, releasing to an unavoidable, incessant, overwhelming numbing of her spirit. Mortality was something Mara often kept in mind. And after everything in her life, she now knew when the approximate end would be coming. In many ways she was ready. She had had her time. She believed she had lived well. She could look back on a life of turmoil and triumph, of learning and loving. Despite the finale beckoning, Mara had grand plans yet. She would spend her final year crafting one last storyline.
Mara sat at the table among friends, surrounded by those she loved and respected most of all. They each turn to one another smiling. Mara’s face is smiling too but mischievously, at somewhat of a cross purpose to the others. Her countenance remains behind a small wall standing atop the table. The lighting is dim but that is for effect. Each of the player characters roll off their callsigns, while prepping their sheets and tokens. The attention turns to Mara. She begins to speak slowly, studiously setting the table of their collective imaginations. Mara stands with something in her hand. In the center of the wooden table lies a small grid. Black lines overlay a white plane. Mara rears back and rolls. “Alright, here’s what happens first!”