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Elysium

I


The escape was not difficult. The alarms were broken and the hole in the Fence had grown since I’d last looked. Snatches of cloth caught on the wire, loose strands. More people breaking free from here, running from the hell we’ve realised isn’t normal. Isn’t how we want to live. We never see the Runners again. They might be dead for all we know. Dead or there. Elysium, rumours call it. The light at the end of our tunnel. The beginning of our new lives. It might not even exist. All we know is that anywhere’s better than here.

Tripping; stumbling over tree roots. Branches snagging on my hair, ripping it from my skull. No time for care, caution. Panic coursing through my veins; fuelling my adrenaline; pushing me faster. I can’t stop; I’m being chased. Not by The Authorities – they gave up pursuing Runners months ago – but by something worse. And I can’t fight. My stick-like limbs lacking muscle, lacking fat, lacking anything. Four years of starvation has left me weaker than I’d dare admit to. Even now I’m slipping; heart hammering against my rib cage, forcing its way out, working to shatter my bones. Rip me apart from the inside.

My footsteps slow unintentionally. Energy plunging, lungs burning. His footsteps closer, louder, gaining on me. I glance round out of fright; with each step, he gets closer. I know it’s a boy. His body too large, too strong, too tall to be a girl. Only the Elite are bred like that. And the Elite are only ever boys. I miss my step, barefoot catching on a rock, and fall; my arms out to catch me. Dirt smudges my hands and knees, painting them dark and mixing bright blood in with their enigmatic hue. Pinpricks spilling to the floor.

The air around me is silent. The footsteps, gone. I prepare to run, but before I can make a move there’s a knife against my throat, blade scratching it, the hand holding it pale and warm against my skin.

“Move and I cut you.” The voice threatens, rigour seeping through. I stop halfway through a nod, panic taking hold of me.

“What’s your name?” I stiffen, inventing something quickly as the pain increases across my throat.

“Kaia.”

“Okay,” He replies, relatively calm. “Why are you here?”

I remain silent, mentally counting the grooves in a tree bough to my left. Not wanting to say. For him to drag me back, execute me again as a traitor all over again. I’d rather die out here.

“I asked you, why are you here?” He grabs my shoulder, twisting me round to face him, pushing me backwards onto the ground. Hood falling back, revealing my face, the skin I’d tried so hard to hide. His features register shock, rebuke, expressionless. My cardinal skin on show, conflicting with my short, uneven hair, black as pitch, falling into my eyes. Shame and fear biting into the panic, I look down; the last time someone had noticed me had not gone well; I’d ended up beaten and bruised, lying in the street, my blood soaking the pavement.

"You’re an Azar." His tone is surprised, but not angry, not like it should be. Empty. Me. An Azar. Bringer of misfortune, the Undesirables. Thrown aside because we’re not good enough. We’re not wanted.

A flash of movement out of my peripheral vision – I wince, expecting the pain – but he just crouches down in front of me.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” His voice is soft and I risk a glance up, only to become captivated by his features. He’s not as large as I thought, the only muscles prominent in his arms and legs, but it’s his eyes that surprise me. One bright green, the other a luminous yellow. His skin is still epitomic though; he’s still a member of our ‘perfect’ society.

“I’m Aro.” He offers me a hand, helping me up. He must be at least three years senior to my twelve. “What are you doing here?” The soothing tone supposed to calm me. It doesn’t work; I remain silent, gaze returned to my feet. “Fine, you’re going to play that game, are you? Whatever.” Bitterness returning to his tone, eyes hardened to stone. Breathing freely now the knife is removed from against my neck. Not noticing him sheath it or walk past until he’s ten metres in front.

“I’m going to Elysium. If you want to survive, I suggest you follow.” He calls back, not turning to see if I’ll comply.

But I do. I follow him because he’s the first person who hasn’t kicked dirt in my face and that has to stand for something.

II

“It's glass,” Aro tells me, flicking his yellow eye with his nail without wincing. “I lost it in knife training a couple of years back. They thought the yellow looked more intimidating, you know, being an Elite and all.” He glances at me through the flames of our campfire, huddled towards it for warmth, the acrid scent mixing with the air. “They kicked me out after I killed the commanding officer.” I still don’t reply, knees tucked into my chest. Hood pulled back up, flimsy cloak wrapped around to block out the teeth of the biting air, but they still find their way in to taste my flesh; me shivering.

“Kaia,” His voice tentative, emollient. “This is me opening up, so you will too. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I’m s-sorry,” I mutter, “I just still don’t understand why you’re helping me; I’m an Azar.” The last word comes out a bitter snarl, my anger at myself and the society which labelled me in this way forcing its way through.

He sighs; rolling his eye like it’s simple. “I’m helping you because you are young and defenceless and wouldn’t survive out here alone. I don’t care what colour your skin is. Out here everyone’s the same.”

His declaration of obvious equality surprises me; his willingness to aid without me asking, without even asking for anything in return. His green eye blinking once, breaking down my walls: crumbling, falling derelict around my ankles, brought down by one simple blow. The wave breaks over my head, and I sigh, defeated.

“I’m an Azar. My story’s the same as everyone else’s; my skin developed when I turned eight, my parents kicked me out before it had even fully formed for fear of it bringing perdition down on our house. I haven’t seen them since. They’re dead to me.” My eyes glaze over, the memory dragging me back there. Before now I’d blocked the thoughts from my mind; thrusting them into the deepest, darkest corner, locking them up, throwing away the key. But that night is still there, still waiting to cause me pain; my horror as the red started to spiral over my porcelain skin, the lines linking together, blotting out the purity with the colour of Satan. Turning me into one of them – a child of the Devil. My father fearing the damnation placed upon me. My mother’s haunted cries – the loss of a child – filling my mind, sirens screeching; beautiful tenor bursting into flame, framed by screaming children, rupturing eardrums. But I can’t remember the sound of his voice, the scent of our rose garden’s lush fragrance, the colour of my mother’s eyes. Brown or…blue…

I push down the rising tears; I haven’t cried in two years and I’m not starting now. I have to stay strong; Aro can’t see me weak, I can’t give him an excuse to drop me. I want to get to Elysium. To escape the pain of this life; to start a new one. Whatever it takes.

“I’ve lived down Fortuna’s Alleyway for the last four years;” I admit, referring to the street named after the fate goddess. “No one will give an Azar work. When they started to ex-execute u-us…” I shudder, the images pasted to the inside of my eyelids; there’s no escape. Blood red, Fear black. Terror destroying their faces in their final moments; before the axe dropped, before the fire consumed them and the pain ate away their faces; changing them, disfiguring them into psychotic grimaces. Strung up in town squares, blood still pooling underneath, infestations of parasites gnawing away at their vibrant flesh, their eyeballs; swollen tongues lolling from their mouths.

A choked sound escapes from my throat, hand clutching it as I rock backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards. Drifting in the horror. Lost in the clouds of ash, the rancid scent of decay degrading my nostrils, filling my mouth. The images coming thick and fast, like blood from a wound; a decapitated head falling to the ground with a sickening thud, kicked around by the classes thought to be so much better than us. Maggots spilling from corpses’ gaping mouths, festered flesh down to the bone, smashed skulls in the streets. I force the images back, hitched breathing following as new memories surge forward to make themselves known, a torrent of waves overtaking me. Cerulean, viridian, pulsing foam; gagging me, choking, blocking out the light, pushing me under. Engulfing me, hands on my shoulders forcing me down no matter how hard I kick my legs. Black tar filling my nostrils, seeping into my mouth, past my eyeballs, weighing down my organs as I fall…

III

They tell me I’m to be executed. Head decapitated, neck severed, disgorged blood on the axe. Strung up, hung up, swinging in the wind. All the usual. But it’s so much more real when you’re the victim. When you’re the one with your head on the block. Waiting to die. That’s what really kills you: the waiting. Alone, locked in the darkness, bars on the door, no window. Anticipation gnawing at your stomach, ripping the wings off your butterflies. It would have been easier if they’d shot me in the head when they’d found me. That would have been it. The End. That was what I’d wanted. To live not just survive. But the iniquity gives everything a new perspective. I’m not ready to die anymore. I’m afraid of what I might find.

Stealing that orange was my downfall. My prudent act of rashness. I was so ready for it to be over, so ready that I forgot the one small detail that changed everything: They don’t shoot Azars. Azars with their jewel-coloured skin have to be made an example of, to deter people from sheltering them, protecting them, stopping them from belonging. They don’t need the reminders; no one would do that anyway.

The stupid thing is, I don’t even like oranges.

The bullet never came; that insertion of lead that I craved never blew apart my brains, splattering the innards onto the street, up against the walls of houses. Instead they handcuffed me and locked me up here; the damp seeping into my skin causing me to quiver like a bow, the chains dragging me down with their dead weight; unable to stand. The cuffs almost too big for my bony wrists, almost, but not quite. Instead they leave incisions in my hands where they wedge, immovable. The tiny cell only just seven feet square, one of the few times I’ve been grateful for my stature. But even though I could lie down, I can’t sleep, aren’t even remotely tired; the darkness bringing my fears alive, the danger closer, because anything could be lingering their in the shadows.

They drag me out around mid-morning – all those stories about it being the crack of dawn untrue; the aim of execution publicity, not merely death – and force me up onto the platform for everyone to see, to jeer at, to laugh at me as I die. I’m grateful I can’t see the details of their faces, not wanting them to be the last thing I ever see. The sun’s glare blinding me, blurring everything together into a mass of hues, hurting my eyes and forcing me to look away.

“Devil Child!”

At the first shout, my eyes whip back up, trying to pinpoint the voice within the crowd. There’s nothing I can do, but a burning pain fills me, tears pricking the corners of my eyes.

“Go to Hell!”

The second voice is closer to the front, closer to me and my soon-to-be detached head. Echoes and taunts follow, bringing crimson humiliation to my cheeks.

“Spill its blood!”

The guard shoves me towards the block, towards the awaiting axe, his perfect skin shining in the sunlight. Me, stumbling, the chains tipping me off balance. Thrust roughly back to my feet; the laughter ringing in my ears, mixing with the pounding of the blood; the fear that had replaced the fluid in my veins. The stark realisation that this is the End. My life is about to end. There is nothing I can do except accept it with open arms and hope it’s better than I imagined. That Hell is lenient on me; that my only sin is my damn skin colour.

My head upon the block, hands thrown in front but my arms too short for me to rest them upon the ground. Chalkboard on nails, axe sharpened with a stone, the grating noise bringing goosebumps out along my spine; people prematurely walking over my grave, disrupting the freshly turned earth, ripping the wooden headstone subject of all Azars from the ground, snapping it in two; preventing me from Resting In Peace.

Overhead the sky a brilliant blue; the god Horus promising the people of Elenoire a better life, calming them of their troubles, reminding them of the war they rage against the insufferable Azars. Beneath, the ground begins to shake, to tremble in Ruaumoko’s rage. The god of the earth throwing us off balance once again, splitting the town centre in two; the crevice sucking parts of the crowd down with it. Piercing screams cut off abruptly, cries and shouts intensified. Panic running wildly through the crowds, her contaminated fingers spreading the epidemic faster; jade hair erratically splayed out behind her, hitting citizens in the face with full force. Me, frozen with shock, paralysed in terror. Unnerved by the situation, unsure of everything. Then she’s there, her ladyship, the perpetrator of this madness, whispering in my ear, urging me forwards.

“Run.” She tells me.

And I do. 

IV

A hand grabs my shoulder and my reactions kick in, shoving it away, not that I could make much difference with my frailty. Falling away onto my side, stones grazing my hands, reopening cuts. The darkness blinding me for a second, embers in the fire the only glow, unable to distinguish more than a great overpowering silhouette; I scream, only to have a pale hand clamp down against my mouth, physically keeping the sound in. Teeth sinking into nimble fingers –

“Quit it would you?” The voice hisses angrily in my ear, instantly recognisable as male. “Or do you want to get us both killed?” Aro slowly removes his hand and the fiery glow filters across his face.

“I’m sorry…” I whisper, avoiding eye contact out of shame for my actions and sudden loss of control. “Did I hurt your hand?”

He laughs, the sound bouncing against the tree boughs, unnatural in the silence, eerie. “I’ve had my eye stabbed out; you think a few teeth marks are going to leave me forever in pain?”

When he puts it that way the guilt partly evaporates, leaving behind only bittersweet relief that he’s not angry, that he still wants me here. He could kill me with one swipe of that knife – wrists, throat, anywhere – but he doesn’t. And for that I am grateful.

“What happened?” He asks once we’re settled again, his arm wrapped around me as if to keep out the cold, protect me from the world. The big brother I never had. The parental figure I’d lost just as I needed them most. Flames dancing between the logs; spinning and twirling in their act of destruction, the reds and the oranges bowing to the dainty little girls all clad in blue. Their dresses short and strapless, spiked with the ferocity of fire; leaping amongst the sleeping twigs, ready to enforce their punishment, only to annihilate themselves in their final act. I sigh before answering, my head against his shoulder.

“It was just a memory, I’m fine now. I escaped my execution this morning, that’s all.” It feels a lifetime ago now, not less than 24 hours. None of it feels real; like something you read in a far-fetched book, lacking the metaphors and diction needed to bring it alive in your head, to convey it into reality. It was just dead words on a page. Not even that: Dead words on dead leaves.

I can tell he smiles at my response without even seeing his face, the warm pink glow seeping into my skin, causing my lips to upturn a little too.

“Okay, little rebel; you should probably get some sleep.” Aro detaches himself, sliding round our little fire to give me more space. Me, curling up in a ball on a pile of leaves, used to the hardness of the ground. Dark hood pulled over my head again, protecting my ears from the bitter wind, conserving body heat. Aro outlined against the fire, weighing his knife up in his hands; yellow eye incandescent in the dark, producing a monster in the obscurity. A thought flashes through my mind that maybe I should sit watch with him, but the goddess Breksta pulls me under for once, relieving me from the charge of her brother Phobetor - causer of nightmares – and the slumber that comes is peaceful.

V

Guts ooze out of the carcas, spilling onto the dirt, passing into the fur, dying it a sticky, messy red. I should have skinned it first. Intestines trail out of the cut made and I squirm away, hating this part of my job. It’s not the blood which disgusts me, more of the squidgy innards that make up this poor rabbit. After 3 days, we’ve settled into a routine of finding food whilst we walk: Aro hunts and I gut his catches with the smaller knife. I don’t like it but it’s better than actually killing something; the guilt hanging over you, the rancid green stench haunting you wherever you go. As it is, I have the scent of death clinging to me for the rest of the day.

Cringing as I scoop the remaining entrails out, burying them under a heap of undergrowth. Shudders running up and down my spine. Heaving in an attempt not to throw up right here and now. Quickly skinning the carcas; scampering forwards, endeavouring to outrun the aroma partly conjured by my mind. Dodging trees and calming my hitched breathing; supposedly a method of relaxing yourself.

A leather-clad figure stands up ahead, pheasant slung casually over his left shoulder; dark hair tousled, perspiration droplets strewed across his brow from the exertion. We move onwards in silence, the water canister bumping repeatedly against his thigh. They let him pack before forcing him out; the same can’t be said for me, having to run weighed down by chains until I could slip my hands-free. We walk north, following the glaring sun through the leafy foliage – a tip-off from rumours that Elysium was somewhere north of Elenoire, the Last City. Neither mentioning the almost impossible chance of us finding it - if it even exists.

The trees end, the shadows which protected us gone, leaving us vulnerable to the incensed sun’s wrath. The land which proceeds is barren, just dirt and wilted shrubs; killed long ago by the sun’s excessive heat, the lack of water. We can’t see too far in either direction though, an outcropping of rocks sprung up randomly every twenty meters, meaning we can’t see any more people like us: Runners, heading for Elysium, risking our lives for a whim.

Aro insists we cook the carcasses before moving on; the lack of wood preventing us starting a fire; fill up the water container in a nearby stream. Not knowing how long this wasteland will last; only that we’d rather perish than go back. Find Elysium, or die trying.

The first rocky outcrop high enough for us to see over it once we’re on top, but not high enough to see the next set of rocks. We keep climbing; up, down, across, up, down, across, up, down… Each section the same as the last, sweat seeping through my shirt due to the excessive heat. It’s a lot more humid out here than back in Elenoire; Horus must hold a grudge against here somehow, maybe due to his overruling hatred of Azars and the haven supposedly here for us. My throat dry, tongue scratching the roof of my mouth. Aro insists on saving the water, not knowing the next time we will find some, but my lips are cracking, my movements weakening, as the dying sun saps my strength. I fall several times, each time harder to get up than the last. Aro just keeps going. It’s not the conditions which are the issue; it’s me, my frail body restricting my exertion. But I breathe and force myself onwards, sipping at the water whenever he lets me, which is far oftener than he drinks himself, despite my vexations.

The sun starts to drop in the sky as evening draws in, and we sit to rest; me, unable to walk any further, my energy spent. I nibble on a rabbit leg, used to not eating enough so therefore not hungry. It tastes pretty good once I forget what it is, a bit like the lamb I had one Thanksgiving with my family. That was a long time ago. Strange that I can still remember the taste. Aro virtually inhales his leg, like he hasn’t eaten in weeks, not hours; but I guess that’s what it’s like when you’ve had enough to eat your whole life. Nudging more meat towards him with my toe; encouraging him to eat it despite his attempt to block the craving look from his eye. But it doesn’t take long for him to give in, tearing his teeth into the flesh like an animal, grease smearing his lips.

“Thanks.” He says sheepishly, looking down at the two empty bones. “Don’t you want more?”

I shake my head, “I’m not particularly hungry anymore. My stomach’s easy to fill.”

His mouth makes a small oh-shape as he realises what I mean, and I’m happy to find that he can look me in the eye now – proof that skin colour really doesn’t matter.

“Do yo-” He breaks off into a cry of surprise as a dark shape looms over us on the rock opposite, silhouetted against the stars. Pouncing into the dying coals; mouth pulled back in a snarl, sharp incisors stained with a dark hue, dripping down its chin. Matting into its fur. Cruor sizzling against the coals, feeding them; relinquishing their hunger. Blood. Falling backwards into a rock face. Rough outsets digging into my spine, between my shoulder blades. Ice embedded within my mind, blocking off the thought patterns, freezing them in panic – to protect them from the world outside. Icy cold, azure congealing into electric, steel blended in at the edges. Cynicism coating the surface, shutting down everything that dares move.

But the fear is dark; flames licking against the chains, the shackles, melting them down into common ore. Releasing me from their iron grip, helping me down from their domineering tower; the prison which incarcerated I.

It felt like decades, but it was mere seconds. Mere seconds crouching in fear, unable to move, unable to defend myself, as it stalked towards me. But I can now, and I grapple for my knife - the tiny thing which stands no chance against the monster facing me – but it’s gone, next to the fire with the rabbit. Stifling breath against my face. Fetid odour seeping out from between his needle-like teeth, nausea messing with my head, smearing everything with a coat of repugnance. Vertigo overcoming me in short waves. The wolf monitoring me, saliva trickling down its jawline, drip drip dripping onto my cloak. Raking his claws down my arms; blood leaking from the incisions, parallel lines. Flinching with the pain, the burning red exorcised from my skin. Stepping closer. So close to me that I can sense Death once again, caught up with me from the execution. Ever closer. Creeping up on me at some moments, racing against me in others. Cheated out of my death once, prepared to keep fighting until it gets what it wants. Me. The accolade.

I shrink away, preparing myself for the third time. Third time lucky. I’m not ready. I was the first time, and at least in the second, I’d had time to think. But not now. Now I want to live – more than anything I want to survive this, fight to live another day – but I can’t fight, have nothing to fight with. No way out this time. Not even Aro can save me now –

Aro.

As if on cue, the switchblade slits across my predator’s throat. Blistering blood, spurting across me, sores burnt into bare skin. Barely have time to take a breath before charcoal fur envelopes me, pinning me down with dead weight; suffocating me, immobilizing me, forcing the air from my lungs. Screaming out in panic, a rush of blood to my head; fear catching in my throat, scream confined to my voice box. Unable to move, too heavy, encumbrance weighing me down.

But then I can see the sky, the stars, see everything. And I draw in a breath. Draw in glorious oxygen; filling my lungs, my cells, giving me the energy to clear my senses, to blink. Once. Twice. Three times. No. That can’t be right. The sky’s not green, not tinged with jade essence. And it certainly doesn’t call my fake name.

“Kaia?” Aro says, careful to not be too close to me; I don’t blame him after last time - I’d be wary too if someone tried to attack me. I sit up, attempting to pull the world to a halt, stop it rotating the way it is currently. Putting a hand to my pulsating head, only to re-register the pain, the lack of blood. Only a few ruby droplets escaping now, revealing deep slashes, cerise flesh visible between the lines.

“I’m okay. I’m okay.” The shudders chasing each other up my spine, running circles, but slowing, tiptoeing. A sheepish smile twisting my lips upwards, “Thanks.”

“No problem.” He just looks relieved, a bit wary, but generally okay. “Umm, I know it’s a bit soon but we should probably get moving; the sooner we get to Elysium the better.”

I nod, ready to get away from a mass of fur and entrails concealing the ground. Trying to get up, legs collapsing from underneath; still uncertain unsteady. Aro catching me before I hit the ground, lifting me up to sling across his shoulder.

“Sorry, but we need to go, I have a bad feeling about here now.”

“It's fine,” I shrug the best I can in this position “like you said, we need to move quickly.” He doesn’t reply, just starts running north, relentless beats as his feet pound against the rocks.

VI

He’s still running when we hear them, the sky still black. The inordinate throng of humans, a rainbow of skins, crowded round something so much that it’s impossible to see what lies beyond other than another rocky outcrop; no taller than the rest, nor wider. The concourse larger than the last to accommodate the mass, but other than that exactly the same. Aro jumps down into the clearing, moving to stand behind a pair of blue-skinned women conversing, their violet hair spilling down their backs.

“- Can’t believe we actually made it -”

“I know! Only a little while longer to wait; the green guy told me they open the doors at dawn -”

The other woman sighed “Iris would have loved it here…”

I zone out from their conversation - not wanting to hear of another life lost, another soul that could have been – and slide onto the ground from Aro’s back. He’s grinning, ecstasy burning within his eyes.

“We’re here!” His smile contagious, easily caught by me, and we’re celebrating; lost in our own happiness of intense colouration and acceptance before we settle down to wait for the dawn. For the start of our new lives.

Shouts awaken me, cheers filtering through my sleepy stupor. But they don’t send me into a panic; they’re happy, and I enter the world peacefully as the sun peeps over the outcrop. The applause heightening with the sun, whilst Aro grabs my hand, pulling me up with the crowd, pulling me forward until we reach the cavity in the rock face. The cavity splitting into two separate passages, winding off in either direction, each secured by a single guard. We aim for the left one, about to go past the female guard, ready for this more than anything –

“Stop.” We pause, stepping back to get a clearer view of the speaker.

“What? Why can’t we go in?” The questions bursting from my lips like bubbles, a plea for her to deny that we came all this way for nothing.

“You can go in.” She tells me, voice expressionless. “He has to use the other door.”

“No.” Aro grips my hand tighter, refusing to let go. “I stay with her.”

“Then you cannot go in.” The woman’s response is simple, but I can sense the anger radiating off Aro, remember the last time he’d gotten angry at something and stabbed his officer.

“It’s fine okay?” I tell him quietly. “We’re not giving up now because of this stupid thing with the doors. I’ll see you inside okay? Find me.” And with that I slip my hand free of his grasp and plunge into the darkness, trusting him to do as I asked.

It feels like I’ve been walking for hours, but I keep moving, refusing to stop; keeping one hand on the wall so I don’t collide with it. I can’t see a thing, but luckily I’m short; the ceiling not one I can touch. Blackness seeping into everything, making it harder and harder to breathe, or maybe that’s the lack of oxygen; burning inside my chest, singeing the edges of my vital organs. Each step more demanding than the last. I catch up with the rest of them in an opening, or at least I presume it’s the rest of them because I can’t see them and no one’s speaking, but bodies radiate heat; heavy breathing filling the space.

“Aro?” I call out, uncertainty clouding the air as my voice echoes against the walls, not really expecting an answer but receiving one all the same.

“Kaia?” Urgency barrels across the room with his words, pushing into me “Kaia we have to get out of here. Something’s wrong!” Before he’s even finished speaking I’m shoving my way through, past the panicked persons - a mix of genders now - shouting and yelling, crying as the fallen get trampled upon; the iron scent of blood swamping the room. Still I force forward, squeezing between the giant elephants towering above me, past the roaring tigers to the sound of his voice.

“Aro!” It’s getting hotter in here; the blistering of my lungs increasing, oxygen depleting, almost tripping myself when strong hands catch me, pulling me away to the walls.

“Kaia?” It sounds like he’s choking, the air suddenly poison to taste, corroding the inside of my mouth. I nod, unable to make my tongue move in order to form words, and he pulls me close as if he can protect me from what’s coming.

“We’re going to die, aren’t we?” I whisper, terror gripping me, paralyzing me against the unseen force coming for us.

“I’m so sorry, so sorry. I never meant for this to happen, I thought we’d be safe he-here...” His voice trailing off, body reducing into violent shudders as it gets harder and harder to breathe. Finding myself gasping for the air which is no longer her, hatred blazing inside for those who did this to us; who gave us false hope only to pull it away at the last possible moment, when our guard had finally gone down.

“It’s ... okay...” I murmur, the words barely forming in my mouth as we sink to the floor; fatigue overcoming our limbs, dragging us down, and we fall, hands gripping each other tightly. The cavity a deadly silence. And then I see him. Osiris, lord of the Underworld, and a sense of serenity consumes me with newfound energy. He reaches an olive hand towards me and I take it, pulling Aro with me.

I think I found my Elysium.

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