The wall was waking up. Yellow light bounced around in the hexagon, ever so slightly moving faster in the span of a blink, until the middle opened like an eye, casting its piercing light […]
The wall was waking up. Yellow light bounced around in the hexagon, ever so slightly moving faster in the span of a blink, until the middle opened like an eye, casting its piercing light over the entire planet. It was beautiful. Nobody else saw it, nobody else could separate the planet from its creation. Tears drew their first breaths in Azure’s eyes, falling into the void below before their first words were spoken. Azure stood alone at the edge of the world, watching the stars as their world sailed towards the annual death of its people. Pebbles flew into the abyss and twigs crunched as heavy boots approached them.
“Message from our scouts,” said a deep, raspy voice. “It’s for your eyes only, or some nonsense like that.”
Azure sighed and pulled the bundle of gold-plated leaves to their chest. In the light of the wall, it was like a small sun in their hands, each leaf reflecting the brilliant light. As the leaves were opened, the little plant gave its last dying breath, its carbon being put back into the imbalanced atmosphere. Once its shelter was gone, the electric message sparked to life. Aurorin’s face shimmered into existence on the plate of metal. Azure’s heart raced—Aurorin was alive! The sheet began to vibrate in Azure’s hands, the movements forming sounds, then words.
“Azure, this mission is failing. The hunters have been in pursuit for several days, and–”
On the metal sheet, Azure could see Aurorin fall forward, barely managing to send the message before she blacked out from what must have been a hunter’s plasma rifle. The recording suddenly snapped to black with the abruptness of a viper’s strike. This mission had been entirely snuffed out by the Locufortian hunters. Azure left the metal folio on the ground, staring at it for several minutes before their sword went directly through the center. The electronic chip whined as its circuits were maimed. Azure kicked it, sending the whole plate of metal off the edge of the world. Tears welled up in their eyes again, not out of reflex, but out of fear and anger. Azure snuffed out the tears with the back of their hand, marching back to the resistance’s camp. Tents and wooden shelters struggled to escape their terrestrial bindings, rising into the air and only being held down by stakes and vines. As Azure strode into the area, they activated their boots’ magnetic clamps, holding them down despite the erratic gravity. As they threw open the command tent’s flap, everybody stopped talking to look at them.
“Aurorin, along with the rest of the scouts, is dead or captured. We’ve got little to no information about the Locufortian defenses.” The other commanding officers sat in crushing silence for a moment before Azure spoke again. “We need to go in and save them before the incursion starts! It-” They were interrupted by a younger, lower ranked officer.
“Why?” he asked. “Why do we need to devote our resources to saving the scouts that failed?” The other officers slowly nodded, each bob of a head, Azure’s anger intensified until it reached the breaking point. After years of being held back, it surged forward and grabbed their brain by the steering wheel.
“You don’t understand! You…imbeciles! This is our best scouting group, and we only have a week to gather information! You all only care about yourselves…I’m going alone if nobody’s coming with me.” Before anybody could respond, Azure grabbed their weapon from where it was hanging on the wall, and stormed off.
Hours later, with the sun down, the forest was still bright. The wall’s golden glow permeated through every corner of the trees, no matter how dense the thickets were. No chirps or rustles were audible, the snapping of branches under Azure’s feet was the only sound that carried through the seemingly infinite masses of trees. Azure pressed on through the woods, their eyes dancing over every surface, searching for any sign of life, movement, anything that would give away a friend, foe, or even a wild animal in the lush yet desolate forest. A hand grabbed their ankle. Something flew out of a tangle of vines, light flashing off a long silver object in their hand. Before they could even react, Azure was on the ground, somebody’s knees on their arms, a knife at their throat. As their eyes refocused, they saw long scarred fingers, and the necklace they gave away a year ago. They found it was Aurorin on top of them, slowly pulling the blade away from their neck.
“Oh,” she said. “It’s just you…wait, why are you here?”
“I was trying to find you!” Azure exclaimed. “I thought you had died!”
“Me too.” Aurorin absently felt at the back of her neck, which, as Azure now realized, was burned and mangled.
“Is that…where he hit you? It’s bad, but…it could have been a lot worse.”
“Yeah, I know. It really doesn’t hurt that much.” The two stood in silence for a moment, staring everywhere but at each other. Finally, Aurorin spoke up. “Everyone else was captured…do you want to see where they are?”
Azure’s brain seemed to work again, like it hadn’t since Aurorin had jumped out of the shadows.
“O-of course. That’s why I’m here, after all.” As they began to creep through the jungle, something came to Azure’s mind. “How did you escape capture?” Aurorin turned to face Azure, while still walking in a specific direction.
“I’m not entirely sure,” she admitted. “When I regained consciousness, the shelter had been destroyed, and I was out in the open. A few minutes later, you walked by, and…” The pair kept walking in silence. Finally, a movement in the leaves uncovered a large facility, showcasing its fountains of oil. A Locufortian building, plated with expensive bright metals and shiny gemstones. Azure took out their spyglass—they could see people in prisoner’s garb inside.
“This is the place,” Aurorin said. “Let’s head around to the back.” As the two strode around the prison, Azure noticed that there wasn’t a single guard on the premises. Aurorin jauntily walked around the building like she hadn’t noticed.
“You go on,” Azure yelled, “I’ll keep up.” As Azure stood there, trying to look busy, they felt Aurorin’s gaze on them. She wasn’t moving, just…looking. That’s not Aurorin. She would never just stand around like that. “Hey Aurorin! Over here!” Not-Aurorin sauntered over, a slight smile on her face. Before they knew what they were doing, Azure slammed the flat of their sword into the fake Aurorin’s throat. As she gasped for air, Azure grabbed her neck and pinned her to the ground. “Who are you?” The imposter Aurorin smiled, her face splitting apart. Underneath the now-gone face, a hideous smile was exposed, full of too many teeth.
The deep and unnatural voice seemed to reverberate through the trees, “It really took you this long to realize this? You’re losing your edge.” Rage filled Azure once again, making them slam their hand onto the imposter’s neck.
“Where’s the real Aurorin?” The shapeshifting…thing laughed even harder, shaking the trees.
“Dead. You failed, Azure.” Azure’s grip loosened, a numbness spreading throughout their whole body. They were whispering under their breath, not moving.
“I…failed…?” With that, a spear rose from the fake Aurorin’s chest. It touched Azure’s skin, then broke it, sending trickles of blood raining down the point, then the shaft. Azure didn’t feel pain, the spear was simply not strong enough to outmatch the emptiness inside, the void that had been filled by hope, the void that was now empty. As the spear rose higher, in a second that stretched into a year, the welling blood filled their vision, their life. Azure closed their eyes. Some time later—Azure had no idea how long it had been—they struggled to open their eyes, finding themself surrounded by trees, carnivorous plants moving closer to their body. They tried to push themself up, but their hands slipped on the pooled blood, their blood. They released their grip on their sword, which was planted into the lifeless body of…Aurorin. No, not Aurorin, somebody else. Azure looked down and saw the pike driven through their own body, their blood dripping off of the tip. All this time…all this work…and this is what kills me…? Faint footsteps came into their earshot, with yells of…their name? Hands brushed against the underside of their chest, and as a face became visible, the world dissolved into bright golden light. And it was beautiful.