Soul of Flames

On the edge of the reality we know, there exists a pathway that conceals a realm far more extraordinary than any have dared to imagine. In this realm, a war is raging. And one girl is at the centre of it all. Yet, to fight the suffering, she must learn to accept a heritage that could send the life she knows up in flames. One way or another, she is about to discover that, sometimes, giving yourself to the flames can unlock your soul...

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10. Chapter 9-Robyn

Three hours later, after I’ve been through the terrible ordeal of being punished by my family, I climb the mountain of stairs to my room and pull myself up onto the narrow windowsill, peering out down the long, perfectly kept gardens out the back of the house. Dusk is just starting to settle over the land, giving everything an ethereal quality.

I turn my eyes from the sickening perfection of my family’s home, and instead gaze longingly at the menacing forest that borders onto our land. In the current light, it looks even more mysterious than usual, its leaf-strewn paths and eerie silence whispering of spirits and ghosts, and of secrets hidden away, trying to tempt me to leave my small room and venture out.

I pull myself out of my mini daydream and focus instead on interpreting the earlier argument. It’s something I do after every squabble, no matter how petty it may seem. I’ve learnt from all my books how secrets can be hidden even in the most obvious of places.

Turning my thoughts inward, I begin sifting through the catalogue of memories stored in my head. Random flashbacks assault me, images from when I was younger. They’re in no particular order-I’ve never been organised-and scenes of my friends and I playing in the park, splashing through puddles without a care in the world mingle with darker things from my childhood; the nightmares.

Immediately I con jure up a barrier in my mind, weaving silken spiders’ thread into an impenetrable web that resembles the dream-catcher hanging just above my bed. I have no desire to relive those moments again, so I block them out, turning my back to the woven strands and leaving them to do their job.

I continue searching through the memories and finally hit upon the right one. I visualise it, drawing it towards me, and with a jolt my vision explodes into stark white.

Gradually the white ebbs away, revealing the image beneath. I find myself back in the grand entryway to the house, standing in front of my family once again. I feel all my emotions from earlier at the back of my mind, but they are just an irritation and I’m able to push them away.

It’s hard to explain how I see myself while I’m in a memory. I’m always in the same position I was, doing the same things and saying exactly what I said before, but at the same time it’s not me doing it. It’s almost like I’ve been superimposed over the top of the original me (or past me, I’m not really sure what it is) like people do with pictures.

I can see the other me acting out her part, but then there’s a wispy image over the top that is actual me. When I move, the wispy image moves, but the actress just carries on performing without me having to think about, letting me look more closely at my family’s body language.

I focus on my father’s face first. There is no emotion that I can see, just cold indifference. Even his body language doesn’t tell me much-he’s leaning towards Mum, holding her close to him protectively. But not just that. There’s something else there as well, something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I brush the feeling away and store it for later, turning now to Mum. She has the perfect mask on, a mixture of concern and disappointment that could fool anyone into thinking she cared. But I see past that, deep into her eyes, and find the one emotion that never seems to vanish from any of their minds: resentment.

All of them resent me in some way, but I have yet to discover why. Even Ashley, only nine years old, carries that sharp shard of resentment in her otherwise angelic features. She’s often described as a ‘child of the angels’ because of this. I can see why; she is petite for her age with a delicate bone structure. Her white blond hair flows to her elbows in perfect curls, where it tapers to a point, and her large, deep brown eyes make her look the picture of innocence.

But it’s her laugh that ties it all together. It’s a rare sound, but once you hear it, you’ll never forget it. It’s beautiful, like the chimes of bells ringing on a summer morning. It draws you in, and from then on she has you wrapped round her little finger.

Which is when the daemon comes out to play. For all her perfect features, it can’t be truly hidden. Most people never see it, drawn as they are to this angelic little girl. But I do, just like I see the misery hidden behind the mansion.

I think maybe Symon does as well, because he’s the only one who Ashley will talk to. The rest of the time she is mute, similar to a pretty porcelain doll that looks so real it could be alive, yet is just another statue.

However, he ignores what she is. Like everyone else he’s under her spell and she manipulates him to do whatever she wants, like she’s doing as I watch her now. As my father shouts at me she clings tighter to Symon’s leg, morphing her features into a mask of terror. And of course, Symon being the great brother he is, hugs her against him then glares at me as if everything that’s ever gone wrong is all my fault.

Well, he still despises me.

As I come to that conclusion I feel a tug in my abdomen and a sharp pain lances through my brain. The actual me, the wispy figure, staggers backward, clutching my head as I’m pulled forcefully from the memory. My vision blurs and I fall, pushing my hands in front of me to stop my face slamming into the floor.

Except I never make contact with the floor. My arms reach nothing but air and I start to free-fall into an abyss of pain, the force of all my combined memories tearing at me from the inside, trying to rip me apart.

The darkness grows ever closer, beckoning me towards it with long tendrils that wrap around me in an embrace, cocooning me in a shell spun of nightmares.

I continue to plummet down as the darkness gradually squeezes all the air from my lungs, forcing me to take ever more shallow breaths, sucking every last bit of oxygen in that I can until, with one last bruising squeeze, I lose consciousness and let the darkness take me.

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