Then's Shadow

In the realm of Aeril, some people are born with monsters that only they can see. These monsters torment their hosts, sometimes to the point of insanity or even death.
When the fate of their world suddenly hangs in the balance, five of the Darkened must come together to find a way to save their home - and defeat their monsters for good.

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Author's note

This concept isn't fully fleshed out yet, and I don't know if this is a story that I'll finish. I certainly want to try, though! This is something that I plan to dedicate a lot of time to, and I am eager for feedback! I will be editing chapters even as I publish them, to be sure to nail down the right feeling.
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2. Soralyn

I almost didn’t survive my own birth. I was born several weeks too early, a tiny little thing out of the womb. My mother almost died giving birth to me. We both stayed in the healer’s home for a couple of weeks, fighting for life. She always tells me about the last night we were there.

    “I thought for sure you were going to die that night. Your breath was slow, and so was your heart. Your grip on my finger was loose, like you just didn’t have the strength anymore. I was ready to accept your death with a heavy heart, until I felt something. I felt a presence like that of a god. A soft sky blue glow filled the room, and you suddenly took a deep breath and grabbed my finger with all your strength. I knew in that moment that Rosine herself had come to give you and extra breath of life. It’s as though the gods chose you for some grand future.”

    The following morning, as I laughed and cried with all the energy of a healthy infant, we were finally allowed to go home.

 

    As I grew, I started to notice a little black creature who was always by my side. I asked my parents about him, and they simply frowned and said I was telling tales. I asked the other children in the village, and they ran away screaming that I was crazy. I was left alone, standing beside a creature no one else could see.

 

    I didn’t learn about monsters until my twelfth year.

    A man dressed in dark robes and smooth, long, white-blonde hair came to our class one day to teach us a very special lesson. He spoke of invisible creatures, seen only by their human hosts. “They torment their hosts in different ways, often to the point of insanity or death.” We were all frightened.

My own little monster leaned over my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “You should be afraid, little Lyn.”

    One of my classmates suddenly spun and pointed to me. “Hey! Soralyn used to tell us she could see a monster! Is that true, Soralyn? Do you have a monster?”

    I felt the blood drain from my face. I looked around at the wide eyes of my classmates, unsure what to say.

    The dark-robed man moved towards me, pulling a wand from his sleeve. “Perhaps now is the right time to demonstrate a spell that I created myself. This simple detection spell allows us to see monsters briefly when cast on a person.” He looked at me, eyebrow raised. “Do I have your permission to cast it on you, Soralyn? I promise you will not be hurt.”

 

    I stared at him silently for a moment. Finally, I looked down and mumbled, “Go ahead.”

 

    He waved his wand through the air and uttered a few words. A flickering ball of red light formed in the air. He suddenly flicked his wand, sending the ball straight towards me. I closed my eyes when it hit. I kept them closed as my classmates gasped. I heard the footsteps as some scrambled to get away from me. I heard our teacher scolding them to sit back down.

 

    I was completely exposed.

 

    “Soralyn.”

    I opened my eyes to see the man kneeling in front of me, his face suddenly soft and gentle.

    “I know that you’re scared, and embarrassed. But I and my colleagues are making great strides towards learning more about these monsters. I can help you.”

 

I stared into his eyes for a moment. They were green, flecked with gold. Almost magical. I took a deep breath.

 

“Okay.”


 

My parents were a different story. At first, they didn’t believe him. There was no way their bright and happy daughter had a monster that would someday inflict so much pain on her that it might kill her. Even after he cast the spell and they could see it for themselves, they refused his help. My mother practically shoved him out of the door, screaming at him to never set foot near me again.

She then turned to me, got down on her knees, and said, “Listen to me, Soralyn. If you see that man again, you stay away from him. And I don’t want to hear anything about this monster. Do you understand?”

Holding back tears, I nodded. She hugged me and told me to go to my room.

 

The years went on. I grew, and my monster grew with me. He whispered dark things in my ear, and eventually talked me into performing acts of self harm. I grew an addiction to the blade, to making little red lines in my skin. The monster cheered me on with every fresh cut. I hid the scars and scabs, unwilling to let my secret be seen by the world. I told only my closest friend, Eliza, that I was struggling with this. She was surprisingly calm about it, and said simply that she hoped I could eventually learn to stop.

The time eventually came for me to find an apprenticeship. I had developed an interest in art over the years, so I left home to take an apprenticeship with a printer in another town.

Being away from home was both difficult and liberating. I was no longer being controlled by my mother, who’d restricted me most of my life. On the other hand, I missed my friends, and felt very lonely in this new town. I focused on the apprenticeship, sometimes pleased with what I made and learned. Other times, I struggled.

Meanwhile, my monster kept attacking me. He tortured me with episodes of pain that were not physical, but mental. I curled into a ball, struggling to control my own limbs as waves of pain, fear, anger, and sadness tore through my body. These episodes slowly grew worse and worse. I felt like I was losing my mind.

I eventually quit the apprenticeship, no longer able to handle pressure of it alongside my fragile mental state. My monster laughed and laughed. He was winning and he knew it.

I moved in with my father, who had separated from my mother while I was working and moved to the same town as me. He’d met another woman and her young daughter, also recently divorced, and now we were all in the same house. Just one big happy family.

 

This is where I am now, stuck relying on my father to survive.

Reasiken, as my monster is named, seems to be pulling all the stops to destroy me. I am barely able to stay alive anymore.

 

I wonder if there is a way to stop this that doesn’t involve me dying?

 
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