Welcome to Emberly

What do you do when you find out that you can do things other people can't do? Simple- you wait. Eventually, someone will show up on your doorstep, tell you that you're the Chosen One, and send you off on some mildly perilous quest to save the world.
At least, that's what the plot of every fantasy novel ever written tells you should happen. But sometimes, real life isn't quite as simple as the books you read, and when you've spent years waiting for destiny to come knocking on your door, the idea of being patient a moment longer can make you mad. The question, then, is this: when fate leaves you on your own with the power to change the world, what so you do?
Believe it or not, the answer to that one is just as simple.
You take matters into your own hands.

*FINALIST in Movella of the Year 2017!*

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17. Falling

Missing out on sleep wasn’t unusual for her, and that night was no different. She lay on her back on her still-made bed with her arms thrown out to either side, choking blankets of darkness shielding her from the cold that dribbled in through her open window, watching livid kaleidoscopes of black shadow and red light ignite the ceiling above her. Of course, she would have loved to lose herself, even if it was just for a few hours. But every time she closed her eyes, she would hear whispers in the darkness, in the space between her ears. Open your eyes, they sang. Open your eyes and remember.

She got out of bed at six-thirty, and by seven o’clock, she was already evening up her eyeliner in the mirror, engrossed in her own green eyes, afraid that she would be thrown off by a random explosion of red and have to start over again. When she was satisfied, she left the bathroom and went to grab some breakfast, and for the hundredth time, the first sight of her parents in the morning sent a violent shudder of grief down her spine.

The day went by in a colourful rush of agonising normality. She handed in her permission slip first thing in the morning and proceeded to laugh and joke and smile her way through the rest of the day, and the scary thing was, she didn’t feel like she was faking her happiness at all; in fact, the jokes still came as naturally to her as they had before. With every laugh that left her lips, that little voice in her head would whisper, See? It’s like you don’t even care. Like you’re not even sorry.

Before stepping into the shadow of her apartment lobby at four-o’clock, she looked up at the endless indigo blur of the sky and found herself seized by a desperate, violent urge to fling herself far away, suffocate herself with air that was too thin and too cold to breathe.

But she wasn’t brave enough.

So at five o’clock, Valerie wasn’t falling, cold, through the darkness and the rain. Instead, she was sitting at her desk in the bubble of yellow light provided by her table lamp, trying not to look at her reflection in the darkness of the mirror that hung above her, listening to that rain hurling itself against the grey window pane. Her right hand was buried in her blonde hair, propping up her head. Her left was holding the pen she had borrowed from Raegan earlier that day and conveniently ‘forgotten’ to give back. It was one of those fancy fountain pens, shiny black with a silver nib, and it glided smoothly over the page as she wrote. She was doing her English homework. This particular piece was due in on Monday, so the police would probably drag her away long before she had a chance to hand it in, but she was bored, and it wasn’t like she had any hobbies. Evelyn had her books and Mara had her drawings and Raegan had her video games, but Valerie had never really had much of an affinity for anything normal. She bent over her textbook and read the next question.

Q8a) “What’s done is done.” How do you think MacBeth is feeling at this point in the play? Explain your answer with references to the given quote.

Ah, finally, whispered the voice in her head. Something we’ll be good at.

Valerie stared at the page for a moment, letting white-hot knives of disbelief engrave those words deeply into her brain. Of course, the obvious answer would be to say that MacBeth was feeling guilty, but as she watched the black-and-white text blur to grey before her eyes, smudged by tears, she realised that real life wasn’t quite as black-and-white as writing on a page, lines on a script, characters on a stage. She wondered if MacBeth had felt powerful as he held that knife, or whether he had felt helpless, like a child watching through the peephole of a locked door as someone else decorated the walls in blood. Maybe he, like her, had felt both at once. She wondered if his regret had set in immediately after the act, or if it had waited a few days; whether it had come slowly or crashed over him all at once in cold avalanches of grief, one after the other, choking him so that he couldn’t even scream to let his sorrow out. Maybe she was overthinking this. Shakespeare probably hadn’t thought that deeply about how MacBeth was feeling; he’d probably just rushed through all the boring emotional stuff to get to the part where he could decapitate his tragic hero and stick his head up on a pike as a warning to others. Her English group hadn’t quite gotten to that part yet, but she had become bored in a lesson one day and read ahead to see how it all ended. Of course, she couldn’t do the same with her own story, but something told her that her own finale wouldn’t be a whole lot prettier.

She had sacrificed so much of herself for the sake of those blissful nights out. She’d given up hours of sleep per night, cut her nice long hair to stop it from getting in her eyes when she went out on windy nights, let her grades slip to make room for more flying, more arson, more needless destruction to satisfy her mad obsession. Bits of Valerie Hunter were scattered all over the city where Ember had discarded them in the darkness; it had all been for a laugh, but now, she didn’t want to be a monster anymore, and she barely had any humanity left to go back to.

Fuck this.

Valerie dug her fingernails into the page and ripped it out. Crunch. The sound echoed through the darkness like…

Like…

Like the sound someone’s neck makes when you break it.

​That'll do.

Red heat stabbed through her head and exploded from her eyes, and finally- finally- she couldn’t take it anymore. The anger and the sadness and the fear and the hatred and the regret and the agony were blinding her and deafening her and eating her alive in the darkness, and she was jumping up from her seat and screaming and crying tears that evaporated from her eyes before they had a chance to flow, and it was all too much for her to deal with, too much for her simple mind to contain, so she took a deep breath and closed her eyes and shoved all of that emotion out of her head in a pulse of energy that shook the furniture and peeled flakes of paint from the walls, and suddenly, she was empty.

​Empty.

The time was five thirty, and Ember could feel a single tear tracing its silent way down her cheek as she sat back down to watch the rain.

*        *        *        *        *

By six o’clock, it was too dark to see outside, and the trails left by her tears had long since evaporated from her skin. The numbness in her mind told her that there would be no more.

No more.

No more fear, no more anger, no more sadness. No more regret. In fact, the only feeling she was still aware of was the feeling of her powers scorching her skin, begging to be used after more than a month of lying dormant. Their electric aura was so much more noticeable in an empty head, so much more invigorating. In that moment, she felt like a god again, and somehow, that made the idea of being a monster so much more bearable.

​She knew exactly what she was going to do.

Sure- turning herself in was probably the right thing to do in the grand scheme of things, but she didn’t care about that anymore. She only cared about herself. She’d always been a selfish little shit- her friends thought that her arrogance was just a little personality quirk of hers, but the fact was, it had come to her fairly recently. It was a side-effect of having omnipotent powers, she figured. Those powers made her better than everyone else- better, she realised, than every other criminal and delinquent and madman on the planet. She was one-of-a-kind, and she didn’t deserve to be locked away for the rest of her extraordinary life, stuck in a dirty little box where she couldn’t see the sky.

So, probed the voice in her head, what are you going to do now?

Ember smiled. “I think you know what we’re going to do,” she muttered to herself. For some reason, responding aloud to her own schizophrenic hallucinations didn’t even seem like a strange thing to do. She’d gotten awfully used to having that voice there in the back of her mind- in fact, when she thought about it, the idea of having a voice in your head wasn’t even that weird on its own. After all, that was all humans were, wasn’t it? Voices in the backs of their own minds, straining to project reason and compassion above the cacophonous presence of their own monstrous intent. Human nature versus animal nature. Like in Jekyll and Hyde.

She knew how that book ended, too.

She grinned wider, and that smile, paired with the smouldering, blood-coloured emptiness of her eyes, transformed her pretty face into something perfectly and beautifully monstrous.

Dark side wins.

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