I stared down the End Of The World and dared it to stop me.
Legends spoke of a Chosen One who would one day grace the land with their presence, rise up to meet their destiny, and save us all from a Great Evil.
As the darkness grew, as morning became a little farther away each day, as we began clinging to any hope we had, we waited for the hero to come. Who else would save us? All we had to do we be patient. So long as we got through the day, we'd live to see the hero arrive and purge the land of its deadly blight.
"One day," my grandmother whispered to me, long ago, "One day we will be saved." She brushed my hair back and tied it off with a blue ribbon.
It was the wish that lay on all our tongues: One day.
The smoke stole away my breath before I could scream myself hoarse.
Around me, I could hear cries of the survivors, the ones who had escaped, grieving for every soul who fell to the flames. The wails rose up into the dark sky and tangled into the thick smoke. I thought of my grandmother, my parents, my little brother who took his first steps just two days ago.
I was alone, watching my world burn down within a single night.
When the sun rose around midday, I stared out over the smouldering remains of the town I grew up in. Few burned frames of buildings still stood, but most had crumbled to their foundations, burying any bodies they held. Around me, the survivors, the few still breathed, wandered aimlessly -- into the ash or away into whatever the future held, it didn't matter.
We were all lost. We would never get any of it back.
One day didn't matter anymore. There were no days left. The hero was too late to save them.
I didn't move, not until the sun, that hung low above the horizon for a few hours, sank back down and the long night fell upon me again. In the cover of darkness, I used my tears to scrub ash off my cheeks, then turned away from the ruins of my life and waked into the unknown.
After the first two days, I stopped feeling hungry. I walked along the river until I found another town, then stumbled my way into the care of a kind stranger.
"What's happened to you?" they asked. I was too lost in my daze to remember their faces.
"It's all over," I rasped out, "The Shadow Serpents will kill us all."
"The hero will come one day and save us."
Under their words was that old promise: One day.
The fire may have died out by the time the sun rose, but the spark it lit in me remained kindled. "There is no hero. No great Chosen One. Nothing will save us."
I left not too long after.
If no one is going to save us, I'll do it myself, I decided.
I'll tear it all apart, even if I die trying.
The most vile and hideous of humanity turned to the shadows. They gave away their humanity for power until they became black-blooded monsters. They're not all serpents, but many share a resemblance, and so the name was born. These Night Serpents stole away the Light of Creation, the very power that kept our world from falling victim to entropy, and ruined the lands they traveled across.
In the dark, it's hard to see the shadows. But I remember their eyes.
So human for such monstrous bodies.
So familiar for such disgusting creatures.
I chased the shadows to find the source of the blight; if I could destroy it, I could save the world.
They tried to give me titles. Tried to spread stories across the land of how I saved their lives. Cried out about the Chosen One finally arriving.
"I'm not the Chosen One," I spat, "I'll be their end."
They declared me a hero; I seek revenge, not holiness. I spilled blood for my sake, not because I valued the lives of others. I was bitter and angry for so long I forgot how to live any other way. Already, shadows clung to my fingernails. Already, the darkness was pulling away my humanity.
I was no hero. But they were desperate enough to believe otherwise.
For a time, I tried to be the hero. A Chosen One, not because I was given a destiny bigger than any kingdom, but because I chose myself to end this. I wove flowers into my hair and danced with children in the towns I passed through. I guided people home in the dark, spending the precious few hours of day trying to bring smiles to people's faces.
I tried to feel something in my heart, searched for those elusive butterflies that hid in everyone's stomachs, longed to want someone the way they wanted me. But I felt nothing; was this part of losing my humanity? Losing love and intimacy?
I pretended that I was dying until it became too much.
And when the sun stopped rising, I stopped trying to be a hero.
My hair was a tangled mess. Paired with the wild look in my eyes, I looked more beast than human. I collected injuries and scars and wore them plain on my skin. I cut my way through forests and slayed mythic monsters I once had nightmares about as a child.
The Night Serpents began to seek me out. I wasn't sure if they wanted revenge, or if they wanted me to kill them.
I knew how the shadows pierced through skin and soul, grew thorns in veins, and whispered poison in ears. The still human eyes of the Night Serpents showed pain and begged for mercy.
When I struck them down, I wondered if I did it out of compassion or hate.
It was hard to know the difference.
It won't be enough, the shadows whispered, What can one girl do against the world?
I grit my teeth and hacked through a bush. I knew I was getting close to the end. It was a long road, hard and painful, full of grief and regret. The shadows had taken my left arm. I couldn't feel it anymore, but used it anyways. The pain was unforgiving, but I had long since gotten used to it.
You aren't meant to save the world, the shadows mocked, The world is waiting for a hero. A strong, valiant, brave hero, a Chosen One defeating Evil through Kindness. You're just another beast we've made, won't you give up now?
I thought of my grandmother, brushing my hair. Thought of my parents teaching me how to cook. Thought of my little brother, who's first steps I watched over. I thought of the sun and the girl I used to be.
I kept going.
One day, the shadows taunted, one day, one day, one day.
At the edge of the Abyss, I collapsed to the ground. The many wounds I gathered bled, sluggish and black.
There was only one star left in the night sky. The world had grown so dark, so cold. The world was dying. The Light of Creation was but a dim glow.
That was all I needed: one more day to fix everything. To bring back the light. To make sure the creatures that killed my family would never take another soul.
I took a deep breath, pushed myself back onto my feet, held the familiar weight of my sword in my hand, and walked to the End.
The End Of The World had too many eyes and too many mouths and no body that I could see.
What do you hope to accomplish, human, coming here to die? It had no voice, but its words echoed through my ribcage.
"I'm going to save the world," I said. I stared it down and dared it to stop me. I had gotten this far; I wasn't going to die yet. Not yet. Not for another day.
I stared up into the blue sky. The sun shone down on me, warm.
One day, I thought, as I closed my eyes and welcomed the dark nothing.
does this count as dark fantasy?? im saying it does. also yeah we die at the end. that's just show biz, babes.