I write when I can. Usually the moments when writing hurts the most are the moments when it is the most necessary.
Written By: Ella
June 12, 2015
“I pledge to fight to keep humanity from destroying itself by unlocking best known only by the universe. I pledge to stay loyal to the Guardians of the Universe. Overall, I pledge to devote my life to seeking and destroying the Enigma.”
The chant ends. There’s a moment of silence, then murmurs quiver across the ranks as Guardians drop their hands from their hearts.
“Guardians, you’ve trained well.” Opal’s voice echoes across the ranks. She stands beside her fellow Instructors, facing us. “You’ve proven your loyalty, and shown that you’re ready to receive your official missions. Your Instructors have your assignments.”
Excited chatter rises around me, as my fellow Guardians hurry to their Instructors.
“Are you as nervous as me?” I ask Aurora.
She grins. “C’mon, Star. You’ve been trained for this. You’ll do fine.”
We find Opal at the field’s edge, handing out assignments. She smiles when Aurora and I approach. “Welcome, Guardians. I have your assignments.”
“Thank you.” Aurora takes the creamy envelope and bows.
I step forward eagerly. Opal pauses before placing the envelope in my palm.
“Star. I’ll miss guiding you. Such a keen, bright student. Your instincts never fail you. And your drawings--works of beauty.”
I blush. “Thank you, Instructor.” Opal was always very interested in my sketchbook. I’ve been drawing since I was little, and when I was recruited to be a Guardian, I brought along my art supplies.
Luckily, Aurora and I have the same mission: to seek out a hermit in the mountains, who supposedly has information on the whereabouts of the Enigma. The Enigma is what we’re fighting for. It’s a mysterious force which humans know little about. It could be anything--a person, a stone, an animal--and supposedly holds the secrets of the universe. It’s too strong a power for humanity. It could do incredible damage if it happens upon the wrong hands. That’s why we, the Guardians of the Universe, have made it our life’s mission to seek and destroy it.
At the Guardian’s Quarters, Aurora and I pack our bags for the journey. I fill my satchel with the essentials, then add my sketchbook. It’s my outlet--it keeps me sane. I wrap it in a cloth bundle and tuck it into my satchel.
“Do you really need that thing?” Aurora asks.
“It clears my mind. Helps me think.”
She shakes her head, as she sheaths her dagger and tucks it into her pack. Aurora doesn’t understand my drawings. She doesn’t see how they flow from my fingertips, seemingly without my help, or how they create the intricate tapestries that fill the pages of my sketchbook. To her, they’re frivolous.
The hermit’s hut is a five day trip, through a mountain pass and up a steep summit. The moment we hit the trail, I feel uncertainty pass through me.
“Are you sure this is the way?”
“Of course,” Aurora replies.
“Relax. I know where we’re going.”
We set up camp in a clearing. While Aurora makes a fire, I sit on a log with my sketchbook. As usual, my hand seems to move on its own, lines forming quickly across the page. A shining dagger, held in a disembodied fist. A slit eye, iris dark, brow furrowed in anger. A full moon hidden behind jagged peaks.
I close the sketchbook and join Aurora by the fire. Dusk settles over the trees, the last light fading farther and farther behind the horizon.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” I tell Aurora, as we roast our jerky side by side.
“Something just feels...off.” I turn my jerky slowly on the spit, and the meat sizzles. “Maybe this hermit doesn’t know anything about the Enigma. What if it’s a trap?”
Aurora stares into the fire, the flames reflecting eerily in her eyes. She sets down her food and stands up. “I’m going to get some water.”
Her footsteps fade away. I turn the spit and inhale the fire’s smoky scent. An uncanny feeling creeps over me, and suddenly I have the strange notion that someone is standing directly behind me.
A twig cracks, and I whirl around, only to find the blade of a dagger less than an inch from my neck.
“Don’t move,” Aurora orders, her voice low and menacing. Her face is dark, shadows dancing across her skin.
“What are you--?” My breath evaporates, as she presses the edge of the dagger to my skin.
“I’m sorry to do this.” Her hand shakes, and a trickle of blood rolls down my neck. “But it’s Opal’s orders.”
“Opal?” I choke out, feeling lightheaded.
Aurora scoffs. “Don’t you see it, Star?”
“You’re the Enigma. You have the secrets to the universe. Your little sketchbook, your drawings--didn’t they always seem like prophecies? And your intuition? You knew something would happen on this mountain. That there was no mission. I was supposed to wait until we were further up the mountain to kill you, but you knew something was wrong early on.”
My voice quivers. My heart thumps wildly. “Aurora, please--”
“I’m sorry, Star. But the Enigma must be destroyed.”
She presses the blade deep into my neck. Pain envelopes me, white flashes shooting across my vision, the metallic smell of blood clotting my nostrils. My scream rips open the mountain air, and suddenly I am falling into darkness.
My eyes fly open. For a moment I’m disoriented, my vision blurry. My eyes clear and I see at my feet the body of a girl, neck slashed, lying in the dirt. Beside her is a fire, flickering. Surrounding her is a vast forest.
Oh my god. That’s me. The girl is me.
I look down at my hands. A dagger is clenched in my fist, dripping wine-red blood. My hand creeps to my face, feeling the dark hair and angular features.
I am still the Enigma.
But I am no longer Star.
The Enigma does not die when its body does. The universe’s secrets don’t simply disappear.
I drop the dagger and run.