Shadows of the World

Our One Star, Our One Hope.

A nameless beach. A warm breeze. Bluer than blue water, waves coming in, going out. Softness. An ebb and flow, no push, no pull. I lay down and let the sand get in my hair and down the white dress I was wearing. Being alone was nice. It was a good, happy feeling. Seagulls over head. Cawing loudly, I laugh. Warm sunshine on my arms, warming them up, warming me up. Feeling so warm and happy and soft. My eyes closing, I could see yellow in my eyelids. Then a shadow over my eyes. Opening them, Carson there. Smiling down at me. I reach up to touch him, he grasps my hand. A tingle goes through me, we are connected in every single way now.

I understand perfectly. We are one now, we cannot leave each other. If his soul fades, mine fades along with it. There is no separation between us anymore. There is no escape from each other. He lays down next to me and puts his hand on my face. There are no words, but I know. I understand. I nod, he kisses me softly and pulls me to him. We lay, looking at the brilliant blue sky. My heart aches and beats loudly. I listen to his, it beats in perfect time with mine. I feel a buzz go through our skin when we touch, electricity, a shimmer, a sparkle, a burst of light between us. We do not become each other, we are each other in every single way. Seagulls cawing, the waves rushing in, rushing out.

We are happier alone. Just alone, just us. Just two bodies, one soul. One star. One star burning brilliantly in the sky, even though we cannot see it in the bright light. We can still feel it, our one star, our one hope. We will never fade...we will never fade...

My eyes were blurry when they first opened. Everything was unfocused but familiar and as I blinked, I realized I was in my room, at home. Looking beside me, I saw that my mom was there, sitting in a chair next to my bed, just reading. I made a soft noise in my mouth felt like it was full of cotton. I couldn't say anything else. My mom looked over to me and her eyes lit up when she saw that I'd finally woken up. "Oh Clio!" exclaimed, leaning over quickly to take me and hug me closely. "We were so worried about you! You've been out for a week! The doctors at the hospital, where you collapsed, said you weren't in a coma, you were just exhausted. So they let us bring you home. Oh gosh, sweetie, what happened?" she asked.

I thought back to my last memory. I was in the hospital...but the council of the elders had made some kind of illusion...I'd told them I'd follow every order in return for James's safety...then I'd taken Carson's soul and put it with mine. I'd almost died because his soul was so weak, it was taking energy from mine. But then Mr. Morrisson...or not him, whatever, had saved me...because I'd told him he needed me. Then everything had gone black. So they'd left me, then? They'd let me keep Carson's soul? But what could they do? So I looked to my mom. "I don't...know." It wasn't a lie, I really didn't know exactly what happened, it was all so confusing.

My mom sighed. "Well, I better go call Carson and James. They've been over here everyday, making sure you're okay, hoping you'll wake up..." I sat up abruptly, and my mom looked shocked. "What are you doing? Lay back down!" she said and I lay down, cheeks burning.

"So Carson and James...they're okay?" I asked.

A confused look passed through my mom's eyes. "Okay? What are you talking about? They were the ones who called to tell us that you'd collapsed in the hospital. Carson said you were all there because James was getting some stitches taken out and he'd dragged his aunt and Carson along with him and you came too..." Relief spread through me. So they were okay. My mom smiled to me. "I'll just go let them know you're okay. They've been so worried about you," my mom said, and left me.

I laid back down with a sigh. Everyone was okay. What had happened with the elders, that hadn't just been a dream. It had been real. Somehow I'd saved them both, when it all seemed so hopeless. I'd pleged the council my obedience, but I would follow any order they'd give me, if only to save Carson and James. And maybe, hopefully, I would be able to pull a few strings and have them leave me alone. That was, if I could start learning more about what I could do, if I could get a handle on my so-called power. They needed me to help them, and if they harrassed me too much...well hopefully by the time I was tired with them, I'd know some fancy tricks to keep them out of my hair. I closed my eyes and let my breathing return to even and even dozed off a little. I woke up easily, though, when I heard footsteps on my stairs.

Carson and James burst in to my room. Carson's eyes were red and tired and even James looked like he hadn't gotten much sleep. Carson ran over to me and engulfed me in a hug. The same thing from my dream happened when we touched...I felt a tingle between us. We held onto each other closely and I realized that our hearts were beating in the exact same time. Whatever I'd done, it'd worked. Carson was alive, and now our souls were...together. I looked at him. "I'm sorry...binding our souls together was the only thing I could to save you," I said quietly.

Carson shook his head, a smile on his face. "It's okay, it's all right." I looked at James then, who came over shyly. I gave him a hug, too. When he pulled away, I looked at them both and scooted over on my bed so they could sit down. "You have to tell us what happened, Clio." Carson looked anxious.

I nodded slowly. "The council of elders approached me in the hospital. They created this crazy illusion where I was in the hospital but I wasn't...and they told me that they were killing you two just so I would give up my power." James and Carson looked at each other at that. "I'm sorry. If I had known they were doing that, I would have left. I would have run away, and left you two safe."

James scowled and Carson looked outraged. "I wouldn't have let you," my boyfriend said to me and I laughed softly.

"I tried to strike a deal with them, then. I told them I'd follow every order they gave me, if they wouldn't do anything to hurt you guys. They said that if I promised obedience, they'd keep one of you alive. I said I wouldn't do that, but they told me they'd just kill everyone. At the time, I guess it was a bluff, but I was too scared to think about that. So I chose to keep James." James looked surprised, and even Carson looked a little shocked. "I told them that they had to follow the deal. They would spare James and I would follow their orders. But before that happened, when I was walking to them, a had this strange dream...or maybe it was a vision or maybe it was nothing, I don't know. It was of me, touching a star and bringing it down to my body. And suddenly I got what I had to do. I told them I would save James, but I said I wanted to see Carson's star first. Just because they were going to kill them off."

Carson looked at me, softly. "So you took my star and put it in yourself?" he asked.

"Yes," I said breathlessly. "It was so weak, though, it was taking all of my energy. I was going to die, but I told Mr. Morrison - he was there, he was the one with the lady in blue's face...I told him that he had to help me, because he needed me. He couldn't kill me off because I was the one with the power. He helped me, I'm not sure how, but he did. They were mad that I'd tricked them, I think, but they had to follow the deal, so they let me go. Except now I have to follow all the orders they give me."

James scoffed. "Well, you should just be glad you're alive." I blushed at that, I knew that. He softened up when Carson flashed him a look. "Well it was strange. All of a sudden, we were lying there and I started to feel better, really quickly-"

"And I started to feel awful, really quickly," said Carson. I nodded. "But then all of a sudden, I started to feel better. And James felt perfectly fine, and then I felt fine. We realized you must have done something, so we got up to look for you. It was so were lying right outside our door, collapsed. I guess it was a good thing we were in a hospital, then..." he said and I smiled.

"I guess so." Carson looked at me carefully with a smile. I swallowed. "Listen," I said to him, "I just had a dream. From whoever has been helping us. For some reason I understood perfectly about what I'd done. If your soul fades, so does mine. So if you die, I die along with you. So we can' far apart from each other anymore," I told him. Carson looked shocked. "I'm so sorry. I know I'm taking all of your freedom away-"

"Clio," he said sternly, "I'm just glad we're all alive."

I smiled, feeling tears come to my eyes. "Yeah, me too."

And for the week after that, everything became easy once again. Carson and James had gone back to school, and I was able to, as well. Mr. Morrison was gone and our regular teacher was back. It could have been like before I'd really met Carson and before I met James, except it wasn't. They sat with me and my friends at lunch, now. I spent many of my afternoons at Carson's house, just hanging out with him and James. I did, though, spend a lot of time with Helena and Ant. I didn't tell Ant about the Lady in she didn't really exist. He had said it himself: many people depended on her, he depended on her. I wouldn't do that to him. I told him that for some reason, she'd let Carson and James go. Everytime I tried to explain what had happened, I felt really exhausted anyway. It was just one more person that didn't really need to know what had happened in that hospital. My mom and dad always did wonder, though. I never really could explain, but the doctors said it was a case of too much stress, and happened sometimes in teenagers. It was actually nice, because they lightened up on me a little bit more. And I was happy they liked Carson. Even my brother came home from college to make sure I was okay. He approved of Carson, who he said seemed like a cool dude.

I hadn't heard from the Lady in Blue or the elders after that. I was waiting, though, always waiting. And it occured to me that I wouldn't mind following their orders. Carson and James and Ant did, and they didn't seem to really ever mind. It would make me feel more like one of made me feel more comfortable with being really, really different.

There were no more message-like dreams from the mysterious person who had led me to Carson, though. Every night, I expected to have more dreams like the ones I'd had, but when I did dream, they were usually about the strangest things. I knew they couldn't be messages. I'd always felt something really specific when I'd had message dreams. I got used to never knowing who it was who had helped us, and Carson did too. We were both just glad that we were all okay.

It was a Sunday when Carson and I returned from breakfast with Helena and Ant to see that James was packing a backpack. We looked at each other, surprise in our eyes. Our clasped hands parted, and the tingle I always felt now when we touched went away. "James, what are you up to?" I asked. James turned around, a blush on his face.

"I was sort of hoping to be gone before you came back," he told us.

Carson immedietly got defensive. I could feel it. "Why?" he asked, quickly.

James picked up his backpack and slung it around his shoulders, leaving the room. He started down the stairs and Carson and I followed him. "Hey, Carson, you'll keep my car here for me, won't you?" he asked, going out the front door. Carson flashed me a very confused look and we continued to follow James out to the field out behind Carson's house...where everything between us had really started. It was a warm winter day. Not warm, exactly, but not cold. It was nice, very nice.

"What are you talking about? Why do I need to keep the car here for you? Where are you going?" questioned Carson.

James kept walking, but now was walking with us. "You know how I told you about those dreams telling me I have to move on?" he asked and briefly I thought about when I'd been in that illusion and I'd seen James and I knew in my heart that I had to keep him alive so he could go on...and do whatever he needed to do. We didn't say anything, though. "Well, for the past few nights, I've been having this one particular dream. I've been...sorta ignoring it, because I don't want to leave. But it's been showing me this house I need to find, and this way through the woods I need to take to get there. It shouldn't be too long of a trip, only a couple days, which is really not too bad considering all the times I've had to treck miles and miles...well the catch is that my dream isn't showing me an alternate driving route, so I have to keep my car at your house. I'll be back for it, but I have to find out why I have to go to this one place."

We were quiet as we finally stopped in the middle of the field. "'re leaving?" I inquired finally, a lump forming in my throat.

James hesitated. "I have to," he finally said, quietly, "we all know I couldn't stay here forever. Eventually I need to move on. I don't know why, but I do know that whoever has been helping me has been right every time...and they're the one who helped you two, so I really can't ignore what they want."

Carson looked angry. "But you...can't go," he said, his voice strangled. "'re the only family I have!"

A sad smile passed on James's face. "I'll be back for my car. Don't worry." He then put his arms around Carson and hugged him tightly. Carson hugged back, and I realized that Carson was right. We three were the only family Carson had, and Carson, Nana and I were the only family that James had. They hadn't known each other for very long, and their relationship had started out a little rocky, but I knew that somehow, they'd grown to be something like makeshift brothers. I could understand why Carson was was the same reason that I was upset, too. James, Carson and even Nana, they weren't the only family I had, but they were family to me.

When James finally pulled away, I launched myself onto him. Carson and James weren't crying, so I knew I had to cry for both of them, or all three of us, or whatever. The tears came easily, for all the times I wanted to not cry, I cried even harder. "You have to promise you'll come back for the car," I said. "Because you know, Carson isn't going to want it to hang around in his driveway forever..."

James laughed as I hugged him. "I'll be back before you have time to miss me," he said. I pulled away and looked straight in his eyes.

"I already miss you." My voice was full of tears. James smiled and kissed my cheek.

"Keep Carson sane for me, okay?" he whispered in my ear and I laughed. We pulled away and James lifted his backpack higher on his back. It had been the only thing he'd brought with him, and now he was leaving again. He smiled at us one last time, and I saw one tear slip out of his eye and into his hair. He made no move to rub it away. "I'll see you guys later, then," he told us. I looked at Carson, who was looking sad, but happy all at the same time.

"See ya," he finally said and I grinned. James waved one last time before turning around, walking the way into the forest. We watched him for awhile before Carson grabbed onto my hand. The same tingle went through me, and our hearts were beating with the same kind of terrible ache of someone who has just lost something very important to them. Carson struggled to take a deep breath, and I leaned into him.

I didn't say anything to him, and he didn't say anything to me. We both knew what the other one was thinking. We just kept walking to the house, while James was walking into the forest. And unbeknownst to any of us, in the space between our footsteps, flowers kept blooming. It wasn't anything conscious, but flowers kept growing and dying, growing and dying. I looked up to the sky and let one last tear fall down my face, off my face and down to the ground. Where it fell, a huge sunflower bloomed and died, only seconds later. I didn't notice, though. Neither did Carson, neither did James. We were all walking in the directions that we needed to, walking towards our futures, walking into that strange and wonderful world that was tomorrow.
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It's over. Thank you so much to everyone who read, subscribed and commented. Especially everyone who commented more than once. You are all very beautiful and magical people.
I hope that everyone likes this ending and isn't too dissapointed. I did leave some questions unanswered, but I guess you'll just have to make up your own story about what happens...

...well, for now, at least.
Happy New Year!