This is the tale of a woman whose dreams are a portal to an alternate universes. While she creates unbreakable bonds with the people she meets, Hell threatens to merge with Earth and destroy all life within. Prophecies, losses, and the word of a Chosen One propels her to save the world she cares for so dearly. But is she as capable as she believes she is?
This is my worst nightmare.
Red lightning strikes the ground and splits the Earth. My home. The cloudy grey-red sky roars as a hole emerges from its darkness. Unearthly creatures descend from the hole in the sky. Some flying and breathing fire onto all that mankind has built. Others, immediately feasting on the inhabitants of Earth, as if they’d been starved for all eternity.
It was utter chaos. Humans scream and run for dear life, while the strange creatures screech and swoop in to take another life.
Hell had collided with Earth.
I stand and watch the events from afar as they unfold before me; terror ever so present in me.
“Aveline!” My husband, Arden, called out to me. I quickly turned to face him. He’s holding our three-year-old daughter Elysia, with one arm, rocking her steadily to ease her cries. His left-hand rests on his unsheathed sword. “We must leave.”
I nodded and grabbed my halberd which rested on a nearby tree. “Let’s go.”
We hastily run into the forest behind us, away from chaos. We have no idea where we’re running to, or which direction is safest. The only thing we know for certain is that more and more creatures are escaping into our once-peaceful world, and spreading fast.
The forest is dark, but flashes of red and white lightning illuminate our path. In the distance, we see more people running in the same direction we are. It’s still quiet in the forest. All we hear is our panting and footsteps, the screams, and cries from afar, and the occasional loud crack of thunder. But the screams got closer. My eyes follow a man running ahead of us when the light of the lightning disappears. As another flash of light illuminates the forest, he’s suddenly gone.
An inhumane screech reverberates, so loud I thought my ears would bleed.
“Stand back!” I shouted and drew my weapon.
“Aveline!” My husband shouts back as a warning, but it’s too late.
I never back down from a fight.
Despite this fact, I fear I might today. A bolt of lightning reveals a gigantic figure now standing before me. A brawny worm-like creature with thick scales all the way down to its tail. The extremities of its legs and left arm possess two long claws, and its right arm is a blade-like structure, formed from its thick skin. The creature’s mouth is open, breathing out hot air and teeth dripping with warm blood.
I hesitate and the creature takes the opportunity to strike me with its bladed arm. It slashes my stomach and sends me flying back, hitting the ground with a thud. My husband calls out for me again, but all I can think about is getting our daughter to safety and the pain that’s holding me back.
I look for her and she’s hiding behind a tree as Arden tries to distract the creature. I try to stand up and help but I’m frozen when my husband cries out. My eyes widened as I watched the creature’s blade pull out from Arden’s now lifeless body.
Everything is in slow-motion as I watch him fall to the ground, my daughter and I crying out for him. In anger, I attempt to fight the monster and avenge my daughter’s father, but to no avail. With one swift motion, the blade is in me too, and my energy slowly drains. I watch my daughter weep before the life leaves me completely.
I died again.
Who am I?
I wake up and I’m in the comfort of my bed. However, I feel no comfort as the memories come rushing back to me.
My lips tremble and a whimper leaves my throat.
“No, no, no, no!” I shook my head as I sat up.
I sit and cry for hours.
While it may seem like a simple nightmare, it wasn’t.
My dreams were a portal to alternate universes. While I sleep for a simple 8 hours, I’ve lived 8 years in another universe in someone else’s body.
It’s been this way since I was 20 years old. I encountered a near-death experience when I was possessed by an evil spirit. I survived, of course, but not without repercussions.
When I sleep, I now travel to other dimensions. I know because I remember what ordinary dreams are like. You have several a night, some cutting off, others finishing, and most of the time you don’t remember everything once you wake up. When I wake up, I remember everything. Every emotion, every touch, is etched into my memory.
The portal transfers me into different variations of myself. Every night I sleep, I enter that same body until they die, and I’m transferred to another me in another dimension. It’s tiring, so sometimes I just lie dormant inside them. Sometimes they’re just like me, so I take part. Other times, they’re weak-willed and their body is automatically under my control. On rare occasions, I come across sinister versions of myself, and they’re absolute nightmares. The worst part is that all I can do is watch as they destroy lives because they’re too strong-willed for me to take over.
I’m 23 years old now and I’ve lived a thousand lives. Out of all that time, I was happiest in the world I faded from today. But I will never be able to see my strong and loving husband and sweet three-year-old daughter from a medieval time ever again.
I stay up for days, not wanting to join another world so soon. Until one day when I lay back against a tree, wishing I was back in their world.
I opened my eyes to a burnt down house. My eyes widened with shock.
I quickly stood and looked around me. I’m surrounded by demolished, burnt-down houses and dead trees and plants. The sky is grey and cloudy and there is not a living soul in sight. It takes me a minute to realize the village I’m in was the place I once lived in with Arden and Elysia.
I cannot fathom why I’m in the same universe. No. Was I in a similar variation of that universe?
I don’t have time to think when I hear a sudden crash across the pathway behind me. I rush to see a house caved in, the same monster that killed me atop it, towering over a man lying on the ground.
Frantically, I search for any weapon I can find to help the man. In some tall grass, I spot a sword and grab it. I saw a slight reflection in the dusty sword. I wipe it and see my reflection – not a variation of me from an alternate universe. Was I longing so dearly for this world that I somehow teleported myself back?
A scream brings me back to reality and I rush to help.
The monster is about to attack the man again, so I yell to distract it and swing my sword at the creature. Unfortunately, the creature stops my attack with its blade arm. Staring into its face, I became even more infuriated.
This monster destroyed my family.
Something bolts at the monster’s side, a static-electric aura now surrounding it and the creature grunts and wails.
“Now!” The man shouts. He must have launched a magic attack on the monster because I noticed a staff in his right hand.
Nonetheless, I find an opening in between two scales on its neck and I instantly push my blade straight through and slash it through the back of its neck. Blood splatters onto the walls and the creature’s body sways before falling heavily onto the ground.
The man is in shock as I help him up. He’s a funny character. A man probably in his late forties, stuttering and rambling on about how incredible my sword skills are. I try to leave but he follows me.
“What’s your name?” He asks.
I stopped and turned to face him.
In honour of the man I love, I say, “Arden.”
The Chosen One
“Wait, say that again.” I said in confusion.
“You’re the chosen one,” he repeats. “The legend states that a great swordsman named Arden will close the Gateway to Hell on the night of the Red Moon. It must be you!”
I sat down on a porch nearby and took it all in. Arden must have been meant for this position. Except, he is no longer here, and this world is hopeless.
“I understand your situation, but I can’t help,” I said. “I must find my daughter.”
Elysia is all I can think about. If I’m back, I need to find her – whether she is alive or not. She’s the only one I must keep safe.
“Arden, I don’t think you understand. Ever since the Gates of Hell opened here three years ago-”
“-countless people have died and will continue to die. Your daughter is not safe until that gate is closed.”
The man has a point. However, I’m not the great swordsman he seeks. On another note, I’m puzzled by how only three years have passed. I have so many unanswered questions and I cannot comprehend their answers.
I wager a deal with the man. I’ll save this world if he helps me find my daughter. The man, Marius, complies. And so, our quest begins in search of my little girl. The journey is frustrating, travelling for weeks to barricaded safety camps across the vast lands. No one knows a six-year-old Elysia. Still, Marius keeps his promise and accompanies me throughout – even when we are ambushed by a pack of hellhounds.
Gates of Hell
A hellhound pounces at me, but I slash it instantly. The other hounds growl as the eager hellhound falls to the ground. They tread closer while still surrounding us. Marius and I grew nervous. Two of us against a dozen hellhounds in the middle of a deserted forest. Three pounce at us in unison but they’re quickly shot down with arrows.
I look up and suddenly the hellhounds are surrounded by armed men in armour. The hellhounds feel threatened but still lunge out at their enemies and we all fight back. As I attack one hound, another hound jumps at me from behind.
“Watch out!” I heard a familiar voice shout and I froze. In reaction, the armoured man wraps his left arm around me, swinging me out of harms way. He then uses the sword in his right hand to slash the hound with a familiar three-movement technique that only one man could do.
This familiar embrace. I looked up at the man’s face and my eyes instantly widened. Our eyes meet and my heart begins to race. I cup my mouth in shock as I back away with teary eyes and he stares at me in confusion.
“Arden,” I breathe as I allow my hands to fall back to my sides. “You’re alive.” I smile.
“Should I know you?” He asks.
My smile instantly drops and I remember that I’m no longer in the body he knew. Still, I try.
“It’s me. Aveline,” I say.
He immediately turns hostile and brings his blade to my throat. “How dare you claim to be my dead wife,” he says.
“Wait, you’re not Arden?” Marius interjects. I gulp.
Arden’s eyes grew colder. “Who are you?”
“It’s me, Aveline, I swear,” I replied. “That day in the forest I saw you die, so I called myself Arden in your honour, even though I could never live up to your potential.” Tears trickle down my cheeks.
“You expect me to believe that?” He asked. “You don’t even look like her.”
“I don’t expect you to understand,” I said. “Just tell me Elysia is okay.”
He sees the sincerity in my eyes, and it must’ve resembled the sincerity the eyes of my old body showed, because he lowers his sword.
“It really is you,” he pulls me into a warm embrace and reassures me our daughter is okay.
Marius cleared his throat. “I hate to bring this up at a time like this, but the time is near.”
Marius explains to us the hellhounds are a sign that the Red Moon will appear tonight. Arden is confused but we explain the situation to him. Surprisingly, he is more than eager. Apparently, he’s been preparing an army to eliminate all the unearthly creatures.
He truly was the Chosen One.
On the way back to his camp, he explains that a teenage boy with healing powers had saved his life that day in the forest. In return, I told him about my ability to travel between dimensions. He believes me because even creatures from another dimension were entering his world.
We arrive at his camp, which turns out to be full of ready-to-fight warriors. There, I found my sweet Elysia. She doesn’t recognize me, nor understand that I’m her mother, but seeing her happy was all that mattered to me.
Everyone – aside from the children – gears up and Arden gives me my halberd that he has been keeping all this time. We then head to the most dangerous part of the land – the Gates of Hell.
When we arrive, the Red Moon appears. It seemed to be Hell’s red sky merging with ours. The monsters’ eyes now gleam with a red tint, suddenly making them faster and stronger. Warriors fell like a house of cards. We can’t even get to the hill under the Gates of Hell.
We were never going to make it.
The Unchosen Hero
A storm begins, much like the one that started it all three years ago.
A large lightning strike hits the top of the hill and ignites a fire there. The thunder is so loud my ears ring.
The fire forms a ring along the top of the mountain and spins so fast, its light travels up to the hole in the sky. Slowly but surely, the hole is getting bigger.
The remaining warriors take on as many beasts as they can to create a pathway for Arden to reach the hill. The strongest warriors, including myself, follow him to help with the more dangerous creatures guarding the ring of fire.
Bloodied and bruised, we fought endlessly along the sides of the hill. We’re growing tired but we can’t stop. The hole will only widen until Hell and Earth merge and only the stronger dimension will survive. Arden was our only hope at closing the portal.
We reach the top and the ring of fire is so hot I think I’ll melt. A terrifying realization hit me that Arden was not going to survive going inside. He was sacrificing himself to save everyone else.
I pulled him back with tears in my eyes. “No!” I shouted. “You can’t go in there.”
“What other choice is there?” he argues.
“It’s the only way,” Marius says, too.
“You’re going to get yourself killed! What about me? What about Elysia?” I asked.
“It’s the only way,” he says calmly. He turns and holds his injured arm, limping over to the fire.
Marius uses his last remaining power to cast strong wind through the fire, creating a pathway.
Tears flowed down my cheeks and, without a second thought, I ran to him, placing my arms tightly around his body.
“Know that I love you,” I whispered.
Then, swiftly, I grabbed his sword and ran through the pathway in the ring of fire just before Marius’s magic ran out. I heard them call out for me, but I couldn’t let Arden do it.
Elysia grew up with her father all this time. I couldn’t let her live the rest of her life without him. At least she didn’t know I was her mother. She wouldn’t be hurt by me dying.
This is the only way.
There seemed to be no oxygen inside the ring of fire. I’m suffocating.
A giant centipede within the ring springs at me. It seems to be protecting an orb in the centre.
I fight the centipede with a halberd in one hand and a sword in the other, nothing but the sound of screams and fire crackling around me. I’m growing weaker because of the lack of oxygen. Even so, I keep on with nothing but pure determination and willpower.
Finally, I penetrate the centipede’s head with my halberd. I screamed as I took the searing hot sword into both of my hands and plunged it into the red orb.
Everything is bright and loud and shattering in one second.
In the next, it’s quiet. Strong winds and fire are swirling around me and tearing me apart, but I feel nothing.
I’m 23 years old and I’ve lived a thousand lives. Out of all that time, I am happiest in the world I fade from today. I will never be able to see my strong and loving husband and sweet six-year-old daughter from a medieval time ever again.
And that’s okay.
I was never meant to stay here anyway.