A short story by Jannah Walling
Yu stood on the edge of the largest canyon in a broken world and watched as the wind blew coarse sand into the beyond. The pain Yu felt was hardly a dull thumping against a stone wall now. Yu knew it was time. There is something within Yu — an augural voice whispering deep and resolute. The God. The void. This had been inevitable as the voice had foretold. And even as Yu remembered, it began to whisper in the silence of the wind.
Come. It is time.
Yu remembered a time when the pain had kept the voice at bay. It had been sharp. It had become hate for the way of the world and resolve for the village. It was anything but the consuming emptiness. Yet now, Yu followed with hollow footsteps unable to muster the will to fight. Its presence was stronger here at the edge. Yu shivered slightly and looked down the precipice between the rough, reddish-stone. This is where the predecessors had come years before Yu. It was the way of the World Bearers — the chosen destined to die.
There had always been a lurking solemnity to the small dessert town at the edge of the world. But Yu had always found love in desolate places. The weather-beaten rocks would brighten to a deep red with every new sun, and the days had been filled with children’s laughter as they ran through the streets paved with red dust that clung to their clothing. Her laughter. Aeliana. But that had been another life. Another Yu. And it had only been a matter of time before Yu would become marked by the void.
Yu breathed in the dry air and remembered the day the last World Bearer had fallen. Yu had watched. It was tradition to gather. To watch. To remember. Yu remembered holding Aeliana tight for fear of losing her to the void as the village savior fell from the face of existence. Yet Yu hadn’t realized the strength of love then. Yu became appealing to the void, and the void became Yu. It had marked Yu and slowly began to feed with a reckless tenacity until Yu ran dry of any emotion.
There was no way Yu could have known what becoming marked meant or what a World Bearer must do. Only that when the time came, Yu would be compelled here — to the void. This had always been the way. One was marked to bear the burden in order to save the many. Yu would embody pain so they could have life. So she could have life. With closed eyes, Yu listened as soft footsteps began to approach accompanied by quiet murmurs. Yu had lasted the longest and had shielded them for so long; but regardless, Yu knew there would be a new Bearer today.
It was hunger, and it was here. The void flowed from the lip of the canyon as it washed around them, through them, searching for its next source. Yu shook at the power of the vast emptiness as it pleasured in its options. There were many for Yu had kept it at bay for far too long. And then it took a little more from Yu.
What else did Yu have to live for?
The village didn’t need Yu now.
Yu are worthless. Unloved. Disconnected.
And Yu knew, as a husk, it was time to give in to the whispering of the wind. A second seemed a lifetime as a small part of Yu thumped helplessly against it all. Yet Yu began to move forward despite it all.
Then something inside Yu screamed. A trace of something forgotten.
Yu named it Fragment —a child crying, clinging, and wanting what had been long forgotten. It pulled and pushed weakly as it crashed against the invisible force calling Yu forward. Yet still, Yu trembled and tried to embrace the fall and felt the wind whipping callously in protest as Fragment continued to scream against the inevitable force.
And then, in a cloud of red dust, she was there. A dirtied face resembled Yu, and Yu looked in shock as tears traced lines through the coating of red dust on her face. Her hand clings tightly to Yu, and for a moment Yu can see the sun above. Fragment elates. Fragment feels and, for a second, there is hope.
“No.” Aeliana grunts each word as she pulls Yu back “You will not do this alone!” She falls back to ground with furrowed brows and arms wrapped tightly around Yu. The dust settles, and for a moment longer everything is still.
But all vision fades. Aeliana and Yu become slowly enveloped once again with the emptiness settling like the weight of an age-old boulder. It is darkness. It consumes. It is familiar. As fragment trembles, a younger Yu begins to take shape in its place.
And then there was light.
The child in Yu, the Fragment, looks up and no longer cries as a knight surrounded in a ring of brilliant colorless flames steps forward to face the void. It is angry as it reaches, stretches, and tries to consume the lone warrior. Aeliana. It pounds against the flickering of her aura, but she is light. She is feeling. She fights desperately to hold her ground with movements flowing quick like the effortless grace of the fire as Figment watches in wonder.
But the void knows it is essence. It is consumption. It is forever, and a lone warrior can only fight so long until falling before it. There is panic in Yu as her aura flickers. Her movements begin to falter; and slowly, it claims ground across the expanse towards Yu.
Did you forget? I am inevitable. I am fate.
The voice attempts to caress Yu back to its embrace like the firm reasoning of an old-friend.
I am you.
Figment cries out as the voice echoes and pounds against Yu. With a sigh, a cold wind blows and begins to swirl around her flames. They begin to quell and soften amidst the oppressive presence. A figure of wind is suspended in wind and swirling mist as it draws in every emotion, feeling, sense of light deeper into itself. This is Void. It has watched and learned about Yu. Knows Yu. Aeliana falters as she watches Yu struggle.
“No. You are loved. You are needed here. ” She looks at Yu. Determined. Fond. The epitome of a past Yu. She charges and gives herself to the void, and with a heedless eagerness, it strikes her through with wispy tendrils and a shudder from the satisfaction. Aeliana gasps, eyes widening as it begins to consume her.
A heartbeat goes by as the end of the world passes.
A fire flares inside Yu.
Flames sprout from around Yu. They burn and ignite the ground, the air, the soul. The void screams with an earsplitting rush as the wind around Yu retreats. Yu felt her love and warmth expand becoming one with the world. She was here. She was fire and the the sun. And then Yu began to fall the right way as time and light begin to fade.
Yu felt different as the world became clear again. The sky was vibrant and bright above the red earth. Yu could feel joy. Yu had won. Yu remembered Aeliana.
Yu sat up and heard the cries from the crowd before seeing her with a smile that still held radiance like the sun frozen in time. Yu fell and let the dust settle as Yu held her —daughter, savior, last of the World Bearers.
She had known. She was determined. She had loved Yu.
Yu stood at the edge of the world once again and recalled the voices of the people in the days that followed. Though Aeliana had driven away the void, the village was still a solemn place. There had been no celebrations following the funeral. They had known the cost of freedom, and Yu made sure to thank them. For although Yu had given everything to protect them, they had fostered her as the fragment of love that would bear the world.