Hello, everyone! I'm back, with a new story! This one's called "Speak Life", and it's inspired by the new TobyMac song of the same name. (If you haven't heard the song yet, I advise that you try to listen to it soon. It's a great song.) Anyway, enjoy!
Erica woke to darkness so pitch-black she could feel it. It felt like spiderwebs on her skin, tickling and sticky. This, for some reason, thoroughly annoyed her.
Her annoyance was immediately followed by a half-dozen questions. Where am I? Am I dead, or am I still alive? What am I doing here? Are there others here? Why is it so dark? Most pressing of all was the last question she thought of. And who am I anyway?
The realization that she couldn’t remember anything except her name was accompanied the cold pinpricks of fear. Erica tried to shrug the fear away, but the question remained: where was she? Who was she? This bothered her even more than the darkness. She had a life, didn’t she? Or she’d had one, if she was dead. She should be able to remember it.
Erica took a deep breath, and was pleased to find that breathing still seemed to work. She pushed herself to a sitting position, and felt her hands press against cold, rough stone, like the floor of some medieval dungeon. Then, just to make sure she could, she called out, “Where am I?” to the darkness. As she spoke, a grey glow formed in front of her face for a moment like frosty breath on a midwinter morning. The glow quickly disappeared, fading into the pressing blackness.
Erica frowned. This is odd. Even without her memories, she felt sure of that fact. She tried again. “Anyone else here? Hello?” Another glow, this one a bit larger than the first, though it lingered no longer. Erica frowned. “Come on! If there’s anyone out there, I just want to know where I am!”
A sigh came from somewhere in the blackness. “Very well.” The words appeared as a pale blue swirl that floated into the darkness some distance before disappearing. “Give us some light!”
What happened was not so much light breaking away the darkness as it was the darkness growing transparent enough in one spot that Erica could see. About ten feet away, three people sat: a sleeping boy no older than six, an old man seated on a stool with his back against a stone wall, and a young woman a few years older than Erica herself. They were quite obviously family, perhaps a grandfather and his grandchildren.
Erica, however, cared not for this. She could see someone else, and that someone else seemed to know something about where they were, and that was all that mattered. “Who are you? What is this place? Where is this place?” Instead of forming a cloud, her words appeared like tiny fireflies that zoomed away and circled the young woman’s head before disappearing.
The young woman sighed again. “I am Emraldra. This is my brother, Lukas, and my grandfather, Markus Key. We are three of those who have wandered into this place and cannot find our way out. As for what and where this place is, we cannot tell you.”
Erica frowned. “What do you mean, you can’t tell me?”
“I mean what I said.” Emraldra raised her hands in a gesture of helplessness. “We cannot tell you, for we do not know. It appears as a castle, but if it is a castle, it is impossibly large. I have walked for a week without reaching the other side of it. I cannot tell you where it is, for I do not believe it is anywhere.”
Erica crossed her arms. “It has to be somewhere, and it has to have an end. Nothing is infinite, and everything has to have a location.”
“Then perhaps this is nothing.” Emraldra shrugged. “I have told you what I know. I can tell you no more.”
Something inside Erica suddenly snapped. “You really aren’t very smart, are you,” she spat. “You live here. I’m willing to bet that people you know have died here. And you don’t know where you are. What kind of idiot are you?”
Each of Erica’s words appeared as a fiery ball before her lips. They flew towards Emraldra like arrows from a bow, striking against her and exploding like tiny fireworks. With every word that struck her, a wound appeared on Emraldra’s arms, back, or face as if someone had struck at her with a knife, or perhaps with a whip. She bore it without a sound, though her face contorted with pain.
Erica didn’t even notice until she’d finished her tirade. Then and only then did she see Emraldra leaning against the wall, blood oozing from her cuts. Erica’s eyes widened. “What- What happened? Who did that to you?”
The old man glared at Erica as he stiffly rose from his stool. “Who did that to her?” he growled. “You did that to her, fool girl. And don’t you dare do it again. Emra never did anything to you. She’s too sweet-hearted to. She tried to help you, even. And you hurt her for it. You’re lucky, fool girl. Lucky I don’t have the breath anymore to give you twice what you gave her. Don’t you know that if you speak hate, you speak hurt?”
Now it was Erica’s turn to be on the receiving end of those fiery balls. Again and again, pain rippled across her arms or back. The darkness grew solid again as she crumpled to the ground. She curled up in a ball, hoping to protect herself from most of the strikes, but by then they had stopped. “I didn’t mean anything,” she whispered. “I just wanted to get out of here. Can’t someone tell me how to get out of here?”
Erica had spoken so softly she could barely even hear herself. She didn’t expect anyone else to hear her, and so didn’t expect an answer. She didn’t hear one either. But something from the old man’s torrent of angry words had stuck in her mind. If you speak hate, you speak hurt. Speak hate, speak hurt.
Abruptly, Erica realized what had happened. Words are more than words here. No. That’s not right. They’re still just words. But you can see what they do here. That’s what happened. I yelled at her. And instead of the effects staying inside like they should, the hurt showed on the surface.
And if that was true, the opposite should be true. If words brought pain and darkness, couldn’t they bring healing and light too? But how do you heal with words? Then, suddenly, Erica realized the answer. She didn’t know how she knew it. She just did. And she knew what she needed to do.
She pushed herself into a sitting position, doing her best to ignore the lightning-bolts of pain that shot through her. “I’m sorry,” she called into the darkness. Her words formed a stream of golden vapor that floated away and disappeared. “Emraldra, Mr. Key, even Lukas if you know what happened, I’m sorry. I didn’t know-” She stopped herself. “No. I did know. That was why I said them. But I shouldn’t have. I realize that now. Mr. Key, you’re right. I had no reason to yell at Emraldra. No excuse for saying what I did. I deserved every word you threw back at me.” She swallowed hard. “I hope you’ll accept my apology. And maybe, even though I don’t deserve it, you can forgive me.”
Five minutes of silence passed. Then ten. Erica wondered if her words had been heard by anyone. Maybe they hadn’t. Maybe Emraldra and her family had left. Then, suddenly, Erica heard Emraldra’s voice. “I forgive you.”
The words appeared in the form of a golden glow that flowed towards and around Erica before disappearing. The pain from the word-induced wounds eased. And Emraldra’s voice came again. “I forgive you. How could I not? I have made the same mistake many times. And I have been forgiven to it. I cannot withhold the same mercy from you.” Her voice grew soft. “Speak love, speak life. Speak life, speak light. Speak hate, speak hurt. Speak hurt, speak darkness. We all have to learn it. And yet, it seems, if we do learn it, we always seem to forget when we most need to remember.”
As Emraldra spoke, the darkness finally lifted. Erica could see her surroundings now: grey stone walls and floors, extending twenty feet in each direction before coming to a wall. In each wall was a door, and directly across from Erica, behind Emraldra and her family, was a stone staircase. She could see Emraldra, her wounds healed but scars remaining. Erica knew that she had been healed as well. Hurt or heal. Death or life. Funny what words can do.
Erica stood up and shook herself. Slowly, she crossed the empty space between herself and Emraldra. She extended her hand to the older girl. And, smiling, she said, “Let’s find a way out of here.”
Her words glowed golden.
In other news, I will be doing NaNoWriMo next month. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. It takes place every November, and there's a summer version called Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm very excited, both because I'm using a plotline I've been wanting to write for a while and because I got permission to do it officially this year. (There's an actual site for it where you can sign up, upload your word count, and get free copies if your book if you "win", aka meet your goal.) Also, I applied to be a writer for The Scribe Magazine,a teen creative writing magazine. Anyway, that's about it. Thanks for stopping by!