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Paul Day Paul Day
Recommendations: 14

The End of All Things

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She had a friend.

This writing contains explicit content and is only for adults. You have been warned.

Warning: Violence of a disturbing nature.

The End of All Things

I was greeted by the warmth of the sun as it rose above the great plateau which formed the border between our country and the countries of the East. It was a morning just like any other, the birds singing, the early mist rising to be evaporated by the warmer sunlit air. There was nothing even remotely suggesting that this day would be our last, except for that constant aching in the pit of my gut which reminded me that knowledge is a burden and I was heavy laden.

I walked over to the balcony, as I had always done. I sat on the stone meditation seat, as I had always done and read quietly from the books of songs. But on this morning the words were meaningless, soulless platitudes of a more hopeful past. I closed the book and stood up, resting the palms of my hands on the ornate granite banister. I looked out across the lake to the Eastern shores. Even though the sun was now a good hour above the horizon, I could still see faint lights in the village across from the castle. Long columns of smoke billowed from chimneys, mixing with the rising mist, before stratifying, to form a greyish white blanket, which then hovered in the still morning air.

The lake itself was so calm, a perfect mirrored image of the scene was captured. I marvelled at the precise reflection against the dark water. A skimmer bird had taken off and a succession of rings of increasing size were all that were left to tell the bird had flown by, tipping its wings in the water to disturb the fish in hopes one would leap out ahead of it and fall victim to a waiting beak. In the distance, Mount Stagger was shrouded in a dark cloud. There was an orange glow permeating the cloud. It was a counterpoint to the beauty of nature. It had been there for so long. Men had climbed it, dragons had nested in the caves that flanked its slopes, snow had settled on its peak each winter.

That of all the mornings in all of history, this morning would be so perfect, stood in stark contrast to what was about to come. Again I was shaken from my wonder at the beauty of nature as my stomach churned unwillingly. I felt as though I was being squeezed by an ever thickening fear of what I knew would come next. If only they had listened. I felt angry at the thought. Indeed, had the people understood, had the Elders listened, we could have avoided the coming catastrophe. That I chose to remain despite everything, was a mystery even to me. I guess, in spite of all the obstacles, the hard-nosed, dogged stubbornness of the Elders, the endless preaching, only to have my message fall on deaf ears, I knew where I belonged and I belonged here.

I left the balcony and headed back to the bed where my wife lay sleeping. I had thought to wake her, but decided I did not want to. Instead, an insane thought came to me and at first I shrugged it off as lunacy. I left her there and headed downstairs to my children’s bedrooms. They were all likewise fast asleep. I stood for a moment at each of their doors, wondering how they would deal with the coming calamity. I was appalled that they should have to needlessly suffer as a result of the foolish pride of the Elders. Again I thought to wake them, but was stopped by another thought, one even more horrid than my earlier one.

There was a loud crack of what sounded like thunder in the distance, which rumbled and rolled for the best portion of a minute. I continued on down the spiral stone staircase and went into the servery. The servants were already up busily preparing for a day that would never come. I waited for them to be distracted and reached over for the large butcher’s knife and silently took it. I never envisioned a day when I would contemplate what I now told myself was the only sane, humane thing to do. I stepped quietly back up to the top floor where, thankfully, my wife still lay. I moved silently to the side of our bed. Do not hesitate, I told myself. ”If you are going to do a dreadful thing, do it quickly,” my mentor had once told me. I raised the large knife high above my head and steadied myself. In that moment all the memories, the fonder times we shared flooded into my mind and I had to shut them out. A warm tear fell down my cold cheek as the blood drained from an anguished face. There was another louder rumble and the ground heaved under me. The sky had now darkened outside. It has come. Do it now.  I searched for the place her heart was and without another moment’s hesitation, I thrust the knife down fast and hard. In that fraction of a second before death, her eyes opened for the briefest moment in time and found mine. Strangely, instead of a look of fear and confusion, I was met with a knowing resignation. I had not told my wife much about my knowledge. But she did know I had been to see the Elders on many occasions over the course of the season. In that moment it was clear to me she had known, she must have known. I told myself this as I left her still warm body and headed back down stairs.

My daughters, my lovely daughters, the youngest barely six and the eldest not yet eighteen. I took her life first, figuring rightly that if she wakened, she would struggle most and alarm the others. As I headed to her bed, the ground vibrated and shook more violently beneath my feet. I stopped and examined my daughter. She turned, but stayed asleep. I did not hesitate. I quickly ran over and stabbed her through the heart. Her eyes did not open. “A quick clean kill is kinder than a tortured death,” again I remember my mentor telling me when we were on the hunt and I was only thirteen. He had brought down a Dunthorn with a single arrow and quickly moved to cut the animal’s throat, almost severing its head. It was a quick death. I had learnt to do the same many times since.

In the next room the middle girl slept. As I went through the doorway I could smell sulphur. There was a loud hissing noise outside, coming from the lake. The ground heaved again and she stirred from slumber. I ran to her and put my hand upon her now opening eyes, bringing the blade down into her chest. When she was still again I left her and headed into the final bedroom. There was a commotion downstairs, followed by screaming. The ground heaved and vibrated violently, following an explosion outside. Bright orange light replaced the darkness that had now enveloped us and it was becoming difficult to breath. I quickly went in to find the youngest one sitting up in bed, clutching her doll and looking at me. Her eyes were wild with fear and she appeared frozen to her bed. I ran to her. “Hush child,” I said in an effort to calm my now-sobbing daughter, my baby. I held her to me and she threw her arms tight around my neck. I started to sing her favourite song, a song her mother had taught her and the two of us used to sing to her whenever she was frightened or lonely or upset. When she started to sing along through quivering lips, I brought the knife hard up inside her chest and relieved her of the pain to come.

I gently lay the child down upon her bed. The ground continued to vibrate beneath me. As I turned around the head maid was standing in the doorway, jaw gapping, with a look of horror on her face. “What have you done?” I did not answer her. In that moment, before I could decide what to do with her, the decision was made for me. I felt a sudden hot flush come over my whole body. As I stood there regarding the maid, she had a strange expression, before she burst into flames and then evaporated in front of me. I knew my time had come. I had done all that I could reasonably be expected under the circumstances. I had kept my family safe from harm and then, when necessary, had kept them from suffering pain as well. I had warned the Elders, had preached to the people. None listened. I had then resigned myself to our fate, to the fate of the villages, the continent, the world.

Now, at the end of all things, only one thing remained to do. As the heat became almost unbearable, I gave myself over to my fate and in one final, defiant act, I raised my arms, bloodied palms turned outwards and accepted my fate as a torrent of glowing hot magma poured into the room and in an instant it was over. A flash of pain such as I had never experienced and then nothing.

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