It was silent.
It was the type of silence that hung over a graveyard on a cloudy and gloomy day, when the sky is filled with fog and when dead flowers and leaves lay on the weathered gravestones.
It was the type of silence that meant the presence of death was near.
The young man drew in quick and shallow breaths with his back against a tree. Snow was falling heavily down on him. The cold, icy wind sent chills down his spine. He heard snow crunching and dead twigs snapping, which grew louder and louder by the seconds.
He sucked a lungful of cold air and swallowed a lump in his throat. The night sky seemed to grow darker as clouds covered the stars. His legs buckled. He felt so weak, as if all the energy in his body was being sucked out of him.
Well, that was exactly what was happening.
"I know you're here, Jack," a low, rough voice said, sounding more like a hungry wolf's growl rather than a human being. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack spotted black, shadowy tendrils flicking around the tree that he leaned against. The tree shriveled, rapidly withering within seconds. A mass amount of crumpled leaves fell off and fluttered to the ground. He jumped, and looked at the figure right in the eyes.
There was no sign of life in those eyes.
The murky, blue glow on his chest dimmed. He flicked his wrist and snow sprayed in all directions, creating a cover for him, even though he knew it was no use. The figure step through the geyser of snow. The geyser immediately stopped in mid air and toppled down to the ground. The figure lifted its hooded head and breathed in as streams of turquoise energy swarmed out from the fallen snow and into its body. The figure’s tendrils flickered it and marched onwards as the turquoise light faded away to pitch black and became one with the shadowy figure.
"There is nowhere to run," The figure said clearly, in an unnervingly calm tone.
Jack glanced at his surroundings that were filled with never-ending patches of white snow and pine trees. He grunted, summoning the icicles that snapped off the trees. Thrusting his hand towards the figure, he sent the sharp icicles zooming at the figure. The figure made no attempt to dodge. When the icicles collided, they plopped down to the ground. The figure looked down at the icicle and collected more of the turquoise energy that flowed around him. The figure absorbed the energy within, making the icicles melt away. Jack’s breath shuddered. His legs shook. Backing away, Jack clenched his fists and readied himself. He splayed his hand open and ice grew at the figure's feet. The figure tilted its head and looked down, watching the ice crystals eat it away. The ice grew on the figure and climbed onto its body, trapping him in ice from head to toe.
There was a moment of silence.
Jack sighed and stared at the ice statue. Still weary and cautious, he slowly crept towards the frozen figure as the glow on his chest changed to pastel blue.
CRACK. The statue burst and shards of ice flew everywhere. Jack yelped as the chunks of ice hit him, knocking him to the ground. The figure once again collected the turquoise glow from the ice, making Jack hack madly and hyperventilate.
His knees collapsed as the figure marched towards him. A tendril shot out from the figure. The dark tendrils twisted around his arm and zoomed at Jack, grabbing ahold of his limbs. He cried out as the black energy sank into his chest, spreading out through his body. A tendril snaked around an object on his chest, making a dirty grey overlay on glow on his chest. Jack gasped and his eyes shot wide open as the tendril sank into the glow.
The figure's face seemed to shift. It flickered and more darkness flowed towards the head. It morphed into a feminine head, the tendrils on the head splitting and forming a human face wearing a blank expression. Its body morphed into a human one.
"You are at stage one cancer," the illusion said, staring into Jack's eyes.
"No no no, I am NOT!" Jack cried, shaking his limbs violently, trying to free himself.
The illusion showed no emotion. "Yes. Yes you are. There is no denial in that."
"I CAN'T!" Jack screamed. "I WON'T!!!"
The illusion tilted its head. "You are feeling grief, aren't you?"
Jack snarled. The illusion nodded.
"I thought so. It is a perfectly normal and human reaction, really. Imagine your family. Your friends. I wonder what they will think when they realise you are being diagnosed with such a despicable disease? They will be heartbroken for sure — oh wait, I remembered something. They won’t care at all."
"STOP IT!" Jack sobbed. “I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!”
"Of course you do. I’m just stating the facts." The illusion said. "You seem unaware about the people around you."
"You won't help me!" Jack yelled, the glow growing darker and darker. "You'll just take me and CONTROL—"
"I wonder what your death will be like," the illusion interrupted. "Well, maybe no one will care. Your parents despise your attitude towards your education. Seriously. You can’t read or write or say complex sentences properly. What a useless, dumb, moron. Who knows, maybe your parents won’t mind that they’ll have one less mouth to feed."
Jack opened his mouth and said nothing. Questions gnawed at his brain. He panted hard. This was all his fault, wasn’t it? His heart fell. Who knew where all that arsenic came from. It was most likely his fault. The doctors have warned him and his parents but he didn’t listen. He didn’t want to. The hair tests were told to be inaccurate, weren’t they? The doctor said that — the doctor lied in his face. It was 100% accurate, but he was too daft and naive to listen. All the money used up for numerous tests and all he cared was about himself. This is his fault, and his parents would blame him, and his friends will hate him, and he will be all alone as his lungs rots away.
He sniffed. "It’s all my fault.”
The illusion nodded. "Nothing but a useless boy, wasting other people's time."
Jack's head sunk. The glow on his chest faded to a colour as dark as shadows.
The illusion smiled and flickered. "I can help you show them the truth. Show them that you’re… Worth something. Can you feel it? The feeling of hope and love wrapped around you like a warm blanket?"
Jack tilted his head and nodded slowly.
“Do you want to help me? To show your worth? That you’re not just another idiot?”
Jack nodded again.
The illusion flickered back to the figure. It stared at Jack’s chest, concentrating on the black glow. It lifted the glowing object out of Jack's shirt, revealing a pitch black crystal necklace. Suddenly, it flicked a tendril. A huge stream of black energy shot the crystal. Jack screamed as his body lunged, jolting with energy. An aura of turquoise light grew visible around Jack. It grew darker as the amulet filled with more dark energy.
The figure stopped abruptly when Jack's aura and amulet was pitch black. The figure released its tendrils. Jack fell and collapsed onto his knees. Drawing in deep breaths, he forced himself to stand up. The figure stared at him as he shakily rose to his feet.
Jack breathed heavily, looking at the figure in the eye. He blinked a couple times, slightly dazed.
When he regained his focus, his muscles relaxed.
"Please," he pleaded. "Take me. I don't want to be useless."
The figure looked down at him.
"I already have. But first, I need to ask you about the mission you were sent on here..."
Jack's eyes filled with anticipation.
"Where is the Destined Fifth?"
Jack trembled with excitement. "I can show you! I know exactly where she is! Well, sort of, but I'm sure we could find the Fifth! We have to hurry up though. They don't like it when we see the truth, so they'll send another one to get the Fifth."
The figure paused for a moment. He looked up at the snow falling to the ground, then back down at Jack.
"That shouldn't be a problem."