The first time it happens, Isa is convinced that Lea is playing a prank on him.
He eyes the figure coolly, unimpressed. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
Silence. The figure does nothing, only standing, only watching him.
Isa sighs. “Look—“
I’ve come to warn you.
The words falter in his mouth and Isa stops, uncertain. “What?”
Be careful, Isa. Don’t fall to the Darkness.
The figure blurs suddenly and colours as bright as the sun dance in his eyes. Isa’s ears are ringing, his mind is screaming in a thousand different voices, all at once. There is fire, flames as tall as the castle itself rise up all around him and—
Isa gasps. He is on the floor, his whole body shaking, his heart racing.
The room is empty.
The next day, he confronts Lea. “Yesterday wasn’t funny.”
“Tell me about it,” is his instant reply as Lea shoves his hands into his pockets. “Did she really have to get so upset about it? I mean, it was only a lizard.”
Isa blinks. Something in his chest turns deathly cold. “What are you talking about?”
“Science class.” When he registers the blank look on Isa’s face, Lea’s green eyes turn sharp, narrowing. “What are you talking about?”
He hesitates. As if on cue, the bell rings and the halls fill with people rushing to leave. As casually as he can, Isa turns away. “Nothing.”
“Hey!” Lea begins but Isa is already running, heart as cold and heavy as stone.
On that day, everything will be gone.
Isa doesn’t look up. Keeping his gaze determinedly fixed on his book, he asks, “What happens?”
The ghost doesn’t answer immediately. It paces his room, restless, as Isa continues pretending to read, waiting patiently. Finally, the not-so-there footsteps stop and the voice floats towards him. Darkness will come. Our home will fall to the Shadows.
Isa wrinkles his nose. “I don’t understand.”
The Darkness will come! It will come! Isa shivers as the ghost creeps closer, screaming in his face and sending goosebumps up and down his spine as it continues, voice escalating in panic. It will pour out of the castle and into the town and people will—
—die. Everywhere he looks, houses are on fire, flames licking the sky a fiery shade of orange. The streets are filled with screams as Shadows peel themselves of the walls, joining the sweeping Darkness as it relentlessly devours everything in its path. The air is thick with smoke, heavy with death.
Isa looks around, searching. Where? Where could he be?
The shadows grab at his legs and he cries out. They are trying to drag him down, into the Darkness and his chest burns, like a flame has been lit in the center of his heart. He struggles, trying to fend them off, trying to break free so he can find—
Isa squeezes his eyes shut and concentrates on breathing. His ears are ringing again, his body is still burning but he shakes his head, trying to focus.
He raises his head to face his friend – his friend who’s body is years older than he is now, who’s green eyes have turned grey in the hands of Death.
“Tell me what to do.”
The ghost of Lea shakes his head, already fading. Beware the King’s students. Beware those obsessed with power.
“Wait!” Isa says, desperation thickening his voice as he reaches out in a futile attempt to stop his friend from disappearing. “Tell me how to save you!”
But he’s too late. Lea is already gone.