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Paradise Regained

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Rey wanders through the in-between worlds, strolling through this odd place where everything is muted and bland. She cannot recall where she came from; she simply remembers waking up surrounded by many pools of water, each with their own destination, left with only her staff and a yearning to wander. Rey travels through some of the pools on occasion, but always finds herself coming back to this space—she didn’t know what it was that always pulls her back to this place tucked between the universe’s fabric. But it was something.

As she passes by a tree, the leaves begin to wither and fall away. A trail of dried leaves always follows her, functioning as constant companions.

Wandering through the in-between world always amuses her, even though she didn’t particularly like being there. The freedom of her walks, of her wandering, provides her with something she greatly cherishes. It feels odd though, empty with its vastness. At times she would run into other immortals, other celestial beings that belonged to one of the reflecting pools.

Like her, these celestials had no recollection of what had happened before they awoke in this muted space. They had all simply opened their eyes, feeling an urge to wander until they had found their pool, drawn towards their place of belonging with planetary magnetism. It had been a while since Rey had first opened her eyes; the increasing worry that she would not find her pool grew stronger with each passing day.

A horrid stench makes Rey stop dead in her tracks, the breeze bringing gustfulls of the foul smell into her nostrils. Part of her feels like she knows this scent, something about it achingly familiar and ancient. She knows it is something to be feared.

It takes all of her willpower not to vomit—she’s never smelled anything so rancid before. A panic begins in her chest, but the familiar weight of her staff reassures her. Rey presses forward, heading straight for the source of the smell.

Looking down, she notices black ooze. Crouching, some of her leaves end up within the black puddle. They disintegrate instantly. Rey stands, backing away from the onyx flow quickly. She is instantly alarmed—whatever is causing this stench, this discharge, it is a danger to everything that exists in the in-between world as well as to the worlds connected through the reflecting pools.

Stealing herself, her staff familiar within her grip, Rey heads towards the source. It is easy; a trail has been laid out for her through the black drops on the ground. She is careful not to step on them—after seeing what had happened to her leaves, Rey’s caution and wariness take over. Her fear is becoming louder and louder the closer she gets, the stronger the horrid smell becomes. Nonetheless she presses forward.

Agonizing screams rip through the brush of the very recently withered meadow. It is in the direction of the smell; the black puddles become larger and larger. There are sides and bits of grass missing, presumably disintegrated by the inky ooze.

As soon as she reaches the clearing where the smell is originating from it hits Rey why she recognizes the ebony discharge and is afraid of it. The smell is total death and decay; there is no room for rebirth after this fluid touches organic matter. Unlike her own powers, this ooze will truly kill that which it touches. She covers her mouth and nose, utterly horrified and incredibly saddened by the sight in front of her.

The creature is covered in the slimy liquid, wailing as if insane as it whips the black ooze all throughout the clearing. It appears humanoid, similar to her own appearance—she wonders what type of celestial this is. Rey has never seen anything like this during her decades of wandering before.

Cautiously she circles the creature, her staff ready to strike at any moment. Anyone who saw Rey’s silencing staff instantly knew who she was, what could be done to them if they had been touched.

The creature has not noticed her yet, its back towards her. Inching closer ever so quietly, Rey takes in the creature’s appearance. All of its body seems to be entirely made of the inky fluid, as if it was born of such a horrid thing. The smell is overwhelming, threatening to knock her unconscious with how foul it is. It’s taller than her, though not by much; two legs and two arms with one head—very similar to her indeed.

There, a sliver of sickly white against the overbearing darkness of the slime. It’s almost too small to be perceptible, but Rey’s quick and knowing eyes catch it and do not let it go. She snarls, her understanding of what is happening only barely outpaced by her growing fury.

She’s heard of these parasites, little worms that suck and twist the energy of celestials. Most often than not they result in death, leeching their hosts dry of everything they have to offer. Rey is unsure how long this parasite has been attached, but understanding what it is has only filled her with the resolve to free the celestial from this pain. The way it flails and beats at its head only confirms to Rey that it must be in excruciating agony.

Realizing it is time to make her move, Rey slowly stalks up behind the creature. Black ooze is still being dripped everywhere from its flailing—she effectively dodges most, and the ones she cannot miss she strikes away with her staff. It too has a similar power as the ebony discharge—anything that touches Rey’s silencing staff will result in total annihilation, no chance whatsoever for rebirth.

She knows these parasites to be intelligent, and knows she does not have much time to strike. Inhaling, centering herself, feeling her well of deadly power within her core, Rey lunges towards the creature’s neck. Her staff is raised, positioned and aimed for the little parasite. She needs to be careful; a wrong move will result in the death of the celestial.

Upon contact, Rey releases a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. The parasite instantly shrinks away from the celestial’s neck, falling and writhing on the ground as it fades into dust. The scattering of the wind disappears any and all traces of the disgusting worm.

The wailing does not stop, though it no longer sounds as monstrous as it once had. Looking up in the direction of the celestial, Rey sees a tall naked humanoid with dark wavy hair shaking violently. He holds his head tightly between his hands, his body racked with sobs.

“I don’t wanna die! I don’t wanna kill! I just wanna feel again!” His begging cuts through the meadow, the only sound besides their breathing and the gentle rustling of dried leaves.

Instinctually she drops to her knees in front of him, cupping his warm face with her cold hands. Rey is overwhelmed with the need to comfort this celestial, to help coax him back from the brink of insanity. Her hazel eyes find his golden brown; she offers a small smile.

The wailing stops, the sobs become less violent. Hot tears still spill over, but he is no longer screaming and writhing in torment.

“You’re okay now,” she whispers. Without explanation, Rey instinctively feels that hushed tones is what this celestial needs. She’s unsure as to why, but she is pulled towards him. Freshly bloomed flower petals begin to whirl around him. He smells of fresh grass and apricots, of spring.

Her thumb swipes away the tears that continue to fall. Their gaze never breaks, and they stay there for a long time. Rey swears she feels the hints of new life sprouting around her.

- * -

She learns quickly after that his name is Kylo. Shortly after he had first awoken, the parasite latched onto his neck and began the torment. He had been wandering, he said, following a pull in his chest that would hopefully lead him to his pool. That plan had been interrupted by the parasite, by the twisting of his power.

Kylo became Rey’s companion afterwards—at first she is nervous about him following her around, but soon grows to enjoy his company. At least her wandering will now be filled with the occasional conversation.

Flower petals follow him, along with the smell of fresh grass. It is wonderful to her, something crisp and vibrant in this dull in-between space. After a few weeks of wandering aimlessly, Kylo finally begins to show his power to her. She suspects he forgot what it was, by the look of sheer astonishment on his face.

It starts with a simple request: “Will you help teach me?”

The request at first flabbergasts her—Rey never taught any celestial anything, never even heard of such a thing before. But he stands in front of Rey, looking at her with warm brown eyes flecked with honey, and Rey finds herself drawn to him even more. Hesitantly, chewing on her bottom lip, she agrees.

Standing in a clearing with a reflecting pool so nearby, Rey looks at her new companion now turned apprentice.

“I’m not sure exactly how to do this, but for me, when I was learning my powers, I just cleared my mind. Close your eyes, concentrate on nothing but your own breathing,” she instructs.

Kylo does as he is told, his fingers flexing into fists as he steadies and calms himself. After a few inhales, Rey continues her teaching.

“For me, I feel something stir in my blood. I can’t quite explain it, but there’s like a—” she was saying before Kylo spoke in his deep baritone.

“It’s like a little pulse of electricity. I think I feel it too,” he says, the ghost of a smile on his lips. Rey’s heart flutters slightly at the sight.

She can’t help her own grin from forming, glad that this is going easier than expected. “Yes, exactly! Now chase that feeling, let it guide you.”

Kylo’s brow furrows in concentration, presumably doing as she said. Little green buds begin protruding from the ground beneath them, green quickly replacing the dried brown grass surrounding Rey. She gasps, surprised at how his power seems to perfectly balance her own. The pull towards him feels stronger in this moment.

And as quickly as it happened, it soon vanishes. Rey looks up from the ground, her gaze now focused on the trembling immortal before her. His eyes are still squeezed shut, but instead of calming breathes Kylo is inhaling rapidly, as if his lungs cannot hold air.

Rey begins stepping towards him, the pull she feels seemingly guiding her steps until she is right in front of him. Cupping his cheek, her free hand begins carding through his jet black waves.

“Kylo?” she questioningly whispers. When he remains silent, she inquires again. “What’s wrong, Kylo? Please talk to me, you know you can.”

Several moments of silence pass between them before his deep voice finally breaks it.

Inhaling deeply, he confesses, “I’m scared.”

For the second time in a matter of days, Rey is bewildered.

“What are you afraid of?”

At this, Kylo finally opens his eyes. The rich brown tinged with molten gold is shiny with unshed tears. His hands flex and unflex into fists, his long fingers digging into the soft flesh of his palms. Kylo looks equal parts enraged, hurt, and terrified. Rey has never seen such an expression; her vision blurs.

Inhaling another steady breath, Kylo speaks. “I’m scared I don’t know how to use my powers properly anymore. I’m scared that that thing killed whatever purpose I’m supposed to have.”

Rey immediately pulls him in closer to her shorter frame, both hands now carding through his hair. Her tears spill over before Kylo’s do.

“That disgusting worm stole the heart from inside you, took your name away from you Kylo. But that does not define you.

“That thing can’t corrupt a celestial, Kylo. You were under that thing’s horrible influence for who knows how many decades, but you survived it. I’ve never heard of such a feat before; you need to remember who you are, where you come from.

“From what I’ve seen of your powers, it looks like you bring new life to where there is none. That is such a beautiful thing, Kylo. Please don’t forget that. I can sympathize with your fear and anxiety, but please don’t forget what a beautiful power you have.”

She whispers all of this, her lips close to his ear. His body trembles, but his hands were no longer fists. Instead Kylo brings his arms up to wrap around her, pulling her as close to him as possible. Their embrace tightens, two immortals standing in a field of withered and newly sprouted grass and flowers.

- * -

He smells of gold, myrrh, apricots and peaches, the scent of spring clinging to him more vigorously now that the new bloom was due. While he loves this fresh scent, it does nothing to quell or subdue the growing anxiety Kylo is feeling.

If his natural scent is becoming stronger, it means one thing: the first day of spring is very, very near.

Kylo is off by himself, in a little corner of their woods he likes going to whenever he is faced with too many emotions. Ever since Rey freed his mind, they have been together. Kylo is drawn towards her, as if she is the center of gravity and he was in her orbit. She helps him rediscover his powers, helps him push past the fear into reclaiming what is rightfully his. Afterwards they finally find their own reflecting pool, finally find their home.

They soon realize they are paired celestials, twin beings with a purpose that necessitated both of them. Though not unheard of, paired celestials are a rare occurrence—it is their complementary powers that had alert them to their shared existence. For Kylo, the feeling of serenity that beckons him to Rey is all he needs to follow her, the immortal that carries with her the power to destroy all life.

The sun is shining down warmly on him, filtering down through the growing leaf buds. Closing his eyes, Kylo tilts his face up and inhales deeply. He so enjoys the smell of their woods. It is a mix of new life and old, a combination of birth and death.

He feels her presence as she sits next to him on the log. While it begin to rot immediately upon contact with her, Kylo makes sure it is growing back just as quickly. Rey pokes him, her contact sending a little shock through his body. How he relishes it, the very fact that it reminds him he is alive. He can feel things again, can use his power as it is meant to be used.

Her trails of dried leaves twirl lazily in a breeze before she speaks. “What’s bothering you? And before you say nothing, I know why you go to this particular spot in our woods.”

Kylo scowls, opening his eyes with his gaze still skyward. He doesn’t want to talk, to admit to his weakness, but something about Rey always makes him do things he knows he wouldn’t do around others.

But the scent of her, the way the air around Rey carries with it the smell of deeply relaxing sandalwood, olibanum, and ho wood oils, it makes Kylo give in to her. Having her so close to him, having her simply be around him, is enough to chase away Kylo’s nightmares and demons.

“I’m afraid of going, of being without you. I’m afraid I’m going to be lost without your guidance. I’m scared that whatever that...that thing did resulted in twisting and corrupting my power. I’m afraid I’m just really a monster.”

He can’t help but feel pathetic at his whispered confession. Kylo looks at the ground, avoiding eye contact as hot tears blur his vision. Some fall to the ground; little sprouts of green rise from where his tears fall.

Her arm goes around his middle as she leans into him; Rey kneads his back with her hand. Having her so close is almost intoxicating. Kylo isn’t sure if he is prepared to be without her for so long. Especially after being under the influence of a parasite that made him lose sense of himself.

“I understand why you’d be afraid after what happened to you.” Her hand continues to knead his back, soothing and calming his warm skin with her chilly fingertips. Rey’s free hand reaches for Kylo’s, intertwining their fingers together so as to be more connected to one another.

“But you have to remember that you come from light and hope, Kylo. You are nowhere near the creature that parasite twisted you into becoming. When I found you, after having killed that thing, you were so...lost. I knew instantly that whatever you had become while the parasite was leeching your power wasn’t the true you.

“Kylo, you’re going to be perfectly fine on your own when you bring the new spring. There was a time in your life where you didn’t have me—yet you still managed to be a beautiful, gentle soul.” Rey places a tender kiss on his exposed shoulder, her wintry lips causing him to shiver.

He turns to look at her, their eyes connecting. Kylo again feels that pull towards her, always drawn to her coolness that so perfectly balances his own warmth. Slowly he captures her lips with his own, a gentle yet passionate kiss shared between the two immortals.

With their foreheads touching and eyes closed, Rey begins to speak again. Her voice is melodic, weaving a spell of comfort and happiness around them both. Dried leaves and fresh flower petals begin to intertwine in the breeze, dancing and floating together.

“We’ll be together again, Kylo. When I come to collect you, to bring the rot that will allow for the new growth in the next spring. When I come to bring you home.

“One day, we’ll be pushing daisies. And one day soon, we’ll be together again. I promise.”