This story is by Mariam Khalifa and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Kamel and I march, hand in hand, across the dark sombre graveyard, towards our fateful encounter with the evil witch, Veronica. I swallow the dread of having to face my mother again. She has done nothing but cause me pain and suffering. She trained me in the arts of dark magic since my early childhood, ruining my innocence and filling my heart with darkness. And even after I was finally free of her grasp, she killed my husband- the father of my two boys. However, I’m not here for revenge. I would never allow the darkness back into my heart. Kamel and I are here to save the world.
“We can’t just barge in without a plan.” My hand tightens around Kamel’s.
“Sarah, my dear,” he holds my hand even tighter, awakening the butterflies in my stomach. “I’ve given you permission to read my mind anytime. So why haven’t you?”
I take a deep breath and allow his thoughts into my mind.
“No. No way. I won’t let you do it.” I shake my head.
“There’s no other way.”
“There has to be. You wanna protect me from the darkness but I won’t let you sacrifice yourself.” “I can handle it. And you’ll help me find my way back.”
“You don’t know what it’s like. I’ve been there. I know what killing does to your soul. I won’t let you use dark magic.”
“We may have no other choice.” His hazel eyes shine as he says, “I won’t let you kill her. It would shatter you and I may lose you forever.”
“I won’t let that happen to you either.”
“It’s not the same for me. She is not my mother. And I’ve never used dark magic before.”
The resolve in his mind is unshakable. His love for me has sealed his decision. But he doesn’t know what it’s like to lose yourself. The voices fill the mind, drowning your consciousness until you don’t exist anymore. I nod despite the sunken feeling in my stomach.
We resume our path, treading over the grass in between the graves. Kamel pulls me to a stop. A figure reveals itself in the dense fog. I’m about to unleash my telekinesis on Veronica when I notice another figure. I didn’t expect her to have accomplices.
“Something isn’t right,” Kamel says as he pulls one hand forward to cast a spell. Slowly, the fog lifts, revealing more and more dark figures. Cold sweat trickles down my neck. Did she assemble an army? The dense fog transforms into a thin mist, revealing an army of men and women- and children.
“What is this?” I gasp.
I can’t see Veronica anywhere. It’s too dark to make out the details of anyone. Kamel raises his hand upwards, casting another spell. Slowly, the clouds allow the moonlight in, lighting up the horror scene. Her army begins to take sluggish steps in our direction. An army with stained clothes and dirty skin and tangled hair; wobbling slowly forwards.
“But that’s impossible. No-one can raise the dead.” My eyes widen as I take a step backwards.
“She uses ancient dark magic that no-one knows of,” Kamel steps backwards as well.
We stand back to back as the dead army closes in.
“Their bodies are not decayed and the blood on their clothes is still red,” He points out.
She has just killed all these people…
Fresh kill, in a graveyard…
My head throbs with a sudden headache. The red dripping blood seeping out of a walking corpse catches my eyes, triggering a lost memory. Flashbacks of a night in a graveyard, fog, Veronica stabbing the innocent with her telekinesis. It was so horrific I must have passed out, and then forgot. But what did she want back then? And what does she want now? I can’t seem to remember.
My eyes dart from body to body, searching for Veronica. Suddenly, I glance at my clothes and my open palms. Another flashback: of little bloody palms and blood-stained clothes fills my mind. My eyes widen and I tremble. She made me kill someone. That’s why I fainted. That’s why I forgot. Then lost my soul to the darkness. Is this why she brought me here today? To remind me of what I had done…
“Veronica!” I scream.
That’s when she reveals herself. She has been invisible all this time- watching, waiting patiently for me to remember. Her lips curved into a smirk. I know what she wants. I know why she brought me here.
But Kamel doesn’t know. My eyes widen when he stretches out his arm and black veins spread across the white of his eyes.
“No…” I cry, racing towards him. My mind is frantic. How do I stop him from casting the death spell? This is her plan. It’s a trap. She wants one of us to kill her. This has to be some ancient dark magic we don’t know of. I have to stop Kamel from killing Veronica.
My arm is spread out before me as I cast my spell.
Take me and Veronica to a different world.
A parallel universe.
Where we can’t interfere with this one.
I need all the strength I can muster for this to work. If I’m not strong enough, Veronica would resist the spell. Do I draw on my anger at her? The pain she has caused me… No. I won’t use dark magic. I draw on my love for Kamel. My love for my sons. My love for my late husband. My love for this world and all its inhabitants.
To protect the ones I love, I banish myself along with Veronica from this world.
To another world where she can’t harm anyone…
But I can still see the ones I love.
The world slows down as I reach my hand towards Veronica. I need to touch her before Kamel casts his spell. Her lips curve into a sardonic smile. She thinks I’m going to kill her. It means she will surrender to my spell. Perfect. My fingertip touches her shoulder. Thunder cracks and lightning strikes the ground around us.
Kamel’s cry is the last thing I hear before the world is engulfed in white.
I open my heavy eyelids. The sensation returns to my limbs. I’m lying on a strange white floor. No. It’s not a floor. Everything around me is white. A neverending whiteness that spreads forever.
Where am I?
I get up, feeling strange. Actually, I feel nothing. No pain. No hunger. No thirst. No bodily sensations of any kind. I turn around to study the vast emptiness.
Where is Veronica?
A window opens where I see her lying on nothing, surrounded by whiteness as well. Even though we’re in the same place, I somehow know I can only see her through this window and that she’s not physically close by. She gets up slowly. Her eyes widen as she examines her surroundings. She frowns as she locks eyes with me.
“You fool,” her face contorts. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
I only blink. I know what I’ve done but I’m not sure I fully understand it.
“You’ve trapped us both here for eternity. You won’t be able to go back unless you bring me back with you,” she pauses. Her lips curve into a smirk. “What about your sons? And Kamel. I know you love him. Are you just gonna give up your whole life?”
“I won’t kill you. I won’t give in to the darkness.” I keep my voice steady.
“We’ll see,” her grin sends shivers down my spine.
As a strange hollowness settles in.
Will I ever see my sons again? And Kamel…
More windows appear all around me. I see living rooms, bedrooms, toilets… Some I recognize as my house. I find my two sons sleeping in their respective chambers. A moving figure in a different window catches my eye- It’s Kamel.
Is this his living room?
“Kamel,” I say.
“Oh my God, Sarah,” he approaches, wide-eyed.
“You can see me?” I raise my eyebrows.
“Yes and I can hear you,” he checks behind himself. “Why are you in my mirror?”
So these windows are mirrors…
“I banished myself and Veronica to- um, here.”
“No. why?” He gasps. His fingers stroke the mirror. “I’ll find a way to bring you back.”
“It’s impossible. I cast the spell. Only I can break it.”
“Then come back. I’ll kill Veronica.” He pleads.
“No. I won’t let you. That was her plan all along.”
“There has to be another way. We’ll find another way.”
Optimistic as ever…
“I’m sorry. It’s the only way.”
Tears swell in the back of my eyes as Kamel’s eyes glisten. His eyelids droop and the corners of his mouth bend downwards.
“Sarah, I love you. Please come back.”
Tears wet my cheek, “I’m sorry, Kamel.”
I guess being imprisoned with the one you dread most, and worlds apart from the ones you love, is the only way.