Dark Light

The Darkness Within

by Hana Hazem

It had been a few years since the Darkness started showing itself and taking over our lands. People were stealing, swearing, fighting, and all these things had never existed before. Most people were living in great poverty and would do anything, even murder, for just a slice of bread! Lying was a habit, and it was rare to know the truth. Everyone seemed to be in pain. It was no longer bearable, so I had to leave. I had no other choice but to let the Darkness take over my body, too.

It was a strong, powerful weapon, and he who controlled it, had the key to rule the universe. Still, there had to be a way to save my family and friends. I had to find out who controlled the Darkness and destroy them before the whole world rotted. But I was just a seventeen-year-old girl, so I had to get help from the one person who had most of the answers: the wizard.

Ever since I was a little child, I’d heard plenty of legends, stories, and myths about a wizard who lived in a cave buried deep inside the woods and enchanted in a way that only those who seek his help could see. To be honest, I NEVER had the pleasure of meeting him nor had I ever actually believed in him, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Before I took off into the woods, I found a map under my grandfather’s bed. Not the best hiding place, but hey, who am I to complain?

I put the map in my backpack, which also included two bottles of water, a flashlight, matches, a bag of marshmallows, a blanket, and three peanut butter sandwiches. I know what you’re probably thinking, “She’s going on a dangerous quest to find the wizard and defeat the Master of Darkness and she brings marshmallows?!” To that, my friends, I can only answer, “Yes; yes, I do.”

As I reached the outskirts of the forest, I looked behind me, taking in one last glance of my home, my family, and all my loved ones. No one was safe anymore. With a sigh of grief and sadness, I entered the forest hoping to come back with the solution that would rid them of all Darkness.

As I walked farther into the forest, the sounds of my homeland became distant, and all that I could hear was the crackling of leaves under my feet and the winter breeze blowing through the leaves. It was still noon, so I could see the map and navigate my way clearly. Well, as clear as a map of a forest can get. All the trees looked the same, brown trunks and green leaves. A huge maze. I immediately started questioning my mission, but I couldn’t go back so I might as well try. If I died here, at least I wouldn’t have died a quitter.

It was dark now and the voices of owls and the shadows of bats didn’t help decrease the eerie sensation, so I took out my flashlight and started looking for a place to sleep. The ground was muddy from yesterday’s storm, and it took me a while to find a tree with a branch thick enough to sleep on. I was exhausted, freezing, and hungry so I laid a fire, got out a peanut butter sandwich, and sat under my blanket on my branch. It didn’t seem like a good idea to sleep in the woods with all this great company and the very uncomfortable bed, but since there weren’t any five-star hotels in view, it just had to do.

I dreamt of Darkness. It was pitch black, and I could see nothing. I had no idea where I was or what lay ahead of me. But I had a feeling that I was completely and utterly alone. I looked down at my body to find a glowing white light suddenly radiating from my body. I was already terrified at the thought that the Darkness had conquered all, but finding myself glowing startled me even more. I was a human flashlight! I kept walking in what seemed to be a long, endless tunnel for hours and couldn’t find a way out.

I began panicking, running down the tunnel, and hitting the walls. I was afraid. Maybe that was it! The Darkness was my fear: fear of being alone and hopeless; fear of getting trapped; fear of the world ending in one color, black.

I had to get out; my fear was only getting stronger and the light from my body was fading, but how? I sat down on the ground hoping I’d cook up a plan to get me out of this place. Wait, this was a dream; I could just wake myself up. I pinched, bit, and slapped myself, yet I stayed put in my place only causing myself pain. If I couldn’t wake up then I had to find a solution and quick. This wasn’t just a dream anymore.

I pondered until I finally got an idea. This place was built of my fear which meant that the only way out was to overcome those fears. Or so I hoped. I focused on each of my fears and tried to overcome one by one. First, I thought about how I was never alone as I always had God beside me and had my family and friends. Second, I thought about having God by my side a little more and came to the conclusion that there is always hope since He is with me. Since life is a rollercoaster there always had to be a time when it was going up, so why should I drag myself down on purpose.

I looked around; something was forming at the end of the tunnel. An opening! A spark of light emerged into view. My plan was working. I felt stronger now, more determined. Suddenly I found myself not afraid of being trapped anymore since I had found my way out. The crack got bigger, but still not big enough.

Now I had one more fear I had to face; the world ending in Darkness. This was my deepest fear, and I had no idea how I could get over it! Right then, a scene passed through my mind. I was standing with the wizard—at least I thought he was a wizard from the wand in his hand—with a sword so bright that it seemed to cut through the Darkness. I had no idea where the scene came from and why, but I began to feel less scared. This scene gave me hope that my quest could work. It gave me hope that I would find a way to face my fear and defeat it.

I was still terrified, but not as much as I had been. To my surprise being less scared seemed to do the trick just as well. The crack grew big enough to allow me to pass through. I ran. The crack was closer now, only a few seconds and I would be out. The tunnel was now filled with light so I saw my way clearly. Just before I went out I stopped. I looked back at the tunnel to see where I had been. The walls were black, and I could sense something weird about the place.

I focused more and found some figures and shapes forming then immediately fading away. The images faded quickly, but I formed a clear picture in my head as soon as they popped up. One was a picture of an alligator eating a little boy with only one leg left and blood floating everywhere. Another showed a plane crashing into the mountains. All of the images were horrid, and I couldn’t bear to see anymore so I headed back to my exit.

As I passed through the door I realized that those too must be fears. Maybe not mine but of all others on the planet! As soon as I finally crossed the exit, I woke up. My first thought: I wish I hadn’t.

I was no longer able to move from my branch. Quickly looking down at my body I realized why. I had been tied up, but by whom? For all I knew, these woods are not a place where humans normally dared to go, let alone live.

Just then three extremely muscular creatures appeared next to me, and one of them, clearly the leader, was holding an axe. I had no idea what they were, and I really wasn’t interested in finding out. They had the same size and shape of an extremely athletic human being, but their ears looked like a ring that started at their necks and ended on the top of their heads. The other two weren’t as intimidating. They were scary yes, but didn’t look as much as a challenge as their leader. One of them wore khaki shorts and an oversized orange polo shirt. The other wore jeans and a plain white T-shirt. Neither held a weapon, but looking at all the muscles I have, they won’t need any. Just looking at them made me positive that they weren’t to be messed with under any circumstances.

“Look mates, the princess finally awakes,” said the leader sarcastically.

“You are quite a heavy sleeper aren’t you?” asked the man in jeans. “We’ve been waiting here from six till two.”

It was two! I hadn’t realized I’d slept that long. I had to get back to my quest. It wasn’t the time for enemies, and I was not planning on dying now so I might as well stall. Maybe they would let me go.

“Who and what are you? What do you want? I haven’t done anything!” I stated as confidently as I could.

“Well, we are us, we want you, and you came into the forest which is something you do,” the one in khaki shorts said.

“Well, that explains pretty much nothing!” I murmured thinking of how they were talking. It almost seemed like they could only talk in rhymes. It was very strange, as if they were under some sort of spell.

“We have nothing to explain, you are now ours, and in our stomachs you will soon stay,” explained the leader.

No one was safe anymore.

“Why would you want to eat me anyway? I am thin and useless to this world. I won’t fill much of an appetite.” I said showing them how weak I was by not being able to lift up my hands. “Plus, I saw some very fat and delicious-looking animals on my way here.”

They looked at each other nervously probably thinking about what I was saying, then said in unison, “We must find food, or else we die; if we let you go, we’ll have no human pie!”

So they are planning on making me a human pie…just wonderful!

“What are you?” I repeated buying myself some time.

“We are shapeshifters, you see,” the leader explained, “Whatever I seize to look like, into its shape I’ll be.”

“We are found everywhere mostly in human form,” continued the one in jeans, “You might recognize us, but you never seem to do; you say the people have changed when really, it’s us just playing with you.”

“Huh,” I said, “Why are you talking in rhymes?”

“For trying to eat him, the wizard has cursed all of us three, and till now, we couldn’t break from the spell free,” the one in khaki shorts told me. “Now stop talking and asking; you talk too much, it’s been a while since we last had a meal as such.”

It was over, I thought to myself. There was nothing else left that I could say or do in order to stop them from killing me. The leader aimed his axe at my neck and I instantly closed my eyes. Suddenly, I heard someone falling followed by fighting.

I opened my eyes slowly and turned my head, confused, wondering what had happened. The leader and his axe lay still on the floor and there was a guy fighting the other two. He was young, nineteen years old maximum; he had dark hair and a fringe that swept across his face as he fought revealing his sky-blue eyes. He had tanned skin and looked rugged. His eyes shone with bravery and pureness like no other I’d ever seen.

After a while of skirmishing and changing forms, the two other shapeshifters fled carrying their leader with them. I stayed put staring in awe as this mysterious boy untied me.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

I nodded, “Thanks.”

“That was nothing, really. These guys are always after a good supper, but I think they learned their lesson,” he smiled.

“I’m Amanda,” I said, extending a hand, “and you are…?”

“I’m Adam,” he answered, shaking my hand.

I grabbed my backpack, flung it over my shoulder and sat down next to Adam on the branch I had been tied to a few minutes ago.

“So where are we heading?” Adam asked me.

“We?”

“Well, I can tell you’ve only been here for a day or two by looking at your clothes; and seeing the situation you were just in, I can tell that you need me,” he remarked, “so…may I join you on your journey through the woods?”

I considered his offer for a beat. I mean should I really tell him about my quest, about the Darkness, about everything? What if he was already under the Darkness’s command, then what? But no, he didn’t seem at all dark. He seemed pure and honest. If he had been engaged with the Master of Darkness, he wouldn’t have saved my life and untied me from my branch. In addition to that, if anything else was to happen to me, he would be able to protect me and I wouldn’t feel as lonely with him around. Still, he might hear my plan, think I was crazy, and leave, but I was tremendously tempted to take up his offer, and so I did.

“Sure, why not?” I told him.

“Great! So why are you here anyway?” he asked.

“Let’s see, I am on a quest to find the wizard so he can help me defeat the Master of Darkness before he takes over the world. It got dark, and I decided to sleep. I was woken up by these rhyming shapeshifters that you had the pleasure of terrifying before they made me into a human pie. And for that, I thank you again.” I was scared he’d back out of it now that he knew what I was up to.

“Once again, it was my pleasure beating those monsters for you,” he said.

“So you’re still on board even after hearing my plan?” I felt relieved but tried to hide it.

“Why wouldn’t I be? I’m all for adventures!” His tone was eager and full of anticipation.

“Fantastic! Then let’s get going.” And, with that, we were gone.

It was almost four p.m. by now and we still had a long way to go. Lucky for Adam, he had less trouble navigating the map than I did, so he led the way.

“Tell me about yourself?” I said.

“What do you wanna know?”

Adam always seemed to be smiling, and his look was ever so friendly. I instantly felt like he would be someone whom I could trust and rely on. I hadn’t felt anyone was trustworthy in a long time. For a while now, I’d felt like the Darkness controlled everyone, but looking at him now gave me hope.

Maybe there was a chance there were more people who hadn’t been taken over yet and who remained as goodhearted as they naturally were. Maybe there were more people like, well, him.

“Anything,” I responded, “Family, friends, school, hobbies…”

“Anything? More like everything.” he snickered. I laughed back, “We have the time don’t we?” He took a look at my bag then asked, “Do you have snacks?”

“Will marshmallows do?” I asked.

Maybe he wasn’t fond of talking about his life, so I didn’t push him. He’d probably tell me when the time felt right. There’s nothing suspicious about that, right?

“Marshmallows would be perfect,” he answered.

It was now eight p.m. and we were both famished and exhausted so we decided to call it a night. We found a clearing where the ground was almost mud-free and set up a campsite. Adam made the fire as I looked for some clean twigs to roast the marshmallows. The moment I came back, Adam was gone.

I couldn’t believe it! I had only been gone for like ten minutes, and he used the time to escape. I sat down thinking maybe I was wrong and overreacting. He could’ve gone for a walk or to use the bathroom. I mean, people always do these things so it’s perfectly normal for someone to disappear for a while.

I sat there waiting for him to come prove my first theory wrong. It wasn’t logical that he would build the fire, leave all my stuff, then just vanish, was it? No, it wasn’t! Ten minutes passed…then twenty…then twenty-five.

He wasn’t coming. I was alone again. I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I hated the thought of being left, and I definitely hated the fact that I actually thought he could’ve stayed and helped me! I sat on my blanket next to the fire, placed my head between my knees and cried.

“Amanda?” asked a concerned voice from behind me, “Why are you crying?”

I looked to where the voice was coming from, and to my surprise, it was Adam. He was carrying two big logs that he now placed on the ground and came and stood next to me.

“What happened?” he repeated sounding even more worried.

“I was just feeling a little homesick that’s all,” I lied, “Where were you?”

Just as I recalled what I had said I remembered how I lied and was dying inside. The Darkness was taking over! I was OK with lying and it felt terrible. I was becoming what I was trying to prevent, and it scared the hell out of me!

“Oh, I was just bringing us some logs to sit on. Sorry if I worried you. I seriously thought I’d be back in a minute or two. Who knew finding logs here was that tough?”

“I thought you had left,” I admitted.

“Was that the reason you were crying?”

He wasn’t even making fun of me. He was saying it with so much understanding and so much care that it was just unbelievable. How could he be that kind and thoughtful? I almost wanted to hit myself for believing he’d ever do something as rude as leaving me without any reason or explanation whatsoever.

I nodded. I was not going to deal with the guilt of lying again.

He placed the logs near the fire then gestured for me to come over. I got the bag of marshmallows, the twigs, and sat beside him.

“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” he whispered in my ear, and then added, “I do not have relatives, but I’d like to consider every person I encounter as one. The people I meet who are actually pleasant and warmhearted,” he paused, “like you, are the ones I also consider friends. I love traveling and going on adventures. You might think I am lying because not many guys my age are really into that stuff, but in my free time, I am fond of helping the poor and working in soup kitchens. How about you?”

I was a little confused at first, like what was he talking about? A moment later, I realized that he was answering the questions I had asked him earlier today. Perhaps not having a family is what made him a little edgy about the topic, but he seemed extremely calm when he said it. I supposed that meant he was OK and didn’t need a helpless, “I’m sorry,” from me. I knew how he felt; my dad died at war five years ago, and I hated it whenever people showed pity or thought about how unlucky I was. It made me feel worse by making me think how hard it was all over again. Their sympathy wasn’t really gonna do anything but remind me of the past. Still, I always thought they were just trying to comfort me, and it was the thought that counted.

“Let’s see,” I began, “First of all, thank you for saying I am one of your friends, as I consider you as one, too. I live in an apartment with my mother and grandfather who are now under the Darkness’ control. Other than you, of course, I have two best friends back home; Hanna and Penelope. I am a huge fan of singing, not that my voice is that great, and in my free time I’m usually watching TV or listening to music. By the way, I believe what you said, and I think it’s truly amazing that you…”

“Your marshmallows are melting!” he warned.

I looked at my marshmallows and he was right. I swiftly pulled the twig out of the fire and put one marshmallow in my mouth which was a really dumb move.

“H…h…hot, hot,” I shrieked. The marshmallow was burning my mouth and I rapidly swallowed it feeling that it would decrease the pain. It was now burning my throat. Thankfully, Adam handed me a glass of water that almost immediately put out the burning in my throat.

“I think I’m going to sleep now,” I managed to say after my tongue was no longer smoldering.

“Good night,” he said.

“Good night,” I answered.

I woke up the next morning at nine a.m. to find that Adam was already up and making us breakfast.

“Morning, sunshine,” he said when he saw me approaching.

“Whatcha making?” I asked.

The Darkness was my fear: fear
of being alone and hopeless,
fear of getting trapped, fear of
the world ending in one color,
black.

“I woke up a few hours ago and went to see what kind of food these trees offer. I didn’t find much, only apples, bananas, and oranges, but at least it’s food. So I am making us orange juice inside of cups made of apples! I had a Swiss army knife so I used it to cut the apple cores to shape them like cups. We can save the bananas for later. See how bored I get when you’re asleep,” he joked.

I laughed, “Sounds delicious!” And they were.

After we drank our juice and ate the cups, we were ready to get back to our journey. I put on my backpack, and we were back on track.

“How far are we?” I asked Adam.

“We are actually pretty close. I’d give us one more day tops.”

He was always so optimistic, and at a time like this, I couldn’t ask for more!

“We just have to walk until we reach that cave there,” he pointed to a cave drawn on the map, “where we can probably spend the night since the forest only seems to get colder and more dangerous as we get deeper into it. Then, when morning comes we’ll have to walk to the river, cross the bridge, walk for about two miles and we’ll be there!”

“God forbid anything unfortunate happens on the way,” I whispered to myself.

I had no idea walking in the woods could get this tough. The trees became so dense that they were literally all connected to each other. If we wanted to get through, we had to climb the trees to the other side. Adam and I stopped in front of the trees and just stood there staring in awe. The trees were gigantic, almost like a gate to protect from invasions.

“What will we do now?” I asked miserably.

“Climb,” Adam answered.

We started climbing, but it wasn’t easy; some trees had thorns, others were filled with beehives and insects. Whoever was in that cave just across was either imprisoned or seriously wanted extreme solitude and protection. We had been climbing for half an hour now and still couldn’t find our way around the trees. Whenever we climbed to the other side of the tree in order to jump another one stood in the way.

“How in the world will we get to the other side? These trees are infinite!” I exclaimed in exhaustion.

“I don’t know, but there has to be a way. Nothing is infinite,” he said confidently, which reassured me.

“Right now, I truly wish I had wings, then I’d fly above the trees and land safely on the other side.

“You do have wings. Probably not in the way you imagine but metaphorically. You fly in order to reach your goals, like you’re doing now. That’s one way of looking at it,” he smiled showing his pearly white teeth.

That was the great thing about having Adam; he never lost hope and was always giving off positive energy. Lost in thought, I felt the tree branch break and sank into unconsciousness while falling. Before completely blacking out I could’ve sworn I saw Adam with wings. Since I wasn’t in fact thinking straight or focused I was most probably hallucinating.

I woke up to find that it was dark. I was someplace strange and there was a fire lit next to me with my blanket wrapped around my body. Adam was sitting next to me, and as soon as he saw me opening my eyes, he yelled in relief, “Thank God you’re all right!”

I sat up straight, “Where are we?”

“In the cave.”

“How in the world did we get here?”

“Well, you fell pretty badly, but luckily, nothing was broken. Anyway, when you fell, I discovered a path that I carried you through until we reached the cave.”

The story and the way he told it seemed extremely truthful yet thoughts of flying kept coming into my head. I must have been dreaming about what he had told me before I fell. It was either that or I was seeing things.

“You carried me?”

“Yes, I was just trying to help. I’m sorry if it bothers you.”

“No, not at all, thank you. It was a very nice thing of you to do. In fact, I am sorry for not watching my step and having you go through all that trouble for me.”

“No need for apologies or thanks whatsoever; I just did what any decent person would do for a dear friend.”

“I couldn’t look for food as I was afraid to leave you, so I was wondering if you still had the bananas from the morning.” He was so polite, like he didn’t even mind having to babysit me while starving; he did not even sound like he was blaming me.

“Oh, yeah. They’re in my bag. Would you mind grabbing it for me?”

“Certainly.”

He fetched my bag, and as I gave him a banana, I saw something else underneath them; peanut butter sandwiches. I totally forgot I had even brought these to begin with. I handed Adam one and ate the other.

“Thanks,” he replied as I handed him the sandwich.

“May I please have your Swiss army knife?” I asked.

“What for?” His tone was slightly displeased, “I only got it in order to cut ropes or food, you know, stuff like that.

“And that’s exactly what I’m going to use it for.”

He looked puzzled, so I explained what I was about to do, “I’m going to cut the banana in slices which I will then place in my sandwich. It’s really scrumptious; you should try it.”

“Oh, OK then, here you go.” He handed me the knife, and I made my peanut butter and banana sandwich.

“Are you gonna try it?” I asked.

“Only if you insist.” He took the knife and imitated exactly what I had done.

“So what do you think?” I was eager to know if he’d liked what I’d shown him.

“Yummy.”

I was so glad he liked it, because if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have eaten anything until we found more food tomorrow. We finished our meal quickly and were now seated next to the warmth of the fire.

Since the ground was uncomfortable, we both sat on my blanket. It wasn’t a massive change, but it was an improvement.

“Don’t you think it’s strange?” I thought aloud mostly to interrupt the silence.

“What is?” he asked curiously.

“How fire can keep you warm if you keep your distance, yet if you get closer, it can burn you up completely.” If I had been with any other guy I would’ve contemplated a lot before actually asking such a question, but this was Adam, and he would understand and answer me.

“Maybe it likes its privacy?” Adam joked. Or maybe he wouldn’t and would make a joke out of it!

“No, I’m serious!” I couldn’t help but laugh, though.

“It’s like how water is a necessity that people can’t live without. Still it drowns and kills, if you stay in it for too long.”

“Perhaps God is telling us something; almost everything has its positives and its negatives. If you get greedy or incautious you meet the negatives. If you get greedy for warmth, you’ll end up burnt. Kind of like karma, what goes around comes around,” he explained. Now this was the Adam I knew.

“I’m impressed.” He had answered my question with an answer so wise and perfect that I was almost speechless. I loved how he observed and thought about life. Yet one thing especially caught my attention in his explanation.

“What do you mean by ‘almost everything?’ Nothing or no one is perfect. Not speaking about God, of course.”

“One thing: angels.”

For some reason the word struck me like an arrow, like it should remind me of something or perhaps someone. But believe me when I tell you, no one I’ve met was even near perfect. I contemplated what he had said as we sat in silence for a few minutes. He was absolutely right! Angels were the only creatures God had created who knew of no evil and did as they were ordered with absolute satisfaction since they knew no other options. God created them using only light and that was the one thing they knew most.

“You are completely and utterly correct! Still, the devil was once an angel,” I exclaimed after I’d thought about it just to make a point.

Adam didn’t reply. He still smiled but it seemed like my answer had affronted him, but I didn’t know why. Was it because I argued with something he had said?

We slept as soon as the conversation ended, and this time, I dreamt of angels. They were everywhere, all dressed in white and all with spectacular white wings spread behind them. They all wore smiles and seemed free and delightful. They were just talking and flying around. No one seemed to notice me at first, but as soon as they did a huge crowd of angels flew my way. In seconds, I was surrounded by angels that wouldn’t stop asking questions.

“I love your outfit!” one of them exclaimed.

“So do I, but I think it’ll look even better in white,” said another and everyone murmured in agreement.

Before I could even reply to their comments, I was awakened by the sunlight shining brightly. I opened my eyes and scanned my surroundings.

The cave looked so different in the morning than it had at night! To my surprise there were mirrors, lots of them. Adam was still asleep so I walked inaudibly to the mirrors, and man, did I look terrible. I hadn’t brushed my hair or showered in three days, and it showed. My hair was flying everywhere, and my clothes were turning brown from all the dust. How in the world did Adam stand the sight of me without making even the slightest comment?

“I look dreadful,” I thought aloud.

“No sweetie, you’re as beautiful as ever.” The voice was mine but it wasn’t coming out of my mouth! I looked at the mirror and found that my reflection had been split into two, and one of them was talking.

“What?!”

The mouths in the reflection mimicked mine and so did their movements. I thought I was hallucinating or something.

“I have to wake up Adam!” I said to myself.

“No, leave him to rest,” said the reflection on my right.

“No, wake him up; he has had enough sleep,” objected the one to the left.

It was so strange because they were saying my thoughts out loud. You know how whenever you are going to do anything you hear a voice telling you to do it and the other not to? That was the case here; both voices were mine, both were me, but they were split. It was like I literally had two personalities and both were now in front of me, separate. Unbelievable!

“I know, right?” They both replied in unison but the questions kept spinning in my mind: how, what, who…everything.

“I am you,” said Right Amanda.

“And I am your soul,” said Left Amanda.

“My soul?” I was more confused than ever.

“Yes, I’m like a person separate from you, inside of you,” she (or I) replied. This was really bewildering!

“That’s why you always have second thoughts… cuz I’m there.”

I backed away from the mirror. Dazed from what I’d seen and heard, I tripped and fell. Adam woke up startled, “What happened?”

“Sorry, I just tripped.”

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t want any more sleep anyway.”

“Did you see these mirrors yesterday? They look like they suddenly appeared.”

“You never know, anything is possible.” He went and stood in front of the mirror, and to my amazement, he only had one reflection!

“How many reflections do you see?” I asked him, just to make sure.

“One,” he replied.

That meant one of two things, either I was crazy and must’ve been imagining the past few minutes of talking to my reflection (or reflections) or Adam’s soul and self were unified completely in one. I personally believed the first one, but liked to think it was the second just so that I didn’t seem that crazy.

“We don’t have any food?” I asked Adam.

“Nope, but I can go out to search for some if you want.”

“No need we can just get moving and eat what we find on the way.”

“Sounds great. Let’s go.”

We headed out of the freaky-mirror-funhouse cave and headed to the river. It started drizzling half an hour later, and I hoped we could get back to the cave even though it gave me the creeps.

“We have to find a place to stay until the rain stops,” Adam warned.

As if on cue, it started raining cats and dogs! We ran hurriedly under the closest tree, but we couldn’t stay there for long because the leaves kept dripping water on us. It was glacial so I took out my blanket and covered myself. Adam didn’t seem to be cold and my blanket wasn’t big enough to share, so I didn’t know what I could do. My teeth were now chattering, my clothes were soaked, and I couldn’t feel my legs from the freezing weather.

“We need to get you somewhere warm,” Adam shouted over the noise of the pouring rain.

I couldn’t argue, I was already famished and tired and I was getting used to that, but being frozen half to death as well, I wasn’t sure I could handle that. I just nodded and tried to stand up, but fell.

Something was wrong with my legs! They had become so numb that I couldn’t even stand on them. That was just great! I hated looking weak, frail, and helpless in front of anyone and this was the third time I’d looked that way in front of Adam this week!

“I could just carry you,” Adam suggested.

“No, it’s okay. We can just stay here until the rain stops.” I couldn’t bear the thought of having him carry me again just because I felt so scrawny.

The rain was increasing and the tree wasn’t doing a good job at keeping us dry. We had to get away from the tree, quick, or else we’d be soaked from the showers of water falling from above.

“We have to get out of here! You can’t even stand up; if you get more drenched who knows what more could happen to you,” Adam pointed out.

“Okay, but we’ll still get wet if we walk in the rain,” I told him.

“Not if you’re under your blanket, you won’t.”

Before I could even try to stand up, he picked me up. “Put the blanket over your head,” he said as he started sprinting to find someplace dry.

He was exceptionally fast! Even carrying me didn’t seem to slow his pace. I swear he was just like Superman: always with a solution, saving my life, so optimistic and modest. He was too good to be true. He finally stopped. I lifted my blanket off my head as he cautiously placed me on the ground. We were now sitting under this gigantic arc-shaped tree. Its leaves were so huge that I doubted that the rain could reach us. The rain was slowly ending, and I could hear it becoming lighter and lighter. It was now dusk, but I had a clear view of what lay ahead. 

“There’s the river,” I told Adam.

“Yeah,” he agreed, “We are so close.”

I didn’t want to waste any time. “It’s almost stopped raining; do you want to get moving?” I asked.

“OK,” And with that, he started moving, and then stopped, “Can you walk?”

“Yup,” I stood up.

The river was close; a three-minute walk, and we were there. The rain had stopped, and the moon was coming out of hiding and shining with brilliant light. Now all we had to do was cross the river to reach the wizard’s cave. The plan seemed simple enough, but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be that effortless.

“How in the world are we supposed to get to the other side?” I asked. “We are never going to pass it, are we? After all this effort, we’ll fail because of this…”

“Calm down, calm down,” he interrupted in his soothing voice. “We are going to get to the other side.”

”How?” I had no idea how he could still have any hope left! I was worn-out and ravenous, and it seemed like every time we took one step forward something just had to come up and send us two steps backward.

Just then Adam pointed to his right, “We could always just take the bridge over there.”

“Oh,” I felt foolish for overreacting and for not have seeing it, but I wasn’t gonna show it so I just walked towards it. “Are you coming?”

“Race you there?” he suggested.

“No way, I’m too exhausted,” I complained.

“Come on,” he pleaded, “We’ll lighten up the mood, and we will reach there faster.”

“Fine,” I said as I set out running.

“Hey!” Adam protested as he got closer to me.

I had forgotten how fast he was, and even though I had started before him, he was ahead of me. To sum up the race; Adam won, I’m sure you’re all very surprised.

“You…are…fast,” I told him, catching my breath.

“Thanks,” he replied.

We crossed the bridge and sat under an apple tree for a quick snack. Adam fetched the apples, cleaned them in the river, and then handed me one. Given that I hadn’t eaten anything since morning, each bite tasted like a tiny piece of heaven. Without the busy city lights and buildings, the stars were crystal clear and their reflection on the river gave a picture-perfect view. The trees had many thick branches which gave me a miraculous idea.

“Why don’t we climb the tree?” I asked Adam.

“What?” he inquired clearly surprised.

“I mean, the view is breathtaking, and the trees are easy to climb, so why don’t we get an even better view from up there?” I thought I was pretty convincing.

“The view is remarkable,” he agreed. I started climbing, “Coming or not?” I asked him.

“Be right up,” he answered.

We sat there next to each other staring at the black sky, and naming different constellations. I placed my head on Adam’s legs and lay down, drinking in nature’s aroma and breathing in the chilly winter breeze. It was the safest I’d felt for as long as I could remember. I never wanted this moment to end; I was on a tree branch, next to one of the most astonishing guys I’d ever met, and we are just enjoying God’s creations. I had forgotten the quest, the Darkness, and anything that kept my mind unclear…for now.

“How about we spend the night here?” I suggested.

“Are you sure? If we move now we might reach the wizard just before midnight,” he replied.

“It’s just so beautiful, I can’t bear leaving,” I argued.

“Very well, but I have one condition,” he said.

“Which is…” I asked curiously.

“We don’t sleep until either we get bored of the view, or until we faint from exhaustion,” he told me.

“Deal,” I smiled, “until we faint from exhaustion it is.”

We shook hands then stayed up for a couple more hours laughing, telling stories, and joking around a bit. After the two of us couldn’t keep our eyes open, we decided to climb down the tree and sleep.

Daylight came, with the chirps of the birds in the morning breeze. I usually wasn’t a morning person, but today I totally felt like one. I couldn’t help but notice how the view was just as wonderful first thing in the morning; the sun was up and was reflecting on the river. I took an apple from the tree and ate it while waiting for Adam to wake up.

“Hey,” Adam said rubbing his eyes as he looked up to see me.

“Hey, want an apple?” I threw him an apple, which he caught and ate.

“Are you ready to go find a wizard?” he asked.

“Not ready to give up the view,” I said, “but let’s go.”

I climbed down the tree, and we headed to the wizard’s cave. It was now about eight a.m., so hopefully we could reach the wizard before dusk and then finally go home to vanquish the Darkness.

“Huh,” Adam sighed in confusion.

“What’s the matter?” I inquired.

“According to the map, we have arrived but no cave seems to be in view,” he explained.

I looked at the map, and he was right; the cave was supposed to be right next to us but nothing was there! It just had to be here, I did not come all this way for nothing. An idea came to my mind; it was silly, but I had to try. I picked up a rock and aimed at where the cave was supposed to be.

“What are you doing,” Adam asked me.

“Well, he is a wizard maybe he just made his cave invisible or something.” I threw the rock.

To my surprise, the rock actually hit something and fell. This had been my plan so I shouldn’t have been as surprised, but to be honest I thought it had like a zero percent possibility of actually working.

“You are a genius,” Adam complimented me in awe. I could feel myself blushing and hoped that it didn’t show, but from the grin on his face, I doubted that. I then realized that we had a bigger problem.

“Thanks, but how are we going to get in?” Now we knew where the cave was, but still had no way of entering.

“How about we knock?” Adam suggested. Neither of us seemed to have any better ideas so we went to where the rock had stopped and knocked. First knock…no answer; second knock…no answer; third knock…still nothing!

“There’s no one there,” I told him uselessly. Just then a door began to appear; it was dark brown with a silver knob in the middle. We both slowly walked to the door. Just as I reached for the knob, the door opened all by itself, and we entered.

Dim lights lit up the entrance one by one with each step we took. The only sounds were the echoes of our footsteps. The air smelled of roses and cotton candy, which was bizarre given the ghostly feeling that filled the cave. All I could see was thick, white smoke at the end of the corridor. I wondered what was causing it; could it be a potion perhaps?

As we passed through the smoke we heard a voice calling our names.

“Amanda, Adam,” the voice said slowly, “Welcome.”

“Are you the wizard?” I asked as the smoke began to clear showing us the figure of the man. He looked old and wise. The sight of him reminded me of my grandpa, which made me miss him very much. I remembered all the stories he’d told me about wizards with long grey beards, pointy hats, a staff, and a long cloak. If this man was the wizard he wouldn’t have qualified as one in Grandpa’s stories for he had none of those. He wore an Adidas training suit and sneakers. He had a wrinkly round face and was of medium height.

“Do you doubt because of my modern attire?” he asked me.

“Perhaps,” I answered him honestly. He snapped his fingers and in a matter of seconds he had transformed completely; he now had the grey beard, cloak, staff, and pointy hat. Now he made a much more convincing wizard.

“Would you prefer me looking like that?” he asked.

I nodded.

“People these days,” he continued in disgust, “they believe in stereotypes and won’t accept the truth if it doesn’t look like what they expect. Don’t you ever think that maybe, just maybe, not everything you hear is the truth no matter the number of sources? I mean I was there when cavemen existed, and they didn’t wear these spotted, brown garments that you see in movies and cartoons; they wore dinosaur skin!”

I looked at Adam trying to guess what he was thinking. This wizard was insane, and so much older than expected. Dinosaurs, was he serious? I didn’t know how to reply so we waited in silence till Adam spoke.

“Mmm, we’re sorry, sir, if we insulted you in any way. We just wanted you to look as magical and magnificent as in our imagination. I swear we didn’t mean to offend you.” Adam chose his words well and thankfully broke the awkwardness.

“Apology accepted,” he looked at me specifically then continued, “Now, enough talking about that; I suppose you have a more important matter that you need my help with.”

“Oh, yes,” I said remembering our reason for being there, but the smell was so inviting and strong. For some reason it made me smile. It reminded me of my parents, my grandpa, my friends, and Adam. The feelings differed from one person to the next, but I couldn’t put my finger on the reason behind that.

I had forgotten that they had ever been taken over by Darkness, and only had good memories of them. Still I felt afraid. I felt afraid of that feeling.

“What is that smell?” The curiosity was killing me.

“Well,” he spoke slowly, “It’s love.”

“Love.” I couldn’t understand how or why, but it made sense.

“Actually, it’s a love potion,” he told me. So I had been right. The smoke was coming from a potion. If the potion’s smell was that strong I couldn’t imagine its strength if someone actually drank it. I took a step back, not wanting to get any closer to the huge pot. I looked at Adam. He looked like he was in a trance or deep in thought. I wondered what he was thinking of when a rock fell from the ceiling and broke his concentration.

“It is powerful, isn’t it?” the wizard asked.

“Yes,” Adam said, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

“Would you like to try a cup?” he inquired.

“No,” we both shouted in unison.

The wizard looked at Adam and then at me and said, “I doubt you both need it anyway.” He focused on Adam for a bit as if observing him like he was some sort of alien. That caused Adam to break eye contact with the wizard. Then he, the wizard, gave a brief nod and walked away. I wondered what that was all about, but figured it wasn’t really the time.

“The reason we came here,” I spoke assertively, “is because I need your help to defeat the Master of Darkness.”

“Defeat the Master of Darkness,” he repeated, “I can’t help you with that.”

“You have to help her, she’s come a long way to see you and it hasn’t been easy,” Adam told him. His tone wasn’t mean, but I loved that he defended me like that.

The wizard laughed, “Now, why do you care, it’ll never affect you anyway.”

“But it could affect those I care about,” Adam looked at me, then looked away, just as fast.

Why couldn’t the Darkness affect Adam? What was the wizard talking about?

“I told you that you didn’t need the potion,” the wizard whispered to himself loudly enough that I could barely make out the words.

“Please, I have to defeat him,” I pleaded.

“Do you even know who or where ‘he’ is?” the wizard asked me.

I thought about his question even though I knew the answer extremely well. I didn’t. I had hoped that the wizard would just tell me and show me how to defeat him. I had hoped that he would just wave his wand and puff…and the Darkness would be gone. I couldn’t bear that he made me feel so foolish and embarrassed. I couldn’t even look at Adam. What did he think of me now? I bet he wished he had never come with me.

“No,” I admitted.

“No,” the wizard repeated, “Oh dear…‘He’ is you.”

“What? Me? But I’m trying to defeat him.”

“He,” he said again, “is everyone, and that’s enough information.”

I didn’t understand what he meant. How could the Darkness be everyone? It just didn’t make any sense. Here I was seeking his help and he was giving me incomplete riddles. Mysteries that I couldn’t solve, maybe he wasn’t as wise as I thought. For all I knew, maybe he didn’t even have an answer himself. I still had one unanswered question in mind— not that he had really answered anything else.

“Can you help me defeat it?” I asked finally.

“All the magic in the world couldn’t defeat the Darkness; only the light in your soul can do that.”

In other words, he was of no help!

I was really frustrated now, and Adam was just standing there silently. Something was playing in his mind, and of course, I had no idea what. I tried calming myself a little and then spoke, “Thank you,” I told the wizard. I turned around and started leaving, with Adam right behind me.

“Think of the words I’ve told you,” I heard him shout after us.

As soon as we went out, we took a look at where we were but could see nothing. It was invisible once more. We sat under a tree to analyze the conversation. One thing I actually did—it was all I did—like he told me was think about the words he’d said. I needed to know.

“That was…” Adam paused.

“Crazy?” I suggested, “Strange…Creepy…Fantastical…Unbelievable?”

“Quite an experience,” he finished, “But all of your descriptions work just as well.”

I laughed. I didn’t know what I would’ve done without him. I would’ve been in a shapeshifter’s stomach by now. I felt like God had sent him to help me. He knew I needed help and exactly what kind of help I needed, so He sent him when the time was perfect. The thought warmed my heart.

I lay my head on his shoulder to rest for a while.

I could sense him smiling, and so I felt even more relaxed. I wasn’t going to sleep; I was just resting so I figured Adam might have a talent he could entertain us with.

He was exceptionally fast!

“Can you sing?” Since he was perfect at everything else I couldn’t think of any reason why he wouldn’t be able to.

“Nah,” he responded.

“Come on, pleeeeease,” I begged.

“I don’t have many songs memorized,” he told me.

“Doesn’t matter, any one of them,” I wasn’t intending to stop until he sang.

“Fine,” he told me, “You win.”

“What are you gonna sing?” I asked, excited.

“A little something I wrote,” he replied, “It goes like this…

When I first saw you, you were tied to a tree.

I went to see what’s goin’ on

and beat the guys who were treatin’ you badly. 

I am your hero baby,

even though I’ve only known you for a couple days. 

It seems like a century.

I smile whenever I see your face,

cuz I am your hero baby

…And that’s it.”

“It’s amazing!” I was absolutely right. He sounded like an angel. Maybe better. Not to mention that he writes, too. I couldn’t help smiling, and my cheeks were probably tomato-red since.

I had a strange urge to tease him, though, “So, whom exactly did you write this about?”

It was his turn to blush now, “I don’t know; I’ve met so many girls who were tied to trees.”

I laughed so hard, it was great forgetting the wizard and being unstressed for a while. Sadly, my “while” wasn’t long enough. I immediately remembered what the wizard had said and decided that I had to see what Adam thought about it, given that we hadn’t really discussed it.

“What did you think about what the wizard said?” I asked, suddenly serious.

“You just killed the mood,” he bantered. Even though he was joking, I knew that I had. I had ended a perfect conversation, which I never wanted finished. But did I really have a choice? There were many things going on in my head, and I couldn’t just forget the real reason I came on this quest.

Now that I had my answer, though still ambiguous, I had to keep moving forward. I had to figure out what he meant! I still felt guilty for ruining the moment, but there was nothing I could do about that.

“Yeah, I know, and I am sorry about that, but I have so much on my mind and…” I started crying. I couldn’t take it anymore! Why did I always feel responsible for everything? Why was I always ruining perfectly superb moments?

“Shhhh…Shhh,” Adam said pulling me into a hug, “I was just kidding. You are not a buzzkill, OK? You are astonishing and fun and smart! You have nothing to cry about and don’t worry…we’ll figure this out together.”

“You always know what to say, don’t you?” I didn’t know whether I was laughing or crying at that moment and was sure I looked ridiculous, but I didn’t really care.

“I am your hero, aren’t I? It’s part of my job,” he winked.

“So the song was about me?” I smiled.

“As if you haven’t figured that out.” He wiped my tears ever so gently from my cheeks then whispered in my ears.

“Nothing is worth your tears, Amanda, that’s how you let pain and sadness inside your heart.”

As he said the last few words, I suddenly understood what the wizard had meant. How could I have not figured it out earlier? He had made it so obvious.

“I’ve got it!” I left Adam’s hug and stood up. “We aren’t the Darkness, but we are the Masters of Darkness, each one of us, because we are the ones who allow it to enter our bodies. ‘All the magic in the world couldn’t defeat the Darkness, but only the light in your soul.’ We choose whether or not to be taken over by the Darkness by the pureness of our hearts, even if we are too blind to see it. That’s what he’s been trying to tell us!”

“Amanda, you are a mastermind,” Adam told me, “I think that you are completely right, but what are we gonna do, now?”

“What can we do? They allowed it in,” I replied.

“Can they let it out?” I wasn’t really sure how to reply, but he had made a point.

And with that, we started walking. Adam held the map and directed the way while I followed thinking of perhaps the most important and persuasive speech I was going to give. They would probably think I was crazy and mental, which made it of even more importance to convince them.

Thankfully, the map showed a shortcut to my village. We would hopefully arrive by nightfall. Then Adam stopped unexpectedly leaving me to bump into him.

“Ouch!” I complained.

“Oops, sorry.” he apologized.

“How long till we reach the village anyway?” I asked.

“About a ten-minute walk,” he replied.

The village was coming into view when a question popped into my mind. It had been going through my mind when we were at the wizard’s cave, but I had forgotten to bring it up after we left.

“Adam,” I called, “Can I ask you something?”

“I think we’ve passed that point now,” he pointed out, “Just shoot.”

“At the wizard’s cave,” I started, “why did the wizard keep looking at you like you were some kind of alien? I also recall him saying that the Darkness could never affect you, what was that about?”

For the first time from the moment we met, I sensed that Adam was at a loss for words. He was hiding something and didn’t know how to break it to me. I felt like I had just asked a dangerous question, but nonetheless, I wanted an answer.

“Maybe he saw through me,” he told me.

“I don’t understand,” I confessed.

“You know how you said that people determine whether to allow the Darkness in or not?” he began to clarify.

I nodded.

“Well perhaps, I was able to block the Darkness completely,” he finished explaining.

I felt like this wasn’t the whole truth. I had known Adam for only a little while, but I felt like I had known him forever. He had saved me, carried me, and written me a song, so I was positive he was speaking the truth about having a pure heart. Though I believed him with all my heart, the picture was not yet complete.

“Adam, you’re hiding something,” I was afraid that I was pushing him too far, but I felt like I needed to know.

Adam sighed, “You’ll hate me forever.”

Now I was worried and really needed to know, so I managed to tell him, “I will never run away from you,” I didn’t think anything he said was going to be that dreadful. No matter what he had done, I was sure he had never meant to hurt me.

“I…” he started slowly, “am an angel.”

“I noticed; you’re so modest,” I jived.

I thought he was joking. I mean, an angel, seriously! But when I looked at him, for the first time, I saw sadness in his eyes. Was it because I didn’t believe him? Was he really telling the truth? It explained why he was flawless, but was him being here, and me seeing him, even possible?

“OH, MY GOD! You’re telling the truth, aren’t you?”

He nodded.

“How is that possible?” I asked.

“I was watching over you.” He began smiling, “I was impressed and decided to help you with your benevolent quest.”

“So you knew the truth all along?”

“Yes, but you had to figure it out,” he explained, “You couldn’t find out I was an angel.”

“Why not?”

“Would you have believed me? You barely believe me now.”

He had a point, and I felt tears welling up. I had finally found a friend whom I loved and trusted with my life, and he turned out to be an angel!

“Will you stay here?” I asked, fearing his reply.

He didn’t look me in the eye, and I knew instantly that my fears had been proven correct.

“What now?” I was on the verge of crying, but tried to keep it in.

“I have to leave.”

“When?”

“Now.”

On that note, I began weeping. I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Being as caring as he is, he held me tight, like he had in front of the wizard’s cave. As soon as he hugged me, I cried even more.

“Why did you have to be like this?” I cried.

“Like what?”

“Like this: flawless, and then leave.”

“I don’t want to leave, but it’s inevitable that I will.”

“Goodbye,” I told him, still sobbing.

He gave me a light kiss on the cheek, and then grew wings. The last words I heard him say were,

“Stay in the light,” and then he flew away into the heavens…

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