Fate falls into the hands of the girl that needed it the most.
I always knew how I was going to die. It was written on my skin from the day I was born. If you were to look between my eyes you would see where the curtain gets drawn, where my fate is “sealed”. Perhaps this would be bizarre in your world, but in my world, this makes me the least special of my kind. The gods have frowned not on me alone but on all of their nonbelievers. In this wasteland, we are all cursed with the knowledge no being should ever live knowing.
Birthdays in this place are a dismal affair, an occasion heavy with the burden of impending loss. Expectant parents are left broken upon gazing at the tiny child they helped create, and are reminded of its inevitable fate. The hope and excitement that should accompany birth are replaced with a crushing sense of regret and helplessness. Regret bringing precious life into a world where it will only know a fleeting existence, helpless for being unable to shield it from that cruel truth etched on its forehead.
Funerals are quick and uneventful. There are no black shawls to be draped or handkerchiefs to be soaked with tears. No mournful wails or anguished screams fill the air when death knocks, as his visit is nothing close to surprising. Strangers nod solemnly as they walk by, aware of your limited time, and quiet farewells are shared among loved ones before you pass.
After all, it's difficult to feel sorrow for a soul you've mourned since its first breath.
I used to wonder what sins our ancestors could have done to pass on to us this generational dread, but to this, I have no real answers. I had presented this question to my mother as a young girl. She explained to me it was because an ancient king called Grestian decided to challenge the god of Death to a duel, and if he won, he would be granted eternal life. The god found the request amusing and allowed it, but Grestian and his followers managed to strike the god's eye with a lit torch. As punishment, he banished Grestian and his people from Earth and forced them to live in exile. As a reminder of their trespasses, the god also marked them with a symbol of the thing they all feared the most, their death.
When I told my father of this theory he simply scoffed and said that gods were a thing of fairytales. And if they did exist then that god deserved to lose both eyes.
Even though I never knew the real reason for our miserable existence, I believed in one thing: that I could change my fate once I reached Earth. Yes, the earth was just a blue marble in the sky for most onlookers; but to me, the thought of a place where no one feared a simple mark on their face and lived a life of fear was unimaginable. I spent my entire teenage years reading about them and with it my longing for a world I've never known only grew. This is why when I came across something that would change my fate completely, I took it…
It was a cloudy Wednesday morning and I was riding on my bike to the local library. The air had an inexplicable heaviness to it as if it was trying to conceal a secret. Once inside I greeted Mr. Harvey, the old librarian, earnestly.
“Rather a chilly mornin’, innit? Bit unusual for this time of year.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Well, have at it then. I added some new books to your favorite aisle just last week.”
I thanked him and went up to the newly stacked shelf. I was going through the books one by one, adding interesting-looking ones to my small pile when I stumbled upon an envelope nestled among the neatly arranged shelf. It was tinted yellow like it had been dipped in mud and rinsed hastily. I curiously picked it up, careful not to tear the paper. I opened the frail envelope and as my eyes scanned the first page, I froze. I read the words again and again, waiting for them to change, but they remained the same,
For Sara G. Scott,
The world you long for is at your fingertips.
But be warned: where there is some to be gained,
More is to be lost.
I stuffed the paper in my bag and hurriedly walked out.
“Sara my dear, found a book already?” the librarian called after me. I turned to him and said I had not, but that I would come back again soon. He waved at me weakly, a sad wrinkled smile plastered on his face. He didn't have much time left.
As soon as I was in the comfort of my bedroom I sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor with the letter in hand. Who could have left this for me and why? What did they mean by “more is to be lost”? Whatever it was, I had to keep reading it to know.
I apologize for the condition of the paper you are now holding. Transporting this mail to you will not be an easy feat and I do not doubt it will be in a horrible state by the time you find it, if you ever do. I also apologize for not being able to deliver this message to you face to face, but by my better judgment, I decided it was better if you never saw me at all.
You see, you and I are the same. This life has not granted us merciful ignorance, but we have not let it destroy us. This is why I am sharing this information with you and only you. Because we could never rest with what we were given.
On the next page, I have explained in great detail how you will be able to reach Earth and what you would need to do it. It is important that you follow each step exactly as written or the consequences will be dire. As soon as you have finished, burn this letter to ash. No one must ever find it.
I read both pages of the letter countless times and soon knew each word by heart. I still had no idea who this stranger could be or how they knew how to get to Earth. The steps they wrote also sounded slightly… questionable. But my curiosity piqued more than ever and if it really was a way to get to the blue planet, there was only one way to know.
I set the letter ablaze as it commanded.
By noon I had prepared the drink the letter ordered me to make. It smelled revolting, which wasn't so surprising considering its ingredients. But the stranger said it clearly, not a drop was to remain.
I looked at my reflection one more time and my marked face stared right back.
“I hope I never have to see you again,” I whispered and chugged the contents of the glass.
I wish I could tell you what exactly happened next, but I don't understand it myself. The next time I opened my eyes, I was in my bed. Seemingly the bed I had slept in every night, in the bedroom I had all my life. But it didn't feel like mine. On one side of the wall were posters of very beautiful women, all of them markless. on the other was a massive bedside mirror. I slowly walked up to the mirror, ready to face myself. Once I did, my eyes started to water.
The mark that had tormented me all my life was gone without a trace. I ran downstairs calling out to my mother to see what else had changed. Were my family and friends free from the mark as well? Or were they never marked, to begin with?
When I heard no answer from her I went out to the doorway. She stood on the other side of the street conversing with the old Mrs. Winstonber. I started jogging towards her with excitement. How lucky was I to stumble across that strange letter and to receive this chance for a better fate? To have the one thing I have desired most? In this world, the possibilities are endless, and I-
A pair of big yellow lights interrupt my thought just before shoving me onto the hard asphalt. Shock took over my body and my lungs fought to take in air breath. I hear my mother screaming, but it feels like it's coming from a place much further. I feel my senses start to shut down and I close my eyes, thinking of my mark.
Even worlds apart my fate still clung to me till the end.