It wasn’t meant to happen. This wasn’t meant to happen. I never meant for it to happen. I did everything I was told and I did it perfectly; there was simply no room for errors.
The temple of Aera was set on the edge of a cliff, its long pillars chapped from centuries of harsh weather conditions. The old tales referred to this temple as the birthplace of storms and of hurricanes. I knew what to expect but calling the place ‘windy’ would certainly be the understatement of the year. The wind shouted warnings that my partner and I continued to ignore; warnings that were simply overlooked knowing what treasure lies within.
Inside the temple, the wind sang its history. Its lyrics were of monks who had long ago turned into dust and of hunters whose dead bodies remained a mystery. In a line or two, the wind whispered locations of hidden rooms and trap doors but only those who have been trained knew how to listen and interpret. I was one of the chosen.
“Slowly…slowly…,” my partner murmured.
“I know what I’m doing.” I snapped. My palms sweat even though the air was cool. I took a breath or two to calm my racing heart. I was hyperaware of the treasure that was laid before me and of its replica in my hand. All I had to do was quickly replace the opaque Aera orb with the fake, taking the genuine one with me and scram. And I did. My partner and I got out of the temple safely, a little out of breath, but safe. I remembered looking into each other’s eyes, our success shining in our faces. Then it happened.
It started when one of the temple’s pillars cracked; a deafening sound of stone against stone. The wind blew harder—we had to fall on our knees just to stay on the ground—and after a moment, it suddenly stopped. I looked up and saw that every natural movement—the swaying of trees, the sound of the wind, the crumbling temple—stopped. Then my partner made a choking sound.
He was clutching his neck; his eyes bulged, his face growing purple with his mouth opened as he made gasping sounds. I reached his side and tried to pull his hands away and demanded what was wrong.
“What?” I was dumbfounded. I didn’t understand what was happening till the first bird dived to the ground. I tilted my head and saw that the sky shed birds as tears, all of them plummeting to the ground, some instantly died while some in the same state of my partner then went limp.
My partner grabbed my arm with fading strength, his face pleading for me to do something.
But I couldn’t. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what to do. My naivety had caused this catastrophe and as I watched my partner sigh his last breath, I became aware of a faint glow tucked in my coat. The treasure—the orb—was glowing and it was this, I realized, that triggered everything. I looked back to the temple only to find its remaining half, the other half now fell to the sea beyond. There was no hope.
Unintentionally, I dropped the orb to the ground. The instant I lost contact with the orb, my breathing was cut off, as if I’ve swallowed a cork to my esophagus. No, I thought, clutching my throat. Panic engulfed me as I frantically searched for the orb. The moment I touched it, air came rushing back to my lungs and it took every inch of me to stay conscious even as I heaved like a fish out of water.
What have I done?