Part 31: Time‘s Heart
One moment, Emerald’s body was in Janus’ arms. The next, Janus was alone, and in a strange place he did not recognize. He stood, studying the swirls of green, blue, and black. It looked as though he had suddenly manifested in a far off galaxy, though there were no stars, no planets. He could barely find the strength to be shocked. The hole in his heart was too large to feel anything except emptiness.
I’m dead, now, he thought, his jaw setting with a grim acceptance. Even if I am Death…I can still die, it seems.
“Indeed,” a voice said, shattering him from his thoughts.
He turned and found a man with glowing eyes. There was a ethereal presence about him, though he wore a simple shirt, vest, and trousers. His boots even had mud on them. If not for the glowing eyes, Janus would have thought he was just another who had been at the palace, and was now dead, too. He heard a loud ticking, and realized it was coming from the clock the stranger had…embedded in his chest, where his heart should be?
“Let me guess,” Janus said coldly. “You are another one of us?”
The man shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Time. If that wasn’t obvious. Fate told me to speak with you.”
“Fate’s dead,” Janus reminded him.
“Not yet.” Time began to circle around him, sizing him up. “I’ve been wanting to meet Death for a long time, now. You’re…not what I expected.”
Janus looked down at himself. His hands were back to normal, as was the color of his skin. “I’m…a monster,” he said, his voice breaking. “I was hideous…I don’t want this anymore…I can’t do this anymore.”
Time studied him, his glowing eyes growing a bit dimmer. “Fate thought she could change you into something different, but…she was foolish. We can only be what we are. It’s what we were born to do.”
“Then it would have been better if I was never born at all.”
Time’s eyes flashed. “Careful. It’s dangerous to say such things. More dangerous than you could realize.”
Janus’ legs were shaking. He staggered forward before finally sitting back down, though the floor looked anything but stable. “What…what did Fate want with me?”
Time regarded him. The clock in his chest ticked on, ringing in Janus’ ears. “She asked a favor of me. She would like to save you, and Emerald. She wants to give the kingdom a second chance.”
“Is that even possible?” Janus asked. He refused to feel hope- to think he could ever see Emerald alive again. Oh, but if he could…
“Absolutely,” Time said with a nod. “It just…has its consequences. Not just for us, but for you. Perhaps even for the world, and time itself.”
“Then why would you do it?”
“Well…” Time froze in place, shrugging slightly. “She wants to let you live. You and Love. You deserve it, after…after everything.” He paused, then raised his chin. “Of course, it’s up to you. You can choose to have a do-over, or to go on to whatever comes next for us.”
“What kind of consequences are we talking about?”
Time smiled, almost ominously. “In order to restart, I would have to rip open time and space. I don’t know what sort of things would happen in the long run, but… I know if would have damaging effects on you and Love. I can do it with Fate’s help, but she would die in the process, and I would be weakened. Your powers would be stripped. As for what else, I can only guess. I’ve only done this once before.”
Janus frowned, thinking through his options. What did he gain to lose? He didn’t mind losing his powers so much. They were what had caused him so much pain- what brought him here. Fate was bound to die anyway as it was, he guessed. But to rip open time and space…surely there were consequences that would effect everyone in the world. Was his love with Emerald worth it to Fate? He stared at the clock in Time’s chest. There were more hands in it than a normal clock; one for the days, months, and years, perhaps?
“So?” Time said, shrugging again. “Have you made a decision? Fate does not have much life left in her.”
Janus clenched and unclenched his hands at his sides. Emerald…he wanted to see Emerald again. “I want to do it,” he said, though his voice came out softer than he meant. He winced at the quiver in it. “Take me back. I’ll make things right.”
Time gave him a sad smile. “Then I can only wish you good luck.”
The ground began to shake, nearly knocking Janus off of his feet. He watched as Time’s eyes shone brighter and his arms spread. His own heart began to pound, and he felt a terrible ripping, as if his soul was being pulled from his body. Was this the wrong decision? Would this only make things worse? The thoughts all blurred together in his mind as he clutched at his chest. This would never work…this was impossible. A dream; or a nightmare, even! When he woke up, he would be back amongst the rubble of the palace, Emerald’s body in his arms. He would be a monster again.
He squeezed his eyes shut when a bright light tore through the swirling colors around him. Slowly, his body became numb, and he lost consciousness.
~ <♥> ~
I believe there will only be a couple more parts yet, so this will be coming to a close! I’ve already been planning out what I’ll be writing next, though I will say that once this ends, I may be taking some time off before starting the next short story. Right now I have a lot on my plate, and even though I’m excited about sharing the next story with y’all, I need to give myself a breather. However, my break will not be long. Maybe I’ll even start posting my short story posts on a weekly basis instead of a biweekly schedule…
Anyway, let me know your thoughts on this part! I’d love to hear from you! And if you have any suggestions for another short story idea you’d like to see, let me know!
As always, God bless y’all and have a wonderful weekend!