This is what happens when I am bored and want to write, but have writer’s block. After about an hour and a half of headache, this is what I got written.
The flames licked up higher. Shadows flickered uncertainly around the alleyway, growing steadier as the light did. For a moment, all she could do was stare at the fire. Then the realization began to hit home.
My house is on fire. My house caught fire!
This time, the emotion that filled her wasn’t shock, but anger. She whirled around, towards the dark form trying to slink into the growing shadows. “This is your fault!” she cried. “All your bloody fault!”
“Mine?” The returning voice rose in pitch, just as angry. “I wasn’t the one who let the gas out of the stove like that before lighting it. I also wasn’t the one who stared at the flames as they burned your curtains.”
A flush burned at her cheeks, which only made her all the more furious. “No,” she agreed with a snarl. “You’re the one who distracted me.”
That was the last straw, which was exactly what she had intended. The slim figure stormed back out into the open, throwing back the hood that had covered her face. “Distracted? Why must you blame everything on me, Sasha! This isn’t any more my fault than it is yours! Now stop yelling at me. I’m trying to find a way out of this blasted alleyway before it fills with smoke entirely.”
Sasha’s eyes narrowed. She knew exactly how to get out of the alleyway, and so did the other woman.
“Don’t even think about it. I will not.”
“Do you even have any choice? Do it, Eva! However else are we going to get out of here?”
“Climb the walls.” Eva jerked her thumb to the building behind her, which wasn’t yet burning, though with the wind the way it was, that would likely change. “It’s only two stories, and the smoke isn’t that thick yet. Get up and onto the roof.”
“And from there?”
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“Improvise.” With that, she turned around towards the wall. The bricks were rough, but not enough for real hand or footholds. Sasha coughed to hide her bitter amusment towards Eva’s idea. It would never get them out of there.
“Eva, just do it. We’re going to die in here otherwise, trapped between flames and two buildings.”
Eva, hiding her frustration at not being able to climb the bricks, turned towards her. Sasha was no more than a silhouette, lit up from behind by the flames. “What happened to being angry at me?”
“Just get us out of here. Eva, please.”
Eva eyed her for a moment. “I—I can’t,” she whispered. “The last time I tried… I only made it worse.”
“Just try! Try or we’re going to die!” Sasha was desperate now, no longer hiding the insecurities she’d always felt. She had used to hide her feelings behind contempt and her temper. But now, her need to survive pulled it all away. Eva now saw clearly Sasha’s jealousy of being normal and of not being like her.
Eva smiled bitterly. She was the one who should have been jealous of Sasha, not the other way around. “It hurts,” she whispered, then relented. She laid her hand on Sasha’s shoulder and squeezed her eyes shut.
Without even really trying, she could feel it fading out of her, draining her. Even if she couldn’t see it in front of her, she knew there was a wall of light surrounding the two of them. Outside of it, the flames grew stronger from the energy they found in the wall.
“See?” Eva said softly, not even realizing she was talking out loud. “It’s a paradox. The wall keeps the flames away, but it’s made of energy, which only fuels the fire. It grows stronger, which means I have to make the wall even stronger to keep it back.”
Sasha looked up from where she knelt on the ground and met Eva’s now-open eyes. Now, she understood. “But if you break the cycle, the flames will take us.”
“That’s the price of magic, sister. And there’s only one way out.”
“Somebody has to find us.”
And that, both knew, wouldn’t happen in time. They were trapped in the alley, one solid building to the left, a wall behind them, and flames to the right and in front of them. The only way someone else would be able to find them is if the flames were put out, and by that time, Eva’s energy would be gone, allowing the wall to collapse and the fire to engulf them.
“I’m sorry,” Sasha said. “For blaming you for everything.”
“I know. It’s not easy having a sister with magic, is it?”
“It scared me, and yet fascinated me. I knew it’s only a problem to you, but it’s also made me feel jealous, that you were the special one who had something like that, while I’m boring and ordinary.”
“You’re anything but boring.”
“Don’t flatter me.”
Eva smiled, but it was a weak one. She had fallen to her knees beside Sasha, using her sister’s support to stay upright. It was hard enough to focus on the conversation. Eva knew she shouldn’t be talking at all, but she didn’t want to spend her last moments silent.
“I’m sorry, too, Sasha,” she said, hesitating a little despite herself. “I haven’t been the best sister, either, not since Mom and Dad died.”
“At least we have each other now, though.” It was as she spoke this sentence that Sasha made the realization. “Eva, let me help you. Maybe if we both take the strain…”
Eva shook her head slightly. “No. If you even touch the magic, it will take you entirely. You’ll be a slave to it, just like I have been.”
“What else can I do, Eva? Let me help.”
She was silent. She knew that if she let Sasha help her, not only would Sasha take the magic, but Eva would be released from it. But as much as Eva wanted to be freed from magic’s curse, she didn’t want to subject her sister to it.
Before she could come to a decision, however, Sasha took her hands in hers. Just the little touch, and Eva felt a weight lifted off her shoulders, one she wasn’t sure that she’d been aware of holding. She’d had it her entire life, after all.
The wall around them strengthened. For a moment, it looked almost like it was real. Then Sasha gave up too much. The light radiating from the wall pulsed, and, knowing what would happen, Eva instinctively covered her eyes. That light could have blinded her permanently. As it was, when she looked again the place was still amazingly bright.
But several things had changed. Sasha had collapsed to the ground, laying still at Eva’s knees. The fire was gone. All that was left was ash and smoke. The wall, no longer having a source or a purpose, had faded away as well.
Eva stared a moment, then turned to her sister. She shook her roughtly. “Sasha! Wake up!”
The girl didn’t move.
Eva felt her eyes start to tear up. “Sasha, I warned you,” she whispered. “The price of magic is too high. You shouldn’t have done that.”
But it was too late now. Her sister, she knew, would never move again. She had sacrificed herself to protect Eva from the flames. For that was the price of magic—it took your life.
Tears falling unabashed now, Eva stood up. She vowed, right then and there, that she’d avenge her sister. She’d find a way to stop magic from taking innocent people’s lives, just because they’d inherited it. Or, in Sasha’s case, taken it for her sister.
“I love you, Sasha.”