Jan. 5th, 2014

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The first thing Nitya created, after her existence had become secure enough to experiment, was wings. Wings so she could fly. Wings so she could cross the world and help out wherever she was needed. Wings so she could run, run, run as fast as she could.

She was still small in this form, just a tiny being with wings and brown eyes that could have looked human, if such creatures still existed. She would grow, faster than she ever had in any life before, because she didn’t have time to learn and play and live. Her universe was barely larger than the spot she was standing on and she was surrounded by enemies on all sides. She had a terrible duty to fulfill.

Nitya created. She used all the knowledge she had acquired in the past and stitched together the gaps where it proved insufficient. No, Nitya was not great at paying attention, never had been, but she had the knowledge and imagination of a thousand lifetimes at her fingertips. She created solid ground to walk on, and as she walked, she created plants and creatures so she wouldn’t be alone. Some she created from the images in her memories. Some she couldn’t bear to ever see again.

As she curled up, wings tight around her to block out all the light, Nitya did not sleep. She had neither need nor want for it. Sleep would only open up her mind for attacks. But as she closed her eyes, just briefly, she saw old faces and created new people. They did not think her strange, with her wings, and for the first time in eons, she wasn’t alone.

And yet she was so lonely. Everyone she’d known was dead. She had destroyed them all. She’d failed.

She’d killed Yubel.

Yubel, who had been by her side for so many lifetimes. And now she… She was alone.

It was the day Nitya learned what tears felt like.

The world, tiny as it was, could function on its own now. It would grow without Nitya there to guide it. And if things were a bit strange sometimes, a bit off, well, it was a strong world. It could fix itself. The one sun — All Nitya had been able to bear creating — gave warmth and strength, something she couldn’t provide. Not anymore.

Creating people had been so very easy and yet… Nitya tried. She tried everything, and recreating the form of the people she’d failed had never been a problem. Just a hair color, an eye color, a wave of her hand and she could remake them all. But their spirits… No, Nitya had torn them apart along with their bodies. She had destroyed everything and everyone that ever was.

She tried to bring Yubel back once, in a faraway forest filled with tall trees she’d made taller for the occasion. No light made it to the ground here. It suited Nitya just fine.

She made it halfway before discovering that Yubel was well and truly gone, and destroyed her creation in a fit of rage. She stared in horror at the empty clearing. She had destroyed after she had sworn to never do so again. Nitya knew her predecessors had fought. She knew the Light of Ruin was everywhere and that she would have to be ready once it chose to attack her. She would need all the weapons at her disposal just to protect herself. But not today. Today she ran, away from the forest, away from the memories she tried to erase but couldn’t. To fix the universe she needed everything she had ever learned in all of her past lives. All the things she never wanted to remember.

Sometimes she talked to people, the ones who didn’t care about her wings, large and leathery as they were.

“You should cut your hair,” said the woman she was bartering for fish with. “It’ll get tangled with your wings. I should know.” She spread her own dark brown wings, feathery and smaller than Nitya’s. “Does it never get in your way when you wake up?”

Nitya didn’t sleep. She ran a hand through her black hair. It was almost down to her waist. In her previous life, she had always had shorter hair.

“Maybe later,” she said, looking down. “How much for the fish?”

After so many years of trying to remake the people she lost, it actually helped that the people were different now. Years ago, when Nitya had been tiny, she had recognized everyone, and in every hint of grey eyes or blond hair, she’d seen her failure. But the people were nothing like she remembered, and finally Nitya could relax just a bit.

“Hey, you new here?”

Nitya swallowed a mouthful of fish and looked up. Blue-green eyes looked back at her.

Yubel.

But no, this girl wasn’t Yubel. She was too bright to be Yubel.

“I’m Sinéad,” said the girl. She held out a hand. Nitya hid a grimace and shook it briefly.

“Nitya.” And when the girl kept looking at her, she added reluctantly: “I’m just passing through.”

“Oh, me too, but I come here often,” Sinéad said. She had light hair that she brushed behind her ears. Not blond, not blue either… Something greenish?

“The world is so big, you know,” Sinéad continued.

No, it isn’t. You have no idea.

Nitya started cleaning away the remainder of her lunch. Maybe Sinéad would take the hint and go away. She was probably a very nice person, but Nitya couldn’t look at her without seeing Yubel.

Sinéad studied her. “Hey, have we met before?”

“No.”

“Ah.” A flash of disappointment crossed Sinéad’s face. “Well, where are you heading? I’m heading east. Do you want some company?”

“Sorry, I need to go west,” said Nitya, who’d just come from the western mountains.

Sinéad frowned. “Will you be safe? The mountains are dangerous at night.”

As if she ever had anything to fear from the night. “I’ll be fine,” Nitya said, and because Sinéad was still part of the world she’d created, she asked, “You?”

“Oh, I’m traveling with Meghan, my youngest sister,” said Sinéad. Nitya nodded. It had to be nice to have a family. She got up and gathered her bag. Her hair briefly tangled with the straps and she grimaced.

“I have to move on.”

“Oh, too bad. Maybe we’ll meet again!”

“Let’s not,” muttered Nitya as Sinéad disappeared from sight. She did not need a Yubel lookalike around.

Hours later, she spotted Sinéad in a store, talking excitedly to a girl with bright blue hair. Nitya turned around before either of them could spot them. It was only later, when she’d left town, that she realized neither Sinéad nor her sister had carried a trace of the darkness that should have permeated every being in existence. Nitya shuddered and turned north.

But she didn’t see Sinéad again and her little world stayed free from the Light of Ruin. It took her time and effort to keep her creation safe and let it expand by taking away territory from the Light, bit by bit, but it was working, and battling the Light gave her a vindictive sense of satisfaction. The Light had taken Yubel from her. It had taken her friends, her family, and everything she’d cared about, and she would never let it get to her her again. Not in this lifetime, not in any of the next.

She ran a hand through her hair and smiled. Then she found he first barber in the first town on her way.

“Cut it short,” Nitya said. Short hair was so much more convenient, as her past life had known. “To my chin should be fine.”

The woman who ran the shop cast a knowing look at her wings and got to work. And when Nitya walked out an hour later, the wind breezing past her neck, she knew she’d never have Yubel anymore, but the Light would never take anyone from her ever again. She smiled through the slight sting of tears in the corners of her eyes, a smile that would have bystanders recoiling. For when the Light had been in her mind, she had learned from it too. She knew more about it than its feeble mind, so bent on destruction, could ever begin to imagine, and one day she would take all that knowledge and turn it against it. The Light might have won once, but Nitya would make sure it never did again.

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