He’s after me, I know he is.
I sleep, I dream of floating above a field of clouds, charcoal grey. My eyes are closed, I’m suspended in the air, languid, relaxed, motionless. He’s beneath me somewhere, beneath the clouds, watching, waiting for that moment.
I fall, hurtling towards the clouds, breakneck speed, ice cold air whips my clothes, my hair streams and flutters behind me. I open my eyes and crash through chilly, wet mist; the cloud puffs around me and I’m out the other side. The lights of the city spread before me, sparkling diamonds in a black river.
Encircling me in an iron grip, I feel his arms around me, slowing my fall. There is the steady, rhythmic beat of his black wings. The air reverberates with each powerful beat as he slows my descent.
“You are mine now,” he whispers, his voice low, dark, malice laced with glee at claiming his prize.
“I shall never be yours,” I reply.
His powerful body stiffens at my defiance, muscles corded, the sinews stand out on his neck. We’ve been here myriad times before, he has been trying to enslave me for a long time now; I’m his greatest challenge.
He growls in my ear, “I will break you.”
“And you shall watch me be reborn.”
He screams then. Primal, visceral, it tears through me, a talon ripping into my soul, tearing me asunder. The pain renders me unconscious, he loses his hold on me and I slip from his grasp.
I’m falling again, spinning and turning in the air. Above me, he watches, enjoying the spectacle as I plunge to my death. He never comes for me, he likes to watch me die, knowing I’ll return; reliving the same dream until I beg for mercy.
This is my fate, I accept it each time then, I’ll wake up and return to the mundane reality of a humdrum existence. No memory of the experience until I return to this place in my slumber again.
Only this time, there is something different. There is someone else with me, I can sense a presence. It’s not him, his presence is easy to perceive, he brings darkness and evil. No, this one is light, it’s pure, it brings love.
Gentle arms encircle me, they are strong, I’m enfolded within a firm embrace and my descent slows.
“Found you,” a male voice whispers. “You’re safe now.”
We ascend, my rescuer climbing at incredible speed. He has wings of such grace, golden and glowing with an ethereal light. We soar towards the heavens, the great dome of the night sky above us. I have no fear; it appears my nemesis has gone. For now.
Nestling against the strong, solid form of my liberator, I close my eyes; sleep claims me.
I wake up.
Curled up on a soft rug in a pale room, my body is in the foetal position. Opposite me lies a man, his position mirrors mine, the tips of our toes not quite touching. His wings lay folded neatly against his back, they reach halfway to his ankles. I’m struck by their exquisite beauty. Dense feathers, in different shades of gold and white glimmer in the sun streaming in through an open window near where we lay.
He opens his eyes. “Hello.”
I reply, “Hello.”
He smiles, expressing genuine affection. “I’ve been searching for you for so long.”
He nods. “You shielded your presence from me somehow.”
“I was trying to shield myself from – him.”
“He broke through your defences, diverted your protection away so it was harder for me to find you.”
“Do you know what he wants with me?”
“What every dark being wants. Possess, consume and destroy everything good in the world.”
My memories have not faded, they come back, quick and clear. “He pursues me every night.”
His smile fades. “I know. I’m sorry I could not get to you sooner.”
I should sit up but lying here, on the soft rug, gazing at the warm, inviting expression on my companion’s face makes me linger. I think I could stay here forever.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“My name is Cael,” he replies. “And you are, Aurora.”
“And who is he?”
Cael shakes his head. “I will not mention his name here. He is my opposite in all things, you are the catalyst for us both. That is why he pursues you so relentlessly. He will stop at nothing, not until he breaks you, bends you to his will, enslaves you for eternity.”
I shudder, gooseflesh crawls across my skin despite the warmth in the room.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Safe,” Cael replies. “This is my home. Stay here, you will be safe from him.”
I sit up, look about me, taking in my new surroundings. The room is circular, save for the rug on the floor, it remains bare of other furnishings. That same ethereal light suffuses throughout, sunlight streams in through open windows. I can hear music, just at the edge of my hearing, joyful, uplifting, it fills me with peace.
Cael laughs. “Heaven? In a manner of speaking but not how your kind depict it.”
“I should go home,” I say, “I have to go to work, my family, they’ll worry about me.”
Cael frowns. “If you go, I cannot protect you. I cannot guarantee that I’ll be able to reach you again. He will come for you.”
I jump to my feet, panic rising in my throat. “But, I can’t stay here!”
“I cannot make you stay,” Cael replies. “If you want me to take you back, I will.”
I stand there, rooted to the spot, not knowing what to do. “If he comes for me again?”
“Fight him again,” Cael says, “on your own.”
“Can you fight him?”
Cael shakes his head. “If you stay here, we hold the balance of power. If you go, he will outmatch you. You take a huge risk if you do.”
“I understand none of this.”
“I can help you,” Cael says. “Are you ready for the truth?”