Is there a mistake you keep making repeatedly in your life? Explain.
It starts with a pulling. One day I wake up with an inexplicable and all-consuming wanderlust. What is it I am seeking? How will I know when I’ve found it? I do not know. I just know I must go. At the same time, a small voice cautions against this journey. Nothing awaits me but pain, it warns. Perhaps someday I will finally heed it.
A goat bleats in a hilly pasture as I trudge past. The mountain path I walk leads to an old village. The stories from townspeople at the base of the mountain and across the valley in its shadow claim the villagers in this remote establishment are descended of the old gods. Only fools travel this path. Those who seek the village never return.
I do not know if it is the village that I seek, but whatever has drawn me to this place resides at the end of this path. I have been on this journey for nearly a decade and am eager for it to be at an end. The closer I have come to my goal, the louder the voice of opposition becomes. When I arrived at the head of the path, it began wailing in my head like a banshee.
The silence of the trail startles me. For some reason, the shrieking has ceased. I tighten my grip on my walking staff and cast about for a source of danger. My eyes stop as they scan the end of the path. Another young man stands there now, staring at me with the same mouth-agape expression that adorns my face.
My heart leaps to my throat as our eyes meet. I can feel him pulling at me. He was the one who brought me halfway across the world. “Who- who are you?” he asks. His voice trembles with fear and, I hope, excitement.
“My name is Takashi,” I say with more confidence than I feel, closing the distance between us. “And you?”
His dark eyes flicker as they take me in. I wonder if I am perhaps not what he was expecting. “I am called Ryo.” Ryo. Finally a name and a face for the person whose soul resonates so with mine. “Takashi.” He tastes my name on his tongue and my soul sings. “Are you the one who has been calling out to me every night these past few years?”
I nod. “I didn’t know who or what I was seeking,” I explain. “I just needed to meet you at least once. I had no idea you could feel me too.”
Ryo frowns. “The elders forbade me from leaving. They said it was too dangerous. That you were a demon who would steal my soul.” His lips curve up in a smile and he reaches his hand towards my face. “I suppose I wouldn’t mind, if it’s you.”
I take his hand and clasp it with both of mine. “I promise I am not a demon. And I will never do anything to hurt you. I’ve wanted to meet you for so long.”
Ryo laughs and leads me by the hand to his village on the mountainside. For a brief moment, we are happy. By the end of the week, both of us are dead, buried under the rocks and mud with the rest of the village. If only we had heeded the warnings.
Raia’s tears glow blue and purple in the flashing neon lights of the entertainment district. I want to apologize to her. I never should have come to this city. I should have let her live her life without ever knowing a fuck-up like me.
“Talia!” Her voice breaks as she calls out my name. The thug with his knife to her throat twists her arm further behind her back and she whimpers.
Paulie’s boot plays percussion on my ribs as I writhe on the rain-soaked concrete. “Thought you could just up and leave us, eh Talon?” My mouth fills with blood with each successive kick. “Well, Boss doesn’t stand for no deserters. And I was lucky enough to be the first to find you.”
I try to spit blood in his face but wind up coughing into the ground instead. “Kill me then,” I wheeze. “But let her go.” I can barely see Raia now. I don’t want her to witness this.
Paulie grabs me by my hair and lifts me up off the sidewalk so I can see Vic push Raia to the ground. She whips her head around to glower at him. My heart aches to see her fire wasted on these bastards. Paulie leans in and speaks low for my ears alone. “That ain’t how this works sweetheart.”
Vic nods at some signal Paulie gives that I can’t see. He flips his blade and drives it through Raia’s back. Her eyes fly open wide as her blouse blossoms with red. I try to scream but it becomes strangled in my own blood as Paulie takes his own blade to my throat.
As I fall, I reach out for Raia. Her beautiful face is forever twisted in a painful grimace. All because I was too curious to find what drew me to this city and too stubborn to leave once I remembered how many times we’ve lived this tragedy. I close her eyes with the last of my strength. When my own eyes finally close, I vow to get this right next time.
The pull has tugged at me for years. When I was younger, I thought it was a good excuse to travel. If I happened to find what I was looking for, that would be a bonus. The niggling voice in the back of my head that told me it was a bad idea finally got through to me the day I wandered through an abandoned city block and found a suspicious stain in an alleyway. It was old and faded, but I could picture the girl lying there as she died. I remembered her vow.
I turned tail and went against the pull. I bought a small plot of land in the middle of nowhere and built a house there. I spent my days working at the truck stop diner along the nearest highway. Anything to keep me from moving towards them, whoever they were this time.
It has been growing stronger again. I wish it would just give up and let me live my life in peace. I won’t watch my soulmate die again.
The bell rings as someone walks in. “Welcome! Please take a seat wherever you-“ I halt my greeting as dark eyes full of recognition meet mine. She looks as beautiful as she ever has. My heart does somersaults in my chest and I want to leap the counter and wrap her in my arms as I have done in so many other lives. But that dark stain on the concrete comes to the forefront of my mind and I remember my vow. “Wherever you like,” I finish greeting with a friendly smile.
Her brows furrow in confusion as she looks past me and around the diner. That’s right. I’m not the one you are looking for. She thanks me and hurriedly takes the booth at the back. I’m afraid I will break my promise and talk to her in earnest but I manage to maintain a reasonable distance during her entire meal. We exchange the typical platitudes between server and customer, she flirts a bit but I politely decline.
“Are you sure we’ve never met?” she asks me as she settles her bill.
“I’ve lived here for years,” I say by way of a non-answer. “Most people that stop here are just passing through but I don’t believe you’ve come here before.”
She shakes her head. “Nope, first time.” Her smile is sad. My heart aches to break hers so. “Well, thanks for the meal, Joe. It was delicious.”
“You’re welcome. Safe travels. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
She nods and waves farewell. I watch as she drives away in a flashy blue sports car. While busing her table, I find a note with a phone number.
In case you change your mind. –Kate
I stare at the words for a long while. When I look up, I can’t remember which way she left. The pull is gone.
Notes: Whew. That took off on me. I was going to try to rework the Love vs Hate prompt into something along these lines, but I wasn’t really ready to focus on the battle side of that for this one tonight. Instead I went with a triptych of doomed soulmates. Still needs a lot of work, but I got the bones out and I’m happy with that.
As for myself, I keep making the mistake of waiting until 9pm to start writing and then I am up way past my bedtime for work. In tonight’s case, I at least had a plan, but it is getting really late. Have a great Wednesday!
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