How had I missed her? She stood right in front of me, a gentle smile on her pale lips.
“W-where am I?”, I stammered, stupidly.
“Home.”, she replied, “Or you might call it Heaven. Depends on what you believe in.”
“Heaven?”, I gasped, “No. I…no!”
“Why not?”, she asked, still with that enigmatic smile on her lips.
“I…”, the words would not come. Until the dam broke: “I failed them!”
My voice echoed in the vast emptiness around us, it threatened to split my head as its meaning had rendered my heart eons ago: “All of them died! I saw them struggle and lose, I had to watch them die! I never saved them. Not one of them…”
I broke down sobbing, remembering all the loved ones I had lost to my selfish wish to be immortal and all the friends I had lost to my own failure. I cried for every single one of them.
“Oh, darling.”, she spoke, a cool hand on my brow like a refreshing drink of water, “You did not fail them. You helped them fulfill their destinies.”
Rage rose in me: “Their destiny was to die?!”
“Yes.”, she spoke and I felt the anger boil, but her voice was calm, “Their destiny was death, yours was life. To save all the people who came after them.”
I blinked at her, showing that enigmatic smile again as she spoke: “The dragon longed for a swift death and the villages were safe. The bandits never sacked another farmstead, never killed again. Unnumbered women left marriages that would have slowly killed them, jurisdiction might not be perfect, but it is there to help people get justice, belief is free, oppressed people everywhere speak up and have allies now, those imprisoned have hope that they will taste freedom again. Your very world will have advocates fighting for her. All because of ordinary people who rose up to fulfill their destiny.”
When I shook my head, she framed my face in her hands and smiled brightly like the sun: “All because you guided them there.”
“They died, yes.”, she admitted with a solemn nod, “But hundreds, thousands lived. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. So they had to die. You had to suffer. I am sorry for that, but you accomplished so, so much. I am proud of you.”
I cried, but realised that the faces of my friends did not haunt me. They had waited for me to join them. So I took her hand and accepted death, knowing I had done everything I could have.
It was enough.
© Corinna Winter 2022-04-11