A Deal With Death: Chapter 1
Smoke & Fog
Snow fluttered down, gently, swaying, down from the clouds. Derrick always wondered how clouds formed. Was it the work of some god, or natural forces? This was likely a question that would not be answered, at least for him. It was silly for him to be wondering about these things, anyways… Though the more he wandered into the unknown territory that dominated his mind, the more he fervently wished he could know the answers to these questions.
His father had been a powerful fire magic user, and his mother, a poison magic user. A few months ago, her mother had left to join the magic council. Derrick’s father hadn’t heard back from her yet, but they both assumed she was defeating criminals and serving justice as they spoke.
“Just think about it”, father said on a foggy afternoon, 5 days ago. He could vividly bring this particular memory up quite immediately, and he wasn’t sure why; his sanity would be a subject for another time. His father looked down at him, and gave him a hopefull, yet fleeting glance. “Your mother, using her gift to defeat dark wizards and fiends across Magius. Isn’t that amazing?” He looked back up at the fog and sighed. Derrick walked away.
Mother had left without quite a trace, but Derrick’s father assured him that she had gone to join the Magic Council. Derrick believed it, too. Mother was an exceptionally talented wizard. There weren’t a large amount of wizards in the area they lived in, either. Most towns and cultures on Magius had much more magic than the Snow Folk did. Expectedly, their northern culture received a lot of teasing from other Magians.
Unfortunately, Derrick had no magic of his own. If he did, he probably would have ran away and joined his mother, or broken into the library.
Despite being 15, he never had the ability to use his magic. His mother and father were filled with an uncomfortable amalgam of disappointment and surprise; Derrick’s mother belonged to a long line of wizards, gifted at that. It was quite reasonable to think Derrick would inherit these powers.
In just a few days, he would start a job of mining and exporting ice. Derrick himself quite dreaded it, but his father thought it would be a great crown-making opportunity. Ice was one of the Snow Folk’s biggest and most prized exports. Derrick himself, however, couldn’t care less about this occupation… what he really desired was to look around the library. It was only a few igloos away from their own. It’s one of the few buildings in their somewhat poor neighborhood that was made of stone bricks. Most Snow Folk settled in small igloos. Snow is, in fact, a wonderful insulator.
Perhaps being so spoiled was getting to his head.
Derrick very much wished to enter the library. He longed for knowledge, not just safety and life. He thought of himself as an individual. He never knew how anything in this world worked, and what the world was like outside of the gleaming, frigid, snow-blanketed region that is Northern Magius. Everything he wanted to know was in that library, and frankly, he didn’t care about working a normal life. He wanted a chance at comprehension.
But he just
The library was solemnly restricted to scholars and wizards who were "Required” to know the information the library stored. According to his father, Derrick was not one of those people. The books were too valuable to be tampered with and damaged by normal citizens.
Derrick would get to that library, one day, no matter what it took. No matter what it took, no matter how long it took. He wouldn’t be deterred.
Suddenly, the loudest noise Derrick had ever heard shattered his eardrums. In the back of his head, a deadly, destructive, swirling pool of pain. Before his eyes, a blurry mess. The library had been skewered by a pillar of apocalyptic, searing flame. The fire rocketed, roared into the sky above. The sky, in turn, faded to a blood red hue. The snow was illuminated by incredible quantities of light. It glowed a terrifying golden color. It sparkled with a foreign, deadly force. The library audaciously crumbled before his eyes. Hundreds of years of knowledge and progression, deleted instantaneously.
Then, the world plummeted. Down, down. How far would it go? A piercing screeching noise filled his ears. His skin burnt in incomprehensible pain. Everything around him turned black. All his senses plunged into an unsettling dark, unknown state. His surroundings were filled with a veil of vile darkness.
A scorching pain marched down from his skin to his insides, which felt as if they had been flipped and twisted tenfold. Derrick tried to scream; not a sound escaped his mouth. An unsettling silence… His hopes evaporated, like a snowflake on a mitten.
His head turned upwards involuntarily. Fear cascaded down his body, then violently crashed down in waves.
Unexpectedly, something broke the night. A tiny white dot began to grow at a snail’s pace. Back and forth, back and forth. His head followed it. He tried to struggle against his own body. It did not work. He couldn’t think anymore. The object, clearly identifiable as a piece of paper, finally touched the impossibly nonexistent floor, and flopped with a scraping, piercing sound. At least there was some noise.
In control of himself, Derrick slowly leaned forward. His eyes, half blurry, strained to read the text on the paper. He just needed to lean forward a little more. He struggled against whatever was holding his legs to the ground. Just a bit more. He planted his hands, bloodied, firmly onto whatever floor he was kneeling on.
Suddenly, his arms ceased to exist. There was no pain, until his body whipped downwards, and his head smashed violently against the floor. Derrick had no time to react.
Derrick tried to feel his hands, and his arms. But he couldn’t… they had simply disappeared. The universe was mocking him. In such a disadvantageous state, Derrick was quite paralyzed onto the floor. He wasn’t quite strong enough to heave his upper body off the floor without the help of his hands.
But he was quite determined not to let panic set in. As his mind started to blur, swirl, and paint over old thoughts, he slowly tilted his head up. His neck screamed and protested in pain. The taste of iron filled his mouth, and stimulated his tongue.
He let his chin rest on the void floor. Finally, Derrick could relax, even if it was just for a moment. He let out a slow, long groan; which was surprising, since he was mute just seconds earlier. A shiver slid down his spine, colder than ice. He focused his eyes, and began reading the page. It took 3 seconds for the black blurs in a dead white scroll to become legible. He read a single word.
Suddenly, to his dismay, the page spontaneously combusted. Derrick watched for two minutes, immobile, as hopelessly, it was slowly engulfed in tongues of terrible, smoldering destruction. Crackle, Pop. It curled, blackened, and slowly disappeared. Every moment that passed, his pain increased more and more. Starbursts of fire struck his veins with startling fury.
Eventually, there was nothing more. His surroundings swirled, black against even darked black… and came back in a mix of color.
Derrick finally woke up. Worst dream he’d had in a long time.
He swallowed it.