This was an entry for a flash fiction contest. I didn’t end up winning, but I had a lot of fun writing this, and I definitely learned a lot about trimming.
Death’s just tumbling down the mountain, Kehr often said. Life’s a climb to the top.
The Ravager flaked into ash behind Berise. The Oneness with her past lives was already fading; soon she would be only herself. Thousands of soldiers cheered her, ignoring puddles of their enemy’s ichor smeared across the battlefield.
Tens of thousands, broken on the ground, didn’t cheer. They were louder.
Seeking Kehr, Berise followed a young soldier down to the walls where their battle had started. With somber eyes, he pointed to a crumpled form on the ground.
The composite Berise remembered losing thousands she loved during a thousand cycles. It promised reunion in cycles to come. But that consolation was silenced beneath the real Berise’s screams.
Collapsing beside the body, she cradled Kehr’s head and sobbed. “I can’t! Not without you. Please.”
He was the only friend the Ravager couldn’t turn against her. He was the only reason she’d made it this far. He was why she had kept fighting.
He had been dead for hours.
The Ravager would shatter her soul, break the cycle, undo everything she had fought for. Was fighting even worth it?
It is, the other her said, the words almost too quiet to hear. Her head shook in denial.
Part of her remembered the choice she made between lives: to return, to continue the cycle. Without her, the world would drown in darkness. But she could end it all. Find peace.
Was this worth her suffering? Her loss?
“It’s not!” the real Berise cried.
Kehr would say it is. The thought left her reeling.
She let Kehr’s head down, and pushed herself to her feet.
“Tell the troops to gather,” she said, wiping away her tears. “We’re going home.”
Life’s a climb, Kehr had said.
So she climbed.