He shut the door with a bang, then leaned against it, panting heavily. The dagger in his hand, coated with fresh blood, clattered to the floor. He tasted copper on the side of his mouth and smiled. So this was what victory tasted like. Satisfied, he strode to the mirror in the corner of the room. And froze.
He couldn't recognise his reflection. His eyes were bloodshot, ravaged by wickedness. A long, knotted scar extended from his shoulder to his wrist. Chunks of his deep orange hair were missing. Deep orange? He had thought it was black.
And his legs. The skin was ripped apart, and a jagged piece of flesh protruded from his left thigh.
But what worried him the most was his smile. Not so much a smile as a malicious grin. Because he was not grinning. Or smiling. No. In a flash, he realised why he couldn't recognise his reflection. It was not his. Slowly, he turned around.
The apparition was there, cackling. But it wasn't the only one. Hundreds were standing behind the orange-haired beast. All had the same famished look on their faces. All had the same wild grin.
He started to recognise some of the faces. Contorted, but familiar. He knew all of them. They were the people he had killed.
He took a step back. Bad move. As if on the order of some unseen commander, they marched forward. Towards him. He searched frantically for his dagger, but it was too late. As they closed in on him, he screamed. A tantalizing, ear-splitting scream.
A random, horrible thought came to him; Why couldn't he see himself in the mirror? Then he blacked out.
He had numerous dreams: each of them were fleeting, yet they seemed to last an eternity. Some were memories; he saw his mother, smiling, reassuring him, saying that she would come back. His mother had lied. He dreamt of his sister, her eyes rusting, lips firm. Dead. Some were nonsensical visions; a burning building, a turn teddy bear, an old beggar. He felt like he was seeing these through another's eyes.
Chris. A plain, common name. Yet it echoed within the walls of his heart, as did the voice that said it. Chris. That was his name. And the one who said it… Her voice was all too familiar. But she was dead. He forced his eyes open.
He took a moment to register his surroundings, and the shadow looming over him. Elania. His sister.
'Elania?' he asked, his voice sluggish, his eyes barely adjusting to the light.
'Oh Chris, I'm so glad! You've been dozing for three whole days! They found you lying there, blood all over you. If it hadn't been for…'
He tuned out his 10 year old sister's seemingly incessant ramblings. Elania had been dead for three years. And the battle? That was three years ago. Abruptly, he realised that he had heard this before. These words. In the same voice. On that day.
In his mind's eye, he saw what would happen next. The nurse would come in, saying-
'Oh, he's up, is he? That took longer than usual.'
It was crystal clear. The memories embedded themselves in his brain. He had somehow travelled back in time.
'Elania? I need some alone time.'
'But Chris, you've only just-'
She huffed.'Not fair.'
Then she reluctantly got up and marched out with the nurse.
Surely the apparition would have left a message. About who he was, or why he had sent Chris here.
As he tried to sit up, a stab of pain enveloped him, leaving him gasping for air. That was new. The pain hadn't been there before. He tried again, and this time, he felt it sharp and clear, coming from his right arm. He looked at it.
Ofcourse. What better way for a ghost to leave a message than to engrave it into his arm. He grimaced at the pain. As he read the message, a chill ran down his spine.
A little gift for you. A chance to change your fate. I'll meet you again, but this time I hope I don't have to kill you.
How had Elania and the nurse not noticed it? Was it meant only for him to see? But that didn't matter. He was back here. The day he became an assassin. He let out a shaky breath. A chance to change his life. A chance to change the world. But did he really want to do it.
Did he really want to forsake the comfortable life he had in the past? Or rather, the future. Did he really care more about the world than himself? Why should he? The world didn't care for him anyway. And death? Death was inevitable. He might as well die sooner and get it over with.
No. No. He cursed himself. How could he be so selfish? Elania. He was the reason she died- would die. He loved his sister. He needed to do something for her. He had decided. But the decision-making would be later tonight. He had plenty of time until then.
He tried getting up again, this time doing so with ease. Shocked, he examined his body. Unlike the last time, when he had numerous scars and broken bones, this time there was not a scratch. His gaze snapped to his arm. The writing was gone.
He sat still for a long time, dazed. Was this magic? Time travelling, disappearing wounds… what was next?
Maybe this trip to the past wasn't so similar after all.
Night fell at last. He waited anxiously until the clock struck nine, then heard a sharp rap at the door.
He took a deep breath. The world seemed to stand still, waiting in anticipation, just as Chris himself was doing.
A tall man with deep orange hair walked in. Chris felt the world fade around him.