Had the citizens of Reidington been awake, they would have noticed the sudden darkness that overtook the city as the clock struck midnight. They would have noticed the snapping of branches in the rough winds. They would have noticed the starless sky and the dark streets. However, despite their slumber, they all shared one thing as the wind blew: A nightmarish glimpse into a world not one of them could bear to live in.
She ran down a hallway, her steps silent in the darkness. Clow Cards fell down the walls, each slipping into the floor and disappearing before falling again somewhere further down. Sakura kept running, breath sharp in her chest. The light at the end of the hall grew stronger until finally, finally, Sakura was bathed in it.
The town of Reidington rushed up at her from thousands of feet below, the houses small squares and the radio tower a mere smudge in the darkness. Wind blasted Sakura as she fell, leaving behind the light for the darkness of night. She cried out, flailing her arms for something, anything.
Panicking, Sakura fumbled for the cards, and grabbed one by just the tips of her fingers, hesitating for a moment as it nearly slipped away. Through teary eyes, Sakura saw the elegant body of a bird, beautiful wings folded. Sucking in a sharp breath, Sakura summoned all her strength.
A circle of gold light followed her down as Sakura threw the card up, making contact with the tip of the wand. For a breath, Sakura felt herself relax as a familiar warmth spread down from her fingertips. The Fly card began to glow.
But as before, her fingers went cold, and the Clow Card quivered and grew dim. Sakura fell anyway, and around her the cards began to turn black, charred and burned. Sakura could hear their voices, their cries of pain and terror as they died. The cards began to break apart in flakes of ash, and Sakura sobbed in desperation as, one by one, the cards dissolved into nothing.
A loud buzz woke Sakura from her troubled sleep. She flailed awake, holding the ringing clock securely in her hands; the sheets wrapped pell-mell round her legs. Sakura’s heart was hammering in her chest, banging against her ribs cage like a crazed beast. The last moments of the nightmare lingered in her memory. She could still hear her friends calling to her.
“Huh?” Sakura blinked back the sleep in her eyes to find herself face to face with Tori, her brother. She jumped in surprise.
“What? Oh, yeah, it was nothing,” Sakura excused, smiling and rubbing her eyes, “just a dream.”
Tori frowned and got to his feet, “Right. Breakfast is ready. Better hurry or you’re going to be late, squirt.”
And just like yesterday, and the weeks before that, the drawer lay empty.
There was a slight crispness to the air as Sakura skated to school, and she noted the browning of the leaves around her. Had fall already arrived? Was it really that time again?
As the smell of the cold air filled her nostrils, Sakura thought back to the dream. It was no ordinary nightmare. It nagged at Sakura, but she didn’t know why. She was used to strange dreams that foretold some imminent threat or fated event. But this, this was different.
Never had she dreamed of the cards falling away from her, nor had she ever heard them scream for her.
Sakura skidded to a halt, an image stuck in her mind. The cards were Clow Cards, not her own star cards. The scarlet and gold tones filled her memory. What was the dream trying to tell her?
“What do you mean, they died?”
“I don’t know.” Sakura shook her head. “But it was like they were burning , and all I could hear was them crying. It was horrible.”
Sakura nodded, looking up just a little, “I wish Kero was here. He might know what this is about.”
Sakura thought for a moment, rolling her eyes up to remember. Though the images were clear to her, she couldn’t recall any feelings save fear and pain. She shook her head. “I don’t know, Madison… but something’s happening.”
The nightmare returned two nights later, but this time it was different, darker. Sakura ran down the same hall, came into the same pool of light, and fell from the same place. The cards still showered down around her and still cried out. But this time, Sakura felt a presence with her, a deep power that resonated in her sobbing chest.
Sakura awoke with a start, tears searing the corners of her eyes, the heavy morning sun casting hot rays against her skin. She wiped the wetness from her cheeks and slowly rolled out of bed. She felt a sick feeling in her stomach as she approached her desk, where her cards slept.
Slowly, Sakura opened the drawer. The book sat undisturbed, sealed with her name on it. But Sakura felt no warmth when she laid her hand on the seal, and when she opened it, her stomach lurched. The Windy card lay on the top of the pile, and in the corner it was beginning to blacken, as though it were burning.
Night fell over Reidington, cloaking the town in a crawling darkness, the deepest yet. It seemed that light itself fell into nothingness, leaving behind a waking, breathing, hungry dark.
Sakura awoke at half past one as the last of the light on her street went out with a soft pop. She sat up to the stifling dark, blinking her eyes against it.
Even her voice was muffled and the dread in her belly grew unbearable. She eased out of herbed, holding her shaking hands out as she took a step forward. Her room was pitch dark. After an eternity, the hard wood of her desk stopped her quivering fingers. Carefully, she found the top drawer and pulled it open.
Slowly, Sakura’s eyes adjusted to the new light, and she looked down the book in her hands. A cry ripped from her throat. The cards were burning.
Pieces of ash fluttered into the air as the cards blackened at the edges, their glow unwelcome. Sakura dropped the book, and the cards scattered across her floor with a rustle of ashes. She sobbed as each card cried for her, as the fire chewed away at their edges.
The key glowed, elongating into the staff that Sakura knew so well. She held it in her sweating palms, tears streaming down her cheeks. She summoned the first card that came to mind.
The card, buried beneath its brothers and sisters, shivered and shook into the air, its edges crisp and black. Sakura touched the card with her staff and a blast of air tore through the fire. Wisps of pale mist and cool air tickled Sakura’s skin as Windy burst from the paper. Relief, warm and electric, flooded Sakura at the sight of the card’s true form.
Sakura sobbed once, but then she shouted: “Firey! Sword, Jump, Fly! Someone! Help me!”
The glow of the last card grew faint as it died out, leaving Sakura in the darkness once more. She could still hear them calling out her name.
The voices, they were different. They grew clearer in the looming dark. The dread that filled her belly dissipated as the voices grew louder, more distinct.
“I don’t—I don’t understand,” Sakura whispered, shaking uncontrollably. “They’re gone.”
“Are you real?” Sakura stared at Li, confused. He had moved back home. There was no one she wished were with her more than him, yet he couldn’t be there. “Go away. Go away! You’re not Li!” She shoved him away, snarling.
“Sakura,” Yue ordered, his white clothes oddly bright in the dimness, “try and focus.”
“Sakura! Focus! This is magic!”
“Magic?” The words felt strange on her lips, but even as she spoke them a familiar tingle crawled across her skin, a feeling she knew all too well. Magic. “Kero. Kero, is this real?”
“A card. card … cards.” Sakura stared at her blackened hands, eyes watering. “They’re all gone, Kero.”
She shook her head, as though her suffering were rainwater she could shake away. Fear. The cards.
Sakura stood on shaking feet, holding the star staff firmly in her hands. She raised it over her head.
“Fear card, show yourself!” she cried out, her voice cutting through the nothingness.
The woman was a only head taller than Sakura, but towered over her like a giant, her curled silver hair draped over bare shoulders. Small horns poked out from her forehead, the same color as the black wings springing from her back. A small, almost sad, smile played across her lips. She reached out and stroked Sakura’s cheek.
“Abandon your form and reincarnate! Under the name of your new master, Sakura—Fear card!”
The woman bowed her head as a gust of wind and strings of light enveloped her body, pulling her toward the wand. Her smile softened as she disappeared in a swirl of black and silver at last. The card shivered in the air, glowing and metallic. It shuddered and fell into Sakura’s outstretched hand.
The blackness that had consumed Reidington lifted. Stars popped back into the sky, the moon showed herself, and the streetlamps flickered to life once more. The dread of the last several days vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.
Only then did Sakura realize she was alone in the room. Li, Kero, Madison, Yue; none of them were there. She held the new card against her heart and smiled.
Sakura leaned out of her window and breathed in the night air. Either way, it didn’t matter. Her friends had come to her side, and with them, she had conquered her greatest fear.
As Sakura closed the cover, she swore she could hear a whisper: “Thank you.”