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July 25, 2013
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Summer was over, that much was certain. As the sun set, muted fall colors drew her gaze to the city, waiting as the moon rose in the oddly black sky above. It seemed as though the stars were afraid to shine, too scared to show themselves. But the worst part was the wind, a steady breeze that, as the moon rose, grew stronger, fingers of squalling gusts clawing through tree branches and abandoned swing sets.

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.

Sakura Avalon was no exception; she lay in her bed, sheets tangling around her body as she tossed and turned. Beads of sweat trickled down her brow and a soft cry escaped her lips as her eyes fluttered beneath their lids.

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.

But something was wrong about the light, evil; When it touched her, it was cold, stinging her skin. As the light faded, so too did the floor beneath Sakura’s feet. She fell, tumbling forward into open air.

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. 

Her freezing fingers brushed something long and cold. As her staff fell with her, Sakura took hold of it, clutching it tightly in both aching hands. The Clow Cards plummeted to the Earth below, circling Sakura’s falling body.

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.

“Fly card!” she cried, her voice a whisper against the howling wind, “come to my aid!”
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. 

She closed her eyes as the ground below barreled closer and the air that rushed through her hair grew hot and the voices of her friends and family filled her ears …

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.

“Uh, Sakura?”

“Huh?” Sakura blinked back the sleep in her eyes to find herself face to face with Tori, her brother. She jumped in surprise. 

“Hey kid,” Tori sat at the edge of her bed, wearing a hint of a smile, “had a nightmare?”
“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.”

He left, closing the bedroom door softly behind him. Sakura stretched and glanced at the last drawer of her desk, as she did every morning, eager to see her companion Kero as he slept.

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. 

Wait.

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?” 

Madison stared at her with a mixture of concern and wonder in her dark eyes. The school was buzzing with activity around them, but even amid the shouts and laughter, the bench they sat on felt too quiet, too secluded.

“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.”

“That sounds scary,” Madison murmured softly.

Sakura nodded, looking up just a little, “I wish Kero was here. He might know what this is about.”

“Did you sense anything in the dream?”

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. 

Sakura sucked in a sob and slammed the desk shut, sitting on the edge of her bed, her eyes watering at the edges. What was going on? A feeling of dread filled her gut.



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. 

“What...?”

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. 

The book was still there, and Sakura let out a heavy sigh as she picked it up. The weight of it in her hands brought a smile to her face, a shred of hope to her heart. She opened the book, and a soft, gold light struck her eyes. Blinking against the sudden brightness, Sakura felt the cards hum in the stillness, their warmth heavy against her cold fingers.
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. 

”No, no, no!” Sakura cried, fumbling for the key round her neck with clumsy, frozen fingers. “Help me!”

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. 

“Windy!”

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.

Then she jerked, and Sakura’s relief faded as Windy began to convulse. Sakura screamed and struggled to her feet, leaping for the card. In the span of a breath, Windy grew faint. As Sakura wrapped her arms around her beloved card, Windy faded into nothingness, leaving a pile of black ash in her hands.

Sakura sobbed once, but then she shouted:  “Firey! Sword, Jump, Fly! Someone! Help me!”

Like Windy, each card trembled and faded, crumbling to embers before their master’s eyes. Sakura fell to her knees in a cloud of soot, surrounded by death, and cried into her hands. Why was this happening? What did she do to deserve such terror?

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.

“Sa—k—ura. W—ake up!”

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. 

“Wake up! Wake up, Sakura!”

“Kero?”

The name was out of Sakura’s lips when a beam of light fell on her shaking body. Madison, Kero, Li, and Yue all emerged from the blackness.

“I don’t—I don’t understand,” Sakura whispered, shaking uncontrollably. “They’re gone.”

“Who is?” Li knelt beside her. “What happened?”

“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. 

“What happened to her?” Li looked up to Kero and Yue.

“Sakura,” Yue ordered, his white clothes oddly bright in the dimness, “try and focus.”

She shook her head violently. It was all a lie. What was left of the cards coated her hands, her clothes, dyeing her black.

“Sakura! Focus! This is magic!” 

Kero’s voice was loud and strong, like that of a clanging bell in the stillness of summer. Sakura stared at him, her friend and mentor, at Yue and Madison, at Li.

“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?”

“Listen to me, Sakura. This is a card. You need to focus and figure out what card it is.”

“A card. card … cards.” Sakura stared at her blackened hands, eyes watering. “They’re all gone, Kero.”

“Sakura. Focus.”

She shook her head, as though her suffering were rainwater she could shake away. Fear. The cards.

That was the final piece of the puzzle. It clicked. The dreams, the dread, the cards. This was her greatest fear: watching everything she loved die, unable to protect anything.
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.

First, she felt a cool breeze. Then it picked up, swirling, nearly knocking her from her feet. Sakura shielded her eyes against the gusts as the black ash of the cards faded away. When she lowered her hands, she found herself looking up at a woman with sparkling blue eyes.

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.

She whispered something, almost too soft to hear, before stepping back, hands folded in front of her. Sakura raised the wand in front of her, pointing it toward the newly found card.

“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. 

She stood in her bedroom, the Star Cards stacked neatly in their book, waiting for her. Wrapped in her warm fingers, the face of the Fear card peered up at her. Sakura stared at it for a while before a soft, cool breeze brushed her cheek. Her window was open.

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. 

Had she imagined her friends there with her in that suffocating darkness? Was it another dream, another hallucination? No, it felt too real, too familiar for that…

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. 

Holding the card in one hand, Sakura opened the Book on her desk. She took one last look at the card that nearly took everything from her and placed it with its brothers and sisters.

As Sakura closed the cover, she swore she could hear a whisper: “Thank you.”

Original, Unedited Draft: A Dark HorizonSummer was over, that much was certain. As the sun set, fall had her gaze over the city, waiting as the moon rose in the oddly black sky above. It was as though the stars were afraid to shine, too scared to show themselves that night. But what was worse was the wind, a steady breeze that, as the moon rose, grew stronger, fingers of squalling gusts brushing through tree branches and abandoned swing sets.
 
Had the citizens of Reidington been awake, they would have noticed the sudden darkness that took over the city as the clock hit midnight. They would have noticed the snap of branches in the rough winds, the starless sky and dark streets. They would however, all share one thing in common as the wind blew. A nightmare, a glimpse into a world not one person wanted to be in.
 
Sakura Avalon was no exception and she lay in her bed, tossing and turning, the sheets tangled over her body as she tossed and turned. Beads of sweat trickled down her brow and a soft cry escaped her lips
by :iconshades-ofgray:~Shades-ofGray

This is my entry for the second phase of the Betamatch Fanfiction Contest. I was given a short, dark, dreamy Cardcaptors piece. Lucky for me, I had watched just enough of the show to make a little sense of it.

My initial impression of the piece was pretty strong. Deeper than the show it came from, certainly, with a clear intention of being a prose poem. I tried to be true to that.

I find it difficult to explain the changes I made becuase they were mostly very small, and they weren't uniform. Certainly a lot of my alterations were grammatical. There were run-on sentences and fragments that didn't suit the flow, which is what you would expect in any unedited draft... especially one set primarily in nightmares. There were issues with parallelism, which is also very common in the unedited drafts of even expert writers. I fleshed those out as necessary. I altered some imagery to flow better or to be moodier; people with very clear images in their mind sometimes write very clunky descriptions of them.

I also added a lot of imagery in places where it seemed to be somewhat lacking. I could see what I think Shades of Gray wanted, but I wanted to be sure the reader sees it as well. I also took a single use of a reference to being cold and worked it in as a recurring symbol, incorporating cold-related pain as a result. Surely I'm not the only one whose hands ache in the cold. Lastly, I modified the line about a living, breathing dark to more clearly evoke a black hole. Artistically, I'm sure this was the right thing to do to make the line pop... but since black holes are sort of a poetic signature of mine, I feel a need for full disclosure. 

The original line:

"It was as though light itself was suctioned into nothingness, leaving behind a waking, breathing dark."

My revision:

"It seemed that light itself fell into nothingness, leaving behind a waking, breathing, hungry dark."

So I felt I should point that out.

I made a few modifications to try and lessen the amount of times the word "fear" appeared in the early half of the document, replacing it with synonyms. I feel subtle foreshadowing is the best foreshadowing, especially when the name of a thing is so important. 

A last change I felt was necessary was weeding out some of the details of CCS that might weigh down an unfamiliar viewer.  Rather than explicitly explain Sakura's relationship with her love interest, I modified it into a more vague suggestion, one that had a little more immediacy to where she was in the story.

My aim was to maintain the dark, scary mood througout, turning the elegant simplicity of the ending into almost a statement in itself. I believe I have succeeded. 

Please direct all inquiries regarding follow-ups to ~Shades-ofGray. Details on the particular grammatical issues I found can be furnished on request. I love teaching me some English.

This story is her property, less what belongs to whoever owns Cardcaptors, anyway. I'd love it if she credited me for editing if she posts this modified version elsewhere (my username is the same everywhere), but otherwise it's hers to do as she wishes. I wish her the best of luck on the "Diamond in the Rough" portion of the competition, and in whateve story she's editing right now. This has been a really great experience, and I'm glad I participated.
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:iconsingingflames:
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I haven't seen that show in ages, but I remember enough of it that this made perfect sense. It's a great story, and I like you editing. :nod: I have to admit, it had me guessing. I was going to go with "Nightmare," but it turned out much simpler and more encompassing than that. Well done to both of you! :)
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:icondecepticonflamewar:
DecepticonFlamewar Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist

That's the really great thing about this story. If you were to explain it, it would sound almost trite or cliche, but in the context of its source material it's brilliant and surprisingly insightful without actually deviating too far from the source. I was very lucky to get it for editing, and I had a really good time working on it.

Thank you for the compliments on my editing. I put a lot of work into it, and I'm glad people seem to be happy with the result. Me, I feel like a surgeon with my hands in someone's guts, being praised for what I did when all it was was a few stitches, you know? 

But thanks. Really.

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:iconsingingflames:
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

Yes, it is a great story. There were quite a few good fics in this contest. :nod: I really don't envy the judges for having to chose between these stories. I got *iammemyself's Portal fanfic. That one was good, too.

You're welcome. :)

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:icondecepticonflamewar:
DecepticonFlamewar Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm saving your edit of the portal fic for a day when I need a good read, but don't have the patience to find anything. :)
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:iconsingingflames:
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
There wasn't much to change in that one. I tweaked it here and there, but not overly noticeable.
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:icondecepticonflamewar:
DecepticonFlamewar Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah, the quality of Indiana's rough drafts is usually pretty high. :)
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:iconshades-ofgray:
Shades-ofGray Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
<3 You've done a wonderful job and done justice to what I was trying to imagine in the writing.

I'm very happy with what you've done here
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:icondecepticonflamewar:
DecepticonFlamewar Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you; you did a wonderful job, too! And thank you for playing. I had fun editing it, and I never would have gone looking for Cardcaptors fic. I'm really glad we both joined the contest. :D
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