|More from Sparkstoaflame||Alternate universe||PG-13||NA||No update page|
September 21, 2014
/oh, where do we begin?/
Talk. Watch the sunrise. Firebend. (You can't firebend anymore, Korra.) Stand. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall down. Fall down how, Korra? Off the side of a cliff, maybe. Yes? Do you even know what these actions are anymore, Korra? Do you know what you are?
So fall for real now, Korra. Fall from where you had been flying, high in the sky. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall.
chapter one/ die
part the zero :: white
- freedom finally figures out it's not really free at all
- we are introduced to our lovely young protagonist
- our said lovely young protagonist can see these equally lovely things she likes to call "death clocks"
- (because really, they don't deserve a better name than that)
Meet Asami. Asami Sato.
She knows exactly when every single breathing creature living upon the earth will die.
How does she know this?
The clocks tell her so.
Welcome to the new world.
Welcome to the new world, where the denizens of Republic City wander around cracked streets and crumbling buildings, haunting reminders of the Equalists' revolution. Carnage that had been spread throughout the entire metropolis, with no nook and no cranny being spared.
Welcome to the new world, where humans hide among the dead husks of buildings and groaning skyscrapers scrape a nonexistent sky. Where skies are flat and a dreary gray, and peoples' souls mirror that of the heavens' smoky pall.
Welcome to the new world, where the ghosts from the aftermath of a war linger, a war against a long-established hierarchy dictating who is considered royalty and who is less than shit, of benders versus non-benders, conservatives versus extremists.
Welcome to the new world, where the current Avatar is not the master of all four elements, but one and only one — the element of freedom, the element of air. Freedom is ironic in this sense, because the Avatar denies herself any form of autonomy save for the force of her will. She holes herself in her childhood home and refuses to come out, no matter how many frustrated tears everyone sheds and how many times everyone loses their temper and screams their throats raw.
Welcome to the new world, which is quickly breaking apart at its seams.
Welcome to the new world, and we hope you enjoy your stay.
part the first :: red
- all attempts to teach the avatar fartbending fail in a most miserable fashion
- tenzin frets and worries
- then he leaves
- then he frets and worries some more
- basically, we are introduced to the sulking mess of the being known as avatar korra
- well, she doesn't really sulk and she's not really a mess but she's sure as hell not what she used to be and this is in a bad way and asami intends to change that
/look who's digging their own grave-/
It's just so hard to talk when you don't think you have anything left to live for.
Oh, Korra, it's not even mental by this point — it's physical. The words you know you can speak are vomited out from your mind right into your mouth, but that's where the perpetual stream isn't really perpetual anymore and it just stops, collecting underneath your tongue and your bottom lip like the chunks of ice that sometimes wedged themselves in the creases of the bottom of your boots when you crunched around in three-days-old winter snow. You stumble upon them and fall even as they gather in your mouth. So you just don't try to pick yourself back up, because that requires effort and effort means work and you're not even sure you have the will to rise back to your feet anymore.
You've been stuck inside a behemoth of a compound for the entirety of your pathetic life, Korra. Nothing to see but the dismal insides of a fence, a gargantuan one that's twenty feet tall and has been built out of white mortar and blue stone and misguided intentions. This has been your whole world for thirteen years, that place where you learned to crack water whips and lift rocks and engulf practice dummies in swathes of monstrous orange flame.
Oh, come on. Smile, Korra. The thought of mannequins burning away to a crisp should prompt you to smile indulgently, like how an adult smiles at the thought of a little child believing that otter penguins brought them to the footstep of Mommy and Daddy's home when they were a baby, and that's just that.
Spirits, Korra. Why aren't you smiling? Do you know how to smile?
You really don't know how to smile?
Smile? Laugh? Scream? Frown? Grow angry? Cry. Cry. Cry. At least cry, Korra. Cry. If you don't have anything left to live for, then cry. Have you become so much of a machine that you don't feel anymore? To be controlled remotely, because others are giving you commands and you're simply a servant to cycle through whatever they request of you?
Cry, Korra. Cry.
Why aren't you crying? Do you know how to cry?
You really don't know how to cry?
Then take these emotions. Take them with you, and then hurl them off the sheer side of a cliff. Let them perish in a screaming heap, down, down, downdowndown into the deep blue sea. Leave them all behind, choose to let them go.
So become an empty vessel now, Korra. Become nobody. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody.
/i was left to my own devices-/
Asami hasn't really had a home since the day she planted a smoking fistful of metal and electricity into her father's chest and tore off a good five years from end of his clock.
She hasn't really slept well, either. Nightmares featuring the shattered glass and metal remnants of a mecha tank enclosing her father in what might as well have been his grave are a common occurrence.
Sometimes, she dreams about Republic City — home — gasping its dying breaths, vomiting great plumes of dark smoke into the monotonic fog that has draped itself all over the metropolis, laid to total waste by Hiroshi Sato's flying war machines.
(Hiroshi, synonymous with father, synonymous with monster.)
She is an idealistic young woman. She regains her footing, she rebuilds. She works hard to dig Future Industries out of the hole her father has dug the company into.
She is so, so full of plans.
And yet, she feels so, so lost.
They follow her everywhere.
Back in Republic City, the air had thick with swirling digits and numbers, glowing an incandescent blue while unsuspecting patrons shuffled by with their heads tucked underneath their collars to brave a chilling wind. Asami has always been able to see them — the timers, death clocks, counting down the years and months and weeks and hours and minutes and seconds until their owner is fated to perish.
They're not set in stone, of course, because the future is always changing. Shifting in a turbulent level of the whole cosmic plane as a whole, variables being thrown in and snatched out of equations every second of every minute of every day. There are no constants. Perhaps that woman over there has thirty years left to live, but then she steps out onto the street a moment too early, totally vulnerable to the rush of incoming traffic. And suddenly her clock is counting down fivefourthreetwoone-ERR_NULL and the timer vanishes in a swirl of blue light.
It's not complicated, but still brutally accurate.
Asami has long since given up trying to use this strange ability to stop deaths, because more often she drew scandalized looks than she did horrified ones.
The terrible thing really is that she's gained a sense of morbid acceptance of the whole issue. That she can stand by and watch a man, a woman, a child about to die, and simply not do anything about it.
And some things, they aren't worth getting used to.
Her feet carry her to Korra's childhood home and she wonders why she still insists on doing so. Still insists on trying, even after she had been assaulted, time and time again, by a threadbare wall of deafening silence that continues to thicken by the second.
She used to visit with a goal set firmly in her mind. They all used to visit. Mako and Bolin and Tenzin and everyone.
Korra rebuffed every single one of them without a single word, and soon they got the message: Leave me alone.
So they all leave her alone. They stop coming; trickle away one by one and leave behind glaringly empty spaces that are not replaced, until the only beings still left waiting are Asami and Time.
Asami doesn't choose to bring Time with her. She never chooses. Time comes with her by himself and she doesn't have any say in the matter. He stays besides her, a silent force only marked by the dipping of a blood-red sun beneath the jagged ice-capped mountains that loom at the blurred horizon, shadow kings and queens reigning over a wasteland of snow and desolation.
And to Asami, Time is also marked by those timers and numbers and bright blue digits glowing in the air by day, behind closed eyelids by night. Death clocks, ticking down to the end of a being's world.
Asami watches Korra's. It stands as a silent sentinel above the roof of the hut the Avatar sequesters herself in, deceptively innocent and unthinkably potent.
But Korra herself is not seen, and she stays silent.
Time steals time and Time takes time and Asami waits. Days muddle into each other until they are nothing more than giant clocks, cycling mechanically through sunrise and sunset until there aren't any more sunrises and sunsets, only the day and the night and then only the sun and no sun.
Korra is not seen, and she stays silent.
Time steals time and Time takes time and Asami waits. Two weeks later, Mako and Bolin pack their bags and leave the South Pole, venturing back to what remains of Republic City. Tenzin frets and worries and stays behind because he's concerned that Korra will do something rash in the dead of the night when only the stars would pay witness to her deeds. He still swings by, sometimes. Korra does not make any surprise appearances. Then Tenzin frets and worries some more.
Korra is not seen, and she stays silent.
Time steals time and Time takes time and Asami waits until she's supposed to have nothing left to wait for. Senna and Tonraq come to her one day to plead that she return to Republic City, that they'll take care of the situation with Korra at home and please don't worry over her, she just needs time to adjust and she'll be fine with them and Asami needn't worry herself sick over the Avatar.
Asami respectfully declines and says in a soft voice, "I just want to see her. Once."
Senna and Tonraq leave.
Asami doesn't see Korra.
So she watches Korra's clock instead.
/and what will you have left-/
Hey. Hey, hey, hey.
Guess what. Guess what, Korra.
Tenzin came by again today, and for some reason that will never be known to man nor spirit, he brought Meelo along with him. You can hear the loud command in his voice as he demands you to let him in so he can teach you how to fartbend.
Oh, come on, Korra. You're not a waterbender anymore, nor an earthbender, nor a firebender. But you're still an airbender. One element is better than no element. And you know that.
(But they defined you, your elements. You don't think about that.)
You know that Tenzin sometimes drops by and he frets and he worries — about you — and you know exactly how Meelo is in regards to flatulence and airbending and you know how Asami stays hunkered down at the entrance to this spirits-forsaken hut you've barricaded yourself into. (Seriously, Korra. What in the name of Yue are you? Who shutters themselves inside a hut because they're too ashamed to show their face to maybe the entire world?)
And they do this because they care about you, Korra. They care about you, okay?
It's high time you start caring about them, back.
You still don't care?
(Korra, you are utterly, utterly, mad.)
Why do you insist upon waking up into a nightmare, every single day?
What is this nightmare?
Life is a nightmare.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
(Wow, wow is a nice word.)
That's it. That's your cosmic, life-changing moment right there, Korra. Ooooh, is life really a nightmare? It's fascinating how you're gonna need to spend like ten seconds contemplating that. And then maybe twenty more. Twenty more minutes. And then maybe for the whole afternoon because you've got nothing better to do.
(Because, ha, ha, you're literally good for nothing else.)
(Excuse of an Avatar.)
You know what, you are mad, Korra. You are slowly spiraling down into insanity, slowly being devoured by the voice of your subconsciousness.
Like, like, like — what can you even do anymore, Korra? Because you have known nothing but bending for nigh upon fourteen years. Days follow weeks follow months follow lives. Cycling through water and earth and fire. And you love them. Because they were your home, Korra. They were security.
You are, you are, you are, you are, you are —
You are so many things, Korra.
But most of all, you are mad, because I am present, and I should not even exist.
You are wondering what it feel like to throw yourself off a cliff, Korra, like you did with all your feelings and emotions a few weeks back.
(Smile. Smile. Smile. Smile. Just smile.)
It must be freezing. The water, you think. Below all the meters of ice cliff and rock, churning against the face of the crag and weathering away jagged chunks off part of the South Pole's mainland, synonymous with your home, synonymous with your soul. Because you're hunkered down in the dead bottom of the world, where the sun doesn't rise for half the year and even when it does there is still a perverse, lingering chill in the air that the rays of the sun cannot penetrate and will never be able to drive away. You live in a land of permafrost, of the icy gales and the winter air, a land of extremes that had been reflected in the opposite in your personality — storming hot to bitter cold. Your harsh environment has shaped you into who you are — who you were. Someone unique, and someone who wasn't afraid to back down from a challenge and wouldn't be moping around, flinching away from her problems, but instead confronting them head-on.
So, where did all that fire go, Korra?
Where did your drive go? All your brashness, your confidence, your desire to create a better world?
Where did Korra go, Korra?
(Because it was Korra who had that desire to create a better world, which stemmed from her status as Avatar, which stemmed from her ability to bend all four elements, which is definitely not you, because you couldn't lift a drop of water, a speck of sand, conjure a single spluttering flame if you gave up everything you had, to be able to do so.)
(You are a broken girl, Korra.)
In the end, you figure that you must be very brave to end your life like that. Hurl yourself into the depths of the cold and desolate sea (and maybe freeze yourself into an iceberg while you're at it), swallowed by roiling white waves of a force that you can no longer control.
Because right now, you're too scared to even stand up and do it.
part the second :: black
- everything is reckless
- because that's just what everything will ever be
- everyone is a prat
- because that's just all everyone will ever be
/and the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love-/
Asami herself is as careful as the death clocks around her are not: wild and thoughtless and totally out of control. She can glance up and watch numbers all around her, ticking down one second at a time.
Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five.
It's methodical, and Asami hates it. She wonders just how mechanical death can be, wonders why fate insists upon working this way, until destiny is nothing more than quantities and numbers, entirely preventable and totally systematic. As if some mad scientist has his hands splayed over the motherboard controlling the world, fingers dancing madly over the blinking keys. The fingers, stabbing madly everywhere, human lives dropping like stones through the air every time they hit a kill switch and the death clocks drop threetwooneNULLblink.
Asami takes her steps carefully and watches her clock all the while, because she knows that every stride she takes means another possibility of death. Another two years knocked off from her life, one decision leading to another leading to another leading to her eventual, inevitable demise. It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Asami knows when she will die; theoretically, she can prevent it. She can keep on taking paths that extend her lifespan, take the paths to avoid her death. Or she can plunge headlong into the dark tunnel and keep on scratching off the minutes and seconds from her life — bit by bit — until she drops dead in the middle of the street.
Other people her age, they are filled with hopes and dreams and wishes for the future. Asami's is filled with nothing but the narrow path of a future that consists of one long and stormy road, at which at the very end is a door leading the way to her death. She may walk a week along this road before encountering it; maybe months, maybe decades, maybe millennia. And even now, only barely a quarter of a way through and still very much alive, all she can see is her end.
Asami was eleven and playing ball with a friend on the sidewalk when she saw her first death clock go haywire.
And in all the irony of the universe, it started with a Satomobile.
Her friend had kicked the ball a little too far to the side, sending the thing sailing out into the middle of the road. Asami grumbled under her breath and, all thoughts of her personal safety flying out of her head, she marched out into the cobbled pathway to retrieve it.
And too late, she heard the shrieking bellows of the Satomobile careening around the bend.
She saw her clock rearrange itself in the reflection of the automobile's windshield.
And right there — in the middle of the road, green eyes stretched wide with horror and bitter cocoa melting in her mouth — that was when a numbing, horrified sort of comprehension struck her in the head and latched on, never to let go. And even as she started to understand, a man — a stranger, a hero — he raced onto the road and threw Asami away.
The man died in Asami's place.
Something snapped in her that day. Long before anything else. Long, long, long, long, long before she met Korra.
Asami was already broken, already missing something that no one has ever been able to replace. Ever been able to repair. Because it was absolutely beyond repairing.
Oh, she's tried. She's tried. So. Freaking. Hard.
It was just a ball game. Just a game.
Asami never played ball again.
Game over, Asami.
Game over. Game over. Game over.
/living beyond your years-/
It's hard to live and it's hard to die.
(So then...what is it easy to do?)
Let's call that time before everything went to hell The Before. Makes sense, yeah?
You know, Korra, that time when you still had your bending. That time when you still smiled. That time when you had a foot in both ends of the extremes.
Do you still remember how you used to love fire, Korra? Hah, that was the second element you had ever bent — it maybe blinked into existence two months after the time you didn't want to take a bath and ended up giving your mother a bath instead — and spirits, did you love it. Can you still remember the looks on your parents' faces? Shocked and awed with the tiniest hint of dismay?
It took them quite a while to realize what the little spurts of flame sparking from you palms really meant, right? Meant that you were the new Avatar.
(Because that's how benders found out that they were the Avatar, right?)
(That they could bend their native element, and oh my spirits why are these rocks rising up behind me and mom mom mom mom look at what I can do I can make flames come out of my hands mom you said I was a waterbender mom mom mom MOM-)
(Because that's how you found out you were the Avatar, that's what made Avatar Korra Avatar Korra which made Korra, right?)
(Right? Right? Right?)
(Do you even follow me?)
There had been something about fire that you could connect with, right?
(That's why you miss it. So, so, so much more than you'll ever admit.)
You had been born of the cold and the frozen sea, during the middle of one of the largest snowstorms the Southern Water Tribe had ever seen in a century. But you weren't as icily desolate as the environment you had been birthed in to. Spirits forbid, no. Mother always used to tell you there was no one she knew more impulsive and fiery than you had been as a child, remember? You scorched sealskin pelts and burned the pristine white fur lining your parka to black crisps.
But it was just so warm, Korra. Heat in the middle of a land with no heat, and it crackled and smoked and danced and was alive. Sometimes you would sneak out of the hut during the break of dawn, when the twinkling stars began to fade and bled pink and orange and gold into a lightening sky, and you would hold a flame in your palms. Watch the sun rise, stretching out great rays of light and warmth, mirroring the bundle of sparks you fondled within your palms.
And do you remember — it almost created an aura in the chilly climate of the South Pole, a pocket of air within air? Heat and flame stark against the ice and snow that crunched beneath your boots. Even a weak flame a sufficient force against the biting wintry chill of your native home, because the temperatures are so extreme that anything remotely pushing against it would be considered extreme in turn.
Anything extreme, Korra. Like you used to do. Like you used to be.
And nothing you do is extreme any more, Korra.
You've become just another constant in an expanse of white, white, white snow.
You're distinguished by nothing and defined by no one.
(And so what are you going to do?)
(You're begging to differ, Korra.)
Sled. Swim. Pro-bend. (You can't pro-bend anymore, Korra.) Jog. Run. Run. Run. Run places. Run where, Korra? Off the side of a cliff, maybe. Yes? Take these verbs, and take them with you. You don't deserve them. So let them perish in a screaming heap with you. Leave them all behind, choose not to stay.
So die for real now, Korra. Die. Die. Die. Die.
the next chapter will be up soon. although i might be lying (i definitely am). heh.
the one all the mindbogglingly random conversations she's instigated about elsa's hips ^^"
For the collective works of the author, go here.