Unsure if she should scream or cry, Dawn can only sit in the canoe and grip the oar with white-knuckled fingers. Feeling something bump into the boat, she turns to the side and watches a large shark swim by. Tired of running and fighting, she smacks the animal on the nose when it gets close and watches it dart away. Spouts from distant whales and other signs of animals surround her, but nothing dares to get very close. The solitude is crushing and she considers jumping into the ocean. She is on her feet before remembering that Kara wanted her to put an end to the chaos that has consumed the planet. Flopping onto her back, Dawn ignores the sharp pain of hitting the seats and lazily uses the oar without looking. She is not surprised to find that the slightest push sends the canoe jerking ahead. Out of curiosity, she gets up and tries to turn the boat around, but it spins in place until she is about to throw up. She leans over the side and uses her hand to stroke the water, which has the same effect as the oar. Feeling like she has no control over her fate, the exhausted woman goes back to lying down and stares at a sky that is filled with oddly-shaped clouds.
“I have to win a fight against monsters,” Dawn whispers to herself. She raises her hand and stares at her fingers, which are covered in blood and dirt. “They never let me remember how the final battle goes. I walk in blind every time, which means I can’t figure out what worked and what led to my defeat. This doesn’t feel like it did before. The emotions I used to hold were of hope and determination, but now I don’t really care. Addison is going to mess with the game again and I’ll be made to feel like someone else. Why did she revive me with no interest in being the haven this time?”
“She wanted to change the game,” a voice says from the water. Before the woman can sit up, a fish leaps out of the ocean and lands at her feet. “I’m not real. You’re hallucinating while talking to yourself. That’s why I sound like you, but more nasally. Anyway, it’s clear that Addison was getting bored and wanted to se what would happen if you weren’t put in the proper role. Although, it could have been Ian doing it to take you out of the equation, but he seemed surprised to you. It is interesting that you found the path anyway. Shows that some things in life are inevitable.”
“Just my luck,” she mutters while moving her leg. Seeing her knee pass through the fish, she sighs and sits up to stare down at the animal. “This isn’t a sane conversation. I’m not supposed to see things that aren’t there. Have I gone insane? Is it possible that a being born of sanity can still hold a piece of insanity?”
“Good questions and they might be important,” the creature answers before diving back into the water. It comes back out immediately and rubs its gills, which are bright red and shivering in the breeze. “Sorry, but I need to go under for air at times. Where were we? Oh, you should know that you’re not what you used to be. After centuries of being your own organism, you’ve developed your own personality and quirks. This is why Addison isn’t a raving lunatic like she was at the beginning. A thinking being can’t exist with only sanity or insanity in their head. You need at least a little of one to counter the other. If that doesn’t happen then you get someone like Ian, who is all crazy and doesn’t care. That might not be a good example, but I can only work off your personal opinion of him.”
Rubbing her temples, Dawn fights back the urge to swing the oar at the fish. “None of this helping. I mean, it makes sense that I’ve been free for so long that I’ve become an individual instead of a piece of Addison. That still doesn’t help me in the fight. Just brings up more questions. Why would she want to reabsorb someone who has grown into something other than a missing piece? Could it even be done? Maybe it can’t, which is why I keep getting reset. Then again, Ian would simply kill me. Unless he can’t or doesn’t know what’s going on. All he knows is that Addison is weaker without me, but he still can’t defeat her. Ugh, I keep running in circles and making myself even crazier.”
“You truly wish for a simpler time.”
“And when was that?”
“The days when you were in her head and she was contained.”
“I don’t have the power to trap two monsters.”
“Not with that attitude.”
Wondering if her mind is telling her that she can alter reality, Dawn stands and stares at the clouds on the horizon. She stretches her arms and closes her eyes to focus on the beating of her heart. Moving her hands as if sculpting clay, she imagines transforming the distant storm into a herd of fluffy horses. The rocking of the canoe causes her to sit down with her legs folded beneath her tense body. A crack of thunder shakes the entire ocean and Dawn opens her eyes to see that nothing has changed. With a muttered curse, she picks up the oar and hits the water to send herself bouncing along the choppy waves.
“To be fair, I didn’t say you could do stuff like that,” the fish mentions with a chuckle. It refuses to move when the woman throws a punch, its glistening eyes staring down at the extended limb. “Hope that made you feel better. What I meant is that you have to possess some advantage over the monsters. They fear you for a reason even if they don’t understand what that is. Perhaps those driven by insanity worry that the sane can ruin their fun or destroy what they believe makes them special. No way to tell unless you focus on what makes you different from them. Aside from having no powers, being at their whim, and subconsciously focused more on Kara’s purpose than-”
“Hope,” Dawn interrupts, her mind abruptly clearing. Turning to face wherever they are going, she uses all of her strength to move the canoe at a dizzying speed. “If I can change without realizing it then so can the game. Something can be born from all of the rewrites of reality to stop everything from fracturing. Maybe I forged her during my own revival since I would have had access to Addison’s power. I have no proof of any of this, but it would explain why Kara never existed prior to this time around. This whole thing has been different with me not knowing my purpose and her coming into my life.”
“I don’t think this is helping you,” the hallucination mentions with a worried frown. It sticks its tail fin to the side of the boat and leans down to get its gills in the water for a few seconds. “I can see that you need to find a reason for all of this, but you’re trying to place logic on a creature such as Addison. She could have created Kara by accident or Ian might have made her to give you something to lose. That’s if she’s a game piece in the first place. There’s always the chance that she was always around and you never met her until now. Thousands of humans on this planet and you don’t know all of them. Why is this girl so special?”
“Because . . . she’s my haven,” Dawn replies before she lets the imaginary fish dissipate.
Within minutes, a large shape appears in the fog that parts like a curtain to reveal a desolate island. She can see a small pier on the shore, the pylons covered in mushrooms that release threads to snag passing terns. A twisted forest is to the south and a patch of clouds sits above the trees to release a constant stream of prismatic rain. In the other direction is the charred ruins of a large building that is being circled by a flock of ravens. Slowing her advance, Dawn tosses the oar into the water and lets the current take her to the pier. The canoe sinks as soon as she steps onto the creaking boards, a plume of bubbles rising to drift across the familiar island. With no fanfare, a hand-written banner unfurls from an archway at the far end of the pier and welcomes the woman back to Raven’s Hold.