Beams of light pierce every inch of my mind.
I see him. Kylo. His mouth is turned so far downward that it looks like it might fall right off his face. His dark eyes are determined, but his brows flicker against them in sorrow.
Another face takes shape before me. Hair the color of a dirty ashtray sprinkled with salt and snow. A dropping look of sorrow and regret. The face of someone who wants to disappear. His mouth is moving but I can’t hear a word he says. All I remember is the horror of it all. The destruction he spoke of—the violence. The betrayal. The day Kylo Ren was no longer Ben Solo.
“I’m sorry, what?” I ask, fiddling with my ears in an attempt to unclog them. I don’t think my ears are the problem. I take a deep breath and shoot a look at the old Jedi master, slumped against stone. We are seated amongst rocks in the mouth of a cave, adjacent to the grassy terrain spreading against this side of the island. Just outside, the sun is persevering to provide us with light behind dense clouds of gray. Beyond the grass, all I can see is sky and water running together. The cliff holding us up drops off a few strides from where we are seated. I can hear the crashing waves pounding below us, rattling the ground beneath our feet.
“I failed him,” Luke says, “I failed to train him well.” His voice cracked. He blinked and wiped his mouth with a shriveled, shaking hand. He continued. “When he tried to kill me, he killed them. If it hadn’t been for my attempt at training him—at honing the skills he possessed…if I had noticed the darkness ahead of time…no one would have been killed… I failed to save him from himself. I failed him as a master. In every way, I failed him.” Luke’s face crumples like he’s just tasted something awful and sour all at once. The deep wrinkles chiseled into his skin grow more apparent as they wilt in ways only aged, weary faces can manage.
“You’re wrong,” I say. Luke looks up and hangs onto my words, his eyes hollow, “And you didn’t fail Kylo. Kylo failed you.” Luke’s head drops. I take a deep breath in. As I exhale, I feel the dampness of this cavern acutely. I smell the salt of the air and feel misty encompass my body, kissing my skin. Rocks sunken into the sea below us act as ramps, spitting out splashes of crashed waves from the endless sea beyond.
I look towards those rocks, and towards those crazy, untamed waves. What was it like to see Kylo that way? Mad. Feral. The pain it must have brought Luke to have raised this boy in his academy—his dear nephew he’d known since infancy—only to have him turn on him and kill his apprentices and attempt to kill him. My stomach anchors down my body at the thought of it.
My hands clasp my knees. I push myself up to my feet and get ready to go, but before I leave I assure Luke one thing: “I won’t fail you.” With that, I leave Luke to fight his inner demons and ready myself to defeat my own.
The moist sea air pulls me to the edge of a cliff where I can more clearly see the water against the horizon. I look at the beauty around me, but all I can see is darkness. I close my eyes. Breathe.
A kaleidoscope of lights comes back to me. Flashes of blue, red, and black. Snow falls, as if to bring peace to such torment. Kylo catches his face and looks at me, eyes wild and unyielding—his mouth turning up into a rabid smile, gloved fingers trailing down his steaming wound.
It’s that day. Suddenly I am back there. In that moment. Kylo offers to teach me, his body projecting forward and his voice shaking with excitement.
I didn’t know what to do. I only remember feeling confused.
Confused that I wasn’t afraid.
Confused at who this man really was…this man…this monster.
My eyes shoot open. The part of my sanity held so carefully within my mind begins to pound against my head. Heat swells in my face.
But… when I saw him in the forest that day …that day we fought as if our light sabers were used to moving that way, dancing beneath the night sky against sweat and anguish, I saw something human in him. When he offered to be my teacher… but where was that humanity when he killed his father? When he killed his peers, and almost his uncle as well?
I find a seat on a flattened rock and let myself collapse onto the gritty white slab. My feet sink beneath dewy blades of grass.
My head spins. I think about my breaths, trying to calm down, but my mind can’t stop.
I think of the terrors Luke just told me—how Kylo had turned on him and tried to kill him. How he killed several of his peers and destroyed the training temple. I think of Kylo racing after me, pleading me to be taught under his watchful eye.
I scoff. Him, my teacher?
I roll my eyes and bring my knees to my chest. How does he have the gall to even use that world after what he did to his own teacher? What he tried to do…
Blue and red are melting into one another in the sleepy sky. The thick air cakes itself onto my skin. I wipe the sweat from my forehead. Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath and straighten my back. The feelings of everything surround me at once—from the cold rock on my backside to the emotions in the air. I can feel it all—the wind, the earth. Life. Death…It all surges inside me. I turn to move, to clear my head, but something holds me back. My head aches and I feel a ripple around me. I feel that tense pull that I have grown to expect—to impatiently wait for each day.
I look behind me.
My heart rises to my throat.