News of the magic practiced by the witch Hira had spread across the galaxy. She was the most feared master of magical secrets, and what she had brought around her was pure disaster: the inhabitants of the galaxy were silent, frozen forever, turned into a stone block, or killed. Broken families, overcrowded cemeteries, miles of burned entire lands, as in the aftermath of nuclear explosions. Gaps in the time when you could easily slip between worlds without finding a way back, gates to underground worlds where torture was practiced, strange and mysterious places from which no one had ever returned.
This was only part of the terrible toll. She demanded a heavy tribute, in money or in rare metals, as a kind of "galactic protection tax," to leave the inhabitants alone. Whoever refused or did not have the means to pay for it, was immediately enlisted as a slave for life in the service of Hira, put to perform the most difficult, truly infernal work. And finally, whoever did not even agree to become a slave was immediately transformed into a block of ice or a stone rock.
It was a whole reign of terror, as no citizen of the galaxy would have imagined a few years ago. Peace and quiet seemed like words from a dusty, time-forgotten dictionary.
How much longer would we endure?
But in order not to endure, could anything really be done? Someone who mastered magic better than Hira it did not exist in the whole known universe. Then, on the Planet of Eternal Curses, where Hira had her abode, no living thing from outside could last long, because of the demonic spell that filled the atmosphere. The few who had dared had become a kind of petrified exhibit in a Museum of Death. Finally, assuming that you could have miraculously come alive in front of her, it was virtually impossible to defeat her in battle.
So resignation reigned over the Galaxy, because reason told you it didn't make sense to resist.
However, after years of suffering, of horror, and after a very good friend had found his end in the cursed kingdom of the witch, increasing the list of its victims, although he had intended to diminish it, I decided to try the impossible.
Of course, not on my own! - That would have been crazy. But I knew there was somewhere, far away in the Galaxy, on the White Planet, an old wizard who mastered the art of magic as well as Hira. He had not been contacted by anyone, as he had stated from the beginning that he would not interfere, citing "personal reasons".
However, if there was at least an infinitesimal chance of making him change his mind and somehow intervene, I was determined to try it. On a rainy, gray afternoon, when I almost had the impression that it was raining acid in the windows and that any outing would be fatal (but I knew it wasn't true, the rain on Earth was absolutely harmless), I questioned my sister, one of the few who knew of the White Planet wizard's residence:
"Tell me, please, where, exactly, can I find Ji Yan?"
First she turned his face white, then leaned over me, as if she was afraid of being heard or even recorded by who knows what device hidden right in our rooms, and she whispered a few words in my ear.
" Aha," I whispered, after a few minutes, as if relieved of a great burden, but facing an equally great challenge. "So then".
But I couldn't decide to act as fast as I wanted to. Ji Yan had certainly not heard of me, and how could I have persuaded him to break his own commitment not to intervene? In my attempt, or rather my desire for justice, which was to turn into a concrete attempt to confront Hira, I was enthusiastic, but not unconscious.
Weeks passed, maybe months, doing nothing.
I saw the small job I had doing in order to earn an honest living, I tried to anesthetize myself as much as possible and care as little as possible, although I kept reading the news about what was going on in the Galaxy. Yes, it is true, dictatorship had not succeeded in establishing itself on Earth, many dictators had finally been removed from power, but I could not say that we lived in a truly just society, free of horrors, injustices and tragedies. Some young people open fire at random or commit suicide, some girls become mothers too early, others become victims of human trafficking or accidental rape. There are people who die from drugs, others who end up in the sanatorium for mental illness. We live in an age where blackmail, fraud, theft, incest, violence, discrimination are proliferating.
So what's the point of not being able to take absolute power yet? And here, too, there was a risk — Hira was content for the time being to rule the strange and distant Planet of Eternal Curses, and to ask for the mentioned offices, but what if one day she would not have enough? What if she want to enslave the entire galaxy?
My thoughts and worries, which were mere hypotheses, had an unwanted practical confirmation, not long after.
Not far from Earth is the Planet of the Fighting Rabbits. They mastered magic, but at an elementary level that could not be compared to Hira's, they had their own army to protect them from unwanted intrusions, and despite their name, they lived their lives peacefully.
Their leader, the Great Rabbit, paid Hira the required tribute, in precious metals, that their planet was full of, but at one point he spoke in the Galactic Council and rose up against the tyranny of the odious witch, claiming that it posed a threat to integrity. And that someone needs to take action, sooner or later.
Following the? Less than a week after taking this position, Hira brought down a torrent of lava and molten metal on the Planet of the Fighting Rabbits, virtually exterminating them almost entirely and turning the planet into a ruin, worse than the famous Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I couldn't stand that anymore. Beyond the sympathy and good relations I had with the Rabbits, it was clear that Hira's next target would become Earth, at the first move that would not mean blind obedience to her and her tyrannical empire. I could not stand and watch carelessly either the misfortune befalling the Rabbits, or the growing threat to our planet.
I prayed to heaven to find the right words in front of Ji Yan and embarked on a long-distance voyage that had a stop on its way to the White Planet.
On my first night on the ship, I had the following nightmare: I was on an alien planet, which was neither Earth nor Rabbit Planet. However, thousands of corpses of charred rabbits, who had suffered terribly before death, with the pain imprinted on their faces, lay on the ground. Then a heavy, toxic, stifling sulfur atmosphere enveloped me, hostile and dangerous.
I had a magic mirror in my hands. I was preparing to face Hira almost empty-handed, but I knew that an unsuspected power lay in that mirror. Then I see the witch rising on an enchanted carpet somewhere far above me and laughing in metallic, inhuman roars.
Then I see myself, transformed into a stone block, a prisoner of the Planet of Curses, leaving for eternity a pathetic, mournful song, springing from the steady rock, poisoned by the magical breath of Hira, which had taken on my appearance forever.
I wake up because a loud snort, muffled only by the sponge cover of the luxury chairs I was traveling in.
I had just landed on the White Planet.
After a stop at a nearby hotel and a short visit to the surroundings, I went fearlessly, unsure, to Ji Yan's residence. What was I going to tell him? Fortunately, I had obtained on Earth a kind of delegation to his planet under the pretext of writing a journalistic material, but what was I going to do next? I couldn't even lie too hard, a wizard so clever as he would no doubt read my mind and see that I wasn't telling the truth.
When I entered the White Palace, I was almost paralyzed by fear. After a while, the guards led me to their leader, and I found myself face to face with the old magician, holding a ridiculous piece of paper representing a delegation, a great fear in my soul, and no idea in my mind.
Then I prayed fervently, for a few moments, to the supreme force that we earthlings call God: “Lord, I know that our desires, of the earthlings, may not fully correspond to yours. I know how imperfect we are. But, I beg you, help me find the right words in front of Ji Yan - if I fail, Hira will destroy the whole Galaxy, as she did with the Fighting Rabbit Planet. "
" I was willing to receive you, although I know that your delegation is just a pretext. So say what you have to say, young earthling, ”said the wizard, in a hoarse voice.
I cleared my throat and answered breathlessly:
" High Ji Yan, I will be honest. The terror that Hira brought to the Galaxy is unparalleled. It destroys, kills, scrapes from the surface of the earth everything that stands in its way, everything that rises against its absurd plans of magnification and total domination. He uses her magical powers in the most abject and destructive ways possible, although she should have once taken an oath of honesty. We are desperate. A good friend lost his life because of her, then, when I thought I could get over it, he set the Planet of Rabbits on fire, causing them many deaths and terrible destruction. I decided to try to avenge him and do him justice. To annihilate the danger looming over the Galaxy. But I'm a poor helpless man in the face of Hira's terrifying powers. I don't even know magic. So what are my chances? ”.
" And? Why did you come to me? How can I help you? ”Ji Yan asked, in a tone that seemed almost reprimanding.
" I know that you invoked personal reasons to declare your neutrality in Hira's case. I don't think it's my job to know and judge why you did that, and I didn't come to ask you to change your mind. But maybe you can teach me a trick, you can offer me a weapon that will give me at least a 50% chance in a fight that is otherwise totally unbalanced ".
" I master magic as well as she does, but I can't see very clearly in the past. Tell me, have you ever been to the Planet of Eternal Curses? ”
" No," I replied. "Never".
" Too good." He paused for a few moments, weighing carefully what he was going to say and what attitude he was going to take. "I shouldn't interfere. But I also had an acquaintance on the Planet of Rabbits, who perished in the disaster caused by Hira. My conscience tells me that I have to help you at least start with equal chances ".
I breathed a sigh of relief.
" Thank you, old Ji Yan. I will be indebted to you forever. "
He motioned for me to follow him into an adjoining room.
There it was like a sort of Hall of Mirrors, with innumerable beams of light reflected almost to infinity, with frames with pink diamonds and other precious stones that seemed to be detached from enchantment.
I sat down in an amber chair and listened to my new host:
"The magic she masters is very strong and cannot be defeated in the usual way. Moreover, it has contaminated the entire planet, so you can't last there too long without becoming an ice floe or a stone block. But there is a solution here on the White Planet in which if you bathe you become resistant to the atmosphere there. But he can't help you in direct confrontation with the witch. For this I will teach you, as you said, a little trick. Let her have control, impose her law. Sooner or later, she will try to hypnotize you. Then you will take out an enchanted mirror, which I will give you, and you will place it directly in front of her, in the path of her own gaze. At the same time, you will say a short magic formula, which I will also help you memorize. These two, combined, will hack her. They will freeze her and deprive it of all its powers for a thousand years. "
My eyes gleamed with boundless gratitude.
" Thank you from the bottom of my heart, great Ji Yan. When you want, I am ready to teach me the promised things ".
A few days later, after visiting some wonderful rooms of the White Palace, I received the much desired lesson, I used the bath in the substance with miraculous powers and then I went back home, with a passenger ship, with the magic mirror in my pocket. and in the mind, the formula, carefully and accurately memorized.
Back on Earth, I had to deal again, for a while, with mundane, everyday things.
As I said, I had a job that I absolutely needed, and then, in my free time, outside of surfing the Internet, I reflected on the increasingly horrific facts and events that were taking place on Earth. Atrocious wars, suicide bombers, long-believed plagues, violence, fratricidal acts, suicides, sacrifices - all of these took place on Earth every day. It was a desolate, frightening landscape, and of course only the inhabitants of the Earth were guilty of it — Hira, for example, had nothing to do with how we managed our lives.
Both the writings of Revelation and some old predictions that had fallen into my hands spoke of a salvation of man and mankind. About a "new heaven and earth." About hope.
But all this seemed so blatantly contradictory to the facts and things on Earth that I did not even know what to believe.
Of course, maybe I should have hoped they would come true. But I could not invoke in front of the families left without children, of the old people who were dying of starvation or of the relatives of some girls raped and cut to pieces, a justice that "would come". They wouldn't have listened to me not because they didn't want to, but it would have seemed too utopian.
I was living in constant discomfort, in a permanent duplication that did me no good. I often found myself escaping into an imaginary, perfect, ethereal, sublime world, where all desires could come true, so that the next day I could wake up alone, empty inside, disillusioned in front of an empty cup of coffee and a new one day that would bring the same events.
My last girlfriend, a girl named Sonia, had left me a long time ago. When I was flipping through my photo albums, I had an indescribable nostalgia for seeing how I had immortalized on film the moments when we laughed, walked in parks, kissed, were happy. It had been a beautiful, emotional moment.
One evening, I listened to an album of songs that had been the background to our successful romance, and then, late at night, we fell asleep.
I had the following dream:
It was as if I had reached the Planet of Eternal Curses. Huge lava craters were opening in front of me, which I could barely avoid.
Then I swam in a river full of dead Fighting Rabbits, drifting. My hands were pounding on their bodies, I had begun to fear that I would not contract any disease.
Then a thick black oil, like fuel oil, invaded the river, making me hurry to the shore, so as not to be intoxicated or dragged to the bottom. Strange, red-eyed dragons with poisoned breath were waiting for me there.
After I managed to get past them, I suddenly found myself face to face with Hira.
My heart was pounding, time seemed to stand still.
" Welcome back to the Planet of Curses," she said, emphasizing in a strange way, with metallic inflections, like a robot, the verb.
" What do you mean I came back?" I've never been here ... ".
" What asked you Yan Ji on the White Planet? If you've been here before. You said no, never. But I tell you: welcome back to the land that will bring you a quick and painful end ... Ha, ha, ha ... ”, she laughed again, distorting the syllables.
I looked at Heaven, and from there it seemed to me that Death itself was descending.
I'm waking up. The table clock ticked in the night, jerky.
Sweat. I'm terrified. I'm suffocating.
After a while, I really had to go to the Planet where the evil Hira had her abode. I could not postpone the confrontation with her too much, who could know when the anger or the thoughtless thirst for power would push her to a new destructive action ... Who could know when exactly it would become "too late" ... For Earth or , maybe, even for the Galaxy ...
I made a sustained effort not to be impressed too easily. I knew that the weapons given by Ji Yan gave me a real chance, and in the worst case, when I was defeated, I could say that I had died for a noble cause.
But until this negative scenario, all I had to think about was victory.
I'll fool her. I have to fool her. I'll let her think she's all-powerful, as the old wizard on the White Planet had actually advised me, and then I'll hit her in a flash. Directly in full, as a venomous snake attacks its prey.
Once frozen for a thousand years, the rest will become quite light. I knew that her subjects followed her out of fear, not out of conviction, so I was not too afraid of their revolt or revenge.
But what I saw after landing there was beyond imagination, making me freeze my blood in my veins.
First, I had to cross the icy surface of a lake over which a stifling, toxic, sulfur-like atmosphere floated, just like in my first dream. I was suffocating, I felt that my lungs would give way, that death was near. And yet, I had to get to shore as soon as possible, otherwise I would lose the battle before I started. With my last strength, I crawled out of the toxic area and threw myself to one side, coughing hard.
Then, almost immediately, I witnessed the horrific spectacle of a victim turned into a stone block. A Fighting Rabbit, probably one of the few who had ventured there, stared at infinity, with a terrible expression of horror and suffering imprinted on his face, probably just before death. But the strange petrified conglomerate had another characteristic: although the rabbit had died, it played a pathetic, mournful, terrifying song to anyone who dared to pass through it endlessly like a broken turntable. It was enough to see his face and listen to those sounds to want to run back as quickly as possible.
I was determined not to give up, but that was just the beginning.
I had seen another earthling turned into ice, but before that he had been cut with a very sharp object. Blood had spilled from virtually everywhere — from his nose, mouth, eyes, ears, chest — and then frozen like a diorama of death. I tried to get away as quickly as possible, but I tripped and fell with my nose and mouth right on his feet, which had also been mutilated.
I shook with a shudder, and went on.
I entered a cave where I thought I was completely lost, passing through countless cracks in the rock and open abysses. Eventually, I sat down to rest for a while, and I was surrounded by a lot of plagues. Their skin was black, with blemishes, inflamed and bloody lymph nodes, lost sight, and they let out terrible moans of pain.
That's when I felt like I was fainting and I knew I was going to end my days there. I didn't know if I would get out of the cave again, but even if I did, I would be stricken with the terrible disease I had most certainly contracted. To die on the Planet of Eternal Curses killed by the bubonic plague - this is something I would not have imagined even in my darkest nightmares.
A flock of mutant black crows came at me. In a few seconds, their monstrous beaks would fall on me, searching for my orbits.
I closed my eyes and said a short prayer. "I'm dying for Earth and the Rabbit Planet!" I said to myself and waited for the end.
But he did not come.
I woke up coming out of a side crack outside the cave in the light.
I came face to face with a talking robot in a jerky, metallic voice.
" Did you like our holograms? Did you like our holograms? Did you like our holograms?” he repeated in a sharp voice, like a faulty mechanism.
Then I could barely breathe a sigh of relief, because I understood that, although broken, the robot was telling the truth. The plagues and crows were nothing but holograms. That's right, very realistically presented.
I had escaped (for now) alive.
I passed through many places with toxic gas, a dry forest full of wild beasts and a few other statues frozen for eternity, from which came out more and more songs of mourning, but in the end we reached a few hundred meters away of the Palace of Hira.
I made my cross and started forward.
Once at the entrance to the Palace, I had to calculate my gestures and words very carefully. If Hira sees the past and realizes I've been to the White Palace, I'm lost.
I used the same pretext that I had invoked for Ji Yan, writing a press release, taking care to flatter her fully and assure her that it would fully reflect the "immeasurable power" and "unparalleled wisdom" of the planets, that is, she was proving.
I didn't know if she believed me completely, but at least she was kind and said she would support me in doing the report.
I spent the next few days in the company of a guide, busy gathering the information I needed to write and publish on my return to Earth. At the same time, I tried to re-evaluate my chances of success and realized that, despite the terrible scares of earlier, I had the magic mirror in my pocket untouched and I had not forgotten a word of the formula meant to defeat it. My chances were still intact.
At the end of the "documentation", I asked for a new audience. Now I was going to wait for the moment of hypnotism and carry out my plan.
She received me, as if more icy than usual.
I said a few words of complacency again and smiled.
She did not smile at me, and stared at me, as if I were one of the beheaded servants, sculpted in ice, of which his Palace was full.
After a few exchanges of formal remarks, in which I told her something more about the material, still taking care not to exaggerate too much, so as not to give her suspicion, she looked me insistently in the eyes.
" Sooner or later, she will try to hypnotize you," Ji Yan had said.
It means this is the time. Now I'm going to hit her to death.
I quickly removed the mirror from my pocket and placed it directly in front of her, at the same time uttering the magic formula, as I had been advised by the old wizard. So fast she didn't have time to call the guards.
I waited a few seconds for the ritual to take effect.
But to my utter amazement, nothing happened. Moreover, I felt my hands and feet petrify slowly. I was to be transformed into a stone block, right in the room that was Hira's day residence.
" Justice for nothing, it will be a pleasure for me to watch your end," Hira said, relaxing and sitting in a silver armchair, leg over leg.
" I don't understand ... I don't understand anything ... you had to die ...", I articulated, completely confused.
" What did your mentor, Ji Yan, ask you before telling you how to beat me?"
" If I've been here before ..."
" And? Have you been, loser, have you been? ”Hira shouted, accentuating and shouting the words in my ears.
But I tell you: welcome back to the realm that will bring you a quick and painful end ... Ha, ha, ha ..., I remembered my dream reply.
" I don't understand," I murmured, more and more lost.
" Well, if you want to understand, look quickly ... Before you die ...".
A small animated holographic scene unfolded in front of me.
It was me, probably ten years younger, in the Palace of Eternal Curses, with Shira, Hira's youngest daughter. I understood from the unfolding of the scene that I had had an affair with her.
We held hands and smiled.
Then came the coup de grace. I heard myself say, very clearly, the following words:
“I understand and accept that the love between me and Shira cannot last and, as such, I will return to Earth to resume my normal life. This memory will be erased from my memory, both for the good of Shira and the Empire, and for my own good. But I pledge, in the name of this unique love, never to use magic in the realm of the Planet of Eternal Curses. If I do, the curse will turn against me and I will be turned into a stone block".
I shuddered deeply and began to shake spasmodically.
" Tell me ... it's not true ... Tell me ... it's a lie ...", I articulated what turned out to be my last words, as my body slowly became but sure, entirely of stone.
" Oh, but yes, it's true ... I assure you it's as true as can be ..." Hira said, then hurried away.
In a magic mirror, the old wizard Ji Yan sees me, transformed into a stone block, a prisoner of the Planet of Curses, leaving for eternity a pathetic, lamenting song, springing from the unshaked rock, poisoned by Hire's magical breath. my appearance forever.
He weighed all this, the friend Rabbit who had died in the last massacre a few months ago, the growing threat that Hira's Empire had begun to pose to peace in the Galaxy ... with the fact that he had been Hira's husband many years ago and he was Shira's natural father ...
He had invoked personal reasons. He had tried not to think about all this. He thought he had escaped.
But he couldn't watch a scoundrel destroy an entire galaxy.
Then Ji Yan took out of a wardrobe the Magic Scepter that had almost unlimited powers over any practitioner of magic.
There will be war.
He will forgive Shira.
At the same time, Hira sees all this in the crystal globe and tells her daughter:
" Shira, there will be a great war between magicians, a war that I thought I could avoid ... If your father kills me, please promise me that you will avenge me ... Let him, in a first phase, to believe that he has won, that he has control, that he imposes his law ... Then be ruthless! Promise? ".
Author Notes: Foto: Pixabay