I stood in the darkness on the long deserted street as the clock struck eight.
I found it on the bottom of the ocean. Obsidian with green, red and types of blue jewels, glinting in the dappled sunlight. Although it was cold under the water, it was warm in my hand. It seemed to call to me, tempt me to put it on. But I left it clutched in my hand as I swam to the surface.
Sometimes I wonder if I could've changed it all, left it there. In the ocean. Under its dark depths. Where no one could find it. I wonder if I could've left it there. But every time I wish I had, I feel bad. Like it's sad. And always it calls to me, it tempts me and always I crack and slip the ring on my finger.
"It's like Captain Planet except only one ring" my best friend Ana lay there soaking up the sun.
I had just found the ring in the ocean and now it lay in my hand. "It's nothing like Captain Planet" I said. Truthfully it slightly reminded me of the old TV show but as 'I claimed' that I had never really seen an episode I wasn't going to admit it.
"Yeah it is See. Earth, wind, fire, water" she pointed at the sets of jewels as she said it.
"But no heart" I traced my finger over the jewels, noting the way the colours danced in the light.
"Who needs a heart?"
"Maybe the blacks the heart, an evil ring" I laughed "Maybe it's gonna suck my soul out."
Ana laughed as well. "That will be good for us all, try it on" she looked eager at her suggestion.
"No I'm going to return it to the lost and found, it must belong to someone" I looked at the ring and for a moment I almost put it on.
"Rila, C'mon" she pleaded. "Let me try it on then."
"No" I closed my hand and stood up, shaking the sand off my clothes. "Wanna come?"
"Nah, I'll stay here, can you get me a Coke?"
"Sure" I turned and started walking towards the kiosk, which was also the lost and found. I was scared to try the ring on. I wasn't scared about it getting stuck; I was scared about not being able to take it off. I didn't think that I could bring myself to take it off as the jewels glinted on my finger, sparkling its secrets to the world.
I shook my head to get the image out of my head. I shoved the ring in my pocket. I could feel it warm against my skin even through the denim. My steps felt heavy, I expected to turn around and see big heavy footprints embedded in the sand. Instead I only saw my small feet printed lightly, vanishing with the wind.
I was right by the kiosk now. I took the ring out and stared at it. The colours glinting, blinding my mind. Maybe I should put it on, just to see if it fits. No. Maybe just to see if it looks nice. No. Maybe. No. Maybe. No! Maybe NO!
I slipped the ring onto my finger.
My view flashed briefly.
"What do you want love?" The kiosk lady smiled at me.
"Umm… Yeah I found this ring" quickly I pulled the ring from my finger.
"What do you want love?" The kiosk lady smiled at me.
"Didn't you just say that?"
"No," the look was questioning. "What will it be?"
I paused, looking down at the ring in my hand. "Umm…Two Cokes please."
I walked down the sand. The ring still in my pocket. Something was with the ring. She said it twice I know she had. My hearing had never failed me before. Did it... Maybe it showed the future?
"Did you return the ring?"
"Yep" I passed Ana her drink and sat down. I couldn't tell her that it was still in my pocket, that I had given into temptation. "Someone will probably claim it soon."
"Yeah probably…Hi Jack."
I turned and saw Jack standing before us. Ana had a huge crush on Jack and was hoping he'd ask her to the formal. We even made a pact that I wouldn't go out with him. Ever. Maybe this would be her time. With only two weeks to the formal most people had dates by now. Except for us. And Jack.
"Uh… Hi Ana, hey Rila" he stood there, looking nervous.
"Hi" I bent my head back down and rested it on my towel.
"Yeah" I looked up, the sun was behind him, surrounding him like an angel.
"You going to the dance with anyone?"
I froze. Was he asking me to the formal? He couldn't be, he knew Ana liked him, he would never ask me.
He took my silence as a no.
"Do you wanna, want to go with me?"
I froze again. I couldn't say yes, I could see Ana in the corner of my eye, she looked fine but I knew she was heartbroken.
"Great I'll pick you up at six" he turned and walked away.
I hadn't said yes, had I?
"Ana" I turned but she was already walking off. "Ana wait!" I shouted. She kept walking. I ran up the beach after her.
"Ana" I grabbed her arm and she turned.
"I didn't say yes, he just took it as a yes, I'll call him tonight I promise" I pleaded. I pleaded to make her believe. I pleaded to keep my best friend.
"It's too late for that Rila' She turned and walked off. I let her. In my mind, I saw tears cascading down her cheeks.
I walked back to my towel and lay down. The tears didn't come. I hadn't cried for several years. I wanted them to come but they didn't push through my eyes.
I took my phone out of my bag and looked up Jack's number. I pressed dial and listened to the dial tone.
"Hello" I heard his voice, strong and beautiful. I could go out with him; I could go to the dance with him. But I wanted my best friend more.
"Jack its Rila."
I sat on the bus home. Watching the houses and cars flash by. Little more than a blur. I had told Jack, that I was sorry but I couldn't go with him. Then I told him all about Ana. How she watched him at lunch and dreamed about him during biology. I asked him if he could go with her. He had paused and then said yes.
I felt happy as I went home. Ana got to go to the dance and I would get my best friend back. It was all good.
I had forgotten about the ring, but I remembered it now. Warm against my skin.
I pulled it out. I had already tried it on, why not again? I slipped the ring onto my finger.
I was standing at the corner of an unknown street. It was dark. The huge tower clock dinged once, then again. Eight times it went. 8 o'clock. I looked around getting, cold. There were no cars around, it was too late or this was a deserted road. Then I saw Ana was walking round the corner on the other side. "Ana" I shouted. She didn't hear me. "Ana!" I shouted again. She couldn't hear me. She looked at me, right into my eyes and just kept walking. She started to cross the road. One step, two steps, three steps, fours steps. And then she stopped. She bent down to pick up something.
I saw the lights first. The lights of an approaching car going well above the limit.
"Ana move!" I reached out and the ring slipped off my finger.
I was somewhere cold and dark. No light penetrated the gloom. No sound came from within the dark walls.
"She has to go" a deep voice penetrated the silence
I looked around expecting to see a person walking out of the darkness or a beacon of light, but instead I saw nothing.
"Someone has to go" the voice sounded again and this time I attempted following it... I tried to find the source of the deep voice.
"Someone has to go" they repeated. I searched for the sound. It was me, it was my voice speaking, but it was not my mind.
"Why, why does she have to go?" This time it was my voice, my mind penetrating the silence.
"Someone has to; it is the price for the future."
The ring. I searched for it on my finger but I couldn't find it. Maybe my pocket? No, not there.
"I don't want Ana to die."
"Someone has to."
Someone has to. If the ring wanted a life…"I'll do it" My voice spoke with no confidence but when did it matter?
"Really? And give up the power of the ring, such a waste, who will take it then?"
"Ana can have it" Yeah Ana could have the ring; she could master its power.
"So be it then. If you wish to forfeit the power of the ring then you must take her place."
"How do I do it?" This time confidence surrounded my voice. The more I thought about it, the more I couldn't let Ana die for my mistake. She was just starting to get everything she wanted. The boyfriend of her dreams, she was doing well at school. I couldn't waste her life.
"If you really want to you will know how but if truly your heart denies your words then more will suffer."
"Great" I muttered. "Can I have street directions?" I knew I wasn't going to get anything but oh well.
The voice laughed. A deep resounding laugh that echoed in the darkness
I got no answer. Silence again. "How do I get out of here?" No answer. I felt something warm against my finger. The ring lay smooth against my skin, its light a beacon in the dark. I pulled it off.
I was sitting on the bus. The ring lay in my hand. What was I meant to do? I had no idea where I was meant to go. I looked at my watch. 6:59. I had an hour before the clock struck eight. I pushed the button and grabbing my bag got off the bus.
"Ok Rila, think, think" I muttered to myself. "Where would Ana be?" At home, well at eight she wouldn't be. "Maybe it's not even today" No it was today, she was wearing the same thing as when she left the beach.
I could call her.
I whipped out my phone and found her number. Praying that she would answer I pressed the dial button.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Eight times before it went to voicemail. I didn't leave a message. What would I say? You're gonna be hit by a car at 8 o'clock, don't leave the house. She'll think I was crazy.
There was only one thing I could do.
I started walking.
I didn't know where I was going, but all I knew was that I wouldn't get anywhere by standing at the bus stop.
I walked till I got to the corner, then turned. Next corner, next turn. Over and over I walked and turned, walked and turned.
I looked up at the tower clock. It could be seen from anywhere in the city. Seven fifty. I only had ten minutes.
In it I had been standing on a corner street when the clock struck eight. So if it was the future then I should get there at eight without trying.
I walked with more energy in my feet. My steps grew lighter until I felt as if I was floating.
I recognised the corner as soon as I saw it. There were no cars, a deserted road.
I glanced at the clock. Seven fifty-nine. I waited growing cold. Somewhere I could hear music playing, from a pub or something.
The first ding.
The second ding.
Eight times it went. 8 o'clock.
Then I saw Ana walking round the corner. What do I do? I had to take her place. I stepped out onto the road. Eight steps.
Ana saw me for the first time.
"Rila, what are you doing?" She looked around. Like she was scared. "Get off the road" She took a step.
"No" my voice shook and for the first time in several years I started to cry. The tears streamed down my face.
"Rila, get off the road" she was desperate, she took another step.
"No" the tears clouded my eyes and I wiped them away with my hand, the ring still clutched, getting warmer.
"I'm sorry about today I shouldn't have stormed off" another step.
"No, I can't Ana I can't."
"C'mon" she took another step.
I heard the car before I saw it. The engine, the music playing. Then I saw the lights. I didn't flinch as I waited for it to hit me.
I waited for the impact. I saw the car. A dent in its bonnet. And a few feet behind lay Ana, covered in blood. Her body twisted. And on her face, the desperate look from when she had told me to get off the road.
The driver got out of the car and ran to the body. He looked at her, then looked at me. And he laughed. The deep resounding laugh that echoed in the darkness.
So here I am today, alive while Ana lies dead in her grave. I kept using the ring. It showed me good things and bad things and every time I take it off it calls for me to put it back on. The ring has become my life. I've considered staying in the future. Letting the ring pick what I see. Keeping the ring on my finger until it is all over. But instead I live off the ring, it tells me what to do, where to go. And that's why I've returned here to the dark deserted street. And as the clock strikes eight, for the last time, I slip the ring onto my finger.