Marco’s dreams were made of fire and darkness.
It started after the showdown with the forces of evil. Toffee and Eclipsa were defeated, Ludo was redeemed. The royal castle was in ruin and the capital burned, but the good guys were all in one piece and, more importantly, Marco and Star had strengthened their bond into romantic love.
It was such a perfect ending to the couple’s troubled story that Eclipsa’s existence slipped away from their mind for a single moment. Time enough for the old queen to dip down and launch what seemed like a ball of flames at Marco.
The smell of sulfur and a faint warmth were the last things Marco felt before being knocked down.
After he woke up to a crying Star and worried friends, Marco was checked for any sort of wounds or malices. He seemed fine, his clothes were not even cinched from whatever fire magic Eclipsa hit him with.
Of course, none of them could’ve know of the terrors that would befall Marco after this.
The first dream he had that same night, as he slept on a mattress at the foot of Star’s bed; as both his nerves and her parents only allowed them to sleep in the same room.
The boy dreamt of darkness, not the infinite and ethereal kind however. It was viscous, like tar; it moved and bubbled all around him. It clinged to his naked body, pulling him further down into itself. The bare contact with it burned through his skin and rotted away his muscles.
When the sickly sweet smell hit Marco’s nose he opened his mouth to scream in pain but the darkness forced itself down his throat and stopped the sound. Clogging his lungs and finally drowning him, consuming him, inside and out.
The scream Marco let out woke up Star and half of the castle.
In an instant, Star, the guards, and even River and Moon were by his side. The sweat that drenched his clothes and body continued to pour through his skin as in shallow and hastily breaths Marco told the people around him of his night terror.
Right then and there, Star and Moon utilized of their magic to examine him. Like before they found nothing wrong with him; physically or metaphysically. As such, they had no choice but to write it off as simple trauma from the battle.
To Star and Marco’s delight, River and Moon allowed them to sleep together on the princess’ bed. The close contact between the two could help Marco’s apparent mental state, and should another nightmare arise, Star would be right there with him.
The two slept peacefully with smile on their faces and their arms wrapped around each other the rest of the night. Even if Marco felt a bit cold despite Star’s warmth.
The days passed with minor happenings scuffed off as inconsequential. Blurred images of fire and a burning Mewni and of a moving mass of darkness were rationalized as simple nightmares; the wounds of that battle were more than physical for everyone. Star herself would awake in a scream some nights. Needing Marco at her side to wipe away the tears and momentary fears.
The dulling of his senses were nothing more than fatigue or some other, mundane problem. The fainting of colors was merely a trick of the light. The white noise that played on the back of Marco’s head was a side-effect of bumping his head too many times while training or fighting. The sometimes ashing taste of food, even of his nachos, was simply bad cooking or Marco being a little sick.
It all came to a head on a simple night when Marco and Star slept side by side on her room in the Diaz household.
The dream was clear. The smell of burned flesh and rotting corpses was the first thing that Marco felt. Then came the heat that cut through skin, muscle and bone from the licking of the raging flames. He looked around and all he saw was the desolation of buildings and lives and history lost.
Without rhythm, he walked through what once was the kingdom of Mewni. The fumes dried his nose, mouth and throat as such he could not scream for the hopeful sign of life, for Star, the King, the Queen, or anyone else.
Long he walked that his clothes burned away into cinder and his skin was bronzed by the flames, no longer the diverse smells of death that filled the place bothered him and his bare feet crushed the former inhabitants of the kingdom as he continued on, his bloodshot eyes that refused to blink staring far away to beyond the horizon.
And it was at that Beyond that Marco stopped his eternity long walk.
In front of him was the mass of darkness, condensed, but not reduced, to a vague humanoid shape. The sight of it brought Marco to his knees. He opened his mouth to scream himself awake like before, but only the rough sound of a cough letting out ashes and fumes was heard. The world spun with both of them as the axis; before his eyes the melded shapes around him lost their colors becoming only repeating patterns of grey. A buzzing, grating sound filled his head and he carved his fingers into his scalp in an mad attempt to physically remove it from there.
Marco looked up and saw the darkness slowly take shape. It formed itself into a delicate, feminine silhouette, a silhouette Marco was very familiar with, then it add the details: the color and texture of the dress, the skin tone; and there she was: Queen Eclipsa.
She opened her eyes, looked down at Marco, and smiled a gentle, motherly smile that turned his stomach over. Nausea and disgust rising to his throat, making him gag and spill more of the ashes and cinder he inhaled, now liquified into a gray mucus.
Eclipsa spoke in a calm tone. “Through the darkness of future past.”
‘She’ stretched her entire body upwards. The dress morphed into a business suit. The head extended and squashed itself into a reptile’s head. Toffee.
“The magician longs to see.” ‘He’ said slowly, emphasizing and savoring each word in delight. A grin that showcased all his fangs splitting his face apart.
Again, the form changed. It shorter itself into a scrawny frame, the suit expanded into a red fabric and the reptile head squashed and softened into a round, smooth face. Like a mirror, the darkness presented Marco’s own image to him. Pristine like he was before the dream.
“One chants out between two worlds.” ‘Marco’ said with a flat tone and unfocused eyes. Eyes that closed for moment; when ‘his’ skin tone shifted from brown all the way to a deep purple and the texture became like rubber, with bumps that slid in fluent motions appearing here and there on his face and hands.
When ‘Marco’ opened his eyes again they were filled with the color yellow. ‘He’ looked down at the real one and whispered inside his head in a cold, rough voice. “Fire, walk with me.”
Marco woke up and sat on the bed. The first thing he noticed was the lack of sweat on his body, then how steady and calm both his breathing and heart beat were. He looked at his side and saw Star sleeping peacefully. While before such sight would put a smile on his face, now his entire attention was on her nude, exposed neck. How easy it would be… to just… break it.
Marco turned away. Nothing changing on his body even after such horrible image crossed his mind.
It might have been a trick of the light, or grogginess from suddenly waking up, or the nightmare still lingering on his mind. But a glimpse of his arms, bare because of the shirt Marco wore to sleep, showed them purple .
Like a brick, the knowledge of the situation entered his mind. Pushing bile up his throat, giving that sensation of burning inside; the first human reaction he had so far.
Eclipsa’s last spell was not a final act of desperation or attempt at revenge. It was a curse. Eating at his mind and body. The dreams weren’t just dreams, nightmare visions of what happened, they were a promise of things to come.
Eclipsa made Marco a weapon to carry out her will.
Star woke up to the morning sun. “Good morning, Sweet Marco!” she said as she stretched her body. However, when she turned to look at her boyfriend, she only saw a piece of paper on his pillow.
‘Star, something is wrong with me.
I know this won’t stop you from chasing me, but I need to leave. I just can’t be with you right now. We both know that if the worst happens, you wouldn’t have the heart to fight me. And if you did, it would only end with you heartbroken. Either way, I don’t want to hurt you , Star.
I’m not giving up. There’s gotta be a way out, and I’ll find it. With Eclipsa, or the monsters, or whatever. But we can’t be together right now.
Love you. Marco.’
The tears on Star’s eyes weren’t even fully formed when she picked up her wand and dimensional scissors and headed out.