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Author's note: I initially wrote Heaven to compete in a competition, but I didn't make the deadline. I wanted to finish it anyway, and here is the result!
The boy sat down next to me and stared at the snow slowly covering up our feet as we waited. We waited for long, but neither of us knew what we were waiting for, until it hit us. In the face. It turned out to be a woman. She was yelling at us in a language we didn’t understand. We looked at each other.
My cheek still hurt as the boy and I walked down the street. Seems he had nowhere to go either. His company was good; it kept me walking even though I felt like I was going to collapse any moment. Not because I was hungry, or sleepy. Just because I didn’t feel the need to stand. We walked and walked, on and on. Soon enough we left the village and wandered about the forest of thick-leafed trees surrounding it, where the snow hadn’t reached the ground yet. The nymphs didn’t pay attention to us, going about their own business, preparing for winter. Their almost transparent bodies drifting past us like fog. Their soft voices whispering like a breeze. By the time we reached the river, our ears were filled with their songs. The water sang with them, just barely pushing past the rocks and ice. Here, we stood. We watched the water play with the last fallen leaves and waited for something to happen.
The sun had set and the snow continued falling. My feet were starting to feel warm. The boy next to me was humming to himself. The night fell silently but it instantly killed all the noise coming from both the nymphs and the river. Darkness surrounded us, but I wasn’t afraid. The boy’s company made me feel strangely reassured. As if nothing could happen to me as long as he was there. The stars came out to oversee the world, but the moon stayed hidden. With a voice clear and sharp as crystal, the boy sang. It was a fluid song, which calmly drifted into the night, into the river, mixed with the dark and the water and brought it to life. It was a song I knew, a song I used to sing. He was from where I was from, no doubt. It wasn’t long before a second voice joined his, a softer one, a lower, heavier one. It seemed to come from underneath us. And then a third, high-pitched, a fourth, loud. Soon, I couldn’t even count them anymore, and I sighed. Not because I was irritated, or disappointed. I sighed because I felt so calm all of a sudden. It seemed ages ago, the last time I heard singing like this. But no matter how much I enjoyed it, I didn’t sing. I swore not to.
Slowly, I rose to my feet and spread my arms. With caution not to hit or hurt anything, I put my right foot forward, bending backwards with my arms still spread like wings. Left foot followed, arms rising. Where I came from, it was not unusual to sing, or talk, or shout. But dancing, that was considered divine. Not many people were able to. The only person who could before he taught me, was my father. The movements weren’t hard to remember, it’s the rhythm that’s tricky. The songs of where I came from where known for their complex rhythm, and there were lots of things that made it even harder. If there had been music, you could have followed its beat, but we didn’t have any music. All we had were voices.
As I picked up the pace and the turns and falls were starting to fall together with the ever faster getting song, someone lit a bonfire. All around me stood people watching, people singing, people listening. Were they all from where I came from? The boy was standing next to the bonfire, leading the singers with his crystal voice. The Eternal Song some called it. And it was, in more than one way. It could be sung throughout eternity without ever ending. It would never be forgotten.
Till deep in the night I danced, they sang, they watched, they listened. But at some point, for no particular reason, people left. The voices died out and only the boy continued, his voice cutting the black silken sky dotted with diamonds. I danced, he sang. Just before dawn, I fell down and asleep with his voice in my heart. I never felt so peaceful.
It was early afternoon when I woke up to a fierce blazing sun. It hurt my eyes, but I didn’t close them. The world was gorgeous. Though the sun was burning up and the clouds had disappeared, the river had frozen in a beautiful pattern, and the snow had not yet melted. I was lying in a pile of snow, covered with leaves and branches. The boy lay next to me, staring at the sky. When I sat up, he followed. After sitting there aimlessly for some time, the boy opened his mouth and spoke. For some time I stared at him before realizing I could actually understand him. I frowned: what was it he had just said? He smiled and repeated: “Hey.”
“Hi.”, replied I, it felt strange to talk after being silent for such a long time. Strange, but good. It was the first word I had spoken since I left where I came from. And it was the last word I spoke that day. The boy and I crossed the river and started to walk through the forest on the other side. The sunlight had scorched most of the flowers growing here, and only the toughest bushes had survived the snow and heat. Surprisingly, some nymphs were still out. They glided past us, leaving no traces or prints in the fresh slush that was starting to replace the creaking snow.
We spent the night at the place we stopped when we didn’t feel like walking anymore. The next morning when I opened my eyes, the boy was already up. He was looking at my face. Slowly, as if not to scare me, he reached out to me and patted my head. He smiled and whispered: “Hey, you know what?”
“What?” whispered I back.
“Let’s find Heaven.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s unacceptable.”
“This tree, that river, those people…this whole world is unacceptable.” The bearded man motioned to the spinning globe in his hands. The woman at his feet shrugged: “What’s so unacceptable about it?”
“Everything! The people are alive, but they don’t live! They have no purpose, like the nymphs. The only humans truly alive are the ones that are not supposed to. Just how much longer should I keep this world up?”
“Calm down, fool. Let’s wait and see. I’m certain there’s some good leisure waiting for us just ahead. Relax, please.” The woman got up and pushed the man gently back in his chair: “Sit down; I’ll get you something to eat.”
We didn’t know where Heaven was, or what it was. Apparently it wasn’t easy to find. But three days after our quest had started, the boy smiled: “Look.”
I nodded. There was a sign. The road we had been walking up 'til now had come to an immediate finale. The abyss at our feet dropped down to an end that was clouded with darkness. But it wasn’t normal darkness, not the kind you would expect in a ravine like this one. It looked fake. I knew it was fake. I felt it was fake. The boy next to me looked down and grabbed my hand. We took a deep breath and stepped off the cliff. The fall was long and the wind was ferocious, but we kept holding onto each other, as if our hands were fused tight together. The strange thing was, we never hit the ground. At some point we just stopped falling. It was almost like the blackness repelled us. The boy pointed down, and I looked to see what he meant. The blackness had taken on a form. A gigantic form: pitch-black feathered, razor-sharp fanged, and nightmare-like build. It was truly horrifying, but still its beauty took my breath away. So this was what they called Anguish. I wasn’t afraid; the boy’s calm aura was wrapped around me so tight I didn’t even have enough air to get stressed out. The only thing that worried me in the slightest was that we had found the wrong realm. With Anguish at its gates, this could not be Heaven. This was in all likelihood Hell.
The boy stood up and helped me on my feet, then he started walking up the backbone of Anguish. We walked for what seemed an hour before we reached its head. And its eyes…its eyes were…
We stood in awe, on the tip of its nose, just watching its eyes. They were open and looking back at us. Not entirely at us, though. They were almost looking through us. We were nothing to this monster. Just two specks on its slowly rising and dropping nostrils. Its breathing was calming, so serene. But this was Anguish, and we both could not help but feel a little uncomfortable. Just a little, on the edge of our consciousness. It fretted, it gnawed, it…warned. But we didn’t listen. We were captivated. We were imprisoned by Anguish. Anguish didn’t move. Motionless, it stared it its nose, as if trying to decide what to do with us. We didn’t move. Motionless, we stared at Anguish, waiting for its decision.
At long last, Anguish shuddered. It was a mighty shudder, throwing us off its nose. Our hands still locked, we fell down into the depths that Anguish guarded.
“You were so right, Ehkiuss. Look at them, this is getting pretty exciting.” the man smiled at the woman, who had just sat down at her place at his feet. Ehkiuss nodded: “I told you so. Just sit back and watch. I foresee much more amusement.”
“I’ll trust you on that.” chuckled the man. But as her master continued to watch, Ehkiuss got up and strolled out of the room, where she collapsed against the wall. That girl…, she thought, how could I not have recognized her? Giune…
We hit the ground before our fall had really started. The shallow crater we left wasn’t very impres-sive. Was this…Hell? The boy jumped to his feet and reached out for me to help me arise. Over our heads stood Anguish. It reached out with its right front leg and brushed us towards a door, which it opened with its talons. The doorway was of massive gold. The door itself was black: blacker than night, even blacker than Anguish. Despite the situation, I smiled. It was black like I’d never seen it before. It was a black that would eat your soul if you stared too long at it. I had not yet turned my eye to the place beyond the door. I only did that when the boy started walked that direction. And again, the horror and beauty took me breath away. Hundreds of millions of candles burned in the endless black space. I could see ceiling nor floor nor walls. It looked peculiarly desolated. Was this really Hell?
The boy stood in the doorway, his toe tips sneaking a look over the edge. He sighed and walked in, pulling me with him. It was a weird, but not completely unpleasant feeling, walking on thin air. I felt free. Together, the boy and I walked again. Past the hundreds of millions of candles, shedding their light into limitlessness. It was stunning, striking, and petrifying. The boy notices my uneasiness and stood still. He smiled a little and hugged me. He whispered softly, but his voice echoed through the shades: “Don’t worry.”
Hell was unexpectedly tedious. It was completely deserted. The hollowness of the place pained me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way: the boy next to me didn’t seem unaffected either. The void was consuming our tranquility at a steady pace. I didn’t feel safe anymore. I wanted to leave so badly, but I had no way to express it. This was the first time I was bothered with wanting to convey anything at all. I whispered: “I want to go away from here.”
My words made me shudder; speaking made me feel so vulnerable. The things I said came from inside me, and that is where they should have stayed. The boy stared at me, and for a moment I was afraid he would let go of my hand and walk away without me. The moment lasted for a small eternity, and in that small eternity my heart was ripped out of my chest, shredded, burned and put back into place. But then the boy smiled: “I know. Me too.”
His voice patched my heart back together and soothed it. I let out a relieved sigh, and again I felt uneasy by my own conveyance.
“I told you: don’t worry.” smiled the boy and he wrapped his arms around me. We stood there for some time, but suddenly, the world around us changed. The candles shifted, a sudden draught made their flames flicker, before they all died out in an instant. My heart skipped a beat, but I wasn’t really frightened, because I was still sheltered by the boy’s embrace. His heartbeat fastened, but he kept holding onto me, seemingly not disturbed by what had so suddenly happened. The light coming from the door had long since faded away, and now we were plunged into utmost darkness. Deadly, silent darkness. The darkness would have been fine, though…if it hadn’t started stirring. From deep, deep underneath us, the darkness stirred, and churned. Precipitously, bright blue light frothed from the pits beneath us. Surprised for the first time in eons, I looked the boy next to me, who gazed back with a similar expression in his eyes. His face illuminated by the blue light gurgling underneath, he smiled. But he didn’t just smile, he laughed. The sound of it paralyzed me for a second. It was such a pure, untainted sound. It remembered me of a time I couldn’t recall. A time of freedom and happiness, of sunlight and flowers and the smell of grass. And music, music, beautiful music. Not just voices, but instruments.
It was only for a moment, but it felt unbelievably nostalgic. I longed for a time like that. I wanted that time back. Where had I left it? Before I knew it, my lips were moving and a small sound fled my mouth. It was a strange little sound, but it sounded joyful. It confused me; I didn’t really understand where it came from. But it was a laugh. Gradually, I laughed more and more openly. The boy laughed more clearly as well. The more we laughed, the faster the blue light came to get us. It looked harmful, but it didn’t frighten me. I felt like nothing could frighten me right now.
Rapidly, the blue light came to us. Rising, rising, ever faster, unrulier. The boy stopped laughing and looked at his feet, which were already engulfed. He had a peculiar look on his face, as if he was trying to think of something to compare the feeling to. By the time the light had reached his knees, he nodded slowly: “Nothing…it feels like nothing.”
It had reached me as well, and I noticed he was absolutely right. It felt like nothing. Nothing was eating my body and soul away. Nothing made me slowly disappear. Nothing…was crawling towards my head fast. The boy looked at me, frowning. In the blue light he looked so sweet, almost an imitation. Like a dream filled with impossibilities you wish so much were possibilities. He came closer and embraced me again as, at last, our heads were submerged.
“Ehkiuss, how did you do it?” asked the man, as soon as his pet had returned to her place. Ehkiuss giggled: “What do you mean, do it?”
“I mean how did you hack my world?”
“It was child’s play. Don’t worry; I didn’t change anything fundamental, just some little stuffs to get the story started.”
The man shook his head, entertained: “You never change, do you? I should’ve known this would happen.”
And again, I woke up to a perfect blue sky with a boy next to me who had taught me once more how to laugh, and speak my heart. It didn’t matter where we were. We probably…died. Right? I looked about me. I knew this place. This was where I came from. The boy sat next to me, caressing my hair: “We survived.”
I smiled: “That’s good.”
I nodded: “That’s good…I think.”
The boy nodded as well and helped me up. He pointed down the road: “That’s your way, isn’t it?”
I checked the sign. He was right.
“And you?” asked I, keeping my voice as low as possible. No one was allowed to hear me speak. No one. The boy watched me curiously: “I’ll be going the other way.”
“What about Heaven?”
“What about it?”
“Will we find it?”
“Yes. But maybe some other time.”
We both turned to walk our own road, but with every step I took away from him, my heart became weightier and excruciatingly more painful. I couldn’t stand it, and I turned around, only to see him looking back at me. The sight of him, with the exact racked, hurt look in his eyes encouraged me to walk on, looking over my shoulder every now and then. All the way the small house I used to call home. But home wasn’t home anymore. It felt somehow different. No matter how chock-full it looked and how hectic everyone was, it felt vacant, somewhat hollow. It appeared no one had yet even noticed I had left home almost three months ago, only to return torn up inside.
As soon as the sun had set, I climbed up the roof to gaze at the stars. But the sky was black as An-guish, and no stars were visible at all. This night had a distinctive smell about it. I couldn’t quite place it. It smelled like loss and melancholy, but as reminiscences and joy as well. Sitting tranquil without anything to watch, I started to ponder. And I thought about the forest I could see from my abode high above the village. So I decided to take a walk. I slipped out through the front door and strolled down the road, which was even more forsaken at night. The forest was not very far away. And usually, it was a quiet, dormant area. But not tonight. Tonight there was the distinctive smell. And I wasn’t the only one who had picked up its mysterious fragrance. Some distance away, I could see an unusual kind of small campfire. It looked like a wisp, or a fathom. Feeling strangely fascinated by it, I crept in through the impenetrable shrubberies towards the light. It was the boy. He was lying down, with his face turned away from me. My heart became feather light and my intestines fluttered around inside me, making my slightly queasy. Pleased to be able to be here with him, I walked in his direction, but he didn’t appear to have become aware of me. He was probably asleep. I sat down next to him, and only then I saw the pool of liquid surrounding his figure. In spite of the fire, it was too obscure to see it plainly. It appeared black. Fear is not the best depiction of what I felt that moment. I was scared to death.
“Wake up.”, whispered I. I was certain I had kept my voice small, but it was like I roared from the top of my lungs. I knew for sure the entirety of the region had heard me, except for the boy. He was still sound asleep, or…I kept telling myself this, but deep inside me, an idea utterly unalike had popped up, roaming the distant crypts of my heart, leaving tiny time bombs everywhere it set foot. Disquiet settled in and before I knew it, tears were running down my cheeks. I sniffed a few times before I sensed someone observing me. The person was right behind me, looking at me with shocked eyes, the remainder of his face rigid. Grandfather.
“Ehkiuss”, whispered the man, as though the people of the spinning globe in his large hands were able to hear him: “What is going on? Did you change the laws of this region?”
“No. I didn’t touch the rules. But her granddad is the chief, and she committed a serious crime. He’s not going to let her off easily, despite his love for her. She is his late son’s daughter. She’s a dancer; she’s not supposed to speak. And now a boy from their own village has heard her voice...and killed himself.” Ehkiuss stood up and took a quick fleeting look outside: “It’s about time for the gathering. Will you be going this time? I’ll make proper preparations.”
“No, I’m not going.” the man sighed: “Not today. Not as long as…”
“I understand. I’ll go report to the Realm.”
Ehkiuss left, her footsteps swift, her breath steady. But as soon as she had exited her master’s lodgings she lost it, and broke into a panicked dash. Something was wrong, something was terribly wrong. Her lord and master hadn’t left his quarters in over a year, and hadn’t attended the Realm’s gatherings in over five existences. It was time something changed. This had to stop. But first…Giune!
Grandfather hadn’t allowed it at first, but I begged and pleaded and beseeched him, and in the end he gave me permission to attend the boy’s funeral. I was bound by restraints of the densest steel existing in this world, and my mouth was covered with thick cloth and more steel. I was a dancer. I was the dancer. I was not permitted to let my voice sound. I was forbidden to speak to anyone. But the boy had been an exception. I had spoken to him. And now…now he was gone. According to my grandfather, as he was leading the burial, it was my fault. I had spoken to him, and celestial retribution was bestowed upon him for listening to me. No one bothered to even look my way.
The day before my trial, I felt like the insect colony that had been keeping me company in my cell over the past week had installed itself inside of my body. I was being consumed from inside out, it was a dreadful sensation, but still better than the pure forfeiture I had been feeling up until now. My heart had been throbbing at the places where the presumption of the boy’s death had placed the tiny time bombs. I felt broken and shattered and smashed to pieces. It would have astounded me that my body looked alright, if my mind and soul hadn’t been numbed by the feelings already filling them. I had way too much time to think in this secluded cell and my head was in total disarray. There was no doubt about this all being my fault, but did he really die because of celestial retribution? I couldn’t quite accept it. Even though I had seen Anguish with my very own eyes, I had trouble imagining celestial existences being real. If they had been, why not stop me before I could talk? Why wait until it was too late, and then murder an innocent soul? This specific soul, no less. I just couldn’t grasp the idea.
Just before nightfall, the door to my cell opened, and my grandfather stepped in: “Giune, do you know what you have done?”
I nodded, and bowed my head to show him I was deeply ashamed of myself.
“You can talk now, it’s alright. It’s just me.”, he sat down opposing me. I wavered.
“Please. Let me hear your voice just once more, before I lose you too.”
I looked up, tears had filled up his eyes, and he took a deep breath. I still hesitated, but nodded slowly: “Only…tonight.”
Grandfather smiled relieved: “Only tonight.”
“I have something I need to say.” whispered I. Grandfather looked at me: “What is it?”
“I don’t…want to die. Why didn’t the celestial existences stop me? Why did they…” I couldn’t talk anymore. My heart hurt so bad, I was barely able to breathe. Grandfather sighed and got up: “It wasn’t celestial existences that killed him. It was someone from the village. And I know who it was.”
The shock nearly knocked me out. Grandfather hugged me, and whispered: “It will be alright. You will be just fine, and I will get the individual accountable for all this disorder.”
Then, his strides mighty and lengthy, designating he was very poised about something, grandfather left my cell.
Ehkiuss dashed into the basilica and skidded to a halt: “Realm…”
The being turned around to face her: “Ehkiuss. I know.”
“Yes.”, answered the Realm, and glided closer to the woman. It raised its rune-written arms and extended a finger. At the tip a light started to glow, and the air got filled with the scent of Purpleblossom. The light grew and enclosed Ehkiuss. Then, it disappeared. And Ehkiuss with it.
The pink and orange morning light came all too soon, waking me from my slumber. As the light en-gulfed my cell, I started to sing. I had nothing left to lose. The song was very strangely called the Purpleblossom song, even though it hadn’t got anything to do with it. It was a song I remembered from very long ago. A song made for me. A song that would make anyone who heard it cry. A death song, a lullaby, a serenade and a ballad. It was everything, yet nothing. It was pompous yet selfless, it was innocent and naughty, but above all it was sad. It was pure suffering and sorrow made into melody. Wretchedness and agony forged into words. I sang and sang until the sun had fully risen. Footsteps came and went, until the fateful moment. My cell door opened, and there stood grandfather. I kept singing, softly, gently. The guardians escorting me to the village square tried to keep their faces straight, but two of them couldn’t hold back their tears and were quickly replaced by two others.
The village square was packed with villagers: children, women, men and even animals, wild and domestic, had gathered around the platform where I would most likely meet my end. I was singing. I was composed. I was fearless. But just as I was dragged up the stage, the mood changed. The people had stopped yelling and were now staring at something behind me. Slightly bothered, I turned to look. If there had been anything I had expected, anything at all, it would not have been this.
The man was sitting upright instantly: “What do you think you’re doing, Ehkiuss…?”
He stood up hastily and made his way to the window with brisk steps. He shoved aside the heavy curtains blocking out the sunlight and peeked outside. No sign of life. Not too surprising, considering the fact the gathering was about to be held.
For a moment, the man actually considered attending this time. But before that idea could get its hooks in him too far, he drew the curtains once again and returned to his chair, whispering: “Not yet…not until…”
The woman that had appeared behind me was very strangely dressed. If she had not been wearing these clothes, I would have said she was from around here. Even her face looked familiar, but the recollections were hazy, as though I only had seen her in my first dreams.
“Giune…” whispered she in my ear: “You will come with me. I will bring you home. I will bring you to where you truly belong.”
Her voice brought back remembrances of long gone times, times of feast and delight. Had I ever lived in such times?
The woman took my hands, and without any visible effort she broke the unyielding shackles. No one even tried to stop her as she led me away from the village square, into the woods. She walked the paths with the confidence of someone who had walked them before, the way I walked usually. She led us off the track, off the road to the place I knew to be dangerous. A shrine.
“Giune, do you remember me?” asked the woman when we had arrived at the shrine. I shrugged, not sure what to do. I felt like I had to answer, but I was afraid to do so. What if something happened to her too? But the gnawing feeling of familiarity had grown stronger still, and I started to feel interested for the first time in a while. I was curious where all these faint commemorations came from. The woman smiled: “Do you think you can trust me?”
I nodded. I had nothing to lose. Indisputably nothing. The woman smiled again: “Come, let’s go then. To the world you most belong in.”
The man waited. He stood by the window and watched the light drift by. Horrible place. He shivered and turned away. How long since Ehkiuss had left? Without her, I’m a disgrace, thought he. I don’t even know what time it is.
Suddenly, footfalls announced someone walking down the corridor, their thuds echoing from the iron walls, making it sound like an entire army was marching in. The man ran to his chair and spun it away from the door, forming the only blind spot in the enormous chamber. Catching his breath from the sprint he had just taken, the man sat down and waited. I’m getting too old for this, thought he just before the door was thrown wide-open. The footsteps stopped dead. For a few minutes, both people in the room held their breath. The man in the chair waiting for the person who had just busted into his chambers to identify himself. The person at the door trying to decide what to do. At last, the person spoke. His voice was soft, lisping and seemingly belonged to a young man. But the man who spoke was nothing like that. He stepped closer to the chair as he said: “So this is where you’ve been hiding your pathetic old self…”
“Yes. I like the…peacefulness. How the hell did you find me?”
“Not too hard. Thanks to your pretty…pet, I was able to locate you all the way from Reyui.”
“She went to the Realm.” it wasn’t a question. The guest laughed: “Yes, she did. She went back to virtual world through the shrine, and she left you all alone.”
The man took a deep breath: “Why are you telling me this? What would you get from making me worry about my pet?”
“Oh, but she’s not just your pet anymore, is she now?” the guest smiled foul: “She is so much more than that.”
The bearded man in the chair grinded his teeth: “What are you implying?”
“You know full well what I’m implying. I’m implying your life is as good as over if she were not to return home.”
“What have you done?” asked the man in the chair, breathless with alarm. The guest cackled maniacally: "You really think I would just tell you? First give me what I came here for!”
“By no means. I told you decades ago: the deal is off.”
“Is that your answer? Even if it means you might never see your beloved pet again?” the guest squinted at the back of the chair. The man in it quivered, but succeeded to steady his voice: “Yes. That is my unconditional answer.”
“Then this is farewell. And may I never see your face again…” began the guest.
“…until the day one of our souls leaves this world to roam the celestial paths.” finished the man.
The Pact of Sworn Nemeses.
At some point when I was being led by the hand across a field of long, waving grass, I wished I had just died along with the boy. The woman I was being led by hadn’t told me her name yet, which bothered me slightly. It was when we had reached the small shrine that I stopped, all of a sudden overwhelmed by the craving to remember. The woman turned around: “Is everything alright? Did they upset you?”
I shook my head.
“Did they…do anything to make you feel…uncomfortable?” the woman spoke as if I was a cornered animal. She was watchful, careful not to scare me. I shook my head again, and wished from the bottom of my heart she would make me able to speak, to talk, and to ask about where I belonged. Because I now knew for sure: this was not it. There was nothing that kept me here. The people had forsaken me. Yes, even my grandfather had not tried to stop the villagers from erasing my very existence from this world. And the boy…the only person that I had been able to talk with and the only person I saw as a true person…had passed away.
The woman smiled: “That’s good. Shall we go then? To the place where you belong?”
I hesitated. With the tips of my toes on the doorstep, I hesitated. This was the shrine. The forbidden abode. There was no turning back. The emotions raging through me were unknown to me. They pricked a little, but it was a good pricking. A pricking that promised me something. Something fresh, something new. My hesitation dissolved, I stepped into the shrine. Never had I seen a sight like this.
Trembling, the man made his way to the gigantic library located in the rear of his lodgings. Some-where…somewhere…his thoughts were racing, not a moment resting. His eyes were running up and down the shelves. It had to be here…somewhere…
The creature was moving, but it didn’t look like it should. It didn’t even have enough mass to be registered as a creature in my head. It looked transparent, or better put hollow. Its skin consisted out of dim glowing rotating prose, while its eyes were bright shining rhombuses. It was tall, and skinny, to human standards. I doubted those human standards were valid to compare this being to.
The being turned to face us: “Ehkiuss…and Giune. It’s been such a long time.”
The woman next to me bowed: “Demesne. It’s indeed been long.”
“Don’t bow to me, brave young Ehkiuss. I’ll take you back to the Realm.” the being seemed to smile. Its voice vibrated through my bones. I felt it shiver down my spine and rampage in the core of my soul. Now it directed its attention at me: “And you, Giune. What are you going to do?”
Before I could answer, the being nodded: “I see. Take Ehkiuss hand again. She will guide you through the Nil.”
A little reluctant, I put my hand in the woman Ehkiuss’. The creature extended an arm, if you could call it that. At once, I was blinded by a yellow light. When the light faded, I found myself standing in a large white room. There was not a single trace of Ehkiuss, or of the strange being, or of anything whatsoever. There was no visible door or other exit, nor could I find a window. In a way, it reminded me of Hell…and of…
The sudden pain in my chest forced me down on my knees. Where was everyone? Where was grandfather? Where was the woman, Ehkiuss? Where was the creature, Demesne? Where was…where was...
The suddenly upwelling surge of loneliness took my breath away. The miniature time bombs in the cellar of my heart had run out of time. I was alone. I was all alone. My heart had been shredded, as well as the rest of my body. Every tiny bit of it hurt, burned, ached… And the longing, the longing for a face, for a person, for an embrace. Anything.
The pain…the torment…the misery…
I have no idea for how long I was just lying there, wishing it would stop. It felt like eons, while it was most likely only an hour. But the duration is beside the point. Because somewhere in-between the crying and screaming, I noticed a miracle had happened. I wasn’t alone any longer. Someone was sitting at my side, stroking my hair, singing softly. This voice, this voice, clear and sharp as crystal. I looked up. He looked down. He smiled: “Hey.”
After a breathless minute, I smiled back and replied with a muffled tone: “Hi.”
Ehkiuss stood before the Realm: “What happened? Where is Giune?”
The Realm let out a sigh: “I am not sure. Demesne, though it is a part of me, has its own will. This is not the path the Celestial Potentates have chosen for her. She is where she is supposed to be.”
“No, she isn’t! She’s supposed to be with me! With me and with no one else.” Ehkiuss bit her lip, fighting to hold back the tears that had been burning behind her eyelids for so long. She had found Giune…and lost her once again. The Realm stretched out its arms and touched the slim woman’s cheek: “Do not worry. She is safer than she’ll ever be. And she will return.”
“I know, but how much longer will I have to wait?” Ehkiuss’ voice had turned harsh. The Realm sighed again: “That I cannot tell you, my dear Ehkiuss. But I can promise you I will wait and pray with you. Until the day the dearly treasured Giune comes back home.”
“Did we…find Heaven?” whispered I. The boy smiled: “I would think so. Don’t be afraid, you can talk all you want now. There is nothing here to fear.”
“But, if anyone finds out I talked to you again…”, while I said it, I knew that it was a stupid thing to say. I was free. I was unrestricted. The laws of the village didn’t hold me back anymore. The boy smiled: “I see you have realized. They can’t hurt you, or me. We are together, now, here. We are free to go wherever we want, and do whatever we want. We can dance and sing and shout. No one will try to stop us.”
“Is that what Heaven means?” asked I. The boy shrugged: “I don’t know. But I don’t care where we are. As long as you are by my side.”
We looked at each other for a long time, just because we could. And I was happy I could. The image in my mind, of him lying there in the pool of blood…motionless, like a string-puppet whose strings had been cut. It made me feel nauseous. It took my brain a few more minutes to figure out why it was miracle that I was sitting here next to him in this incredibly white space. He died. I had attended his funeral. I had seen him lying there.
I breathed in deeply and turned to him, but before I could say anything, he nodded: “Yes, I died that day.”
He wrapped his arms around me: “But I walked. I walked all the way back from the Palace of the Celestial Potentates to this place, and I waited for you. Oh, how it hurt to be able to see you in that cell. I kept wishing for you to look back at me. And then you sang. You made me cry, you know?”
I sniffed: “I’m sorry. I just…”
“It’s alright. It’s all good now. You are here now.”
Ehkiuss feigned a calm demeanor as she walked back to her master’s lodgings. The streets of the capitol started to fill with people. The gathering was over. The delicate but exposed band around her ankle was quite the eye-catcher. It was an erratic scene, a pet on the street without its master. The eyes burned in her back. These people…, she thought, they have no idea where their lovely pets and servants come from. Once, they led a life just like this.
The memories of her childhood brought a sour smile on her face. Giune…did she even remember? The days this world and ours weren’t connected. The days before the Realm and Demesne were invented. The days our world was not just for amusement and harvesting. The days we all still knew delight.
Ehkiuss sighed, but straightened herself immediately: don’t show defeat. The first unwritten law of pets. Second: don’t disobey. Third: don’t get killed before you get on the loose and, if possible, not afterwards either. The written laws were a little different. First law: don’t speak unless you’re asked to. Second: don’t listen unless you’re asked to. Third: don’t breathe unless you’re asked to.
Unwillingly, Ehkiuss scanned her ankle band at the gate and entered the building her master had given me as a home. She rarely came here. She was always at her master’s feet. Well, not that she really opposed it, he was good to her. And strictly spoken, he had saved her life.
With a relieved sigh, Ehkiuss sat down at the dinner table. What would she do now? The moment she had scanned her band outside, she was under surveillance. She had to keep her posture. Show no signs of weakness. Do not show him how disturbed you are. She doubted her master was watching over her, but lately he hadn’t been himself. He had been attentive, asking her where she had been after she had gone out. Asking her most out of the ordinary questions at random. There was no doubt something was going on. The way he clung to the other world…
Suddenly, she sat up straight: the way he clung to the other world…
She cursed. No way he had not seen her there. He has been following that girl for the past few weeks. He will be devastated. He will…
Ehkiuss’ panicky thoughts made it impossible for her to think routinely and she started pacing around the room: what do I do, what do I do, what the hell have I done?! Wandering around the house, she grew more and more worried: what would be the consequences of this horrible deed? How bad would she be punished? Would she be able to face her master ever again? All the trust he had given her: the trust she had earned over the years, the trust she had earned by forfeiting so much…
She panicked like this for about half an hour, running around the house picking everything up and rearranging it, and then she suddenly stopped in her tracks. She drew a long breath and made up her mind. Resolutely, she ran out the door and to her master’s lodgings.
“So, what do you think?” asked the boy. He motioned to the vast hills. The long, fresh green grass seemed to wave at us, calling us, inviting us to come closer and lay down in it. I smiled: “It’s amazing.”
“We’re not too far away now. It’s only three hills from here.” he took my hand and started walking, but I held him back. Confused, he looked back: “Hey, what’s wrong? It’s so close…”
I shook my head: “It’s not that.”
“Then what is it, tell me! I’ll help you, whatever it takes.” the boy looked into my eyes: “I mean it. Whatever it takes.”
I sighed, and looked up to the blue sky. It was so bright it almost made me cry, and I wasn’t that happy already. I sighed again: “I just…feel like I don’t belong here. Like I’m not supposed to be here just yet. I don’t know how to describe it.”
The boy’s expression turned unbearably gloomy: “Are you…unhappy?”
I shook my head: “No, it’s nothing like that. It’s just…weird. Uncomfortable, in a way. If you know what I mean.” I sighed, and tried to smile cheerfully: “But really, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
The boy nodded uncertainly, but didn’t push it. Gently clutching my hand, he led the way across the final three hills.
It was like no sight I had ever seen. A gigantic city, its walls brightly reflecting the afternoon sun. And in its center arose a castle. Even though I had never seen it before, I knew what this was. The famed Palace of the Celestial Potentates. And their city Alerial, the Diamond City.
The castle became more and more beautiful as we approached the city. The detail in its posts and barriers was meticulous. Every stone was engraved with symbols of purity and serenity, giving the impression they were facetted, scattering the sunlight in all directions. The city with no shadows, the city of the worthy souls, the city…of the peaceful dead.
“It’s huge, huh?” smiled the boy, as we stood in front of the main gate. People were walking in and out, without apparent reason. They seemed to be rambling around just to have something to do. I didn’t like the place already. The boy took a step forward, striding over the small line dividing the city from the wilderness. I felt a little disinclined, but I still wanted to follow him. However, the moment I set foot on the line, an invisible force kept me from it. The boy spun: “What…what is this?”
I tried to step into the city again, with the same result. Astonished, I looked at my feet. Nothing wrong with them. What was going on?
The boy held onto my hand and tried to pull me in, but I couldn’t cross the line. “Why…?” whispered I.
“Why is fate against us?” whispered the boy. We stood, each on our side of the line. Then, without hesitation, the boy passed the line to my side: “Let’s go.”
Confused, I stared into his green eyes. They had a clear, sharp feeling about them that reminded me of his voice. He stared back, and pointed towards the horizon: “Let’s go somewhere we can go together.”
I felt overjoyed, and for the fear that had snuck into my heart was no more room. I nodded: “Okay.”
“Hello? Anyone home?” Ehkiuss was joking, her master would be right here, waiting for her to return. Right? No answer. As quick as she could, Ehkiuss checked the rest of the house: the living room, the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the pool, the conference room, the study and the library. But there was no sign of her master. There were traces of him in the library; books were pulled of the shacks and one of the chairs had been knocked over. What the hell happened here? Now in a panic, Ehkiuss ran through the house, double-checking every room, every cupboard, every corner she could find. Until there was only one place left to go. The cellar. Which was locked. For numerous reasons. And Ehkiuss did not have the key. Frustrated, Ehkiuss returned to the living room and sat down on the pillow marking her spot. She had no other option: she’d have to wait.
“Look, do you see that yellow field?” asked the boy. I nodded. He smiled: “It’s dandelions. Millions of them! Want to go check them out?”
“Sure.”, answered I, and followed him in the direction of the field. He was right. Millions of bright yellow dandelions in full bloom. But it was not the dandelions that caught my attention. In the mid-dle of the field stood a tree. It was an old tree, but not like any I had ever perceived before. Curious, I came closer, and saw that the tree was surrounded by small pink plants. As I looked up, a flower head fell down on my face. It was an anomalous kind of flower head. It had small, round, violet petals and a deep purple core. The blossoms were hidden by the leaves of the tree, but now that I looked closer, the tree was full of them. “Purpleblossom.”, whispered I.
The boy grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the trunk of tree: “Don’t go near that tree.”
Confused, I looked him in the eye. He seemed honestly worried. “Why?” asked I. I didn’t understand. It was just a tree. And a Purpleblossom tree at that. It was said they had the mysterious power to bring the dead back to life. Not that I believed it, but it was still quite something to be able to see one from so close by.
But the boy shook his head: “That tree is dangerous. It…”
Ehkiuss had curled up like a cat and tried to fall asleep, but the thought of her master not being by her side made her restless. Where could he have gone? She knew there was something she was able to do to find him, but the idea of going against her master’s orders was…
Resolutely, she stood up and walked to the study. In a cabinet by the window was one drawer re-served for her. She smiled as she remembered the reaction of the other pets at the convention when she had told them how her master treated her. They had been so bitter. Though she often called her master an idiot, and she addressed him casually or even rudely as long as they were alone, she respected him immensely and she would never do anything to hurt him.
Ehkiuss opened the drawer and took out a device that looked a little like the spinning globe her master held so dear. It was in direct contact with the Realm, like most of the gadgets these days. The Realm kept track of everything that happened. The Realm had several roles at the present time. First of all, it was the gather place for all data that had ever been made in this world and was still being made. Second, it was a being that was in close touch with the celestial existences, therefor it was considered divine. The Realm had its own shrine; Ehkiuss often visited it because it once saved from a certain death. Even though the creature was otherworldly in every sense of the word, Ehkiuss considered it a friend.
But the most important task of the Realm was balancing the three worlds: Kiloes, which was the world she currently lived in, Reth, the world of the celestial existences and the dead, and Ulior, the world she and Giune originally came from.
The Realm was the only way to travel between these worlds, and in every world was a part of the Realm. In Kiloes was the Realm itself, Ulior had Demesne, and Reth had Cosmos. Every one of them had its own personality.
All this made the Realm the most complicated thing the hands of man had ever constructed. Though some argue about whether man had really fabricated the Realm, or that the Realm had assembled itself. One thing was sure: the Realm had changed the world immeasurably.
Carefully, Ehkiuss carried the sphere upstairs, and locked herself in the attic. Last year, while she was exploring the house, she had found something here. Something very old, but very useful. Most of the spheres nowadays didn’t require extra support, but the sphere Ehkiuss owned was an older model and it was pretty useless of its own accord. However, with the contraption she had discovered and with some practice, it was better than most hypermodern devices.
The screen was transparent, most likely glass of some sort, and it seemed to hover above the desk. The desk had two keyboards, one control panel, a touchscreen drawing board and two strange bowls that looked like you’d have dinner out of them.
By now long familiar with the odd sight of this piece of antique, Ehkiuss placed the sphere in one of the bowls, and sealed it off with the other. Instantly, the screen sprang to life, buzzing faintly. Ehkiuss sat down at the desk and moved the screen back a little. It was too big to sit so up close. Endless lines of code cascaded down, filling Ehkiuss’ slightly hopeful eyes. Maybe, just maybe the Realm could tell her what had happened, or even where her master was right now. Ignoring the scripts, Ehkiuss typed the codes for the security camera’s feeds: the living room, the hallways, the study and the cellar entrance. Somewhere on here, there should be a clue. The screen now displayed the situation as it was now. Ehkiuss frowned: how long had she been in Ulior? For safety’s sake, she reversed to three hours ago. Her master was sitting in the living room, just as she had left him. He was watching the spinning globe in his hands. Then suddenly, he jumped to his feet and put the globe in its place next to his chair. He walked over to the window and looked outside for a while. Then, he turned his head, as he if he was listening to something. He sprinted back to his chair and turned it away from the door. Ehkiuss saw a person walking down the hallway, but the camera only caught his back. He was clad in blue and grey. The colors of the knights of Reyui.
I blinked. It was hard to take this seriously, even though the boy evidently was serious about this. His eyes were trying to convince me as I stared in them. “It talks?” repeated I. The boy nodded agitatedly: “Not to everyone, but it did talk to one of the people who took care of me when I first arrived here.”
I looked at the tree, and then turned my gaze back to the boy, who was still holding my arm: “But why…can’t I go near it?”
“Because it’s unsafe!” replied he. He seemed honestly troubled.
“How?” asked I. I couldn’t see how a talking tree could possibly be dangerous.
“It says things that…change you.” the boy looked away: “And…I don’t want you to change the way that man did.”
I frowned: “How did he…change?”
The boy seemed at the verge of tears: “He…became insufferably mad and unspeakably livid. They took him away to somewhere. He never returned.”
I looked at the tree again. But…that couldn’t feasibly have been the tree’s doing?
But as I stood looking on, I failed to notice the branch reaching down. It stretched itself until it touched my shoulder and wrapped itself around me. The boy screamed: “No! Giune!”
What’s going on, I wondered, as the tree lifted me up between its bright green foliage and purple blossoms. It was the last thing I thought was: how does he know my name?
Filled with horror Ehkiuss paused the security video and stared at the screen, dumbfounded. How was this possible? This was…impossible! Still, there was no doubt the man who walked into the room so casually was the man she thought he was. Trembling, she rewound the tape a little and played it once more. The man walked in and spoke, clearly audible: ““So this is where you’ve been hiding your pathetic old self…”
Ehkiuss’ jaw dropped. This man had some nerve talking to her master like this! How dared he?! But her master showed no signs of anger and calmly replied: “Yes. I like the…peacefulness. How the hell did you find me?”
The knight smirked: “Not too hard. Thanks to your pretty…pet, I was able to locate you all the way from Reyui.” Ehkiuss’ body went rigid. Oh no…was this her fault?
“She went to the Realm.” marked her master, and Ehkiuss could feel the disappointment in his voice. She had said to him she would report to the Realm, but that didn’t involve actually visiting it. All she had to do was finding a sphere and make the connection. The knight snickered: “Yes, she did. She went back to virtual world through the shrine, and she left you all alone.”
Again, Ehkiuss was left astounded and rigid. How much influence had this man on her master? Would the man she had been faithfully serving for so many years really believe this crap? Her master seemed to be getting a little upset: “Why are you telling me this? What would you get from making me worry about my pet?”
“Oh, but she’s not just your pet anymore, is she now?” replied the guest with a smirk: “She is so much more than that.”
Ehkiuss heart nearly broke in two when she saw her master grind his teeth: “What are you implying?”
“You know full well what I’m implying.” fired the man back: “I’m implying your life is as good as over if she were not to return home.”
Ehkiuss wanted to look away, or cover her ears, but she forced herself to keep watching as her master’s eyes widened and he asked: “What have you done?”
The knight laughed: "You really think I would just tell you? First give me what I came here for!”
Suddenly, Ehkiuss saw a change in her master’s attitude. He seemed resolute: “By no means. I told you decades ago: the deal is off.” Ehkiuss frowned: deal?
“Is that your answer? Even if it means you might never see your beloved pet again?” the knight looked as if he couldn’t believe his eyes and squinted at the back of her master’s chair. Her master appeared threatened, frightened even, but he didn’t show any hesitation when he answered: “Yes. That is my unconditional answer.”
“Then this is farewell. And may I never see your face again…” began the knight.
“…until the day one of our souls leaves this world to roam the celestial paths.”
The knight turned around and left through the front door, the same way he had come in. Ehkiuss paused the video again and took a deep breath. Oh celestials…what had she done?
The sun was shining brightly and the people were preparing a celebration like never before. The daughter, and only child, of the village’s leader had returned home after twenty years. Every person living in or nearby the village had come to help, and they brought food and wine and music and everything they could carry to make this feast the best one ever held. I had lived next to her for most of my life, and we had been best friends since we were little. I couldn’t wait for her return. Her father had asked me to sing for everyone, being the village’s youngest and his daughter’s friend. My family had always been proud of my voice. They often said it was so sweet even the celestial existences would come down to us to hear me sing. I thought they exaggerated, but they didn’t care. As was common in this part of the country, my entire family lived under one roof. We were the largest, wealthiest family of the village, which meant we could meet the expenses of aiding our neighbors in the making of the wildest, longest, and most famous welcome home-event our village would ever know.
The druids summoned the eagles from the surrounding mountains to help put up banners and other hangings, while the blacksmiths worked their hardest to finish the skewers and plates required for the enormous group of guests. Everyone carried out their tables and chairs and brought them up to the plateau that was once used for offerings. All of the other girls had been plucking flowers and were now decorating the whole upland. I sat on top of the shrine’s tower and looked on as festival emerged at my feet. It was a wonderful sight.
Thanks to our ancestors, who built special mirroring devices in the mountains around our village, we always had light, be it from the sun or the moon, on this plateau. But where they used it for sacrifices, we use it for feasts. As the sun was setting, the lighting changed from yellow to orange to pink to red to purple and finally, to pale blue. Slowly some people started to drop out and went to bed, preparing themselves to go all out the next day, when our beloved Ylia would coming back home. I didn’t feel like sleeping yet and I knew my mother didn’t mind me staying up late. I doubted she’d even notice. So I went for a walk down to the river. The water greeted me with pleased whispers and I whispered back, just as pleased. The river lighted up as the moon rose above the mountains and shone its light over the valley. I carefully put my feet into the river. The water was warm. Without bothering to take of my dress I slipped into the river and drifted downstream, smiling at the sparkling stars overhead. There were no clouds to hide their beauty from us. There never were. The mountains had always been our greatest bliss. They held back the clouds, but also offered us enough water for our farming and daily life. In return our hunters kept them free from animals that endangered their forests and stone bases and our druids restored any damage done to them by either animals or the weather.
The dam the beavers had built halfway the river stopped me from going any further and I climbed out. Grinning at my dripping dress, I sat down to watch the bear on the other side of the river. It stared back at me. Mesmerized by its golden eyes, I crossed the river via the dam and slowly stepped closer to the bear. It first took a few steps back, but its curiosity won in the end and it allowed me to approach it. It was a male. He didn’t look as dangerous as everyone always said they did. He stretched his neck and sniffed my arm. It tickled and I giggled. The bear seemed startled by the sound. He took another step back. It was like he looked surprised, which made me giggle again. This time the bear made a mocking sound and took a step closer to me as if to say he wasn’t afraid. I reached out with my hand and lightly touched his forehead. Again, the bear showed an amazingly humane expression: he closed his eyes, bowed his head and looked as if he smiled. The remembrance of an old legend started to find its way through my mind. The ancient druids that had survived the fall of the former civilization by sacrificing themselves to the celestial existences and had been turned into animals. It was said these animals had always supported us from the shadows, keeping us safe and making sure we didn’t make the same mistakes they had made. It was also said these animals showed their human form when you sang the right song. For every animal there was a different song. I knew the songs for the Eagle, the Fish, the Spider and…the Bear.
I smiled as I lay down on the grass and took a deep breath. The bear stood next to me and looked down at my face. Peering into his eyes, I started to sing:
Over the mountains and rivers to here
Only one came, the mighty Bear
Celestial Uofe gave him a maw
With sharp teeth to rip and to saw
The bear lay down next to me, sighing heavily. A little discouraged, but still hopeful I kept singing:
Oh mighty Uofe, heed my song
And show me the face gone so long
The Bear that lived here
That was held dear
Let me behold him
In the moonlight dim
I turned to the bear, but nothing happened. He simply stared back with those amazing golden eyes. The moonlight made his black fur shine and sparkle like the night sky itself. It look almost a few mi-nute for me to realize that it was not the moon that made the bear glow, but something else. A yellow light. It was faint, but undeniably fire of some sort. I sat up and looked around. It wasn’t hard to find: a torch was moving through the forest. And it looked like it was by itself.
I got to my feet and whispered to the bear: “You better get out of here, you might get hurt if some-one sees you.”
The bear heaved itself up with a hefty exhalation and started walking away. A few times he turned around, but I ushered him to run. When he was fully out of sight, I turned to follow the torch. It was headed for the village. When I got closer, I saw that the torch was not on its own. It was carried by a person. A boy, for as far as I could judge. The boy seemed focused on the path right before his feet only and it wasn’t at all that hard to follow him around as he tried to find his way through the thick bushes. I ran out in front of him, leaned against an oak and waited for him. When the light of his torch lit my feet, he jumped and held the torch higher to illuminate my face. He frowned: “Are you a local?”
“Depends…”, answered I. The boy grinned: “On what?”
“On who’s asking.”, smiled I back, and I stepped closer to him: “Who are you and what’s your busi-ness here?”
The boy motioned to the way he came from: “I am accompanying a young lady with companions home, and I was asked to check if the road was clear before they took another step forward.”
I laughed relieved: “Oh, you’re with Ylia? You should’ve said so before!”
The boy shrugged: “I’m sorry, I had no idea I was talking to an acquaintance of her. What’s your name?”
“My name is Giune, and what do you mean, acquaintance? Everyone in the village, and outside of it knows Ylia! Has she never told you? We’re a very close community. Everyone in the region has come to prepare for her arrival tomorrow. We’ve been planning this feast ever since she left!”
The boy looked honestly surprised: “No, she never told me…but I have heard of you. You were her neighbor, right?”
“Yeah, we’ve been best friends since forever!”, smiled I. The boy frowned: “Well, that’s news to me. She always kept going on about how annoying she thought you were…”
My eyes widened, I couldn’t believe my ears. The boy’s face turned dreamy as he stared at my face: “Really, I had imagined a much more…nerve-racking person. Well, pleased to meet you. My name is…”
I never heard the end of the sentence. Suddenly, the world around me fell away. Everything turned black and my body was floating quietly inside of this nothingness. It somehow reminded me of Hell, but this was way more pleasant. The space felt warm and nice, I didn’t want to move. But then, something unexpected happened.
Right in front of me, a soft light appeared, and it stared at me with amber eyes. It blinked slowly, seemingly content, like the cats that used to roam the town, when they were resting in the afternoon sun. The light shone gently, linking at me as it came closer and warming my face as it spoke: “Giune. Do you know what I am?”
I had no clue, but I didn’t want to move. The light circled me: “I see. Do you know…what you are?”
The question caught me off guard. What I am? The light stopped in front of my face: “You were chosen. Chosen by the celestials to survive the horror that engulfed and destroyed your home.”
The light gave me time to think about this. The memories I had just seen, I had no doubt that was my home. The world I had travelled with the boy, where he had died…had it all just been a dream?
The light sighed: “Nothing of the sort. You and that boy were two of the five survivors of the lost first world, also known as Genesis. Genesis was destroyed many years ago. The five survivors were scattered around the worlds: you, Ehkiuss and the boy ended up in Ulior, the so-called second world. One other survivor, a mouse, was released into the third world: Kiloes. And I am the fifth survivor. I was brought here, in the fourth world. I am the origin of all celestial existences, all worlds, and everything in them. I am Cosmos, the part of the Realm that controls Reth, and the realm itself.”
My mind had a real hard time keeping up with the light, apparently called Cosmos. I did remember vaguely something about a woman and a strange being in a shrine. The woman must have been Ehkiuss.
“You think correctly.”, whispered Cosmos: “That was Ehkiuss. And the being, that was Demesne. Demesne monitors Ulior, it is my gentlest fragment, but it is feared because of its wisdom. Poor thing…”
Cosmos seemed to be drifting off, and I stretched out my arm. Cosmos turned around: “I’m sorry, Giune. I can’t keep you here. I need you to remember. I need you to know happened to you, and the boy whose name…”
The boy whose name…?
“The boy whose name you can’t remember.”
Tell me…tell me…
“Are names that important?”
Names…names are not important. But how can I call out to him if I don’t know how to call him?
Cosmos didn’t respond. It just looked away and seemed to ignore me. Why? Why did I not remem-ber? Who was he? I wanted to know, I wanted to know so badly! Cosmos sighed: “I won’t tell you his name, but maybe I can help you remember. However…you won’t ever be the same person again. When the celestials transferred you to Ulior, they took away your memories. They took away the person you were, and made you into the person you are now. By remembering…there’s no telling how different you will be. Ehkiuss remembers all that happened, she saw it all, and she will never forget. The boy who is waiting for you doesn’t remember everything, but he tries to. You are special. You are different. There is something sleeping deep inside you that the celestials wanted to seal away. You know something that they don’t want you to know. They made you into a puppet. A puppet that wouldn’t talk back at them. So, I will only ask you once: do you want to remember?”
Apprehensively, Ehkiuss looked on as her master carried himself to the library, and started to rum-mage around. He kept mumbling something, but she couldn’t make out what it was he was saying. After a full eight minutes, he had apparently found what he had been looking for, and he put it on the table, along with a piece of old paper. Ehkiuss had no idea he still used that. Swiftly, her master tore the paper in two pieces. He took the first piece, drew something and put it inside the book. Then, he took the other piece and wrote something on it. He then turned to the camera and looked straight into it. Ehkiuss jumped and almost turned the screen off, but her master held up the piece of paper, and her fingers stopped right above the keys. Her master held up the piece of paper. As soon as she read it, Ehkiuss flew downstairs and grabbed a sword. Then she dashed through the gate onto the street and headed back towards the Realm. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Something was terribly wrong.
Inconspicuously my mind slipped back into the memories. Cosmos’s voice whispered in the back of my head: “I warned you, though. It’s not a pretty sight.”
The boy followed me to the village. I showed him the way to the leader’s house and left him on the doorstep. He made me nervous in an uncomfortable way. But still I kept looking around as I walked up the side of the mountain towards the plateau. All of the men were still working and I sat down to look at them. I knew I was looking at my future and I smiled. I was the oldest girl at home apart from my adoptive sister, so one of the men walking around here would be my husband. I sighed and climbed further up the mountain. If you knew the ways, you could be at the top in less than three hours. I didn’t know the ways. By the time I reached the top, the sun was already rising. The gigantic sphere of blazing warmth had only just shown itself, and some snaked and lizards slowly crawled out of their retreats. I picked a snake up and giggled as it curled itself around my arms to warm itself. I would miss this. As soon as Ylia would be back, my ultimate liberty would be over. We were the wealthiest family, and because of that, we were bound to the village’s leader. It was said that the leader was going to step down today, and hand over his responsibilities to his daughter. And when that happened, it had been decided I’d be her servant. Just like my father was the leader’s servant. And just like my mother was the leader’s wife’s maid. Well, I had no choice.
I peeled off the snake and carried it back down. It was about time I returned. Downhill was always faster than uphill, especially when you trip and fall down a few meters at a time. Beaten and crushed, but still alive, I arrived in the village. No one seemed surprised seeing me like this. I was by far the most clumsy person around. And the one longing most for adventure and thrill. It was a combination that made me all too familiar with the druids. They patched me up more often than they fixed the mountains, which was quite something.
The whole village was in uproar. I had expected nothing less, but this seemed outrageous, even for these people. They seemed shocked. After asking around a little, I heard why: “Ylia didn’t come alone. She has brought strangers into our valley!”
I already knew this, it was the boy they meant, right? But this seemed different somehow. I quickly made my way to my house and climbed to the roof, from where I had a perfect view on the leader’s house front door. I barely recognized the people standing there. The man standing in the door opening was unmistakably our village’s leader, but the woman standing in front of him was scarcely perceptible. She was followed by three others, all men. It was only when she looked up at me and smiled, that I knew her to be Ylia. She and the men behind her were dressed rather strangely. They were all wearing long, blue coats, and the men wore black pants. Ylia wore a white dress, it seemed lined with small diamonds, sparkling in the first rays of the morning sun, now finally reaching over the mountain I had just descended from. She looked stunning. And not at all like Ylia.
I climbed down and fell down on my bed. She was not the Ylia I had known. There was no need to welcome her now. My mother knocked on the door and whispered: “Giune, come down. You have to greet your mistress.”
“She’s not my mistress.”, answered I: “She’s not our leader. I have no obligation to come down and greet her. Maybe I’ll show my face later today, when everything’s calmed down.”
“You’re being disrespectful towards your elders.”
“No I’m not.”
My mother sighed, acknowledging I was a lost cause, and rapidly disappeared downstairs. I sat up and stared out of the window. The view hadn’t changed in the least ever since I can remember. But today, there was a slight irregularity. The figure of a person. It was just sitting there on the top of the roof I loved to sit on. Curious as I was, I went to check it out. It turned out to be a boy. The boy. He was sitting on the edge of the bakery’s roof, and was looking slightly depressed. I sat down next to him, not sure what to say. He didn’t look up, he kept staring at the ground like a puppy that was corrected by his mother. I felt sorry for him, but at the same time the disquiet showed itself again. The boy sighed: “You know, I guess I should’ve known she would thrust me aside as soon as we would arrive.”
I looked up to the sky: “I don’t think she meant to.”
“I think she did.”
I didn’t respond. It was too hard to believe. The boy sighed again: “Well, at least she invited me to the feast.”
That made me unexpectedly happy. I smiled: “So you’ll stay here, then?”
I laid down and frowned: “What? Why?”
“I can’t. I don’t…I don’t know if I could do it.”
The boy remained silent. I smiled: “Stay. I promise you it will be a night to remember.”
The boy still didn’t respond and I laughed: “Oh come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”
No answer. I sat up and looked at the boy. He looked back, and in his eyes was the weirdest expression I had seen in a long time. It seemed strange, because it didn’t match his face. His face was smiling as good luck would have it, but his eyes…didn’t.
“Thank you.”, said his mouth, but his eyes didn’t express thankfulness.
“I’ll stay.”, spoke his lips, but his eyes didn’t express moderation.
“For you.”, whispered he, and now his eyes did express. They expressed something I didn’t know. I was not afraid, but…
The boy and I sat together, waiting for the afternoon, but the wait took too long. I got up and offered him my hand: “Come on, let’s go.”
“To the river.”
The boy seemed hesitant, but he took my hand anyway. When his skin touched mine, I felt the uneasiness again, but it felt…different. Better, somehow. I smiled unwillingly. The boy followed me across the roofs, ostensibly indifferent to the height. He even seemed to like it, being so high up. He was like me. The villagers all thought I was stark mad. Not that I cared.
I jumped over an alley and turned to see the boy follow suit without any problem. I smiled again, he was amazing, for a foreigner. I led him away from the crowds and towards the woods. When I reached the river, I recalled the night before: I had been standing right here. This time without hesitation I jumped into the water and held onto a rock as I looked back at the boy: “Come on, it’s great.”
He looked a little wary, but he followed nevertheless. He seemed surprised when he entered the water: “It’s so warm…”
“It’s thanks to the our ancestors. They made a contraption that warms up the water, somewhere inside of the mountains. We don’t know how it works, but it does.”
With his eyes, the boy traced the river back to the invisible source halfway the peak. He smiled and nodded: “I’ve heard of it.”
I couldn’t help but to be impressed. Some people in the village didn’t even know it existed. They simply assumed the water was warm merely because it was. I let go of the rock and floated down-stream, the water gently pushing me forward. The boy caught up with me and took a hold of my shoulder: “Wait up.”
The indefinite look returned to his eyes. They were bright green, and their sharp, clear glare gazed right into my soul. My inner world shook and trembled and shivered and quaked. His impact on me was terrifying. He made me feel defenseless and strangely blissful at the same time. I couldn’t look away. He moved his hand to mine, and held it gently. Yes, I remembered this early afternoon. And I remembered what happened after this. We had spent the afternoon together, and by the time we returned to the village, the feast was already in full swing. Nobody noticed us coming, and nobody noticed we disappeared to the silence of the rooftops soon after we arrived. We lay on our backs, staring at the stars, thinking. Every single thought we spoke out loud, barely listening to what the other said, the sound of the other’s voice was enough to keep us at ease. The soft warm night air carried hints of music and singing in our direction, and the faint light coming from the mountain illuminated the face of the boy beside me. I softly spoke his name. I knew that because I felt my lips move, and the boy looked up, but I couldn’t hear my own voice. He smiled: “Yeah, what is it?”
“Nothing…just…”, I smiled back: “I hope we’ll be able to…”
An unexpectedly loud sound interrupted me. The earth beneath us rumbled and in reflex I grabbed the boy’s hand again. The sound came from the mountain where the party was still going strong. I had no idea what was going on. The boy didn’t either. We looked at each other, then jumped up and began running towards the plateau. It was quite the climb, but we made it in less than twenty minutes. Panting, we arrived at last. The sound was still disturbing the stillness of the evening, in volume superior even to the music, but no one seemed to hear it. Worriedly, we searched for the source, but people kept pushing us away from the dance floor and back onto the mountainside. The sound seemed to come from all over the place, everywhere around. Just when we almost wanted to give up, something happened. Something that would’ve seemed trivial to anyone, but not to us. The sound reacted to it in an odd way: a person I didn’t know was holding a glass. Another person was holding a glass as well, they were standing next to each other. At some point, during the dance, their glasses came into contact with each other. The glasses shattered. And one piece of glass, just one piece, changed our fate. The piece flew and pierced the skin of the first man’s hand. He didn’t even notice it, drunk as he was. A drop of scarlet blood plummeted down, down and down, unto the ancient sacrificial stone of the antediluvian plateau. Just before the blood hit the ground, the sound stopped. For a second, or three, or five. In that extraterrestrial moment, I was extremely aware of the way all the people I knew, and didn’t know looked truly, honestly happy. And the hand of the boy in mine felt comforting, soothing. In that moment before the droplet fell, I suddenly understood the boy’s expression, and I felt it too. So strong it tore me up inside. Butterflies and moths and other fluttery insects burst from their hideouts and raced in the cores of my body. I felt incredible, for just that moment, the uncertainty and hesitation I had been feeling was gone in an instant and I was sure this was what I had subconsciously been searching for all this time. Just that moment…before the droplet fell.
There was no sound. There was no light. There was nothing to indicate something happened. But it did. It did very much. It happened before I even knew it happened. Before my head could register it, everything was gone. The people, the mountains, the village, the music, the bear, the river, my family, Ylia, and…the boy. His hand had disappeared from mine. The emptiness I felt was incomprehensible. Wherever I looked, there was nothing but nothing. I cried out a name. A name I couldn’t remember, even though it still burned in my ears. I cried out until my voice was dead and I had no more tears to cry. I wanted to disappear along with everything else, I wanted to vanish, to evaporate…
But I couldn’t. Something wouldn’t let me. The feelings I had before the droplet fell…they held me back. If only they’d wane, if only…if only he’d be here with me, I’d be fine, no matter what happened to me. But he wasn’t, and the feelings stayed. In the never-ending nothingness I suppressed my feelings, my memories, my everything. I locked myself up in the deepest hollows of my soul. And gradually, I changed. I became uncaring, empty, blank. The oblivion ate away my pain and left me fearless, bold, and straightforward. The moment my transformation was complete, I found a new beginning. I landed in a street. The snow was falling, a woman picked me up and carried me to a warm place. The place was crowded with children. Children like me, but they seemed so different, so distant, so otherworldly. They seemed…alive.
“You know, you were lucky to survive the fall of Genesis.”, spoke Cosmos. I was back in the comfortable void. Cosmos’s amber eyes were staring at me. I wanted to look away. I remembered. My body tingled with all the feelings I had been subduing. I felt like myself again, and it was a strange feeling. I now understood the look in the boy’s eyes that time better than ever before. It was a longing beyond anything I knew. I wanted to be with him. I wanted to see him so badly I became fidgety. Cosmos closed its eyes for a moment, making it untraceable in the black.
“I know, but please, rest here for just a bit longer. You have to recover. You have suffered a great deal of pain and hardship. Give yourself a minute.”
“Didn’t you…want to know his name?”
“Think, Giune, think! The answer is right before your eyes. Giune, you already know his name!
Cosmos’s voice hurt my head. I couldn’t take it. So many thoughts, so many moods, so many recollections. It was too much. I pushed Cosmos away with my mind. Cosmos laughed softly: “I understand. I’ll release you. Please, feel free to visit whenever you need my guidance or…”
The voice faded as the eyes moved further away. I closed my eyes. Though it made no difference, it made me feel more at ease. Suddenly I was enveloped by soft material. I opened my eyes to see large green foliage wrapped around me, enfolding me in entirety before I could react. They swayed gently in a breeze that didn’t exist, then lowered me into a world of light. I couldn’t see anything but green leaf, but the sunlight shone through it and warmed my face. I was released gently unto bright green grass. Small drops of silvery dew sparkled in the morning sun all around me. The world seemed like a different place. Everything was so beautiful. The sky was blue like beryl, it mesmerized me so that I didn’t even notice the person behind me until a kind hand lightly touched my shoulder. Startled, I spun.
‘Come to meet me’
The words that her master had sworn to only use in cases of downright emergency. It referred to the first time they had met.
She had been hungry, weakened. She was just barely breathing. Hidden in her filthy corner halfway the main street, she had seen an unique man walk by. He was dressed in a fashion you wouldn’t even see in a city like this, so she stared at him. Just before he passed her, he stopped and looked down at her. Her good upbringing forced her to look down and bow her head, no matter how lowly she had become, but his eyes didn’t let her. His unparalleled gorgeous eyes. He gazed into her soul, and read her wish. He reached out to her and smiled: “Come to meet me.”
She quietly took his hand and pressed it to her forehead in the sign of unconditional obedience she remembered from her old life. The man helped her up and gave her a hat. She followed him as he wandered around the country for a full year through snow and rain and wind and frost. She assisted him when he needed her, and she treated him when he got hurt. After a while, he started telling her stories. Stories about another world. A world where people could travel through the sky, where a mystical extraterrestrial being supervised, where the weather was always good, and where no one ever had to feel hunger or thirst. She never believed him, it sounded too good to be true, but she enjoyed listening to his voice. The sound that had gotten her off the streets and now kept her safe and warm. She couldn’t thank him enough, but when she did, he would ignore her. So every night when he was asleep, she kneeled at his bedside and whispered: “Thank you.”
After this year of travelling around without an apparent destination, the man had led her to a small building in the middle of the woods and said: “Today our journey ends.”
She hadn’t responded. What did he mean? He couldn’t possibly mean…it was over?
“This world holds no more things of interest for me. I’m returning to my own.”, he turned to her: “You, who has helped me so much, who has stayed beside me for all this time…It’s time to choose.”
She had bowed. The man had laughed: “Don’t bow to me now. I will have to ask you to make a difficult choice: either come with me, but be bound to a life of servitude, or stay here and continue the life you used to have.”
She had closed her eyes and, for the first time since Genesis had spit her out, she smiled. She kneeled down, seized the man’s hand, pressed it to her brow again, and whispered: “There is no life I can return to. I have no family to look after. I have no life apart from the one I lead right now. Servitude is not something I’m unfamiliar with. I can serve, I can aid, that is all I’ve ever lived for.”
The man had ushered her to stand up and had given her an elegant band: “This will keep you safe in my world. It will also link you to me in out-and-out submission. This is your last chance to say no.”
Without any hesitation, she had taken the band and clicked it around her ankle. The man nodded, and he almost looked sad: “In that case, let us go.”
He turned and stepped into the building. Inside, a wonderful creature waited. It greeted the man with a name she hadn’t heard.
“Welcome back, Usobor. Have you decided to return?”
The man had nodded: “And I brought someone.”
The creature had turned to her, and examined her: “Yes, I know. The lost woman. Ehkiuss, wasn’t it.”
She was surprised to hear her name again. The man turned to her: “Ehkiuss. That’s a wonderful name.”
The creature turned back to Usobor: “You really have a thing for trouble, don’t you?”
“Demesne, I do not want to hear that from you.”, laughed the man. The creature made a strange laughing sound and seemed to nod: “I know. Don’t hesitate to stop by sometime, Usobor, Ehkiuss.”
The man bowed deep: “Of course, it would be an honor.”
Ehkiuss stepped closer to the man, unsure about what to do, but before she could ask, the surroundings changed. They were now in a beautifully decorated room. Another being like Demesne stood here. It spoke: “Usobor, Ehkiuss. Finally. Usobor, something terrible has happened. Everything has been arranged for Ehkiuss. Please, return to your domicile at once. Eliviz has…”
Ehkiuss smiled sadly as she dashed through the streets. Yes, that had been the first and last time she had heard about Eliviz. She had followed Usobor to his chambers in the center of the city and she had been ordered to sit in the living room and stay there until his return. He hadn’t been long. When he came back, he had changed immeasurably. He was white as bed sheets and sat down, distraught. He didn’t speak for hours, and when he finally said something, it was: “Could you…get me something to drink?”
She smiled as she remembered. If he would pull that now, she would swear at him and force him to tell her what happened before she would get him anything, but back then…
The sword felt heavy in her hands, but she kept running. What could possibly be so important, so suddenly? Those lines…were a sign. A sign to her. He knew she would check security, and left her a message, a call for help. But what could be significant enough for him to go through all this trouble?
She could only think of one possibility: Eliviz.
“Giune.”, whispered he, and his voice cuddled my ears like it was the first time I ever heard it. I took a deep unsteady gasp of fresh air: “Yes?”
He bit his lip, and I could swear he was the most lovely thing I had ever laid eyes upon. I smile a little insecure, I didn’t know what to do with this well of adoration that kept bursting out more and more of these feelings. I couldn’t keep up. My eyes started to tear, while my lips smiled and my hands trembled. The boy frowned worriedly: “Are you okay?”
I nodded quietly: “Better than I’ve been in a very, very long time.”
The boy smiled, but still looked like he couldn’t believe his eyes: “Have you changed?”
I nodded again: “Yes, but…”
The boy nodded as well: “I knew it.”
He turned away from me and looked towards the city. In silence, he started walking in that direction. I frowned a little: what did I do wrong? Before he got too far, I took another deep breath and called out to him: “Wait! Don’t you…remember?”
The boy stopped.
“That afternoon…before we went to the party, before Genesis…”, I could barely make myself audible. The fear he would leave me again clotted up my throat. Oh celestials, let him stay. The boy turned, his eyes wide: “The tree…told you?”
I shook my head: “It gave me back my memories. I suppressed them the moment I thought I would never see you again. I…I was terrified. The being inside of this tree, Cosmos, has also lived in Genesis. I remember almost everything.”
“Almost?”, the boy looked concerned again. I smiled reassuring: “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright. I re-member everything truly important.”
The boy took a few steps in my direction: “Is it really you again, Giune?”
I grinned: “Yeah.”
For a few more seconds we stood there, face to face, trembling slightly, longing greatly. Then finally, he ran towards me and embraced me. His arms around me, his shivering breathing in my ear, I felt alive again.
“Realm!”, Ehkiuss skidded into the cathedral. The Realm turned, its color had changed slightly she noted. The gigantic creature kneeled down and reached out to pick Ehkiuss up and bring her up to its head: “Ehkiuss, I will conduct you to Reth. Listen carefully! Usobor has indeed left to search for Eliviz, and you must find him before he finds her. There is something I did not have the chance to tell him. She…”
“Do I have to bring him back?”, interjected Ehkiuss. The Realm sighed: “Yes, but wait: if he does not come with you of his own free will, tell him I said Eliviz is gone. Forever.”
For some reason, it gave Ehkiuss the chills only thinking about it: “Realm…who is Eliviz?”
The Realm sighed again: “Eliviz is the reason you met Usobor. She is…”, a faint beeping sound inter-rupted the sentence and the Realm gasped: “We’re out of time. Go!”
The boy and I had the time of our lives. Laughing and yelling we ran through the hills until we were out of breath and had to stop. In the distance we could see a river, and with renewed powers we raced for it. I won by far and waited for the boy to catch up with me. As he came running to me, I saw he was still that boy. We both hadn’t really grown. I knew my tribe grew up real slow, but what about his?
The boy was laughing when he arrived at the river side, and held onto me to not fall over, but I wasn’t really standing stable either, so we staggered around for a minute and then fell into the water. This river was cool and fresh, so unlike the one I knew. Not that it mattered, the sun was warm enough. The boy gingerly grasped my hand and, just like that time, we floated downstream together, this time there was no dam to stop us, and we kept floating and floating until we felt like we were part of the river ourselves. We giggled and chuckled like little children and we felt so free.
It took us almost an hour to calm down and climb out of the river. In the afternoon sun we laid our-selves on a rock formation to dry a little. As the warmth crept back into our bones, the boy sat up and looked down at me with his bright green eyes. They sparkled with joy, and something else. Something I remembered from long ago. Something…beautiful. So sparkly… I couldn’t stop staring. Slowly, they closed in on me, and I was enchanted by their magnificence. I was awestruck by their intensity and spellbound by their color. It was when the boy closed his eyes, that I regained control over myself…only to lose it an instant later. The soft sensation that started on my lips then exploded inwards to my very core and made me unable to utter a word. Oh celestials…what had he done to me? I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. All I could do was unwillingly close my eyes as well, and be swept away by the cascade of passion. Yeah, I remembered that look he used to have in his eyes…it was the same look I used to have whenever I looked at him.
At that moment, I was only sure of one thing.
I loved him.
A surge of wind playfully pulled Ehkiuss’ hair as she dashed down the hill towards the dandelion field. People had been here a moment ago. She could feel it. But, could it have been her master? No…two young persons. Somewhere in the back of her head Ehkiuss hoped it had been Giune, but she didn’t have the time to get sentimental. Her master could be in terrible danger…
She hasted past the tree, and down to the river. Somewhere downstream was another city. That’s where was Eliviz presumably located. She was faster than her master, there was no doubt about that. However, if he had managed to get himself a horse or some other transportation device…
She squinted at the horizon, trying to make out something other than some scrambled trees and looming hills. It was no use. The heat in the distance made the air shudder and her vision unclear. She never liked Reth. For its natural inhabitants, the dead, this world was perfectly suited. Its visitors on the other hand had to endure severe heat during the afternoon, and stark cold throughout the night.
Now wasn’t the time to whine about the weather though. Ehkiuss kept on running alongside the river, trying to keep her feet dry and her head cool. Both of which failed miserably. Twice she fell into the river and had to swim until she found a place suitable enough to climb out. Her clothes heavy with river water, she pressed on. Her head was now the only thing not soaked in sopping fabric, and felt like it was being cooked. As she ran on, she ditched one of her vests.
By the time the sun started to lose its intensity, Ehkiuss heard faint sounds ahead of her. It sounded like voices, talking and laughing. And one of them was unquestionably…
The man rushing towards us was tall, and his long face was surrounded by grey hair. His beard seemed to be curiously swaying around, as if it didn’t belong to the man, but to the wind the man brought with him. He looked as if he was in a haste. But when he saw me sitting on the rocks, he stopped curtly. He stared at me for a split second, then a startlingly relieved smile wiped all the worries and haste off his face. When he spoke, his voice sounded wise, but too young for a man with his guises: “Eliviz…at last!”
“No! Sir, she’s not…”, a second voice rushed closer. A woman. I knew her. Ehkiuss! I felt a faint hap-piness spread throughout my body. Ehkiuss…
The woman running towards us was indeed her. Her slim figure, her black hair, her brown eyes. I remembered more clearly now. Ehkiuss…she was there. On the party, and in almost all of my memories. My adopted older sister.
The boy had gone to the river to get us some water to drink, but now he returned, and saw the man staring at me. He quickly climbed up the formation and rested his hand on my shoulder: “Giune? Who are these people?”
I smiled relieved and motioned to Ehkiuss: “That’s Ehkiuss, my older sister. And him I don’t know.”
The man’s jaw dropped, and his eyes got a hesitant feel about them: “Eliviz? What do you mean? Surely you know me…right?”
Oh no. Ehkiuss had never seen her master like this. He seemed terrified of Giune. Why would he call her Eliviz? Did they look so similar? She shook her head: this was not the time to be questioning her master’s eyes. She stepped closer to the man she had followed for so long, and prepared herself to defy him. She knew this could mean the end of her life, but if the Realm found it so important he forgot about Eliviz, it had to be done.
“Sir...”, she started, but her master interrupted her: “Ehkiuss. You alone can help me. You alone can help her! Help her remember who she truly is. Help her remember to be Eliviz!”
She couldn’t see his face, but his pain resonated in his voice. Who the hell was Eliviz to her master?
“Sir…”, she whispered: “I’m sorry, but I cannot. The Realm sent me to tell you…that Eliviz is gone. She will never return.”
Her master turned around, and the devastation was written all over his face. Oh celestials…what had she done?
As soon as the man turned to face Ehkiuss, the boy grabbed my hand and started running away from the strange scene. At first I resisted a little: Ehkiuss was right there, and I had so much I wanted to tell her! But the boy went on, and so I went with him. He was going further downstream. Behind the next hill, I could see a city. The sight startled me even more than the sight of the Diamond City Alerial. I never even heard of this place. All I knew about the world Reth was that the dead lived here, and that the world’s only island was dominated by Alerial with the Palace of the Celestial Potentates at its center. The rest of the world was mainly water. Mainly.
This time the boy ran towards the city gates, and without thinking jumped over the thin line that here as well separated the city and outside world. I braced myself for the shock…and it didn’t disap-point me. It felt like running into a considerable solid wall. Breathless with pain, I kneeled down just outside of the city walls. The boy stood, scared stiff, staring at me. He turned to run to me, but when his foot touched the line, he too was thrown back. As quick as I could, I stood up and stumbled over to the gates. The boy has already risen and tried to help me stand, but the invisible wall forced us apart.
“No! Giune!”, the boy struck the with his fist: “What the hell is going on?”
“I…”, I couldn’t speak. The impact with the wall had deprived me of the liberty to breathe. But the pain my body felt was nothing compared to the pain my heart felt being so close to the boy, and not being able to touch him, to hold him. Celestials…why do you curse us like this?
While I stared into his eyes, slowly recovering my breath, I suddenly felt a hand pulling me away from the gates, and I yelled: “No!”
“Giune!”, screamed the boy. He slammed his fist into the air, and he flinched. No…don’t…don’t take me away from him…not again!
The hand didn’t let go, but kept pulling me further away. I almost broke free, but a second hand grabbed my wrist and twisted my arm behind my back. Despite the pain I kept struggling until someone threw a cape over my head and wrapped it tightly around me. I lost all sense of direction and time as I was dragged away. No…no…no…
Without a sound Ehkiuss followed her master, carrying the cape containing her little sister. In the end, she didn’t rebel against him. She couldn’t. Cursing her weakness, she moved her precious package to her other shoulder. Giune…she hadn’t grown. Being the oldest biologic child, she had gone through so much…rituals, ceremonies, customs…her parents’ futile efforts to make her into a will less, witless servant. But Giune refused to change. She was free-minded, and a bit of an dreamer. But she was resolute not to let anyone decide her fate for her, and that was what kept her going all that time. All she wanted was to live her peaceful life the way she wanted to: swimming in the river, strolling the woods, chasing the animals…
Although Ehkiuss had always longed to see her little sister again, she hadn’t expected it to be like this. She had searched for Giune every opportunity she had, after the Realm had told her the girl had survived. Her master had even helped her a little by giving her a month to run a simple errand. And now she was right here…and she couldn’t even speak with her. And her master thought this was the Eliviz he had apparently been searching for. What a mess.
Finally, after what seemed hours, I was put down. A soft voice mumbled something, but I couldn’t hear who it was, or what was being said. Another voice responded, also too soft. Then a louder voice called: “Cosmos, we need to return to Kiloes.”
It was a man, no doubt. His heavy voice resonated all the way through my bones. Was it the man from before? The man with Ehkiuss? A spark of hope made my heart a lighter. But…Cosmos? Oh right…the transportation between worlds…
My head felt a little fuzzy and my thoughts turned hazy. What was going on? An unexpected light, so bright it blinded me even through the cape, interrupted my thoughts. What was going on? What was going on? For a moment, I seemed to be airborne. I didn’t like the feeling. Fortunately, it didn’t last long. The ground under me had changed from something soft to something most probably stone. But before long, I was picked up again and dragged upwards, into the air once again. A gentle hand unfolded the cape and allowed me to breathe and see the world around me. I felt precisely the way I had felt when I stepped out of my cell to hear my judgment. I was composed, but I felt fearful and…strangely relieved. It was probably almost over. Everything.
“Realm…”, whispered Ehkiuss as the being lifted the bundle up and unwrapped her master’s cape. Giune sat up and stared at the being holding her in its hand. She didn’t seem very surprised. The Realm extended its other arm and raised Ehkiuss and her master up to its face: “Ehkiuss, I thought I had said..”
“I know. I…”
“It is all right. Usobor…this is not Eliviz anymore.”, spoke the being as it turned to the man.
“Not…anymore?”, asked I. The Realm confused me. Giune was…Giune, right?
The Realm nodded in its slow, elegant way: “It is time all of you hear what happened. Giune, you know about me, do you not?”
Giune didn’t respond, but the Realm continued: “You all know about Genesis, the first world. You, Ehkiuss, and you, Giune, because you lived there. And you, Usobor, thanks to your thorough research. You have been examining me, Demesne and Cosmos for years, and found out that Demesne and I are part of Cosmos, and that Cosmos was written in a language not spoken anywhere in the currently obtainable worlds. So you worked on the idea of another world. Genesis. The beginning.”
I listened on tenterhooks to the magnificent story of the Realm about the way my ancestor built up Genesis, and managed to construct Cosmos. They used Cosmos to create new worlds and alternate realities, most of which were already destroyed. They secured the safety of Ulior and Kiloes by programming and encoding the Realm and Demesne. But just as they started to create another being to shelter Reth, their civilization collapsed. All knowledge was lost, and the worlds lived on separately until that fateful day. The day Genesis was destroyed.
“Few people know why the first civilization collapsed. It was because a celestial existence known by the name Masshou rampaged. Just before it completely destroyed itself, and the world with it, the druids of that time managed to seal it inside a mountain. But at a terrible price. Hundred young chil-dren were sacrificed that day and the druids decided it was time for Genesis to start over from the very foundation.”
I glanced over to Ehkiuss, but she seemed busy staring a hole in the man’s face. Her eyes were pas-sionate and intense, nothing like the shy, vague girl I remembered. I turned my attention back to the Realm. It seemed to be looking at me, surveying me: “Giune, at last we meet.”
I stared back, not sure what to do. The being brought me closer to its head, and I could see the shining prose of its body spin and twist as it moved: “You have seen the sacrifice that unleashed Masshou, have you not?”
I nodded, remembering the single drop of blood falling, and falling, and then hitting the platform. But could a lone droplet really cause all that?
The Realm shook its head: “No, it wasn’t just that droplet. Over the years, a lot of blood has soaked that altar. Accidents happen all the time, as well as murders. But that solitary drop was the one that exceeded the limit and set Masshou free. Or, to be precise, that set Masshou’s powers free. Even celestial existences don’t survive when entombed inside a mountain for thousands of years.”
The Realm brought its hands together and allowed me to step over to the hand that held Ehkiuss and the man that was most likely Usobor. Then it slid backwards, deeper into the gorgeously decorated chamber: “Cosmos managed to save itself, together with four others. You, Ehkiuss, were immediately teleported to the world of Ulior, together with the boy. You, Giune, were not. Your soul resided inside of Cosmos. You refused to be placed anywhere. But your body was send to Kiloes, together with the fifth survivor: a mouse. Your body lived a life of its own, and became known to and beloved by many as Eliviz. However, when your soul was ready, your body was moved to Ulior as well, and started over. While you began your new life, Usobor here searched for Eliviz. He travelled to Reth as well as Ulior in pursuit of the girl, but all in vain. In Ulior however, he met Ehkiuss. Honestly, I am not certain what the celestial existences have been thinking up until now. But one thing I know. We’re missing one person here.”
“The boy.”, whispered Ehkiuss: “Ylia’s escort.”
“Yes. But it’s not up to me to bring him here.”, answered the Realm, and it turned to me: “Giune. I will send you back to Reth.”
I sighed reassured and smiled, breathless with relieve: “Thank you.”
“No, Giune!”, Ehkiuss ran over to me and embraced me. I chuckled: “Ehkiuss. I missed you too. But he…”
“Ehkiuss. Let her go.”, the man had turned away from us, his face hidden by his grey hair, his voice shaking. Ehkiuss wavered, but she released me at went to stand next to the man. She rested her hand on his trembling shoulder. I almost felt guilty for not being the one he hoped I would be, but my mind was focused on getting back to the boy.
With a heavy heart, Ehkiuss saw Giune disappear. The realm put her and her master down. All the way the his chambers, her master didn’t say a word. Inside, he sat down in his chair, fatigued and defeated. She went to the kitchen to get him something to drink and sat down at his feet, just as fatigued and defeated. Her master looked up with a sad smile: “You know…”
“What is it?”, asked she dutifully.
Ehkiuss waited as her master struggled for words.
Ehkiuss almost fell back: “She…died?”
Her master nodded blankly: “She died. That’s why I searched in Reth. When I couldn’t find her there, Ulior was my last hope. But even there…she was nowhere to be found. I was foolish for thinking even for an instant I would actually be able to find her…but I’m glad I found you instead. You’ve been so good to me.”
Ehkiuss bit her lip, stood up and kneeled. She gingerly took her master and pressed it to her forehead before softly placing a kiss upon his fingers: “No, you’re the one that’s been good to me.”
A single tear rolled down her master’s cheek. Before it could touch the ground, Ehkiuss caught it with her other hand and frowned at it. Her master sighed heavily: “Ehkiuss…how about we go traveling?”
She stood up and bowed lightly sarcastic: “Whereto, my lord?”
The man laughed his deep warm laugh: “How about Reyui? I have an old score to settle.”
Ehkiuss remembered the knight she saw on the security tapes. For a moment she faltered, thinking of Giune, but she shook her head and smiled: “But of course.”
The fresh breeze ran its fingers through my hair and gently stroked my dress. I looked about me. This was Cosmos’ tree. Barefooted I ran in the direction of the river. Sharp little shells and stones pricked my feet, but I didn’t pay attention to it. My insides fluttered around like the butterflies above the dandelion field. My feet barely touched the ground. I had to move faster...faster…faster…
The city was so near now, my heart was racing and my body was struggling. Not yet…don’t give in yet…the gaping gates looked less than not welcoming, but I dashed towards them without slowing down. The impact didn’t concern me. If I couldn’t get through, my life was over anyway.
But it wasn’t like that. The wall was gone. Effortless, I went through and staggered into the crowded streets. Now there was only one problem left: how did I possibly find someone without knowing what name to call? Frantically twisting and struggling to get through the mass I maneuvered through the main street. Only when I was halfway, I realized what I was doing was useless. I he was even half as depressed as I would have been, he would never be in these busy streets. I looked up: he’d be on the roofs. As quick as possible, I elbowed my way to the nearest wall. It was suitable for climbing, and in no time I was looking down at the masses. As I stepped away from the edge, I checked the skyline for irregularities. I took me minutes of climbing and falling and rising and tumbling, but finally I found the irregularity I was looking for. The same irregularity as that day: a human figure.
The happiness of the moment he turned around and smiled, it shocked me. It shocked me I could feel this way. It almost hurt how much I felt. The setting sun dyed his hair a scorching red and set fire to his eyes. Tiny drops of blazing flames ran down his face. Tears…sizzling tears.
His arms found me before I found mine and caught me in a wild but tender embrace. His voice was hot like the color of his hair, but soft like his words: “Giune, you’re finally here.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.”, whispered I back, and I smiled to his shoulder. Finally…I was finally here. Once again I got swept away by the cascade of passion, and this time I didn’t even care about losing my control. There, on the rooftops, we decided to create our own Heaven. The moment we sealed the promise, a single word ascended from the depths of my disorganized mind. A word I hadn’t spoken in a very, very long time. A word I had completely forgotten. A word I’d been searching for. When the boy curiously asked why I was suddenly so silent, I smiled and answered: “Because I now remember something important.”
“Something important…?”, asked he.
I embraced him again and, as the sun set behind us, I whispered: “Maite.”