The Sea of Death
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I writhed, gasping as I thrashed and kicked with no sense of direction. The black infinite sea swallowed me and after what felt like an eternity… I let it. When the panic subsided, and my lungs numbed to the pain. I took a moment to gather my thoughts. The salty taste of the water and the sting in my eyes told me that this must be the ocean.
Am I drowning? I waited to slip into unconsciousness or to get some sense of where I was, but neither revelation came. Surely, I can remember how I got here. What is the last thing, I remember? Pain… Terror… the kind of obscene terror that makes you want to shrink inside yourself and pray for death.
For a while all I could do was relive those final hellish hours. I recalled the cell, the heavy, rusted shackles around my wrists and ankles, the stern angular face of my accuser, his thin lips uttering the verdict. The faces of my family and the people I loved were even more unbearable because I knew deep down that I’d never see them again. The memories of my human life passed before my eyes like some kind of fever dream, repeating over and over, until I couldn’t even be sure of what parts were real and what was a nightmare.
I don’t know how long I spent in the maddening darkness. All I know is that something called to me. A low, calming tone vibrated through my entire body and I had to make a decision. A part of me wanted to melt into the sea and disappear forever; at least then my pain would come to an end. But then I remembered his face.
Kyran saved me. I hadn’t even realized that my eyes were closed until I opened them and saw a pinprick of light above me. He saved me and I just left him there…
Summoning the latent determination remaining in my limbs, I stretched out my fingers. The deep droning sound grew louder and my senses began to wake. I could barely remember how to move, but I knew that I had to. If I was going to find my way back to him, I needed to fight. I pulled one leg up to my chest, flexing my arms as I reacquainted my stiff limbs with their intended movements.
A sharp pain sparked in my chest as I fully regained my faculties. Every muscle ached with each feeble movement, but I couldn’t just abandon Kyran to the same fate he’d rescued me from.
I’m coming, my love. I kicked toward the light, blinking as my eyes burned. My lungs heaved as my jaw gaped like a fish out of water, sucking in tarry, liquid breaths that only made me feel heavier. Clenching my teeth, I swam toward the light. What had looked like a distant star before, now resembled a full moon. I kicked harder and faster, my long silky hair caressing my back as I got closer. It was so bright that I had to close my eyes as I stroked through the water.
Don’t worry, Kyran. Every time the pain threatened to overwhelm me, his memory banished any thoughts of giving up. I won’t leave you…
I opened my eyes and blinked. The light was much bigger now, a perfect circle, wider across than my arm-span. The water was warmer now, it flowed over my skin with a gentle promise that the pain was almost over.
Just a little further. My heart pounded as my hands became visible in the light cast down as I ascended. I’m almost there.
Something prickly wrapped around my ankle, snaking up around my calf. The sensation of pins and needles gave way to a slicing pain as the thing dug into my soft skin, dragging me down. A flurry of bubbles flowed up over my naked body and I looked down to see what I could only describe as a tentacle spiraling up from the abyss. The warm circle of light above me, shrank into the distance as the thing pulled me into the murky depths. I bent my knee, reaching down and peeling the oily appendage from around my calf.
Digging my fingers into the gelatinous flesh of the creature, I winced as my skin tore away, tinting the water around me with a red cloud. The boneless arm twitched and wriggled in my hands. As it retracted from my grasp, adrenaline flooded my body and invigorated my limbs with new life. I made a mad dash toward the light, moving my arms in a wide arch with every stroke, cupping my hands and kicking frantically.
The light was nearly ten feet wide now, overwhelming my vision as I broke the surface of the water. The weight of my body threatened to crush me as I swung my arms erratically. The violent splashing was the first thing that shattered the world of silence that I’d live in for so long. As I exhausted myself, the tone that had called to me, hummed softly an I was able to hear whispering voices that came from every direction.
Something hard hooked around my shoulders, pulling me across the surface of the water, followed by two hands closing around my forearms. My lungs spasmed, forcing a thick stream of black water that poured from my mouth as my rescuer hauled me up onto the hard ledge. The rush of air over my skin made me tremble as I clutched at the slippery floor beneath me.
What is this place? I focused on the white polished marble floor a few inches from my face. I vomited saltwater as my stomach and lungs purged. And once again I experienced the blind panic of drowning. I gagged, coughed and wretched, trying to catch my breath.
Is that the sun? I looked up to try and decern where the light was coming from. No… we’re inside.
I squinted, barely make out the vague human shapes gathering around me. Finally I was able to suck in a full breath that set my lungs on fire.
“Please, God!” My voice cracked as I screamed, doubling over and rocking back and forth on my knees.
My eyes were drawn to the raw strip of flesh that wound around my calf where the creature had grabbed me. Glancing back at the black circular pool, I scooted away from the edge, grunting and clutching at my bleeding leg.
“Don’t be frightened.” A child’s voice came from somewhere close, but my vision was too blurry to find her.
“Wh…” I opened my mouth to speak, but the only sound that came out was ragged and broken. The tattered sound of my own voice brought tears to my eyes and I laid back down, pulling my knees close to my chest.
This is a dream… It has to be. I struggled to put the pieces together. Where’s Kyran?
“There you are, child.” A warm blanket greeted my skin, and my eyes began to adjust. A few figures remained near the edge of the water, long golden spears glinting in their hands. The light dimmed, gently pulsating with a warm calming glow, and I took a few slow intentional breaths. The other figures gathering around me appeared more clearly now. While I didn’t recognize them, their expressions were kind and I sensed that they meant me no harm.
Their clothing… I eyed the sheer gauzy fabric draped across their bodies. It’s so strange.
This material did little to conceal the details of their anatomy and some of them didn’t bother to wear clothing at all. They were all so different, showcasing skin tones of every imaginable color, some of which I had never seen before.
The tops of their ears swept back into delicate points, reminding me of fae-folk that my mother had told me stories about when I was a child. But what brought my entire world tumbling down was the thing I noticed next. On each of their backs was a pair of splendidly feathered wings.
“What’s happening?” I whimpered. “I can’t be…”
The winged beings glanced at one another, giving gentle nods of acknowledgement before crowding in around me and joining hands.
No… A lump formed in my throat as I got to my knees, wrapping the blanket snuggly around my shoulders… I don’t want to die.
The tone that had called to me in the darkness thrummed once more as the people around me began to sing, harmonizing with the sound. The light from above brightened as my gaze drifted toward the ceiling. A massive crystal dome pulsed with a strange energy that accompanied the low ethereal vibration. My muscles relaxed as their magic moved through me, warming my spirit. The white marble walls and arches of the temple began to fade as a distant memory materialized around me.
The white cathedral and the angels were gone and I found myself standing in a field where I used to play as a child. I knew this place well; it was our secret place. If Kyran were to look for me, it would be here.
“Kyran?” I stood up and turned around in a circle.
Did the angels send me home? I held my breath. It was summer and the fragrance of the bright green grass made me dare to think that this might be real. If I can find Kyran, we could run away… somewhere far from here where Father McGuiness would never find us.
But my heart sank as the reality set in. There was no way I could have survived what they did to me. It was already over and the best I could hope for was to wait for Kyran here.
Please, Heavenly Father… I prayed. If I’m dead, then let me stay in this dream with Kyran forever. Amen.
I winced as the sharp pain in my chest returned. Pressing my fingers to it, I looked down. My eyes widened at the brilliant crimson blood gushing from a small wound just above my left breast. My blood ran cold as fear washed over me and thunder rumbled in the distance. Dark storm-clouds rolled in, obscuring the sun and I shivered at a sudden chill that ran through my veins.
“Who’s there?” I eyed the shadowy tree-line at the edge of the field.
A hooded figure stepped forward, red glowing eyes paralyzing me with a terror I had never felt. Drawing an arrow from his quiver, the demon raised a long bow and I gasped. My scream shattered the illusion and I fell back to the floor, finding myself once again in the white marble temple.
“It’s alright.” The child’s voice spoke again and this time I could see a tiny pair of feet amongst the crowd that surrounded me. “You’re safe…”
The light overhead pulsed, growing brighter as the winged beings vocalized a melody that quieted my fears. Their wordless song filled me with a sense of comfort and belonging as I mustered the strength to stand.
My heart slowed and I smiled, breathing a sigh of relief. But it was quickly replaced with unease. As their song moved through every fiber of my being, I sensed something being pulled from me… memories, erased like footprints in the sand.
“Wait.” I covered my ears. “No. I don’t want this.”
The tune lulled me into a near dream-like state and my arms fell to my sides. The people who had hurt me, those horrible weeks leading up to my death, faded like a bad dream after waking. But then the rest of my life started to fade with them, the people I loved, my home, my family.
Kyran… I struggled to hold on, but a moment later, I couldn’t remember the sound of his voice. Then the exact shade of green in his eyes, eyes that I’d lost myself in for hours, they were just gone, along with his laugh, and his smile. The blanket fell from around my shoulders and I couldn’t even remember the last thing I said to him.
I stood amidst these strangers, completely unconcerned with my own nudity or theirs.
I mustn’t forget him. I have to go back for... I clung to this last thought as his name dissolved, lifting from my mind like a fog. The memory of his warm lips closing over mine took my breath away like a last goodbye.
And just like that… he was gone.