Eoin was crying. He let out wails of terror and confusion; a disembodied voice emerging from amongst the swaddling I had wrapped about him. He was so scared. I wanted nothing more than to assure him, to somehow convey to him everything would be ok. His mother was here, and would never let him go. Every ounce of my body wished to enter his small mind and wrap my hands around his small voice of terror, but instead all I could do was slowly coo at him, rocking as gently as possible, attempting to convey through my panicked eyes the peace which I myself could not feel.
The other men and women surrounding us within this grey world looked on with anger and scorn. Some glared silently while others hushed at Eoin brashly scaring his tiny unseen form all the more. I apologized and begged their patience, but they would not listen. They continued to gaze at me and my son with a look one would give to a traitor: a burning, tormenting look. The world around us was filled with shadows, both black and grey, in the overcast darkness. The figures around us resembled terrifying, angry skeletons in the night. Packed so tightly on the dock, I could do nothing to escape their eyes. I tried shutting my own, but their faces were burned on the back of my lids and Eoin began to feel my unease and panic.
Despite the fear flooding my mind, Eoin grew calm when I locked eyes with him. He trembled in my arms, but somehow trusted the look I shared with him. That look I knew to be one of lies, telling him everything would be okay in the end although I feared otherwise.
Sometimes a mother’s greatest defense of her children are lies. Children will face pain and torment in their lives, and we cannot hold back the evil forever, so we must lie to them in these moments in order to protect their sanity. One day, far in the future when Eoin has reached an understanding of what the world is, I will speak candidly with my son. I will be forced to tell him of the fire which fell upon his brother and sister in this dying world, of the fire which consumed his father, and of the pain which will hide around every corner in the unknown world. He does not need that now, though; he needs his mother’s soft lies.
Once Eoin fell silent, and the faces around us finally turned away, the anger in their eyes was replaced with terror and uncertainty. Through the glow of flames in the darkness, faces reflected nothing but shadows. These people had nothing left. All that remained was some distant hope beyond the sea. And even that hope was so fragile the slightest of tremors could shake it to pieces.
A man beside me began coughing harshly, and those same eyes which pierced through me drove themselves into this new threat. I looked upon the man with pity as his coughing intensified, his body doubled over in pain. Vomit poured from his open mouth, dark red and flecked with bits of black. I staggered backward into the chest of another person, fearing for what had come over the man. A small clearing opened up around him. He staggered and collapsed to the deck, clutching his stomach as he continued to softly cough. Everyone turned their gaze away from his prone figure, redirecting their attention to what lay before them. One more dying man was not enough to steal the attention of humanity in a time such as this.
I turned back toward the harbor and craned my neck to grab a glimpse of what awaited us. The ship which would bear us to safety. It had finally arrived, and yet we were still standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the dock waiting for the silent signal to begin boarding. An enormous black monolith towered above the water, its mighty sails furled tightly against the cross mast waiting to sail its cargo on the merciful eastward winds far away from this burning pit of fire.
The throng of bodies which Eion and I inhabited was dark and silent like a decaying crypt. Fear and sorrow drove some to subdued weeping, but most were deathly quiet, shifting around nervously. Behind us was a scene of war and wildfire. Sounds of fighting echoed on the walls past the buildings. Swords clanged upon scales, dying and burning men screamed, murderous beasts roared, and the ballistas loosed their bolts towards the scaled fiends. Through it all, the flames’ glow raged through the city.
As I clung to Eoin and held tears behind my eyes, the crowd abruptly shifted. We were finally moving. The captain had at last begun the boarding process. People started slowly shuffling toward the ship, bumping into each other as we all jockeyed for position. The advance was excruciatingly slow. Often times I felt as though my feet had never moved, but merely shifted back and forth in the same spot. Despite that feeling, whenever I would gaze upward I would make out more and more of the dark ship growing larger before me, reassuring our advance.
I felt cornered. If one of those beasts above spotted us and had a mind for it we would burn like a bundle of dried tinder. I could barely stand the feeling of helplessness, the knowledge that I was doing everything possible, but it could all end for me and Eoin, our lives snuffed out in an instant.
I heard a roar overhead as a winged beast flew into view high above us. I instinctively fell to the deck, and held Eoin close to my heart as if to transfer my own will of life into his tiny body before I became a crisp of burnt flesh. The beast’s savage roar continued, and, unsure as to why I yet lived, I lifted my eyes to see the creature. High in the sky, barely larger than a raven, the beast flapped his horrible wings, the glistening of his scales unmistakable in the glow. A spark of orange light built in his mouth and erupted with a ball of brilliant fire rocketing before him like a fallen star. The torrent barreled onward, shooting toward the heart of the city, igniting the night sky in a line of orange light.
The beast continued his flight, paying no heed to what lay below his terrible black wings. Around me, nearly everyone had done as I and fell to the deck cowering in fear. The few who remained standing stared into the dark sky, struck dumb by the moment of death which had flown by. Fear gripped us all in that moment and lingered as a specter behind our collective eyes.
As the moment passed, we rose in stoic silence. The cry of a babe far off tore through the darkness, immediately followed by the eruption of children’s cries throughout the crowd. They sensed our terror. Eoin and I were no longer the focus of scorn for all had now been afflicted. Eoin, despite beginning to whimper quietly, fell back into a tentative peace upon meeting his eyes with mine. He had been assured once by my tender lies, and that trust, although shaken by the bellow of the beast, had not been broken.
We began moving once more, the terrifyingly real image of a fiery death behind us. I jostled and pushed, trying to force my way to relative safety, Eoin clinging to my breast with his tiny trembling hands. Our movement progressed quickly. The dark hull grew larger as we inched closer. The silence which once gripped the dock so tightly had loosened with children crying within the crowd. The first signs of madness had begun to clench around our necks.
As I pushed past a man before me, the ship finally came into full view, it’s dark stained wood bobbing forlornly on the darker waters of the harbour. The ship was massive: an enormous monument to a once proud race which first laid its noble timbers, not knowing what would befall their people in the dark and distant future. The sailors ran to and fro on the deck readying for its escape and leading people into the hold within its belly. Men pulled ropes from around the masts and loosened the others which held the ship to the dock…
They were not going to fit everybody.
Two men near the gangplank spoke with one another in hushed tones, but they were angry, waving their arms around, pointing at the remaining crowd, and back to the ship. One of the men was in a well-kept uniform whom I presumed was an officer. He was particularly distraught, holding a hand to his head, his face turned to the floorboards. I proceeded faster, shoving more violently, paying no heed to anyone around me aside from my Eoin. I would not be left behind to burn. My son would not be buried in ash with the rest of humanity.
I looked up once more and saw the uniformed man step to the edge of the ship, and look back at his companion, seeming to ask one final question before turning to face the crowd. He raised his hands high in the air and shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen! It has come to my attention we are nearing capacity. We are already far beyond the standard limit and if we go much further we will start taking on water. We have room for only a few more and will be departing as soon as we reach capacity.”
The crowd erupted into cries of fear and anger. The guise of civilization had finally deteriorated past recognition. The man seemed to try and say more, but before I could give his words an ear I lowered my head and pushed forward with all that was within me, determined to find asylum ahead. I fought violently, shielding my child with one hand while pushing forward with the other. The ship was far too close for it to end like this.
The gangplank was finally before us: a bridge to safety and salvation. I stepped out onto the flimsy wood and took my first step toward the ship’s deck tasting the air of deliverance on my lips. Before I could take a second step, a man from behind shoved past and darted up the gangplank. I lost my balance and clutched at air with one desperate hand, the other gripped tightly around Eoin. I reached and grasped, desperately searching for anything to hold onto, until finally panic gripped my soul once more and I fell.
As I descended into darkness, a hand sprang out and firmly clenched around my wrist yanking me back from below, and up onto the deck. I looked around, seeking to thank my savior, but he was lost in the mass of people boarding and shuffling about. Out at the dock, an impossible mass of people clamored to reach the vessel in time. There were so many left. I could not make out their faces, but their voices, their screams of terror and the cries of their children, imprinted themselves on my mind, and all the while the smoke from the city crept slowly toward them.
This was what humanity had become: a mass of hysteria and anguish, people clawing over one another plagued by fear and abandoned by hope, left to burn in the rubble of a dying world.
My gaze drifted across the silhouetted faces until falling upon a man and his daughter near the front of the crowd. The man held tightly to his daughter’s hand, shoving through the crowd with all his might. He was the same as me: a person whose world had collapsed around him and now consisted of nothing more than the child in his hand and the ship before him. There was nothing more for him, only this moment.
As I stared at the man on the dock, two sailors to my left counted as each person passed before them. The officer stood over these men, his eyes darting among the new passengers as they boarded, extreme focus and stress painted across his face. I looked out once more and saw the man and his daughter squeeze out of the mob. The man, seeming to be struck by the reality of their deliverance, released his daughter’s hand and shouted, “Follow me!” as he barreled forward across the narrow gangplank.
The sailors caught him as he fell forward onto the deck. He paused at my side as he tried to catch his breath, and rose to his feet looking behind him. Panic seized him as he shouted his daughter’s name continually, his head swinging all around as he searched for his little girl. Meanwhile the sailors continued to help people board the ship, counting in unison. The man was losing himself in his search, falling further and further into hysteria, until finally he looked back to the dock and fell deathly still.
His small daughter stood at the base of the gangplank, stone still and trembling, her eyes wide as the moon as she stared blankly at the shivering piece of lumber before her. Men and women continued to run past her, evading her tiny body to reach the gangplank, but the girl was frozen in place. A beautiful child. She was clothed in a ragged dress, torn and disheveled, her feet barren. Her skin was dusty and caked in mud, a shade in the quiet glow of the fires behind her. The only part of her which had been maintained was her long yellow hair which cascaded down her back and past her cheeks like a summer rain.
The sailors helped one more man onto the ship and shouted back to the officer, “That’s forty, Sir!”
The officer shifted his attention toward the sailors, a stern resolve in his eyes, and replied in a voice of dark resignation, “Pull it men. We can take no more.”
The father who had been paralyzed by the sight of his little girl suddenly came to his senses, looked briefly at the officer in absolute shock, and turned back to his daughter and shouted for her to cross. Alas, no matter what the man would shout to his little girl, her feet did not move and her eyes never shifted from the board before her.
Despite the father’s shouts, the sailors began to lift the gangplank off its hold. The father turned and in a terrible rage, fell upon the men, attempting to wrench them bodily away from the board. The people who were close to the ship fell into a panic and flung themselves at the board, holding it down so the sailors could no longer lift it. Men and women clambered over one another, trying to reach the safety of the ship before it escaped without them. They bit and clawed and trampled one another trying to cross this tiny board in a violent storm of screams and shouts. Bodies fell into the water, some by accident and others pushed off by those who knew not whom they had become in their madness. More sailors came to help and attempted to restrain the father on the ship while helping the others in lifting the plank, the weight of desperation holding it in place.
Shouts of people rose as they were crushed between flesh and timber, hope splintering before their eyes. The cries of babies on the shore and the cries of the crowd became a horrible song, and all the while, the yellow-haired child stood silently within the mob, staring blankly at the mass of bodies struggling to cross the gangplank.
Finally, a loud crack split the night air in two. The cries did not cease. There was no moment of silence and clarity as the board, with all of those desperate souls, plummeted into the sea. The world did not stop for a moment to signal the end of anyone involved. It just happened. The mass of humanity tumbled into the sea below with roars and shrieks, agonizing realizations that all was finally lost and they would drown as the rest of the world burned.
I watched in horror as the screams rose above the gathering smoke. The scene before me was one so sickening and terrible that I could do nothing to pull myself away. Those remaining upon the dock were stuck in their frenzied state, many shouting curses at us, a dissonant roar of words and sounds lost in a dying world. Some leapt from the dock in an attempt to reach the retreating ship as it pulled away, but they all fell sorrowfully short. Tears poured out from those on the dock as mothers and fathers held their children in their arms, unable to hold the face of false hope any longer. They now allowed their little ones to fully embrace the totality of their own demise.
All the while the father on the ship shouted curses at the sailors around him, hopeless rage overflowing from the guilt and disbelief which lingered in his sunken eyes. He flung himself upon the railing, ready to jump from the deck in an attempt to reach his little girl who remained immobile on the edge of the dock. Before he could commit himself to death and destruction, the sailors grabbed hold of his arms and body, keeping him from leaping to his death in the murky depths below. His daughter finally broke out of her stupor and shifted her gaze from the space where once the board lay back to her father’s pleading cries. Tears filled her eyes, her face contorted and shifted as she cried out, “Papa!” The face of this child, her spectral form sobbing on the dock as her father stretched out his hand, struggling against the arms of the sailors, tore my spirit in two. I held tightly to my Eoin, keeping him close to my beating chest, unable to divorce the sight of the man and his daughter from the image of my Eoin. I saw my boy in the eyes of the little girl: the innocence and defenselessness of a tiny soul.
Before I realized what had happened, the yellow-haired girl silently fell into the waters below. I know not whether she was pushed from behind or if she had stepped into the sea by her own volition, but one moment she was crying on the edge, and the next she was gone. The sailors who had been restraining the father fell quiet and still in that moment, struck by the reality of what they had witnessed. The father screamed the name of his daughter, tearing a hole in the hearts of all those present. He wrenched himself away from the sailors’ loosened grasp, stepped up to the ledge, and dove headlong into the inky water below, following his child into the deep.
Clouds appeared in my mind. I could barely comprehend what happened around me. The noises and sounds of the world did not lessen though. The world continued on at its frenetic pace, paying no heed to the desperate father and his daughter. The heavy haze had fallen over my world, enveloping me in its dark embrace. Eoin cried aloud, sensing the wrong which pulsed from my heart, but his cries were merely enveloped in that same gray haze. My senses had duplicated, amplifying the madness of the world while also subduing everything to a dull hum in my ears. I was aware of the world around me, yet also floating in the faded ocean of my mind, unable to consciously interact with either of these worlds which occupied my thoughts.
The sailors took hold of me, grabbing my arms, and led me away from the ghosts of the damned. They pushed me, nearly picking up my petrified body, as they brought me to the stair below deck. I heard one of the men whisper something in my ear, but amidst the unholy din and enshrouded in the mist of my mind I could only feel the air of his words on my cheek; a soft, warm patter of wind gently touching my skin. The mist surrounding my mind lifted and the loud din of panic on the ship came rampaging back. I turned to look at him, at the man with the magic words, but he had left me alone with nothing more than a gentle memory.
I staggered down the steps into the absolute black of the ship’s underbelly. The trapdoor closed above me and all of the light which had illuminated my path snuffed out. The racket of sound from above continued to rage on. The sound of sailors scrambling around on the deck shouting orders toward each other rumbled above, but here in the gloom a deathly silence permeated through the musty air. I felt as though I had fallen into some horrible slumber, staring dumbly into the darkness seeking for something to latch onto. Seeing nothing, I took one tentative step forward, and instantly felt a presence at my feet. I slowly crouched and reached out my hand into the black and felt the long soft hair of someone small, a child maybe. My hand moved to the child’s shoulder as I leaned toward her face.
I asked where everyone had gone, barely speaking louder than a breath, afraid to upset the crushing quiet. A woman’s voice from behind the child spoke, telling me everyone was here in the bowels of the ship, pushed together like rats as we waited for those above to signal the all clear. The floating voice conveyed to me the importance of remaining quiet as we waited for instructions from above and to not create any sort of light for fear of illuminating the ship on the sea. When I asked the voice how long I should expect to remain here I was greeted with a hush as a hand reached out to grasp my shoulder, gently pressing me to the floor.
I sat there in the pitch with Eoin holding tightly to my breast. He had stopped whimpering, and merely clung to me, his previously rapid heartbeat slow and methodical, a gentle rhythm in his chest. The feel of him on my chest reminded me of the shallow hope which I had held to for so long. I could feel his tender breathing on the base of my neck, blowing purpose back into my lungs. My thoughts turned to the future, looking for any excuse to look past this present darkness which tried so hard to steal the hope from my chest. I imagined the sun rising on the eastern horizon, the smell of sea salt in my nostrils and the soft wet splash of the spray on my skin. I saw the edge of the sea in the distance, and beyond was an immaculate sandy shore glistening in the sunlight like freshly spread honey awaiting our arrival. Behind the sand lay a land untouched by fire and smoke. Instead of black and grey ash covering the world, rich green trees as high as mountains were littered around, untouched by death and sorrow. The new world was covered in great forests and fields of grass which I and Eoin would play through one day. That new beginning would soon be ours.
My mind eased with that small image of hope, and as I lay my head on the hard wood, the image grew and permeated through my mind and thoughts. It spread to the darkest corners of my head, blanketing, for the time being, all the evil images which had festered and poisoned my mind. I lay on my side, still holding Eoin close to my chest, and breathed a deep and satisfied sigh. Eoin’s chest rose and fell softer and steadier, in perfect rhythm with my own. He had become so exhausted by what we had been through and the deathly, sorrowful quiet was replaced by peace. At least to me it was peace. The sailors above deck had finally fallen quiet so the one sound I could hear down in the belly was the soft breathing of my Eoin. I could now rest and forget what we had left behind. My eyes closed from darkness to darkness, and at long last I allowed a weary sleep to take hold of my spirit.
I awoke to the sound of screams. My eyes tore open in madness and fear, but I could see nothing in this insane world I had awoken to. I heard the same floating voice from earlier as she attempted to calm the sobs of her child, speaking her own kind lies into the little girl’s ear. Eoin lay still and silent in my arms. I knew he was awake, his eyelashes flicked across the base of my neck as he blinked, but he remained calm despite the sounds of horror. I could not understand how he could remain so tranquil in spite of the fear which betrayed itself through me. He was unfazed by the black mania around us.
I remained as placid as I could manage, attempting to calm the terror which had re-emerged in my heart. I steadied my breathing slightly and found the small inner quiet and hope which I had clung to before. Once I had nominally calmed myself I tried to focus on what I heard.
At first, all I could make out were the cries of those around me, but as I continued to focus, I could hear the same mania gripping the sailors above, but no evidence of the source. I decided I must leave this place: it would become nothing but a dark grave if I remained. I turned and searched blindly for the steep stairwell which brought me into the darkness.
I felt nothing more than empty air. A terrified body bumped into me now and again as others scrambled in terror. I tenderly stepped forward until my toes bumped against the first step of the stairwell, and instinctively reached out to steady myself, finding the clammy wood of the rail. I grabbed hold of the railing and took one tentative step up the stairs, clutching Eoin to my chest. I paused for a moment, listening for any sounds above me on the ship’s deck, but found all was the same as before: the sounds of yelling and screaming men. The darkness reached out to hold me in its belly, to keep me from exploring the world above, but I shrugged its claws off my shoulders and opened the hatch to the salty sea air.
Light and sound buffeted my senses. The clouds above had parted to reveal the full moon in all her sorrowful brilliance, drenching the once darkened world in a beautiful white light. Sailors darted around as they contended with their duties, yelling commands at one another. A small fire blazed near the center of the ship, men burning amidst the flames as they shouted and raged in agony. A group rushed past with pails of seawater and large heavy blankets. The burning men fell to the torched wooden floor and their fellows doused them in water and assaulted them with the heavy blankets. The cries had stopped.
The sailors removed the blankets to reveal the blackened husks of dead men, burned to cinders and ash.
I did not understand. I thought we had left the flames behind, and yet here men burned as they always had before. Then I heard it. The deafening sound of nightmares. The sound of harrowing death and fiery torment. The enemy had found us.
Above two dark figures rocketed out of the clouds. As I looked closer, I could see their tattered wings held tightly against their scaled bodies as the beasts plummeted toward us like falling stars. I was paralyzed by fear. I knew, deep in the marrow of my bones, I would die. All of my efforts and protection were for naught, and Eoin and I would finally see the end.
The dark figures descended upon the ship growing more monstrous with every passing second. The fear anchored me to that spot above the stairwell while darkness’ cold claws reached from below to pull me back into its bosom. I could do nothing but look in horror as the beasts fell upon the ship, spread their wings wide to break their fall, and let loose a torrent of cobalt blue flames upon me and my Eoin. I stared upward in horrible awe at the blue flames as they cascaded like a sheet of water in a storm, and my eyes finally closed as the terrible heat overwhelmed me.
My eyes opened apprehensively. I expected to be nothing more than cinders in that moment and yet I remained. The flames had changed their course in the sky and poured harmlessly into the dark waters of the sea. I searched for an explanation to justify this merciful sparing. Seven armored men, soldiers by the looks of them, held their hands aloft, creating some form of invisible barrier between the ship and the once burning sky. I did not remember seeing these men from before, they simply appeared. Thinking back, I no longer wonder where these men came from or who they were. I merely accept the salvation which my son and I were granted.
The sky terrors screamed past the ship, obviously perturbed by the still floating heap of timber. They flew past again, black wings flapping aggressively as the two beasts skirted over the surface of the ocean. In perfect unison they both rose above the waters high into the sky, turning to return for another pass at the ship. Something creaked and groaned behind me. I turned to see the sailors shifting two powerful ballistas to face the airborne foes. In front of the two war machines stood the seven gray-clad warriors whom had saved me and my son, their gauntleted hands held before them in anticipation of the coming blaze.
I turned back to face the flamebound creatures. Once again, they descended upon the ship, jettisoned from a bow within the clouds, flanked by bolts of lightning and rumbles of thunder. I stood there as before, but this time it was not fear which held my feet still. Although terror most certainly inhabited my veins, I knew running from this evil was no longer an option. We were fleeing for our lives, leaving family and homes alike to burn in the encroaching flames. But this was a moment to prove that we, that my Eoin and many others like him, would not be resigned to a life of dread and anguish in this coming world of ours. There would be an end to the bloodshed. A day of peace and joy and all things good which would come one day, and this moment would be the time to set all hope in motion. There would be no more running.
I stood there with tired defiance, holding Eoin close to my right breast as I exposed my left side to the demons. The world was drowned in sounds of shouting as the men and boys prepared themselves for battle. The noises turned to mere whispers and silent terrible awe as the world shook with the fury of mighty roars of war from our winged adversaries. The battle for the remnant had begun.
The two beasts came screaming down upon the ship as before, but this time they did not loose their tongues of fire upon us. They came in strong and hard as if they meant to ram directly into the center of our vessel. The sailors at the ballistas held their ground, waiting for the creatures to show their hand and expose their vulnerability, but as the creatures did not veer off course, the sailors screamed out in an angry bloodlust, setting free the bolts from the mighty ballistas. In a flash of black skin and scales, the two beasts twisted in either direction, dodging the ballista bolts with expert maneuvering, and began their strafing attacks on the ship.
They dove and curled, flying low over the deck, releasing brimstone and fire. If not for the seven magical warriors the ship would have been engulfed in seconds. The seven warriors were a blur, acting in perfect unison as they deflected or enveloped each spear of fire as swiftly as one could think. Their silver-gray armor glimmered and shone in the moonlight as they danced from one end of the ship to the other. The flames exploded above like fireworks, illuminating the site of battle in a terribly beautiful haze of indigo.
The horrible black creatures continued their ferocious attempts to ignite the ship, seeking an opening between the warriors’ defenses, but finding none. The beasts flung fireballs and shot streams of intense flames constantly, covering nearly every square inch, but to no avail. They were stymied at every angle, leaving the ship completely untouched.
The torrent of fire slowed as the monsters witnessed their ineptitudes and they turned their backs on the ship to flee, knowing the ballistas were ready to shoot them out of the sky once more. Just as the one nearest began to fly away, the warriors turned their attention as one, reached their hands out toward the monster, and grabbed hold, suspending him in place with their unusual gifts. The beast thrashed about, spitting streams of blistering flames into the sky as he roared in monstrous rage, biting and clawing at the empty air. The officer standing near the ballista shouted for the men to bring their weapon to bear. They turned their enormous machine to face the black monster in the sky, cranked the bolt back one final notch, and let it fly true directly into the beast’s spine.
The armored warriors let go of the dark body as it crumpled lifelessly into the sea, its ragged claws clutching at the head of the bolt as it sunk deep into the abyss. The armored warriors all slouched as one, exhausted after such an incredible ordeal. The sailors shouted a cry of victory, their fists raised high in triumph. I breathed a sigh of relief, finally able to relax in the wake of such an achievement. I held Eoin close, elation flowing over my soul. I looked out over the bow, gazing across the moonlit ocean toward deliverance and a bright, glowing future. As I peered into the distance, hope bubbling up like a spring in my heart, the clouds rolled in front of the moon once more, and I heard a shriek from behind me, one which boiled my blood instantly and stiffened my back once more. I spun around knowing deep in my soul what would meet my gaze. My hope melted back into sullen despair as I gazed deep into the eyes of the charging beast. As the flames enveloped my shaking body, I heard the pained screams of my Eoin pierce through the night, ripping the mask of hope from my face in that final moment.
The soft patter of dripping water lightly kissed my cheeks as I finally came to. I remembered nothing in that moment, an awakening from a prolonged dream. My eyes wearily cracked open to a blistering light above and my hand instinctively rose to protect my eyes from the painful rays. I could not see a thing. Everything was white and I could not remember where I was or what had brought me here. I closed my eyes in the hopes it would help them adjust. A few moments passed as I opened and then closed my eyes deliberately, and still everything around me was a piercing white radiance.
I looked at my hand and saw nothing but a faint black smudge. An unease began to grow inside me. I could not remember my name, and as I continued to grasp at straws in my mind an image of fire erupted in my head. I gasped and shot to a sitting position, touching all over my body searching for burns. There were none. I was clothed in a drab dress from the feel of things, but with my vision still nothing more than white light, I began to panic. My breathing quickened and my hands trembled as I broke out into a cold sweat.
The panic began to turn to outright mania before I finally heard something. A man’s voice cut through my insanity and grabbed hold of me. He spoke, alarmed at first as he touched me, but his voice softened and his words slowed as his hand gently rubbed my upper arm. He was telling me everything was all right, assuring me I had nothing to be afraid of. He said I was in a safe place now and the danger had passed. I still did not understand what was happening, but this man’s voice, his soft caring voice, grounded me and held me tenderly amidst the uncertainty of my mind.
I asked him what had happened and where I was. He patiently explained I was on a ship sailing to the New World and we had been at sea for a little more than three days. He went on to describe that first night when we escaped from the city of Atrahasis, how terrible of an experience it was watching those left behind. He described the attack which happened a few hours later, far away from the old city on the open sea. He spoke of the battle and of the ferocity with which the Moon Warriors fought. He told of the killing of the first monster and then, he said, he looked around and saw a lone woman standing amidst the chaos holding a child tightly to her breast. He was shocked by this sight but before he could truly figure what to do, the other monster had swooped in and breathed a line of fire across the starboard side of the deck, catching the woman and her babe in the inferno.
He paused a minute after that last detail. I shifted about nervously, remembering all which had transpired, but the events following were nothing more than gaping holes in my memory. I was afraid to ask anything else for fear of discovering something which would be too much to bear. The silence grew. I could feel the man’s eyes burning into the side of my head as if he himself did not know what had happened next, and was waiting for me to enlighten him. I squirmed around anxiously until I finally mustered the courage to ask for him to continue and to tell me what had become of me and my child.
The man sighed deeply and said, “Honestly ma’am, I was hoping you would tell me. We still do not understand what happened to you in the fire. One minute you were surrounded by flames and the next everything was extinguished and all that remained was you, standing there defiantly, your child in hand. The clothes on your body had burned away in the blaze but you and your child were completely unharmed.”
Silence came over the room once more. I was speechless. No matter how intensely I dug at my memories I could not unearth this event, this inexplicable moment, from my mind. The man coughed and spoke once more. “As soon as our whits came back to us, you collapsed to the deck and we rushed to your aid. We haven’t been able to rouse you or your son from sleep for about three days.” He paused for a moment. “You don’t remember any of that?”
I shook my head slowly. I could not understand what the man explained. How could that be what happened? All I knew to be certain was that my Eoin and I had somehow survived the fire and were alive. I had no idea where my Eoin was and fear gripped me once more. I struggled to stand despite my blindness, yelling for Eoin to be brought to me. The man beside me struggled to keep me seated, and he assured me my son was fine and in the same state as myself. He informed me that as we were talking someone had come by and told him Eoin had awoken the same time and was blinded as well. I demanded Eoin be brought to me. The man complied and asked me to remain seated as he sent for the boy.
I sat still once more, anxious by the uncertainty in not holding my child, but I tried to remain calm. After a few minutes of waiting, I heard another person enter the room. A soft hand touched me on the shoulder and told me she had Eoin in her arms and she was now handing him over to me. I reached out eagerly as she lay Eoin’s swaddled body in my arms. All of the uncertainty, fear, and confusion which had been oppressing my soul vanished. I held Eoin close to my chest, feeling his lightly pattering heart as it beat with my own. I closed my eyes as a stream of tears flowed liberally over my cheeks. My Eoin. My precious Eoin.
I brought Eoin’s tiny head to meet my own and pressed my forehead against his. He was so tiny, so vulnerable. But he was calm, unhindered by his hampered sight, breathing softly as his joyful laughter filled the room. I sobbed and pressed my head against his. I will never let you go Eoin. As long as I am in this world and as long as you are my son I will never let you go. I pulled his face away from mine and held him near my closed eyes. I was afraid I would never be able to see him again, that I would never see his beautiful smile in the new world.
As I finally opened my eyes, I saw his face looking back at mine. He was smiling radiantly, breaking through the white light, telling me everything would be okay. I looked deep into his violet eyes, the whole world reflecting back at me, and finally allowed myself to laugh with my beautiful son. My beautiful Violet Star.