Purple eyes stared to the sky, watching the red ring they were meant to venture to once the sunset.
“Are you scared?”
They jumped up, scared at the voice that spoke louder than the owls in the trees.
“No…” they replied, scooting over on the fallen tree they sat on to make room for the man with blue-grey eyes.
“Is it normal to not be scared?” they asked, turning their attention back to the ring, the soft red color such a bright contrast on the blue sky.
“… I think so,” he answered, shrugging.
They didn’t know each other well but in another lifetime they were king and queen.
She placed a hand on her belly, while soft, no child lived inside her womb this lifetime.
He watched her for a moment before turning his eyes to the ring as well.
“I am scared for you. And the child that awaits you.”
She smiled and chuckled, shaking her head.
“Our deaths were written in the stars. We see that now. I am not worried. I finally feel safe. My death will bring peace to the people of K’Ton, and I am okay with that.”
She was one of the elders of the group of fifteen that would soon meet their demise, sending the city they thought they could protect into the depths of the earth. She was the fourth born of six, however the only survivor. From weather, to a plague, to war, to death in childbirth, she was the only one who survived all of that, having spent the time she could walk and talk to now, taking care of those around her. She was used to death, holding its hand as those around her succumbed to their illnesses, their wounds. She felt she walked with it alone, praying to it every morning. She prayed for death to sweep across K’Ton, to end the suffering of those too weak to keep going but too stubborn to pass on. She prayed for death to hold and comfort the children that couldn’t survive on their own. She prayed for death for herself, so she could finally stop seeing the hundreds of people she helped usher on to the next life, judging her for not doing more, yelling at her for not saving them, screaming that she didn’t need to feel the immense guilt she feels.
Her prayers were answered one night, darkness having shut out the voices and faces as she slept. It creeped through her room, spreading on the floor, the walls, the ceiling, covering the lone window that let in a sliver of light from the moon. It blew out the candle she kept by her bed.
“I can help you,” the darkness whispered in her ear, pushing a strand of hair from her face. “I can save your home from further destruction…“
She gasped, quickly sitting up in her bed, her heart racing, body covered in sweat, eyes darting around the dim, moonlit room. For a year, this dream came to her every new moon, the voice telling her all the things it could do.
“I can show K’Ton peace.“
“K’Ton will longer suffer.”
“I can help you make K’Ton safe.”
One afternoon, as she walked home from the market, she was stopped by the man with blue-grey eyes, a look of relief changing the worry he had on his face.
“It’s you,” he whispered, a sad smile crawling across his face. He explained who he was, a shopkeeper who lived on the other side of K’Ton, and how he had seen her face in a dream of darkness.
“It said it could help,” he said quietly before shaking his head. “Sorry, I’ve taken up so much of your time. Let me help you home.”
They walked in silence, she, trying to figure out if she had seen his face in her dreams. But no. It was nothing but darkness and a voice telling her that it would help. She thanked the man when they arrived outside her home. That night, when the moon was half full, the darkness swallowed it up as she watched the sky, making her fall off her bed in horror. It spread from the sky and made its way to her window, oozing and dripping onto the floor as it made its way inside. She couldn’t move. Was this death she finally wished for, prayed for, demanded for?
“No,” it replied, hearing her thoughts and question. She erupted into a sob, her wailing muted by the darkness that surrounded her. The fear and hope she had turned into a rage that she had never felt before. She was so tired of seeing death around her. So tired of having to be the one to help those pass on without her. Tired…
“You don’t get to be tired right now,” the voice said. “Not when there is much work to be done. But you are so close to resting… Just let me help you.”
She sniffled, the darkness surrounding her, covering in a warm hug, the hug she knew she would feel again once she died. She could feel the warmth in her fingers and toes, her bones, her soul. When she opened her eyes, the darkness was gone and the moon had returned.
The next morning, she ventured out to find the man with the blue-grey eyes. He smiled when she walked into his shop. He told her to come back at close and when she did, he walked with her to an abandoned house, where she was met with three others who had similar dreams of darkness. Their meetings grew frequent, their numbers still five for weeks before others met with them. When the number grew to ten, they started packing their things into this house, charting the stars on the walls, on parchment, bringing books that talked about odd phenomenons in the sky. They slept here, too, talking about their dreams and trying to piece them together to see if it was a puzzle meant to be solved.
It was a year when their numbers grew to the fifteen. On the celebration spring and life, the fifteen were locked in their house, meditating around a fire, swaying side to side as they held hands. They ignored the cheering outside their home for hours, ignoring their hunger and thirst. They meditated all morning, all afternoon, all evening and all night. When the celebrations were done, they still sat, swaying in front of the fire that never dimmed. Before the sun came up, the fire turned pitch black and started to spread. The fifteen kept swaying, ignoring the black heat that started to burn away their clothes, skin and hair. They suddenly started to sing, a song they had never heard of nor knew the words, but they sang it in perfect harmony as they sat in their circle of fire. As the last note escaped their lips, the black fire entered through their mouths. The fifteen through their heads back, opening their mouths wider as they let out a low hum deep from their bellies. The black fire exploded from their mouths, tearing through the roof and going into the sky. It swirled and twirled and danced through the night sky, through the leaves, leaving marks on trees, on rocks, making new paths in the dirt for them to find. When the fire made its way to a cave miles upon miles away from K’ton, the fifteen gasped, the black fire exploding.
They fell onto the dirty floor, their skin, hair and clothes still intact, their bodies now able to rest. Two days later, they said goodbye to their loved ones by leaving letters on their doorsteps, leaving K’Ton in the dark of night.
They had been walking for days before they decided to take a break when they noticed the red ring in the sky, hovering above where they needed to be.
The woman and the man sat in the continued silence, enjoying each other’s company, knowing that what they were doing was right and just and that their home would be safe for the generations after them, the darkness that lived in both of them and the others gathering their strength to prepare the woman for her pregnancy and death.