(excerpted from The Ways of Eternity)
Copyright 2013 D.A. Dean
Chapter 1: The Lights
All the pretty, twinkly lights. Horus stretched out his hands. They were like freshly-risen stars, these lights, tinged with blue, sparking yellow, flashing hints of red. Just in front, beside, and behind him, tiny lights continued to burst and stream into the blackness. They shimmered their greetings and moved deeper into the night to wink and glow.
The splendor of blackness, suffused with possibility, the glorious lights, imbued with promise…yes, this must be home. Surely, he didn’t belong on the island, the thin layers of its fragile air predictable and tasteless, the shallowness of its dull contours stagnant and stultifying, the confinement of its boundaries dreary and dreamless.
The lights didn’t expect him to spend his time on lessons and chores. They wanted to play, their games far more entertaining than Teo’s. The lights didn’t speak of the dangers that awaited. They sang, their melodies far more nuanced than Nalia’s. The lights didn’t demand he understand their absence. They swirled near, their embraces far more loving than Isis’.
Why had he ever left the lights?
He must have had a reason…but he couldn’t remember.
If he could just catch one of the sparkles, draw it back to him, swallow and merge it with himself, maybe he could remain here, buoyed forever.
Again, he swung out his hands. The lights danced back, just out of reach. Had Nalia ordered them away? Horus had been naughty during supper. Or maybe Teo was scolding them. He was cross so often lately.
Or was Seht coming, chasing them away?
At the thought of his father’s murderer, Horus’ heartbeat sped. “Lights, come back,” he pleaded.
A shadow, expanding, crept closer. The lights skittered away, became pinpoints, and faded. Shivering, he was left to face the darkness alone.
A reed scratched his face, and Horus awoke, startled, at the edge of the island’s marsh….
* * *
…Teo tackled him, and they landed with a thud, their hands carving long, deep lines in the sand. “Are you crazy?”
Wildly, Horus struggled to wriggle from Teo’s hold.
Teo tightened his grip. “Listen to me. If you leave here, Seht will find you. If you leave here, you’re dead.”
Isis would be here already if she were coming. Horus was on his own. His only chance to survive was to flee this island, to get somewhere, anywhere, else. “Let go,” he cried. “I have to get home!”
The rush and retreat of the waves became protracted. Teo’s movements shifted into slow motion. The breeze became sluggish. The rustling of the marsh’s reeds fell low. Horus broke free, leapt to his feet, and glanced back. Leaves, journeying forward from the islands’ trees, dangled like a necklace of green over the white sand. The palms’ fronds hung mid-sway. An egret hovered, mid-stroke.
Horus galloped forward, the ocean’s salt stinging his sand-scraped knees. Even the stars’ twinkling seemed static. The water deepened, sand shifting beneath his feet, dark, still waves hindering him. The sea’s tang filled his nose, its briny sourness his mouth. Pushing through a high wave hanging mid-crest, he lifted his arms, scratched and smarting from the ocean’s salt, over his head.
At the edge of the island’s shelf, he took a breath, stepped forward, and submerged. Ocean closed over him. Down and down, he sank, the faint moonlight over the ocean’s surface fading. Blackness closed around him.
Yes, it must have been Seht in Horus’ dream, Seht who’d frightened away the lights. Could Seht still reach him, hidden beneath the sea?
Horus’ lungs burned. He flailed upright, cupped his hands, and began, as Teo had taught, to stroke and kick toward the sea’s surface, so far away.
Suddenly, brilliant light manifested in the water, swept closer, and surrounded him.
He gasped, his tongue forced down, his airway widening, his chest growing heavy, his lungs filling with water. Too late, he covered his mouth. Had he escaped only to drown? Could he, suspended within water, force the water from his lungs? To be replaced by what? He was submerged too deeply to reach the surface in time to survive.
His thoughts stilled, a calm awareness taking hold. His body had given no protest, the light-suffused water soothing rather than burning his lungs and throat.
Hesitantly, he inhaled and then waited for the answering convulsion. None came. He could breathe.
His muscles relaxing, the water warming around him, he released to the restful sea and floated. Surely, in the midst of such harmony, the ceasing of all struggles, he was safe now from any danger, even Seht. Content, he gave over to the freedom the light afforded, his arms and legs gently swaying with the water’s serene undulations.
Yes, this was the joy he’d felt in his dreams. This was the tranquility he’d felt while within Isis’ womb. This was the merging he’d longed to recreate, a return to the bliss and stillness he’d known before he was conceived.
For so long, he’d labored to discover the way back to his home within the light. And now, the light had come to him. Held once more within the watery void, his striving was at an end.
He would never leave. Why should he?
The oval of light shifted. A circle of night opened above him. The water contracted, the force of the spasm pushing him upward. He thrashed his arms and legs, but the lifting current tightened around him.
Why was the light forcing him out, away from its peace, back to the world of darkness and danger? “No, please,” he begged, struggling to find and grasp a hold.
Water slipped between his fingers. He was sped upward, the light fading, till once again, he was in dark, cold sea.
“No,” he cried, bubbles streaming from his nose and mouth. “Please, take me with you.” Lungs aching, he inhaled. His body shook in protest, and he choked.
Would he die, cold and alone, the light lost forever?
The light returned, encircling him, and he was thrust through tumultuous waves to the surface, near the shore.
His feet touched sand. The light dissipated.
Horus coughed hard. Water burbled from his mouth. He took a quivering breath and coughed again, spewing briny foam. Finally, chest aching, nose, mouth, throat, and lungs aflame, he was able to hold a breath. He sat. Where was Teo? Searching the waves. “Over here,” he called.
Teo emerged from the sea and ran to him. Shaking, he lowered and then flopped onto his back.
Spent, Horus stared forlornly at the vastness of sea. The wispy clouds shielding the moon swept past, and light danced across the waves, joining and intensifying the wavering dots of the stars’ reflections.
Brows knitted, Horus tilted his head. The lights on the water reminded him of something from long ago.
A tear wobbled down his cheek to his chin. He wasn’t in darkness. Light was here, too. And he wasn’t alone. He had Nalia and Teo, his two companions. His family.