Chapter 04 - That Which Night Takes

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What is gravity really? Is it the simple attraction of matter to itself that produces energy? Why does matter seek itself? Why do people seek out each other? In this vast and infinite space, human light has clustered together in one place to either shine or extinguish itself. And still we despair and call ourselves alone.

Jaylina walked in silence. It had been months since she had parted with Aiden. Not a day or night went by that she did not think of that moment, reliving it, wishing she could change it, maybe make a different choice. She had never felt so alone. So devoid of...connection...to anything in this world. Where was that world-spirit? She wanted to speak to it of her pain.

What guidance would her father give her where he here?

She would never know and with this realization an unexpected flicker of hate crossed her heart, an unusual feeling she had never before associated with her father.

Jaylina's body had become a hollow shell, as though her soul were withering from within, leaving only a walking carapace that looked like Jaylina, talked like her, but was something else. At night, she dreamt of faded castles with crumbling walls, of teeth and drowning. Some nights, when the dreams were particularly bad, she preferred just to walk.

This night brought a stifling mist. The unsteady light of sputtering streetlamps made the shadows dance and play along the canal causeway, following her as she walked. The little town lay silent save for the wharf sounds of moored boats and nesting gulls. Jaylina wandered the warehouse quarter not far from the docks and the tavern she worked fetching ales for drunken seamen and traders whose rowdy eyes stroked her like a prized catch.

Condensed moisture trickled from the slanted rooftops, a gentle dripping that reminded her of rain.

To the north ahead of her she could make out the winking beacon of the lighthouse. From the west she could smell the harbor and, beyond that, the sea.

She turned left toward the harbor and into the alley between warehouses. She thought perhaps to sit on the pier and count the waves while she waited for the sun.

The mist became so thick she could hardly see ten feet in front of her. It swirled around her, fluid, wrapping itself around her like a cold blanket. Exhausted as she was, Jaylina's mind observed its motions, calculated its patterns, and deep in her mind knew she was not alone.

She froze.

"Who's there?" she asked the darkness.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and jumped, but turning, saw no one. She felt an aching desire to flee but her curiosity did not allow her legs to move. She shook her head to try to clear it.

She heard a long sigh, and out of the mist a translucent being materialized. Just an outline of a figure hovering gently there in the fog. It held the shape of a beautiful woman with long hair that seemed a part of the night air itself. Only its eyes had any substance. Eyes as blue-black as the frozen ice of dead planets or the deepest fathoms of the sea. At that moment, she could see through the mist that the moon had reached its zenith in the sky. Witching hour.

Poor child.

Jaylina blinked. The mist-woman had spoken to her. Instinctively, she put her back against the alley wall. The figure approached her. Jaylina's skin grew cold.

You are lost, child. Tell me your name and I will care for you. I will take you home.

Home, thought Jaylina. I'm so far from my home.

Such a bewildering thought. This town was the only home she had ever known. A crushing wave of loneliness washed over her.

Night is my house. Let me save you. Give you rest. I can bring you home. What is your name, child?

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