Chapter 05 - The Calling

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"What of joy?" asked the Left Hand of Light. "Dispelling the Darkness shall be your joy," came the reply. "And what of love?" asked the Left Hand of Light, and there was only silence.

— Bellamy Clayhaus Martin, Prophet of the Light


A gentle rain began to fall while purple-veined clouds covered the remains of the night, veiling stars and moon. Jaylina stood on the edge of a cliff. Below, the ocean beckoned. The waves seemed to reach up with frothy arms before crashing with a sound like thunder on the jagged rocks that lined this coastline Jaylina had known all her life.

The rain beat down the night mists that surrounded this place, and the morning sun seemed hours away. The nearby lighthouse flashed with brightness, slowing time to a standstill as its beam swung in a smooth arc, momentarily covering everything in light, canceling all shadow, briefly snapping everything into a sharp perspective: Raindrops from the sky, leaves on the wind, waves on the sea, crabs on the grey rocks below. Then darkness. Then light again.

Behind her was a life that she had long ago stopped living. She had made herself invisible. Forgotten. Unwanted. At least until this night. And this night summarized what her life had become: Chaos and darkness. She was done living in a world of such monsters. They would not have her. Not when right before her waited simple and peaceful oblivion.

When she'd had the chance, she had made her choice and for all the world she would not make the same one again if she could. She moved her hands to her empty belly and wept. It had become for her a hollow cavity that gnawed at her soul. She was tired of bearing this burden. The thought made her shudder.

Oblivion then. Darkness. (Share with me, the mist-woman had said.)

She looked up at the stars. Unconsciously, her mind calculated their positions, rotations, trajectories. She imagined what the sky would look like millennia from now. Tragic that she should understand the mathematics of the world, it's strange geometries, its hidden algorithms. To imagine it as it might be, as it would be. Yet she could not see in her own future for even one terrible night.

She listened desperately for some hint of intuition, some clue as to what should happen next, but all her voices lay silent. Her intuition always seemed to fail her in her own life. Which made it little more than a parlor trick. She could glance at the moon and tell what the phase it would be five years hence. But she couldn't foresee the outcomes of her own decisions. It had been her decision to choose such a frightened man as a lover. Her decision to let go of Aiden. Her decision to question the mist-woman and call those horrible men to her.

Her guilt and her shame were driving her mad.

It didn't matter. The stars would still shine without her. The world would still rotate on its axis.

Oblivion.

She knew she would have to act without hesitation or risk second-guessing herself as she'd done a thousand times since she lost her father. She took a deep breath and committed to a step forward. Her foot dislodged rocks that crumbled from the edge of the precipice down to the waiting arms of the sea below.

Before she could take another—the last—she froze.

<THRUMP>

Something displaced the air around her. Something she had felt before. The hairs on her skin rose. The stranger was here, behind her.

For a long moment of silence, literally balanced on the blade's edge between life and death, Jaylina dared not breathe.

"You see me through this darkness, don't you," the stranger said, half question, half statement and his voice crept over her slowly like moonlight over a gloomy field. No pleas to step away from certain death. No promises that everything was going to be alright. Just the unexpected half question. His rich baritone voice resonated strong and sad.

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