Stained glass triangles, all lavender and purple and white, pierced the darkening night. I lifted my eyes in astonishment. I was not afraid. I was already dead.
Somewhere out near the ocean I began hearing the voices of the dead and the living, mingled together in broken strands, attempting to either process or explain… No wait… To comfort where they knew there could be no comfort. To hold me firmly and to make me look at what would surely leave me blind and bleeding just to see. To sob quietly and nod sadly and close their eyes tight with me against the pain, to tell me that yes, sometimes there really is no comfort. There is nothing we can do. It is what it is.
The strands unwind and let go and dangle and I step away from them and into the dark, black night.
I am lost here on this empty shore, and there is no water. I don’t cry out, because there is no one to hear my cries. There is nothing out there.
Oh my God. There really is nothing out there.
Nothing after all. Nothing between the black earth and the vast, dark sky. Nothing but a ribbon of darkness. Void, and vast, and empty. How could we ever have believed we could just walk out to this place and draw water?
The night is pierced with flames now. Small, dim circles of fire, their light and warmth swallowed impersonally into the night. And we are lost here. Lonely bands of us litter the shore in silent circles and pale glow, Waiting. We are all waiting. We are all dead. Dead and lost and waiting. Disillusioned, but not enlightened. And this is Hell.
Well what do you fucking know, this place is Hell after all, and there is no comfort here.
Hell, and we are dead. And we have always been here. All just broken, baffled circles on the endless, empty shore. Scattered on forever, littering the dry sand in lonely little bands, clustered together in silent rings, staring out vaguely into the void. Trying to be warm. Trying to understand. Giving up.
And we are giving up now, exhausted…having forgotten (again) what it was that we were so sure we would find here. I am cold. So cold…
Darkness. But I am not alone now. I am standing in a circle of stained glass. Shimmering green and blue and yellow shards of color glow in the black web of the night. I feel arms wrapped around me, I have a vague sense of hands reaching out to me. My Three sisters, my ancient allies, all cut glass and Uncreated Light appear beside me, surround me, wrap their shawls around me….
Darkness again. And I am cold.
And my dark Sister walks beside me, her gentle hand a steadying weight of stone upon my arm, offering wordless, boundless, ancient strength and guiding me to the fire. No wait! To the water! She says there is water, and she locks my arm in hers and firmly leads me forward into the night. Into the dark, deep, void, and we laugh and scream and run together right toward the blackest ribbon out beneath the heavy black awning of the sky. I don’t think I believe her, but it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t demand blind faith, only trust. Trust, and the willingness to run with her! And we run! And we run on forever and still I feel no water swirling round my feet, and still my throat is dry. I see nothing but the dark, dry, rippled shore. I start to cry then, because there is no water even way out here, and it hits ligament and bone again that everything has always been a lie.
I’d believed in that water all my life. I had needed to so badly. And I was so fucking thirsty now. And there was no water. We had made it up all along. Nothing but this desolate, empty shore, and we are the waves, crashing on the beach. I couldn’t run any more.
Then she laughed and her laughter was the music of a stream swirling over rocks and she said There is water! I promise there is water! And she laughed again and took off into the night. And I followed because, well why the fuck not? What else was there to do? I ran after, and then beside her, because we were dead and the shore was vast, and there was nothing else to do. And she held my hand and laughed like water, and I ran with her.
And then as suddenly as we began our breathless flight, she stopped! There! Look, she cried! Water! See? Here’s the water! And she laughed again but I couldn’t see anything but the dark, black, night. No, Look, she cried again. That’s it, right there, see? Look toward the darkest part of the deep, dark, night. That is where the water is. That’s it! I promise! It seemed so unlikely. But she seemed so sure. So I followed her gaze and I squinted through the tears I had been raining into the dry sand as we ran. I peered into the deepest, darkest place in that deep, dark night. And there it was.
Oh my fucking God, it was beautiful. It was so subtle and sublime from a distance that I almost couldn’t make it out at first. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, like something glimpsed in the heart but never made concrete, never really real before, although I had thought that I’d believed in this forever. It came rushing forth from the void, shining black ink as deep and dark as the night. And as my vision cleared, I saw glittering filaments of transparent light dancing along its edge, leaping into and out of the void, rushing, whirling, skipping, dancing toward me. It was all of us who had ever lived and died, bursting forth and then swallowed up again, into the quenching water. Laughing as it came.
And I laughed too! And the sound poured through me over rocks and moss and through all the spidery veins of dry, parched river bed, and I threw my head back and laughed and the living water dove over my feet and circled around my legs in the headlong, rushing way that a pack of hounds circles an interesting scent – all bouncing and laughter and noses to the ground, all frenzy and excitement and recognition, fuzzy lips hanging over Long, sharp teeth.
It left me breathless and struck by awe, my dark Sister laughing rocks and water in delight beside me. I stood there as entranced and mesmerized as any moth drifting into flame. And the water kept rushing, gushing, swirling forth, and… And it was getting higher. More hounds came bounding out of the void. As their excitement grew, fuzzy lips and whiskers slipped back and white teeth flashed and faces of light howled and bayed out of the darkness and their energy started to frighten me. The black ink rose higher against my flesh, and the transparent white patterns of light dancing within the depths became bright fingers reaching at me from the deep, and the water rose higher and I was suddenly afraid. There was an energy here so great and wild and intense that I knew my flesh could not withstand it. I screamed and turned away and ran.”But this is the water,” she laughed after me. This is what you wanted!
I stumbled back up onto the shore and kept running. I laughed at the flowers springing up along the now gushing riverbanks and the sparkling streams. Laughed with the shimmering fish surging up the currents deep within. Laughed with delight in this new rain. Laughing, because I was running away in terror from this very ocean that I sought. Oh my God, we all do. This is what we do. Laughing, laughing, at the ridiculousness of it all. Laughing, crying, laughing at the vastness of it all.