quiet child

The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

The night has a thousand eyes,

And the day but one;

Yet the light of the bright world dies

With the dying of the sun.

 

                Looking back, the Mothers would say they knew her straightaway, and were glad the next savior would be one of their own. A rose-colored half-lie to obscure a darker truth. They knew, indeed, but hoped against hope they were wrong. They wanted to spare their daughter the pain forced upon all Messiah’s, the burden of guiding the flock through an unforgiving wilderness.

Maraya did not cry, not once. Not when exiting the womb. Not when they cut the cord. Not when blinking as she adjusted to the light in the ‘sky’ that mimicked the sun. She watched with quiet gray eyes as the conclave swaddled her, as if when first coming into this world, she remembered their births. As if when she closed her eyes to sleep that night, she could see the blue and the clouds of the world that was. Maraya smiled in her sleep, like she felt the long-forgotten stars kiss her plump cheeks in the night.

                She was a precocious child. For the first year she watched and listened. Every moment she was learning, and on the eve of her first birthday she spoke, broken and malformed English trickled out her soft palette.

                “Ee ha’e so fa t’go.”

                At first, the Mothers took it as little more than the pidgin gurglings of a young girl. Sounds with no more meaning than the emotion behind them.

                “You hungry, baby child?” One cooed, her Birther, baring herself for feeding.

                Maraya shook her head. This struggle, to make herself understood. She swam upwards from the bottom of the sea of infancy, flexing the long arms of language that she had grown, but never before used.

                “We… ha-ave… so far… t’go.”

                The Birther, Belledonne, stopped with her arms by her side. Language? In a child so young? She exchanged a glance with the others. All knowing what such precocity forecast for her future. The Captain had to be notified at once. With a nod, the Farmer—Ertrude—left the nursery and quickly wound her way through the reeds towards the door in the sky.

                And so, as the lights dimmed to mimic twilight, she came. A lithe figure in gray-suit, the mothers were always surprised by how small she was in truth. Compared to the power of her spirit, the way she loomed in memory. To see her was the remember that she herself was no bigger than a child, though there was no denying the ancient wisdom in her eyes. Dark and black like space itself, they betrayed nothing, but remembered everything.

                She pursed her lips, clenching and unclenching her hands as she approached the babe at the center of the room. She knelt before the bassinet, feeling the gray eyes watching her as she brought her face to the child’s height. They watched each other a while before the Captain deigned to speak.

                “We have so far to go.”

                The child spoke slowly, deliberately, recalling a ritual she only half-understood, wanting for every word to be clear.

                “Our… world is… only… a memory.”

                “Only the Captains remember.”

                “Only… they… shall… see… us… home.”

                “We are…”

                “Ee, We… are…”

                “The Captains.” They finished in unison, not once blinking as they held the other’s gaze. The Captain, white hair curled up around her had in a shock of an afro, nodded, her lips a thin line of grim satisfaction. Here lay not a child, but an equal.

                She turned to the Mothers, who gave the two a wide berth as they commiserated.

                “She is the one. When she’s old enough. Send her to me.”

                Belledonne was frightened, but not too frightened to ask what needed asking.

                “And when, O Mother, will we know the time is right?”

                The Captain did not turn back, only paused briefly at the burlap flap that hid the nursery from the glare of a false star.

                “You’ll know.” And she was gone, making her way back through the tall grass.

                The Mothers stood in silence a while. Then crowded back around the crib of their beloved Maraya. She whose name would be stripped away. Whose very identity would be subsumed in time.

                “I’m sorry, my darling.” They crowed in unison. “I’m sorry! Roan has claimed you. There is nothing left but to go.”

                The child did not speak, talking correctly to the Captain had drained her. All that remained was the energy to be a baby in truth. But she thought, and the tenor of those thoughts was clear in her gaze.

                This was always to be the way. This was always my fate. There is no use regretting the things that are certain.

                Regardless, tears streaked her cheeks. She closed her eyes and remembered the night sky. The true night sky. The darkness with its countless distant lights that they streaked past and towards in the Arc, their vessel, its payload humankind’s only hope. The stars weighed upon her like a hundred thousand piercing eyes. Each perhaps with a world or two of their own. One perhaps with a world meant for her flock… but perhaps not. Perhaps they would die in space, lost and cold and forgotten. Perhaps thiswould come to pass on her watch.

And for the first time in her short life, on the morning of her first birthday, Maraya, the next Captain, began to wail.

The mind has a thousand eyes,

And the heart but one;

Yet the light of a whole life dies

When love is done.

--Francis William Bourdillon

Book of Ellen

                It was then Ellen found the book that contained the whole of her.

A slim tome, hidden on a shelf in her attic, covered in dust. Its cracked leather cover bore no name. Ellen could not say what drove her to the volume, its spot in the loft, nor what brought her to explore the old mansion’s heights in the first place. Only that she was compelled, drawn up the stairs, into the room, to its frail vellum pages. Once held, it was as if she had held the book her entire life. She brought the tome to her nose and sniffed, a rich ancient smelled suffused her with a sense of the sublime. The book begged to be consumed, and she craved to know the content of its pages. It… belonged to her, intimately. Even before she started, she knew this to be true.

                Not knowing why she held her breath, she began to read, a gasp strangled in her throat. The first lines: “Ellen Percival, born 1962, weighed 7lbs 8 ounces in her first moment of life. She did not cry at her birth, a unique child. This was not belied by her quiet infancy, nor her silent childhood, nor her demure adolescence. Indeed, her parents openly wondered if at any point they heard her speak more than ten words all at once. In her eyes was language enough, they lit with emotion. Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Betrayal, Love. She spoke more eloquently with a glance than most did in a dissertation.

                “Such was the way of Ellen Percival.”

                How shocking! How perceptive! Ellen spent little time dwelling on the impossibility. The book was clearly older than she was herself, and yet there it laid bare the sum of her parts. There was no denying it had her measure. So she read on. And each page spelled another chapter of her life. From her first kiss, to her first love. Her marriage, her divorce, her next marriage and its inevitable failure. Every chapter she bore in silence. Perhaps that was her trouble; no one in her life could tell that she cared. For herself, or for them. She seemed to wait for something. The next thing waiting on the horizon, with an implacable patience. If asked, she could not name what it was. Until that day.

                That day she found this book.

                Alone in the house, independently wealthy, there were none that sought her company. None that wondered at her disappearance. Day after day, she read. Despite the volume’s slimness, it took her nearly a week to finish. It did not strike her as strange that as the book came to a close, it had not yet reached the present day. She approached the moment she discovered the book with excitement, and a hint of trepidation. Would it end just before? Would it know what came next? Would it loop backwards upon finishing? Might she open her eyes and find herself being born again? Perhaps in the arms of her mother and father, back when they still looked on her with love and devotion. Back before they feared her aloof, discreet nature.

Breathless, she turned the page.

                She crept into the attic, called forward by a voice she had not heard before, but had called her all her life. A voice she waited for, through failed marriages, through childhood. A voice that she had stayed unknowingly quiet waiting to her. And now it was just ahead. There, in the back of the old house. Once she had purchased and restored herself, a bookshelf hid in the shadows, covered in cobwebs in dust. There, on the shelf, between two books of little note. She found it. She grasped it instantly, held the thin text in her hands.

                It was then Ellen found the book that contained the whole of her.

                I imagine she remains there reading, even now.