Sally and Paula adored their older sister Martha. Growing up in the orphanage was difficult as food, warmth, and time were all in short supply. Discipline kept all the children in line and the daily tasks would grind even the toughest pieces. Sally and Paula were particularly at risk as both carried troubled pasts. Sally survived her parents in a train crash but the incident continued to haunt her in dreams. Paula who had a stronger constitution entered the orphanage against her will after her mother abandoned her one day in the middle of a crowded street market. The two found themselves often at odds whereby Paula would lash out at Sally in fit over a silly mistake. Sally would then retreat into herself which further infuriated Paula. Often, someone else had to intervene as to stem the tide of escalation and abuse. That role fell into the hands of Martha, one of the orphanage’s younger sisters who possessed an uncanny motherly disposition but had otherwise never known life outside the dormitory’s grounds. Perhaps it was a prescience of her own fate or a mild form of agoraphobia instilled from birth that bound her so. Whichever the case, the trio found themselves in a dynamic that would eventually reconcile two, sever the three, and entangle a fourth. Such are stories for another time.
Avalon’s gardens held a unique attraction. Every fall, the old caretaker would hang lanterns filled to the brim with delicious seeds, grains, and nuts. Birds of all varieties would take a detour from their annual migration to visit Avalon and enjoy the respite. Such had been the case for generations that they eventually referred to the garden as paradise, the land of bounty, song, and rest.
One season however, the lanterns turned empty. The caretaker, in old age and poor health, was bed-ridden and had fallen into a deep coma. Sensing the time was near, the birds one by one perched on top the lanterns to mourn the caretaker’s passing. Some recounted the time they first met their loved ones within the garden cloisters. Others spoke of distant homes and their long journeys to the outer terrace. Those who had personally met the caretaker hummed a requiem into the night. Alas, when no more chirps could be uttered and further lamentations spent, the caretaker took a final breath, grinned, and then vanished.
From that day onward, the lanterns of Avalon would be everflowing.
Blazing star among fields of dreams. Its might binds the denizens of the night.
Yet dim it appears from galaxy’s edge. A speck among many seen.
Just a dream no? But all dreams compel.
Scribbles and scrawls. Sado’e journal deteriorated with each passing week. Three days he wrote, without sleep nor rest, switching hands every hour to ease the paralyzing grasp of the pen. Candlelight flickered with dire urgency as time withdrew its loan and his bargain turned treacherous.
Clairvoyance, the reward for his “deeds”, had a price for it promised no remembrance. Only fragments he could record in a journal, and always in a form removed from the immediate percept. The advantage however remained great as portents turned futures were capitalized with the ruthless efficiency of unfettered ambition. Visions of his enemies gave him preternatural initiative. Images of fame and fortune became self-fulfilling. The voices of revelation commanded obedience.
But alas, all such powers ultimately turn on their wielders. Years flew by into old age until a singular harbinger appeared before him. The date of his death he witnessed but only the circumstances he recorded. Gruesome was the depiction accompanied by an unspeakable terror. Again and again, he would return to the harbinger, begging it to reveal more of his fate. The pen however would only scribble and scrawl.
Once there was calf who lost his belle in a vast field of flowers. He searched day and night, traversing the meadows and painting lines into the ground for his love to see. Giant circles he drew; spirals and constellations he wrote along the slopes of the Great Plains with highest of hopes. Yet by month’s end, his belle was still nowhere to be found. Exasperated and now sullen, he lay down and fell into a deep slumber. Spring turned summer turned fall before he woke. Opening his eyes, he saw now only a single patch of flowers jutting out in the distance. Moving closer, he realized it was none other than his beloved whom the flowers cover and the same patch that had concealed him.
Agapao awoke to the sight of fluttering wings. Dusk settled upon the land as the distant night crept across the blood-soaked fields, covering the horrors of war like a traumatic dream. The last two armies had annihilated each other. The few survivors claimed victory not over each other but against fate for mountains of corpses surrounded them, singing the tune to the world’s end.
Agapao looked overhead. An eclipse of moths encircled the now blackened meadow beneath the crimson skies. Some would land on a body and depart with a spirit in tow. These moths would fly towards the fading light so that the departed may find new places to inhabit. Others would land and bury themselves into a carrion, stapling the body to the soul. Those unfortunate individuals became the walking dead, forever to roam the Earth under another’s will. Turning to the moth that twitched on his chest, Agapao pulled out his knife and cleaved it in two. Fate had no business playing with the still living.
Kristie and Johnson waited in separate cars. A heavy downpour started right when they entered the parking lot. With divorce papers in one hand and a pen in another, only the rain held off the dissolution of the marriage.
An hour flew by and neither made a move. The deluge continued unabated as if staving off a greater disaster; a short wait during the fifteen years that they spent together.
The sound of an engine woke Kristie up. Morning had come and neither had left their vehicles. As Johnson’s car left the lot, the rain stopped.