Boat Sceneby manapriestess
Entire Fiction (2004)
I can sit here forever, she thought to herself, and nothing will change. No, since I never will do anything to change it, and instead I will let this moment pass by, all but inert, nothing inside me moving except, as usual, my own thoughts. I do nothing, because I do not want to break the image of the perfect silence that allows thoughts, and the dark depths of the blue evening which appears — oh, so very beautiful, if only I could reconcile the inner turmoil to the beauty and the external silence. And it is this inner turmoil that makes me inert, incapable of action despite my wishes.
From her crouching position she gained an odd, almost surreal angle of the skies, which turned the ship's side looming just opposite into a shadow lurking beneath the deep, velvety blue. Against that blue she could discern the lean figure leaning against the rails. His head was low, his pale, shortish hair falling across his forehead, his profile surprisingly clear in the yellow lights of the lamps hung under the door of the ship's cabin. Even though his eyes seemed to rest upon the dark flow of the waters running against the base of the ship below him, he stirred after a moment and, with what seemed a stifled groan, lowered his head and pressed it against his arms, that rested on the top of the rail.
He had walked out, presumably to take a breath of air; and she, detecting his shadow passing by the half-open door of her small cabin, rose from the bed and, not daring to disturb him, had silently followed him through the corridor. He hadn't notice her slight figure emerging after him in the darkness, and she, not daring to make herself visible, simply made herself small in a far corner and watched him as he stood in thought. Part of his very obvious agony was physical, produced by the discomforting lurches of the ship; part of it, she knew, was mental. It had to do with HER, and how she had acted towards him that very morning, turning around after giving him a haughty look, her pale robes sweeping around her body like a flowing, impenetrable barrier. Watching them both she sensed his internal struggle, his misery, and the way he put out his hand towards the retreating figure and uttered her name faintly, almost pleadingly, wrenched her.
She had also seen him leave his bed that night at the inn, and she walked out and stood in the shadows of the dark walls, and discerned them standing on the dock in the pale light of the moon. But again, the figure clad in white turned around and left, and he remained standing there, watching it in the darkness, while she, not daring to breath, sensed the pain as if it attacked own body; and she huddled, wishing she could approach him, speak to him, and say something meaningful. But her own anguish made her so helpless that she could neither say nor do anything.
Did it hurt you, Locke? What did she say to you? Did she say anything at all?
Her thought were thrown back to the day when they left the Capital and he strode quickly forwards and said, clearly, "If Terra goes, I'll go." And then he took her hand, and pressed her fingers, and smiled, and she thought that nothing could have been more painful than that simple gesture of amity on his part. She tried to smile back and found that she couldn't. Later, she just barely noticed the figure of the Imperial general standing at her side, and his voice asking:
"Are you all right? You look pale."
She simply shook her head and murmured something unintelligible which might or might not have satisfied him. At any rate, he didn't say anything else to her that day.
She watched him now and the wish increased, burned; to approach him, say something — if only one word, to give some meaning to his confusion, or perhaps her own.
Maybe, if I just come up to him, and place my arms around him, and my head against his shoulder, and say something — anything — to heal this pain — perhaps then it will disappear?
Did it hurt you, Locke? Did it hurt you as much as it's hurting me?
* - * - *
The shadows appeared to divide into two in the deep blue evening; she sensed it on the edge of her vision, but she didn't make any movement, trying to ignore it. The hand that pressed heavily on her shoulder still proved a surprise, and she turned half-way towards it, her perspiring breath somehow quicker than it ought to have been. It was not merely the presence of another person; it was the forced divorce from the beautiful nightmare. She would rather have buried herself within the confused memories, meditating upon them, sensing perhaps that they will never become clearer but still forcing herself to experience that pain, and the knowledge that it will never full heal. She preferred to drown in those memories, eluding the present, her senses at once dulled and acute. But the other person's presence forced her out of that bewildering daydream, back to the clearer, duller kind of reality she had been trying to avoid.
"Did I startle you?" His voice was compassionate and low. She watched him for a moment; his large form blocked the vision of the deep blue skies, and he appeared to be standing with his back to the night, all in shadows. Unsure of what to say, she merely shook her head; but he extended his hand and, grasping her fingers very gently, forced her to rise to her feet.
She obeyed. Something about his presence demanded attention; he seemed to have a definite purpose which she vaguely responded to. He led her to the other side of the ship silently until the figure she had been watching was obscured and lost. Then, he let her hand fall and turned to her.
"Are you all right?" he asked her, and the warmth in his voice made her turn her face away. "I thought that you have been feeling better, but..."
His voice trailed off, but she made no response for a moment. On the edge of her vision she discerned the other half of the divided shadow; the form crouching in a corner where there was no light at all, a greater darkness inside the shadows.
"It's only Shadow," said the man at her side. "You don't have to be frightened. Please tell me your thoughts."
Although she could barely discern his expression, the lingering warmth of his words caused her to feel a small throb of a different kind of pain; the pain of an attempt to conceal, pretend, or maybe even forget. And maybe she would forget, if she eludes the lingering memories.
And he — he who offered her consolation — who was he? A member of the Empire, one of the people who had nearly destroyed her. Who was the savior here, and who was the enemy? She had no clear conception of anything, because all she knew was that the person whom she regarded as a savior was giving her pain, while the person who stood by while she was destroyed was now offering her comfort.
She softly tried to elucidate her feelings. He was of them — of the Empire. He had to understand that his offers of comfort were hollow and empty. They came too late.
He comprehended it through the verve in her voice, through the muted murmurs. But his voice lost none of its warmth, and it was gentle and firm. "I am aware that I could have prevented what happened, and yet I did not. Your words serve as a reproach to me, Terra."
"Some things cannot be helped," she whispered. "It's all in me, you see."
"What is?" he asked, and his tone goaded her gently, encouraging her to reveal her thoughts, to expose herself. She wished to resist it, but was not sure that she hadn't already — While I was sitting there, watching him, and then he came, I made myself so clear — yes, he understood it, didn't he? Is this why he led me away? — And she said:
"It doesn't matter. It's no good anyway. I'm an half-Esper. I'm not human. Maybe I'm not good for anything else but..."
I'm not good for anything else... because I'll never be human. They'll always see me as the weapon, the terrible witch, the inhuman girl, the—
"This is why I'll never feel it anyway —"
"What?" he asked.
"Love," she answered. But then she made a half-turn, staring at him and raising her hand to her mouth as if to recall the word.
She heard him say something, some attempt at consolation. But she began shaking her head, face averted, trying to obscure what she said with stammered murmurs:
"No, I never will... I never will... I am not human, and this is why I never will...
All at once she paused, and he said: "I understand. I understand too well."
And at that moment, she believed him. But still —
It's too late anyway.
"One day," he said, "You will have it. Because you deserve it. I know it, Terra."
But she turned way from him and his empty consolations and sank to her knees, trying to conceal herself in the shadows again. After a little while, he was gone. She didn't hear him go, but she somehow she sensed that he had faded back into the shadows. And then she murmured:
"But I want it... now... now... now."
And then she sensed it again; the other division of the shadow. The dark figure in the corner was watching her.
For who knows how long.
After a moment the figure moved. Then it was at her side, speaking quietly, its tones as cold as her own resignation:
"You have to think of it this way."
"Did you hear... did you hear what I said?" she stammered, staring at it. For some reason she knew that it did; she has been exposed, her soul naked before its perceptive gaze. And it said, "Yes," with a dispassionate tone. And then she knew it understood everything — better than the man who has just left.
"It doesn't matter," she said. "It doesn't matter anyway. I don't want to feel it, and maybe I better not. I don't want to feel anything."
"It's dangerous," said the figure by the rail, "not to feel anything. It's dangerous to kill your emotions."
"And when you feel," she replied, her voice very low, "it hurts." Then she looked up into the blue night, but the beautiful nightmare was gone. Instead, everything seemed frozen and dark. The pain was obscured by the icy glitter of the stars. And she rose to her feet and walked away from it all.
The Shadow remained by the rails for a little while more; then it left it and walked towards the opposite side of the ship, where the young man stood.
It approached him, and leant against the rails at his side. The young man didn't give any indication of noticing it, although they were but a feet apart, and remained with his head low, buried inside his arms.
After a long pause, the Shadow spoke. "Does it hurt you?" it asked.
There was silence; then, his voice muffled, the young man muttered: "Yes."
"Good," said the Shadow.