Echoes From Dust
by L. S. Popovich
In the Cauterhaugh, lifeforms and even the landscape are composed of synthesized metals, and beasts called cynths ravage the dwindling human settlements. Riku is a Mag, an inorganic human born in this harsh and unforgiving land.
Riku has grown up hearing stories about Mitchlum, a metropolis of habitable trees and the bastion of the Priesthood, which channels divine powers in defense against the encroaching cynths. Riku is chosen to undergo the sacred trials, assume a priest’s mantle and protect her homeland. Everyone has high expectations for her, but her destiny is hers to decide.
|Table of Contents||Glossary|
Chapter 60: Epilogue
The grassy plain rippled in the brilliant white moonlight. Remera awoke with a blurry film clouding her vision. The landscape before her was surreal. In her confusion she searched her mind. Ancient and sacred things surrounded her. The moon hovered in the sky, and beyond a field of wildflowers, the ocean crashed against the shore.
Unsteadily, she stood. A salt flat stretched into the distance, studded with glinting Celestial palaces. Glowing spirits drifted across the plain: wandering like fireflies. Memories of the old world rushed back to her.
How long can my body last in the Celestial Plane? she wondered. A quick examination told her that her earthly form was intact other than a slight transparency around the edges.
The stars overhead were brilliant. She staggered through wet grass and found she remembered the names of many of the wonders she encountered: ladybugs, grasshoppers... She’d always had a knack for keeping vanished things locked away in her head.
“Take it slow,” someone said. A lumpy shadow emerged from behind a gnarled tree.
“Who’s there?” Remera gasped.
A green imp smiled with wicked sharp teeth. “Just your old pal.”
Her memory strained for a moment: “Gotenba.”
His disproportionate face inflated with delight.
They walked together in silence.
Virgil must have succeeded, Remera thought furiously. I’m going to be stuck here forever. Humanity was finally doomed. Her mind raced, but she stopped the speculations before they impaired her senses.
“You know, Omi felt the same hopelessness when she lost her eyesight. Imagine how the great creator felt, robbed of her sight. But she’s still productive, isn’t she?”
“How can you pretend to understand what I’m feeling?” Remera sighed. She followed him along the beach, speckled with skittering crabs. “It’s so full of life, this place,” she mused.
Gotenba ignored her question. “But then she got her mirror back. The light has not gone out in her cave since, and the thunderheads have retreated from the sky.”
Far off, at a remote corner of the horizon, Remera could make out only a hint of a storm. The storm god had retreated, perhaps into the human world...
“Wait, Gotenba.” Remera stopped in her tracks. “Why am I here? Why am I in the Celestial Plane? And not in the Underworld?”
The devilish smile returned, and he replied. “Normally, you would have gone straight there. But Omi intervened. I’m taking you to her.”
“Do I have a choice in my fate?”
“One’s fate is chosen by degrees, though actions.”
Remera squinted at him, deceptively ugly in his ragged loincloth, but she knew the tales about him, about his influence, and about the infinite memories sealed within him.
* * *
Omi’s beauty was astounding. In the austere cave, Remera shivered before the radiant goddess. The only sound was the rippling of feathers and the rustle of enormous wings.
“Why did you bring me here?” Remera asked, trembling under the piercing eyes.
Omi sniffed the air and held out the mirror. It was tiny in her magnificent claws. The familiar crack ran up the middle. In either side Remera saw an image. Immediately, tears coursed from her eyes.
On the left side Izzie walked with Riku, crossing the Cauterhaugh. She saw how Izzie had changed, and her heart throbbed. She tried to process what her daughter’s physical transformation could mean. But on the other side of the mirror, where she expected to see Virgil, triumphant and proud, she saw Telos instead, in the middle of a raging wind. As lightning flashed around her, the girl — or the god — was completely at home and undaunted. Though part of Remera was terrified at what she saw, Remera’s scientific mind began to work out scenarios.
Remera asked, “Did you bring me here to show me the ruin caused by my actions?” She darted glances to either side of the cave. Gotenba was nowhere to be found, vanished like a puff of smoke. A few dull coals bloomed in the shadow of Omi’s wings.
“Harmony is but a simpler form of chaos,” Omi said with a voice that came from the air around her, equally forceful as it echoed off the walls and vibrated down to Remera’s bones. “You sought to fix a world you perceived as broken.”
It was the simple sort of statement Izzie might utter.
Contrary to what the goddess said, it didn’t seem simple to Remera. Her whole life had been shaped by the desire to leave behind a better world.
She waited for Omi to say more. “Fine,” Remera said finally. She didn’t know how much damage Virgil had done. The world had not been completely destroyed. Perhaps, then, Izzie would create a future Remera had never envisioned. “What is there left for me?”
“Once the physical vessel of your body disappears, your spirit will reside permanently in the Underworld,” Omi said.
“You mean... I can never return to Earth?” Remera exclaimed.
“You will never return in that form,” Omi said cryptically.
“But what am I to do as a spirit?”
“Human beings are full of restless energy. Gods and spirits have all of Time, and very specific duties.”
Remera took a step back, repeating the words to herself. The Celestial Plane was full of dead souls, purer than hers, from every era. All worlds branched from this place. There must be ordeals and hierarchies to account for all the legends of the feuding gods, she thought. “Are there trials in the Underworld?”
“The spirits of the past exist in every thing. Your people carry you in their hearts and memories.” Omi waited with perfect stillness, like a statue indifferent to Time.
Then, to her surprise, Omi broke off a tiny sliver of the Celestial mirror with a gleaming claw. In its reflection Remera saw her daughter.
Remera held it close with insubstantial hands as she departed from the cave. The elegiac world blossomed around her, the eternal realm of the gods, endless life on every side. The breeze flowed through her, and she felt empty, slowly forgetting all of the death and transformation she had seen in life.
Gotenba stood happily by as she dissolved like dew in the rippling grass. He opened the little pouch at his waist and snatched all of the tiny shards of memory that wafted from her fading penumbra, like grains of sand.
Copyright © 2019 by L. S. Popovich