Purpose. Confronted by such a concept man must make of it what he will. Be that to frame it upon a singular objective or to see it as the unachievable. All sentient beings, human or not must consider their place. Consequences. Rewards. But to what end? That we are upon a boat sailing for the world’s end, and our choices should veer our course from side to side, but always should it return to its path of inevitable destruction. Fight the tides or sink as we go. Ride upon the backs of waves and whales only to run aground on a shelf hidden just beneath the water’s surface.
Lightning cracks overhead and thunder sounds in the distance. The sharks circle as we drift in the windless expanses, baked in the sun’s harsh light. The siren’s song calls to us alluringly across the fog of night. But all the while is the dark water that swells and rolls below the true darkness – that which is unavoidable. Following along until our journey’s end, accompanying us, one way or another.
My eyes turned to the sky as I crumpled up the old photograph I clutched in my shaking hand. Grey clouds had begun to invade the pink of the late afternoon sky, and the air in the garden had started to cool. She was gone, my light. Snuffed from the world in the night. I breathed deeply. Five years. A long time and yet I could still see the red of the walls. My hand went to my mouth instinctively; the tips of my fingers running over my dry lips.
That a daughter should have to be buried by her father was not as the world was intended to be. It is for the young to replace the old and not the older to lose their young. If there were a purpose for me, it had been lost then. No light remained at the end. I lived only from moment to moment, the stream of time choppy as the trickling waters – crashing and banking up against the damming rocks and logs that had fallen from the trees along the riverbank.
I could feel the rough press of the rocks against me. From above and all around. Constricting my breath. Not allowing me to move on from that space in time when my eyes fell upon the red that streaked the walls. Where had I been? Why had I not heard as she was torn apart by some god damned beast, sent out of the gaping depths of hell itself?
My precious offspring who from the time of explement from the loins of her mother I had held protectively in the embrace of my arms; why then had I not been there in the time most needing of that protection? I tore at my hair. Why? Why why why why why why why –
My breath caught in my throat.
“Sander!” her voice came again. It was coarse and dry. Each word a handful of sand flung through the air into my ears. I winced at the sound as it hit me with its raspy quality. My sister wasn’t old, but she acted as though she were. Certainly, she gave off the air of being well beyond her years.
Viola approached with a reproachful look on her face. I tried to focus my hazy vision on her features as her gaze came within my sights.
“What are you doing out here? It will be dark soon.”
Teatime. An old, stuffy tradition that she held up despite us being the only remaining parties of the household. Somehow, I felt sure that my sister would want to pass on the family values to her own children one day, should she have any. I pitied any man who found himself tied to this whiny bitch. Still, even I had to admit she was beautiful.
Her dark tumbling hair that fell so gracefully upon the white of her shoulders, bare above the bust of her cream dress. Her eyes – pink – a startling colour for an outsider perhaps, but it was a sign of the Yuel family bloodline. Her lips were soft, much unlike her words, and her hands were smooth and dainty, much unlike the sharp slaps I might receive with the back of them when I dared overstep her patience.
Despite this beauty, her marked shallowness struck a sour note with me. We’d never been especially close, but since Adeline passed it had been far worse. A faint image of my late wife came to mind.
“What’s with that dozy look?”
Viola’s voice broke my daze. I waved her away with a sigh.
“I’ll be in in just a bit,” I said, drawing my lighter from my pocket.
My sister smacked away the awaiting pipe in my hand as I brought the flickering flame close to its chamber.
“Ten minutes. And stop smoking, you’ll kill yourself.”
I made a disgusted sound as she turned and returned up the winding stone path that snaked its way up the rolling green of the expansive mansion gardens to the towering old house on the hilltop. I retrieved my pipe from the dirt and dusted it off on my grey coat. Taking a puff, I looked to the quickly darkening sky.
Just then, I caught a glimpse of something moving quickly out of the corner of my eye. Strawberry blonde hair. Locks billowing like a sail as they flashed between the autumn leaves of the trees that ran along the boundary wall of the mansion grounds. I watched in fascination as she appeared, the girl in her glimmering silver armour, darting from side to side with her sword in hand. The blade glowed an ethereal green, and though its length was greater than that of her arm, she brandished the thing as if it weighed nothing.
Moments later, something straight out of a nightmare appeared before her. My eyes grew wide and my mouth fell agape – pipe tumbling from my ajar lips and falling to the dirt surrounding the garden bench as I rose shakily to my feet.
The girl’s face was tightened up in concentration as she jumped about, narrowly avoiding the thing’s swooping dives, accompanied by the slash of its talon-like claws. I walked up to the garden wall. It came to just under my chin and I leaned against the cold stone, watching in awe.
Twisted horns upon its deathly pale forehead, eyes a sickening yellow, leathery wings and black plumes of fire rising from its furry body as it fluttered in the air above her. She slashed at the monster with a leap, cleanly dismembering one of its wings.
The creature fell to the road like a crumpled paper, futility fluttering and hobbling its way desperately away from its assailant. In a flash she was upon it, decapitating the monster in a single swipe, and calmly replacing her sword in the sheathe at her side. As she did so, her peculiar garments vanished, replaced suddenly with a more regular black leggings and loose, red tank top.
Her eyes met mine, they were a grey-blue; piercing yet stunning. They widened. She must have noticed my shocked stare.
“You saw that?”