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Pilgrimage

May 6, 2013

He and I walk over swirling sand, saying nothing, feeling the dunes move beneath us and the heat throb above us. We stop at an oasis and he nods at the clear, blue water, indicating that I should drink from it. I do, and the icy liquid stings my throat in a wonderful way. We move on, like the sand beneath our feet. Always moving on.

The scorching day has turned into freezing night when I first begin hearing the voices.

This time they sound different. I am not sure whether they come from inside me or from the air around us; they sting me and scrape invisible nails on equally invisible blackboards. I give Khalid a brief, bewildered look and he gives me a sagely nod in response. He has expected this.

We walk on. I lose track of time. We do not eat, we do not drink and we do not stop. In retrospect, I assume several days must have gone by like this.

After what seems like an eternity, we finally stop to make camp. The sizzling, buzzing voices seep out from nearby rocks and from under my fingers as I collect wood for the fire. When bright light blazes into the inky blackness, the tips of the flames are filled with the voices of the unseen dark. I sit down, and he opens his mouth for the first time since we left.

“Do you hear them?”

I nod in reply. Talking is hard at this point; I fear that if I open my mouth, something terrible will come out. Yes, I do indeed hear them, but I can’t understand them. Their intent is clear – hurt, death, all the ones you love, rejection, we hate, we hate you – but the source is not. Where are these voices coming from?

“The crawling chaos,” Khalid says, his voice mild, eyes fixed at a point somewhere far off in the distance. “You must think carefully about what comes next, child.”

And I think. The scratching, clawing, skittering, rustling noise grows louder. The voices screech at me to run, to submit, to die. I clench my teeth. Gaia comes to my aid; she fills me up and I feel something change inside of me. The voices die away. There is warmth around us.

In the heavy, thudding silence that follows, Khalid’s voice feels much too loud.

“You must understand, child. They are not what you think they are.”

“So they are not-“, I begin, my voice cracking due to lack of use. He shakes his head and I fall silent.

“There is a difference, fire-child. They are both as ancient as the universe, but they are not the same. You must understand this.”

At this point, I do not. My head is aching, my muscles are sore. My stomach remembers that it has not had nourishment for several days and begins to growl. Khalid smiles at me.

“Your dreams are infected, fire-child. They are tainted. You must stand fast and fight them with all your might.” He pauses, reflecting upon this. His eyes are filled with stars. “Or perhaps you should bend your knees to them and choose that path. Humanity is built on choices, child.”

With this, he stands up, stretching. His ancient bones crack and pop, and I realize that we are back where we began our journey. I close my eyes for a few seconds and when I open them, he has gone.

As I am writing this, I have wolfed down the third plate of the Giza Special. I don’t know what’s in it and frankly, I don’t care. My body has slowly started to feel normal again and I think I will be ready to pick up my sister from Kingsmouth Academy soon. I miss her.

I think I have been misled.

The voices in my dreams have used familiar words. They have spoken to me as the hum does; honeyed tones, abrupt messages, increasingly cryptic meanings. But they are not the same. I am beginning to think that the voices asking me to accept, to yield, to bend, are something else entirely. Perhaps they come from the same place, but they are very different in nature. Whereas one is a collective consciousness that was born from knowledge, the other is a dark dream of chaos and corruption.

The crawling chaos… perhaps there is some truth to that.

さようなら

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