By Caleb Kelly
Mere moments after the light was displayed at the day’s end in various colors and splendor, it disappeared as though taken up in a vacuum, and now in its place was left nothing but gray-brown shades that not long following were swallowed into the night. As the natural light faded, the light cast by the Spirit became brighter until it could be no brighter. But farther away, the night covered everything under its cloak of invisibility. No lightning, as a storm of this size on Earth would undoubtedly contain, no candles or flashlights or city lights. Nothing but endless black of nothing but sea. Beyond the protective ring, where the light diminished, the waves crashed invisibly. With my sight impaired to near nothing, my other senses were increased. I could only listen to, though not see, the strange sounds of an ocean in turmoil, which I still hadn’t gotten used to since they began in the late afternoon. But even things that can make one scared, with enough of it, one could adapt to the change until they become normal. This very thing happened. The initial terror that had come from the storm’s presence had gone and left in its place exhaustion. So despite the storm, I used my hands as a better-than-nothing pillow and laid down on the water’s surface. Sleep welcomed me almost instantly, beckoning me away from the chaos of the waking and to the fantasies of night.
What woke me exactly I cannot remember. But as I stared sideways at the Spirit, my senses slowly coming up to speed, something seemed wrong. I realized that the sounds of the storm were louder than when I had fallen asleep. I sat up quickly, abruptly righting the world from the cliff I saw it as. I paused a minute as spots danced across my vision, and when they disappeared, I looked around me. Still nothing could be seen; the night was yet reigning. The Spirit hadn’t moved from where I had last seen Him. But the sounds had changed, as I had previously assessed, and not for the better. The crashing of the storm’s waves and howling of its wind seemed to have crept its way nearer to where I sat. Under me, the glass-like surface of the water felt like it was splintering and shifting, as though the protective ring in the center of which I sat was failing, weakening and shrinking. For a moment, I found myself afraid, though at what, I could not determine, for it came from an innate survival instinct that is largely unused. The protection of one’s own life. After a few moments of thinking, I realized that I was afraid that the Spirit would fail to protect both him and me forever. I was afraid that at some point, our protection would cease to be, and the storm and waves would overcome us both.
“Quiet,” I said aloud to myself, my voice, held barely above a whisper, was drowned out before even I could hear it, “there is nothing to be afraid of; simply the dark trying to make it seem so.” The last words seemed empty to me even before I spoke them, for I could sense (also unconsciously) that this night was different than any others; the awe and the majesty that prior had been present within the blackness felt broken, severed, and dangerous, without any barrier or self-control.
I shivered as a gust forced its way in through the barrier, which was lessened to a light breeze because of it, which further convinced me of the strength the barrier was losing. I decided that I could not just sit as the storm intensified or drew closer or whatever the case may be. I stood, pushing up off the invisible surface, and with my arms outstretched, walked toward the sound of the storm. Before I expected to reach the edge, my hand passed through the invisible barrier and into the storm, instantly drenched by a heavy rainstorm. Instinctively and sharply, I drew my hand back from the cold to my chest and took a step back. Then, more cautiously than before, I stepped back over to the barrier. Once there, I put my back to the wall while still inside the protection. And by the best approximation I could, measured out the diameter of the circle again. My right foot backed against the border, I put my left foot’s heel to my right foot’s toe, and vice versa. The Spirit stood on the half of the circle to my left, watching me or staring through me into space, I couldn’t guess. On and on I stepped, one foot after the next until my hand brushed the opposite side. My first guess to its size, done yesterday when I first found myself to be in the barrier, was roughly 15 feet. Now, the diameter was nearer to 9 feet. So I was right—though in this case, I would have preferred to have been wrong—the storm was nearer than before I had fallen asleep. My doubt that the Spirit’s power was failing had been warranted.
With a sharp and sudden prick, my right foot began to hurt. Nothing substantial, but the same feeling as though I had stepped on a thorn. Curious as to what it might be, I sat and lifted my barefoot so that its sole faced me. There, on the arch right in the center of my foot, was a light blue-white dot. Still more intrigued, I touched it. My fingertip immediately felt like I had buried it in the snow—a cold that quickly turned to feeling burned. Though it accomplished nothing, I wildly shook my hand until the pain stopped. Now I was even warier but still wondered how ice—for I had no other explanation as to the cold—had formed on my skin, which was well above freezing. And better yet, how it wasn’t already melted.
Though I still pondered it, nothing more to be done with my foot, so I stood up and quickly found that the stabbing returned when I did so. The pain it caused wasn’t great or unbearable, but rather just noticeable, just bothersome enough to catch your attention. I tried to ignore it, and pace while I thought. But with the blue thorn digging in with every footfall, I reconsidered my choice, sitting down again with a grunt. I decided that the night had nothing more to be done in it, and for anything else to be done, the morning first must rise. So as before, I laid myself on my back, staring upward at the sky, and before drifting off pondered why it looked so foreboding.
This time, naught brought me out from sleep other than the light of day. I blinked against its brightness so different from the underside of my eyelids and wondered what today might have in store. Mayhap another great work, like the light’s creation, or something more minor, such as the storm of yesterday. I froze. The storm of yesterday was indeed a thing of the past. All around me was the gray haze over the water, like a lake in the early morning, all covered in fog. The light in such a scene seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once, as with this place. Such a peaceful thing it was to see the water flat, calm, and reflective once more. I regarded it much the same as before, though with slightly more wariness, since I had seen and known its hidden strengths.
Ignoring the dull throb of the ice in my foot, I stood and stretched, questioning how the surface of the water felt so comfortable (I had yet to try sleeping on a water bed; it is much the same). Then I took in my surroundings again, searching for the thing that my first sweep failed to find. And as I saw—or rather did not see—with the first glance, the Spirit was not within sight, not within the limited visibility afforded in the fog. As much as I doubted it and tried to convince myself that it was not possible, I could not shake the feeling that I had been left, escaped from, and deserted. The Spirit might be bitter about having to rescue me and regarding His injury. Perhaps He had been waiting for the first opportunity to leave me. And when He did leave me was another question I could of answer. From the point I fell asleep to now, the storm faded away. Very likely, the Spirit would be hours ahead of me. The question of which way the Spirit even went despaired me to no end. For to that, there was no way of knowing, and should I go in the wrong direction, I would distance myself further from the Spirit. But to stay in one place while the miles between us would only grow went against my better judgement. It did not seem to me that doing nothing could, in reality, accomplish anything.
My decision undecided, I stood where I was and continued to look around every direction, trying to see through the mist and catch a glimpse of the Spirit. I spun in circles searching until I grew dizzy and had to stop. Nothing felt like the right choice, either to stay or to go. But I could not bear to be alone. A movement caught the corner of my eye. There, ahead of me. I swung my head to face whatever that was. At first, nothing looked amiss. But then, there! In a thinner spot of fog, a light moving across before disappearing into a thicker patch. Surely it was the Spirit’s glow that I had become so acquainted with. I ran toward where the light had been, the mist slipping past in thin, silvery tendrils. The fog yielded to me, but it seemed that the distance separating me from the light would not. Step after step brought me no closer and after several minutes of intensive running, I slowed to a walk and from there a stop, panting for breath. The light that I had run after was no longer visible, whichever way I turned. The mist closed in tighter than before, sealing without a seam the way I had come. Return to where I had been was impossible. But whether that was good or bad, I could not decide nor did it matter. I was where I was, and from there I had to work, to move forward, not try to go back.
A plan, like before, did not come to me. Nothing was any more obvious now than it was then. I spent some time thinking, unconcerned to my surroundings. Time had no reign here, and especially now. Hours or minutes passed; I could not say which without the sun to give me an idea. The mist remained absolute around me. Occasionally I could sense a wind blowing it about, but that was all that moved. The only idea that came to me, the only inkling of a plan involved a single step: wait. Wait for the hope, however slim, that when the fog evaporated, the Spirit would be in sight. I held on to that final hope offered to me like a starving lion would his meal. I refused to consider that the fog might never fade or that the Spirit had indeed—as I supposed—left me. Whenever an argument against that hope came, I forced it back down, biding it to wait. Wait. Wait.
I was startled out of a partial sleep by the loud blasts as from a horn. Disoriented as I was, I wondered where the fire alarm was coming from. But when my brain caught up with my senses, I knew exactly what the sound must be. The Spirit, He must be speaking again. The sounds were distant, but still understandable, as though one was speaking down a long tunnel. The echoing repercussions to my ears sounded: “Let the waters again be thrown in turmoil and gathered together in one place so that out of the midst of them there may be dry ground.”
Dry ground? Something other than the endless waves below? Somehow I could not believe it. I knew that if I did, I would be let down, for I did not know for certain that it was the Spirit speaking. But if it was. . . Nothing the Spirit had said failed to come true. And even if it was something as impossible as this, it must come true.
The how it would come true bothered me though. I knew some about how islands were formed, having grown up on one, and they rose out of oceans as volcanoes with fiery wrath and spewing smoke. For anyone to be within five miles was dangerous. Depending on where it would be, I could potentially be in grave danger. Unless the Spirit simply bypassed that step and the land rose fully formed out of the water. One could only guess the actions of the Spirit.
As the voice resounded and echoed back quieter and quieter, a gentle breeze picked up, pushing along the mist as though herding back to its corral. The moisture-laden air stung my face as the breeze turned a shade fierce. It pained me to keep my eyes open. Then, suddenly, the wind ceased as though it had passed on by me. I opened my eyes and was astonished to see the mist completely dissipated. All around me, clear skies to the edges of the world. The horizon was a near-indistinguishable line that marked the edge of my vision. It bothered me slightly to see the farthest reach of the world and to know that there was still more beyond, especially after I had been confined to the borders of a ten-foot ring for some time. The world was so much bigger than any one person. How then, could any one person make a difference in one? ‘Most don’t,’ I realized. ‘Some go through life without leaving anything behind for remembrance.’ I vowed that when and if I returned to Earth, I would make sure I had something for people to remember me by.
But that was a vow for the future, and the present was now, so I put it out of my mind. I looked nearer to me than the horizon, searching for any sort of outstanding mark that would be the Spirit or worse, a volcano. I didn’t see anything till the second time looking, and it could be nothing but the Spirit. At once I ran toward Him, refusing to let Him out of my sight again, Even as I neared Him and was still fifty yards away, I could feel the safety and light and warmth that He provided, His presence like an umbrella.
Details became clearer as the distance lessened. I could make out the ripples that formed underneath the Spirit’s steps and the minute details on the Spirit Himself, details that could not be seen from farther away owing to the ever-present glow about His person. I slowed from my run, panting in the slightest, and continued toward the Spirit at a walk. That was the greatest of all my mistakes. Forever I would regret that I slowed my return to His side, the reason you shall soon see.
As always, the water underneath muffled my steps. By all accounts, the only sounds should have been the faint sounds of air as I inhaled and exhaled, recovering from my exertion. And yet, there was another sound. A deep, low rumble that seemed to originate below the gently swelling waves. Only they were no longer mere swells. Like the day before, the waves began to grow in size, though without any of the wind that accompanied it, for which I was glad. But even without the wind, which could knock me off balance more easily, there was still the problem of the waves slowly but surely growing. And should it reach a large enough size, I could be just as easily swamped as a small vessel.
My footing now unsure as the ground swayed and rocked, rejoining the Spirit was more difficult than before and becoming before more so with each passing moment. If I didn’t join Him now, it could be too late, and I would drown, this time certainly without rescue. I took a step forward, planting my feet widely apart for balance, struggled to keep that balance as a wave swept underneath my foot, and then followed my first step with another. Step after step went in this manner until I was halfway between where I had started and where the Spirit was. Before taking my next step, I glanced down and was unnerved to see some dark shape directly underneath me. And difficult as it was to tell in the disrupted sea, I thought it appeared to be near to the surface. On the first day I was on the world, the water had been such a clear shade of blue-gray, fading to a deeper blue the deeper one looked. And in all the depth that I could see, I saw nothing in those waters. Now, on the other hand, I was certain something was beneath me.
Whatever it was, I resolved, it would not stand between me and the Spirit. I took another step forward. The rumble suddenly rose to a roar, louder and nearer, vibrating through me. I clutched my ears but that did little to counteract the sound. The sound was heard within my chest. The water on which I stood acted as though it rebelled against my standing there, trying to its ability’s limits to make me fall. Glancing down, still holding my ears though the sound had lessened, the water around me in a rough circle was unusual, bubbling with waves like narrow daggers, spiking up and falling, immediately replaced by another. On the edges of the circle, the other waves collided and detoured around, creating a discernible barrier between the two. And the black shape loomed nearer and clearer still.
It was now apparent to me that where I stood was not safe. The Spirit’s side of the safe water being the same distance from me as my side, I decided to go there. I took a step forward again, planting my foot again just as a huge, black point erupted from the water ahead of me in a cascade of salty water, drenching me and filling my open mouth and nose. I flailed, startled, and fell onto the waves. The Spirit was blocked completely from view behind a black arrow. That jagged black shape, reflecting a white in the light, continued to rise out of the water in the shape of a triangle, growing wider at the base. Water poured off its sides, falling and crashing back into the sea. For a moment, I was frozen by the sight. Then my sense of self-preservation took control. Unsure if I was safe, I crawled backward, facing the spire that had already risen to a staggering thirty feet. Only when I felt a safe distance away did I wrench my gaze from it and stand.
I watched, bewildered, as the tower grew evermore. Its peak was lost to the clouds that hovered a couple hundred feet up and still it rose. A movement off to my right brought my gaze to a similar black triangle. And further beyond that new one, a third. Everywhere I looked, the spires were appearing and rising at a regular rate. As they rose, the black arrows grew wider at the base, though at varying speeds. One minute, the widening base formed a gentle slope from where I supposed the peak to be. The next moment, a sharp drop-off that formed a cliff with the ledge above. When two of the mountain-like shapes neared one another, seamlessly and flawlessly they merged, forming between them a valley where the water flowed down the two facing sides and to the valley, forming a river that rushed down the V to the lowest ground available. Ground. I found comfort in that word, mainly in that it was what the black arrows and shapes were. Not so much dry ground yet, but that would come with time.
Meanwhile, more and more of the mountains—I now realized them to be—were merging and creating all around me a ring of themselves, hemming me in, taking away from me my sight of the horizon. The black of the stone contrasted with the light colors of the sea and sky, adding a night-like feel amid the late morning. The mountains were like the sky, and the gleam of the water on them like the stars. And above me, the sky was the moon, keeping watch over night and sometimes the day alongside the sun.
Presently, the deep rumble from inside my chest faded and was silent. For a time, I could hear nothing as my ears adjusted to the quieter sounds. The first of those that I heard was the soft tinging of droplets dripping off rocks and ledges. They struck the bare rock with the softness of a feather, yet left in their memory the sounds of a bell. The more I listened, the more I heard until all around me a miniature orchestra of bells, clear, single notes that varied in sound depending on the rock they struck.
The next thing that I became aware of was the smell. For the past two days, my nose was little used, as an ocean has a limited number of scents, all of which are related and all of which I became acquainted with on the first day. Since my first day, the use of my olfactory nerve was disregarded, shoved aside in favor of my other senses like sight and touch, which had stimulus as they could take in. And after all that, the smell of the land in the morning air was like suddenly smelling again after years of not. I recoiled slightly, just short of gagging before the wave passed and I became used to it.
The smell of the land was simply that of wet stone. Not intermingled with other scents that accompany that of wet stone, such as wet grass, dirt, or anything of animals. Pure stone, lightly dusted with salt as the water dried, wafted on the soft breeze.
And not only was my nose assaulted with newness all around, but also my eyes. Alike with the case of my nose, my sense of vision was bored with the uniformity of the gray sky and similarly gray sea. But in the span of a minute, my eyes and more than they could take in. Sweeping mountains, rising high into the clouds, glinting in the drab light, reflecting in the lake I now stood in the midst of, was more than I could take in at once. The shadows the mountains offered cooled the air that was then carried away on the whim of the wind. One of these gusts passed by me, ruffling my loose, disheveled, brown hair. I brushed it back and placed my hands on my hips. There was an adventure to be had; I could feel it in the smell passing my nose and see it in the stunning cliffs and peaks occasionally appearing through gaps in the clouds. Each of the mountains was about equal distance from where I stood, so I picked a direction and walked in it to the land I was teeming with a desire to stand on again. Out of my mind was the Spirit, and the previous desire to be reunited with Him was overpowered by the continual desire to be reunited with the sameness that we all know and are comfortable with. For the moment, I was content as I had not been since my arrival two days back. I believed that the land would fill me with joy and gratitude and contentment. What, then, could the Spirit add to all those?