Bright orange flames dance atop the candles, their shadows move rhythmically against the stone walls in silence. The dark night coats the window panes revealing my reflection as I stand surrounded by the soft light.
A chill runs down my back as I hear the slow footsteps outside the door.
I know that this is it, this moment is the reason I was born. The silence has now disappeared. My heart begins to beat wildly. My ears are filled with the loud, hard pounding in my chest and the footsteps continue to come closer. I know that I should relax, that I should accept my fate. But I cannot stop the fear as it creeps into my bare feet and runs up my body. It reaches my heart and begins its climb into my mind. I worry about pain, about loss, about never knowing what could have been.
Visions flicker in front of my eyes and the window panes are no longer black. Each section becomes a montage of memories. I see myself as a child playing innocently at my home along the riverbank. The young girl I remember does not know fear, she does not know her fate, and she only revels in the sweet smell of honeysuckle and the forbidden game we played along the water.
Quickly the scene moves forward to my first love.
At fourteen I sat beside a boy along the same river. The sky was filled with twinkling stars and the cool breeze seems to stir my hair even now. My heart reminds me of that feeling; the wonder of learning to love and enjoying its innocent pleasures. Laughter and sunlight fill me as stolen moments flicker across my vision.
I see the first kiss and warmth breaks into my fear but before it can fill me the scene moves forward again.
Shimmering water glows against the night sky and now the fear grips my heart in a vice. It is a memory of only one week before. My hair glistens in the moonlight as they lay me on the grass. My guardians stand over me speaking a language that had once defined beauty. I see my eyes close as the guardian leans closer to my face. He kisses my forehead and tells me everything will be as it was meant to be. He straightens and throws a white shining powder along my body. I could feel every piece as it hit my skin. My eyes open and on my chest there is a wreath of rosemary.
I remember the scent as a tear slips down my cheek.
My heart continues to race as the doorknob turns. I want to run, to change my fate but my feet are frozen to the ground. I stare straight ahead as a large man allows a sly grin to cross his face.
He says nothing but steps back for me to exit.
Surprisingly my feet move and I leave the chamber. As the door slams behind I am encased in darkness. At first its startling but then my eyes relax and I see the shapes all around me. Hundreds of figures fill the area. Their silence is forgotten for the sound of my heartbeat. As one they separate allowing me to walk through them. They wear long dark robes identical to mine. There is no break in the lines of bodies; it is as if they became a single organism. In the corner of my eye their heads seem to blend as my feet carry me across the room.
After what seems like forever I reach a stairwell. Two figures stand at its edge. My palms are sweating as they remove the robe I wear. I stand there in a pale white gown of silk with my head bowed. The man who removed me from the room stands behind me and places a rosemary wreath on my head. Again the scent moves me to tears. He does not follow me as I move upward.
Silently I begin the climb. The soft fabric sweeps along the stairs with every step. The stone walls seem to close in on me the higher I climb. I reach the top of the stairs to find a door. The dark chestnut wood reminds me of my home and I smile a little. I reach forward and touch it. Course veins of wood meet the soft skin of my fingers. The grooves remind me of my riverbank and my skin tingles from the connection to something familiar. The large trees that had brought me freedom and comfort as a child rest softly in the recess of my mind.
Daily I would climb quickly to the top and see the world below every chance I could. The gnarled door before me invoked feelings of home. Wood from the trees held me safely above the ground, we used it to keep the house warm and the walls sturdy. I had been taught of its importance.
This element of the earth reminds me that fear is not what controls me. I chose to break the rules. This is my fate. I was destined to make the choices that brought me here. Unexpectedly my heartbeat slows down and I feel the fear loosening its hold.
I straighten my shoulders and reach for the knob.
When it opens I hear the ocean and feel the salty breeze as it licks at my face. The wind seems to be pulling me over the threshold. I step across and the full force of the night hits me.
No longer am I at the river.
The darkness of the chamber no longer blinds me.
The moon shines along steep cliffs of deep blue rock. Swift wind greedily grabs my gown and wraps it around my body. It seems to be waiting; hungry for my soul. No longer can I hear my heartbeat. Though it beats hard against my ribs, it is the sound of crashing waves that fills my mind. I cannot see below but I hear the applause of the sea. The foamy water claps excitedly as I take another step. I feel the edge of the stone now. The ledge was only a few feet in length, long enough for me to understand that distance in all things is irrelevant.
I stare straight ahead knowing the final step is already determined. I see a spark of light fly across the midnight sky and everything stops.
A falling star.
I forget the elements and their demands. In that second I am rewinding the visions from earlier finding the one that is most important. I see it; that day at my riverbank. It is the morning the cycle began.
Hoof beats in the distance told me he was close. I remember the excitement, the anxiousness. We were to leave that day. The fog had been thick and he had been late. Fear of rejection had me thinking he would never arrive. My heart leaped as he stepped from behind our favorite tree. I ran to him. His arms wrapped around me tightly but only for a moment. It was long enough for me to feel the goodbye. I clung to him as he pulled me back and told me that love cannot conquer what I am. I began to shake as I tried to argue. I screamed his name while the tears flowed and he turned away from me.
Then I felt the weight of the limb in my hands as I swung at his back. I felt the blood trickle over my fingers as he lay in the water. I watched the sadness in his eyes as he slipped away forever.
My toes are curled on the edge of the stones. The rosemary wreath has begun to slip on my head. I put my hands out to the sides and look down at the ocean.
They told me that I was destined to change everything.
They told me that it was why I was born.
They told me that I would be the ultimate burden.
My feet feel the open air as I begin to fall.
The wind whips my hair yet I do not scream, I no longer fear the inevitable.
I simply fall, accepting that they were right....