Seeds of Edah bloomed upon the night sky, and the darkness heeded them not. It heaped itself in cloud upon the sea. Black spouts erupted there. And in one great step, in a boom of silence, it crossed, stirring the curse between the shores-that-will-be.
A cry went out from the island’s heights. And through the fume, Im made toward it. Trees bent upon the wind, and the stones gushed. And when he arrived at the high ledge, he found Mem and Dim, and there beside them was a spirit. The groan of its ethene message prattled upon the winds and stuck Im to the spot.1
Ghah called his children and now dispatched a ferry to gather them, and the siblings had not escaped notice.2
And then the storm relented, and the spirit departed. The crosswind scuttled by, and the trees dug their roots into the ground. Mem returned to the ledge. Dim passed Im to enter the road. And Im returned to the shore.
Edah’s seeds yet shone. And exiting where the harbor and the village met, and where the fishing boats and the sailing ship yet pulled upon their moorings, Im crossed the sand to the surf. The paths of the east lay broken from Eth’s violence. All other shores wore the colorless garb of pathlessness.3 And Im’s scowl lingered upon them.
Shallows scurried among the rocks, and as Im entered them, the cursedness of the sea met the cold cursedness within him. It fingered up his waist and then his chest. And as he groped, the eastern sky looked upon him, and the sea awoke in earnest. And then the shores-that-will-be dimmed until there was only the sea, and it filled all his veins. And as darkness mastered him and all the world went still, Im, himself, stilled. But then within the dark was a hand, and it touched upon his, and he took it. And flying from the cold, morning clothed him again.
Mem stood above him, wet and angry. And she motioned no. And she turned toward the upward path.
And Im spoke. “Edah’s silence will condemn us.”
Mem continue walking.
“We cannot escape Eth, and into our repentance, without him.”
Morning warmed the beach. And upon the harbor, movement signaled the labor of the island’s people, whose village huddled against the harbor wall. And Im glanced upon the sailing ship, and he considered it.
And as he walked the stone pier, the lower frames of several of those persons manned the fishing boats and the little rooms along the harbor wall. Those several whom Im passed glanced with interest. And the ship yet dozed upon its mooring. And after a time, Im removed himself toward the high ledge and into the silence of his thought.
In the following months, the winds gave way to a steady supply of snow. Dim spent much of his time at the door upon the dais. Mem spent her time among the high places, watching the uthean meeting of sky and sea.4 Im, however, looked upon the harbor.
Ever the ship lay moored there, and few ever walked its grey deck. But those few times his attention laxed, Im found Mem’s eyes upon him.
And upon a dim evening, when the snows had melted and spring again moved, and when the greys and blues of the night sharpened the yawning world, Mem brightened Im’s door, and Dim was at her shoulder. She dressed upon her black-look a smile.
Im stilled. “Has come Eth’s ferry?”5
As Dim entered, Mem stopped at the doorway. “Edah has spoken to me.”
Im’s eyes moved from Dim to Mem. “Then be not still, sister. What said he? Calls he to the shores-that-will-be?”
“He calls only me. But commands he my silence as well.”
“To where? And how will you go? Renounces he the curse?”
Her black look and her smile battled upon the field of her breath. And as the black look succeeded, she left.
Silence made its home among them as the season awoke. The island’s people set aside their coats for gardening tools, and Im remained near the harbor.
Fisherman manned fishing boats to clothe the bay in nets. Children hunted the shore for shells. In silence they labored, and in silence Im observed. And ever still the sailing ship waited upon the surf. And upon a darker day, when clouds crowded the coast and the workers stowed their work, and when the memory of the east cast the sea in cold iron, Im crossed the ship’s gangplank.
It bore his weight with a spring. And upon finding the helm and the horizon, several grey eyes now glanced Im’s way. Indeed, the wind-blown forms of a crew stepped out from whatever cracks Edah had stowed them.
In their silence waited a question. And there, through the sea’s broken paths, lay the-shores-that-will-be. The evening sky loosed its glistening pickets. And Im named the vessel Eledah.6
Then came Mem’s voice. “The shores-that-will-be shall bear no craft.”
Im turned upon her. “Still withholds Edah your voice?” And at her silence, Im turned back to the sea. “Upon such craft Eth, himself, departed for mastery, but not of Eth are we. I depart for repentance. Too long has silence endured us here.”
“And how will you find your way? Or have you devised seacraft as well?”
“Am I not hle? It will serve me. Else reveal that which you hide, if it will keep me.”
And upon glancing back, Im found that Mem had already reached the stair.
The Eledah departed the harbor. Spray foamed upon its flanks, and the wind blew. And thus, at Im’s word, the ship and its crew entered the curse that is between all things, toward the-shores-that-will-be.
No ethene summoner lay behind when they had passed into the east’s matted paths. But at a high place upon the island appeared a white spark. It was Mem, and above her waited the evening and the stars, both blue and gold. And then, as the night bloomed in full, the vision departed, and Im etched their memory upon the Eledah.
Morning followed, and so it went. Ever the Eledah found cloud, star, and water. So upon a distant and unclouded evening, upon the tumbling skin of that blue, brine beast, Im returned the Eledah toward the lights of his etching. When morning buried the night, they put the ship to sleep. And when the night returned and the etching reflected the sky, they sailed. But just as in their egress, so now the sea withheld its ends, so that many more nights passed without shore.
But upon one battlefield sea, when the stars tuned their notes over the orange and pink that yet heaped upon the horizon, the sea let loose a black wing. Some unfathomable phantom traversed the sky alongside them, some leviathan silhouette, and the stars threw no reflection upon it. In its presence floated a flowered whisper, and Im stretched there his perception. But dawn arrived, and the sea tucked the whisper and the line under sheets of deepest green.
Darkness puffed its speckled breath. And Im forsook the sky and steered them toward the line. But night dove into morning, and still they neared it not. Two more nights followed. And on the fourth night, Im spooled himself with a hempen line, fastened it to a rail, and leapt into the sea.
The cold received him, and on toward the line he swam. And when the Eledah’s deck-lamps mingled with the night, the darkness yawned below him. No sand touched his feet. No arm draped his collar. And upon those cold and forceful lips, he stopped.
But the Eledah, who yet peered after him, moved farther still. A current had taken hold of him. Its infinite arm now held him, and the ship dipped from view. On and downward the current pulled, and downward still, until Im crossed a heavy hinge. A gap gaped before him, a thundering marriage of gravity and space where the waters broke into sheets, and the sky rested upon it. But the rope upon Im’s waist caught, and he plunged not far.
And with the sea upon his back, with the Eledah’s leash upon him, and with the darkness laid out before, the night unlidded. The stars had neared, and in their nearness, they had taken shape. They were hle. Below them slept a twilight mass and a shore. And the sea, despite its violence, could not reach it.
A yank upon Im’s waist signaled the hands of the crew. And he withdrew, back toward the ship and back into pathless obscurity. And as the dawn arose again, Im dripped his failure upon the ship’s boards, and he shouted against the guarded sky and against the shore and against the sea that preached not kindness. It lay still before him—beaten flat, perhaps, by unkind feet—and the enshadowed horizon smiled, and the stars yet shone.
But morning had bloodied the waters. A sting caught at Im’s throat. And near at hand, water sounded upon rock. Indeed, many rocks waited near. Great stones leaned above the Eledah, lining the sea like the severed spines of dead giants. Whitecaps smashed upon them and around them on their way to a shore. And there, hiding in cloud and shadow, loomed a porous mass, a craggle tangle of magmaic vomit, a land and, perhaps, an answer.
But Im turned from it, looking instead upon the western expanse, and again looking upon his etching and the sky. The sky-sailing hle burned through the cloud as linen. But Im found not the pattern of his etching. Indeed, they stayed no longer still. One company exhanged place with another, across the sky and back. One hle exchanged with another his perch. One eye blinked, and another opened. One door, one voice—all now passed, so that Im’s etching lay dead on the rail.
So Im turned instead to the sea and to that battlefield flattening that surrounded the island’s victorious slouch. A single, wide way led through the pathlessness. And into this he now steered them.
The sea yawned a great yawn, the wind blew high, and the sails of the Eledah stretched tight. The clouds ebbed away, and the water swished under the prow as the Eledah tossed them onward. And feeling the snipping wetness upon his skin and the weight of the flesh of his frame, Im let loose the helm, and he laid upon the deck. The grey boards pressed hard and real against him. And spying still those hle of the firmament, he closed his eyes. And the morning warmed his face, and the wind and the slithering sea lead him onward into the routes of his red thought.
At their slowing, Im arose. Afternoon had arrived, and several crewmen now peered upon him, drawing his attention toward their bow. And there among shoals lay the stone and sand of the shore-that-had-been. And Im breathed. Vegetation scented the air. Warm rain wandered the distance. And the creak of the ship, and the stretching of the rope, and the heat of the day, and the crash of the whitecapping waves all fell dead upon the question that now lay before them.
And when they reached the dock, Im leapt from board to stone, glancing not at the crew or at those who greeted them. Up the bony steps, toward the high ledge he ran. And the trees and the brush whipped up, and the mid-day birds took flight at the violence of his passing.
He arrived at the place and called out, but no one answered. Each of the brethren’s dwellings lay still but for the wind that wandered among them. And exiting Mem’s abode, Im called out again, emptying the branches of any remaining birds. And as he stood upon the ledge and listened, the trees danced, sand from sea-breezes dropped like diamonds, and a cloud spotted the blue.
At the stone door of Edah’s final word, Im let loose the gold and amber from the branches, and the light twittered among them. Empty remained the terrace, the dais, and the door. And as Im poured himself into that emptiness, an ethene air crossed him. Darkness fell upon his sight. And he turned east, shaking the sand and stone beneath his pace. He reached the crossroads and then the stair, and he descended.
But he stopped. There was a cave, and near to it reclined Dim.
“Where is Mem?”
Dim observed Im’s demeanor, and the silence of Im’s mood and of their brotherhood enjoined them. But Dim tossed his fruit into the undergrowth, stood, and joined Im on the stairway, brushing past him to lead east and down.
Im weighted every step upon Dim’s damming amble. And as they crossed the line of evergreens near the bottom of the slope, where the view opened upon the harbor and the little fishing boats, Im saw upon the deck of the Eledah Mem. And he rounded Dim and crashed down the steps toward the dock.
And after several barren moments, Im spoke. “Edah closes his hand upon us. Do not go.”
“Again he has spoken.” Mem intook, and her face darkened. “We have desired your return.”
But Im frowned still. “He speaks not to me. Perhaps you hear a sea spirit.”
And Mem motioned no.
The Eledah sighed upon the muted waves of the harbor, and Dim’s dusty steps signaled his presence.
And Mem continued. “Are we not all brethren? And have I not love for you? Dim, you know not my errand, but do you contest it?”
Dim motioned no. “I do not.”
And Im spoke again. “Then let us join you in counsel. Together let us find Edah’s voice, and in surety.”
But all Mem’s light had gone. And she turned to the ship, and the crew set to work, putting off their fresh harborage. And as the light upon the Eledah diminished, and as Mem’s glistening form and her blowing hair disappeared among the eastern swath, Im looked to his brother. But Dim had already left.
Below the high ledge swayed evergreens, and below still lay the sea. It advanced upon the shore in irregular rank as Im waited. And then the night came, and the sea fell under its weight.
And Im spoke. “We have but waited upon your doorstep. But if you will hear it, now I knock.”
The wind moved, and the sea crawled ever upon the shore. And Im sat upon the ledge and waited.
As the stars ended their second watch, rain pattered outside Mem’s cottage. It did little to stifle the silence. And Im exited the home and followed the path from the high ledge.
At the top of the stair, a flat space had been carved from the trees, and a low wall guarded the downward slope and the view of the sea. But the clouds had yielded, and the dying light now shown crimson against the island’s only peak, who watched over the treeline, upon the hills’ golden shoulders. But Im lingered not, instead taking the shaded western path toward Dim.
Needles and crispy bark scented the orange and tan of the stones. An embellished staircase led to a pedestal, above the pavillion and the dais on which the door had been set. Leaves clattered in the wind, and yellow light scattered itself among the stones and the shadows and the greenery of the wood. The stone door yet remained empty, and the sea and its massive candor hid behind the twinkling canopy.
No epiphany waited there, nor did Dim. And Im frowned, and he left the dais, back toward the crossroads, until he again passed the stair-lined evergreens and looked upon the sea.
And indeed, the Eledah approached. As it slipped through the shallow whitecaps, daylight splashed over it and among the stony outcropping of its onward rushing. And there stood Dim upon the harbor. The ship docked, and Dim boarded, and he disappeared below deck.
Im moved along the sand and stone of the dock. He stopped at the gangplank. Footsteps sounded from the bulkhead stair, and Dim came into view. And as he crossed the plank and passed by Im, the sea beat an empty rhythm upon the Eledah’s hull.
Dim departed as Im stepped upon the Eledah. No ethene rumor mounted the sea but only water and white cloud and sky. Gulls gossiped among the shallows, and the deck of the Eledah bobbed the world.
The muffle of timber received Im as he made his way below deck. And as he rounded the several runs in a thudding haunt, the empty beds, the empty stores, and the empty cabins told no story. Mem was not there. Even the ship’s crew remained absent.
By the time Im resurfaced, dusk had arrived. The island hushed as he passed up the steps, and the breezes wined of rain. The hills bent rocky and red before the crown of the island. And there against it, perched upon the mount’s high shoulder, shone the smooth skin of some golden structure. Upon its pinnacle, against the excited stars, appeared both a glow and a shadow, a light upon a hole. But as Im passed the crossroad pavilion, it fell below stone and leaf.
Metal sounded on metal as Im crossed the ledge and entered Dim’s abode. And among the many works that filled the space, Im found a pile to sit on.
The fire growled, the hammer rang, and water hissed. And between the sounds, Dim spoke. “Near you a second rebellion, brother?”
Im motioned no. “Not of Eth am I.”
“Then what darkens you?”
“Death has taken our sister. And I believe now that Edah and not madness has led her to it. Edah has spoken to you also, and you withhold it from me. Do you not?”
Dim still watched his work, though his hand and his hammer rested at his side. “Does silence speak so much to you?”
Im motioned yes.
And after a pause, Dim motioned the same. “Thus I believe as well.”
Dim worked his fire while Im spoke. “Edah commands your silence as well?”
“He has. And would you have me let loose of repentance?”
Im motioned no again. “I would have both Dim and Im repent.”
“Such is not my provision, brother.”
Im left his pile and turned toward the door.
“Where will you go?”
“Know I not.”
And Dim’s hammer sounded upon the table. “Then I will go with you.”
Footsteps signaled Dim’s following, and Im turned upon him. “Hound me not with your blessedness.”
“Mistake not silence for strength, brother. Comforts me your company.”
And together they left.
Matted dirt, the stones of the path, the clumped fortresses of grass—all laid still under their steps, and the hallways of the forest promised no echo beside them. They passed the crossroads, and Im set off through the trees, toward the crown of the island. Low limbs stroked him with leafy fingers. Animals hid in trees or shrubs or holes or else scurried toward quieter woods. And Dim followed behind.
The trees ended at a short escarpment. Bushes had found footholds along the rocks, and so did Im, and he climbed. At the top, the wind returned, diving from the ridge into the treetops below. And when Dim stepped upon the red stone beside him, Im walked on. They now crossed around the eastern shoulder of the mount, and Im spied there, upon its far neck and across many hills, the golden structure he had seen.
The evening diminished, and they slowed. And the mount shrugged and then fell at a mighty drop. Treetops swayed below, and farther up, to the west, through a final, huddled thicket, frowned a plated crag. Wide as the shoreline it seemed, and stars shined across its beaten skin, so that it yielded no onward way.
Im sat upon an incline. The stars shone upon the waters, and the sea and sky mixed into a dotted eternity.
And Dim came near. “If you seek the pinnacle tower, I can show you the way.” And at Im’s silence, Dim spoke again. “That now I speak, will you not listen?”
“Speak you not the water of my thirsting, brother.”
“Then follow, and let us speak not.”
Dim led down the escarpment up which they had come. They crossed under the star-draped canopy of the sleeping eastern forest. And the light yawned over the island as they found again the path and the harbor stair and then the cave where Im had found Dim before. Dim entered it, and Im followed.
Despite the darkness, the path was not uneasy. It had been paved and shaped as a byway, though not wide, and it crossed several other tunnels on its way. And so they went, until they reached an opening and a gully, which soon fell to one side and then under, as they crossed a mossy bridge. And then, around a final bend, the tower appeared. A little path bent up the hill and then stopped at an open door. And behind and beside the tower, the mount still clambered on. Around and up the tower spiraled a stair.
And Dim stopped. “Ever up it goes.”
“Lead you no further?”
“And no more have you to say?”
Dim motioned no. “But I will wait for you.”
The door led to a short, thin, wet stair, and Im went up. It exited behind the tower, where the mount had been carved out into a close courtyard, and then joined with the tower’s spiral stair. And as the stair took him to the tower’s other side, where the island clomped out into a cragged surf, onward Im climbed.
The utmost step joined the tower’s flat pinnacle. The sky and the cloud and the blue of the water and the emerald motion of the trees below swaddled the space. And on the other side, where the mount should have been—where indeed in some sense it continued—in a joining of places, a path had been set. Another world now laid out its palm, and upon it the starry hle shone nearer. And Im stepped from the pinnacle and toward the hle.
Starlight showed a footworn path. Sprites of gold and of purple chased the midnight shadows around the rocks and the dirt and the verdure that colored them. And as the slope deepened and Im climbed, the amber and ochre of the ground rubbed into his palms.
Then the hill crested, and the light hummed to orange and pink and then a flaring, sunrise peal. It spilt from its golden goblet a stinging warmth that washed away the shadows from the many cracks. And diverting behind the coolness of a rock, Im turned from the path.
Hle waited above him, burning not the darkness away but changing it, all the same. Only the haze of the sea and the choking distance between it and the hle’s high abode might suggest otherwise. Justice was their garment, and no weight or movement or distance could snuff it. And indeed, at this altitude, they watched Im from no farther than judgment.
And Im left the coolness of his rock and the openness under the sky and returned to the path, and with tears. And he scrambled along the stones, ever against the light and the heat, so that he made but little progress. And finally he stopped, and he laid his cheek upon the dirt, and the heat moved over him, and he breathed and turned an eye again upon the stars. And as he watched, one hle walked the sky as on a midnight beam. And when the amber ochre caught her foot, and she stepped near to him, she shone almost as bright as the light of the path, so that Im lay pinched between light and light—crisping between two fires.
She bent a quiet face toward him. “Attempt no further, dear Im, lest you perish.”
Im spoke into the dirt. “I know you not.”