Heart of the Sunrise Ch. 07byAdrian Leverkuhn©
The people from Leningrad were due to come for them in the morning, but their bags were already packed. The boys were on their backs now, in their crib, sated breast milk full on their lips, but Anna felt cool and restless even so, resigned to a fate of her own choosing but her heart full of regret that seemed to have taken her right to the edge of a vast, beckoning cliff. Her future was, she knew, in the abyss that lay before them all; her past was an unusable wreckage of skeletons shuffling by on their way to ovens that consumed devotion and vomited evil across a darkened sun. There had been nowhere to hide, really, nowhere to run, so she had turned inward to cling to the only real thing in her life – her love for Tomas.
What was Israel? An idea? Another godforsaken idea?
How many more ideas would there be to keep humans from the ultimate truth of their existence – that love was the only destiny worth living for? All the proof she needed of that truth lay beside her and she looked at her boys with wonder anew in her eyes. What future could she make for them if she denied the very truth of existence now, at the beginning of their lives?
She smiled at them, listened to their contented coos – her heart so full of love she thought it might burst – when she heard the sound again, the sound of chains in the forest. She did not know what to do – she felt at once calm and afraid – but for Anna Podgolskiv memory had not been an honest forge.
So she stood and walked to the window again, the window where she had stood so many times over the past two years looking at Tomas working in the field, her soul full of wonder at the life that was alive and growing in her belly... at the window where life and love had come back for her... yet she gasped when she looked out over the ragged grass of her life into the woods beyond.
The forest was alive with fireflies... millions of them! They all seemed to be drifting toward their house, floating on amber mists that as well seemed to be drawn to this place. Anna stepped back from the speckled glass and looked at the boys again, her racing heart now, full of reasoned fear. She stepped back, back closer to the crib, but even from here she could see the writhing mist pulsing closer to the house; she reached down and picked up both of the boys and held them close to her breast.
Light came and shone in the window, a vast, unnatural light, blue-white and fierce, and soon even the boys seemed aware something out of the ordinary was gathering around them all.
Lev seemed attentive, focused, almost interested, while Misha grew increasingly uneasy and fussy. Lev clung to his mother's dress while Misha tried to push himself from her grasp – but Anna clung to them ever more desperately, the fierceness of her grasp rising with each pulsing of the light. When she could stand it no more and panic was setting in she bolted for the door and ran from the house.
It was hard to see him at first, the old man from the forest, but she could just make him out there in the woods, walking towards the clearing and her house. The woods were alive with fireflies, an infinite sea of glowing orbs ebbing from the shelter of the forest and pooling around and on the house itself. It was an impossible scene, more impossible still as the old man seemed to be covered entirely in chain... heavy, rusted links covered with glistening blood, blood dripping with malevolent release and falling not to the ground but up into the sky.
His head was down, his pace steady, and as he grew near she could just make out parts of his face, then only the faintest sliver of the old man's eyes. There was no mistaking his direction, either: he was walking right toward her – no deviation, no hesitation.
Fireflies settled on her now, and on the boys, only they weren't flies. They were – light. Only light. She looked down at Lev and saw orbs floating in front of his eyes, saw the reflected light of millions of orbs dancing on the glassy surface of his eyes, and she saw the smile on his face, in his soul, and she relaxed.
The sound the chains made grew subdued, like they were sounds from a dream far away in time, and Anna Podgolskiv looked up, looked up into the old man's eyes, now only inches from her own, but she saw he wasn't looking at her.
He was looking first into Lev's eyes, then Misha's, looking as if there was a decision at hand, a decision to be made, but she saw weariness in the old man's eyes and knew the decision had been eons ago.
At length he put a hand on Lev's head, the other on her arm, and it was as if a circuit had been completed; as something irresistible flowed through her veins once again into Lev she sensed the completion of one journey and the beginning of another.
The old man regarded her for a moment then turned away, resumed walking but now toward the fallow field beyond the house. After a few steps he seemed to hesitate, then he stopped and turned, at finally he spoke to her. She saw infinite sadness in his eyes, and that sadness fell on her with savage fury – like a question that has no answer.
"He will not forget."
Then the old man smiled at her, a gentle smile, and he was gone.
The sun was down now, the forest a black wall in front of her, and she noticed it was now completely dark – the firefly orbs had vanished as suddenly and as quickly as the old man had, all but one.
This single orb hovered before her, before the boys, and slowly resolved in the air before them all. The form of a woman, translucent, milky white and shimmering, grew before them. Anna had never seen her before, and the woman seemed at once young and ancient. She stepped forward, and chain in her hands, and she held it before her cloudy form as if to hand it to them.
But only Lev responded.
He reached for the chain and held it in his tiny hands, regarded it with curious detachment for a moment and Anna watched as he turned it over in his hands.
The night grew hushed, and very dark now.
The woman was gone, indeed, there was only the simple darkness of night around them all now, the black wall of the forest seemed to have disappeared as well. Anna could feel the ground underneath her feet but suddenly she felt disoriented, it was as if she was floating in the sea. The stars had grown impossibly bright and she knew without thinking what lay ahead.
Light flared, she covered Misha's eyes, and soon they were awash in the light of ten billion suns.