The Light of Our World

Malee struck a match and held the flame beneath the soaked twine until the fire danced along the ring. The sides of the simple box lantern glowed revealing the markings written on each side. Each side held a name and each name held a lifetime of memories. For each of them were a part of her.

Preeda had died when they were young. All Malee could remember of her oldest and favorite sister was a joyful smile. Every memory contained those perfectly white teeth smiling. The thought of them spread warmth throughout Malee’s now weathered features. She found her smile again, but it was never as big as Preeda’s.

Sunan was the was the name of her child who had never seen sunlight. He was her second son. He passed away, softly, in another hospital room while Malee sat in her own and listened to doctors tell her she would never have another child.

Arthit, her first-born, passed away in a truck accident while returning home from work late one night. Malee had been on her way to visit him in America and meet her future daughter-in-law. Instead of a wedding, she spent the two weeks arranging his funeral. She had not seen Arthit in two years.

Somchai was with her as they buried both of their sons. He gave her strength enough to endure that heartbreak while he endured the loss of his sons alone. God tested her when Somchai died. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Malee lifted the lantern and let it slowly drift into the sky joining the thousands of others that bore the memories of the living. Bright stars against the night. She knew that, as the lanterns crossed beyond her world, her family would find their names and know that she was okay.

A Place To Call Home

Mark made the decision the day after his wife’s funeral. Within two weeks, he had sold the house and everything in it. His friends called a few times. A few even stopped by, but Mark was always out. They only discovered he no longer lived there when the new owners arrived a few weeks later.

Home had been whenever he was with Emma, so giving up the house was easy. Leaving his friends was a different matter. He debated for some time whether or not to let them convince him to stay, but he knew that whatever time he spent with them now would be overshadowed by the loss of Emma. They had all loved her too.

He wouldn’t trouble his children by becoming a dependent in their home. They were all grown and busy building their own families. The closest lived halfway across the country anyhow. He would still visit them from time to time.

This wasn’t some grand gesture, or him losing his mind to grief, though many might see it that way. He briefly troubled himself about how to break it to his friends, but realized that he didn’t have to. They each knew him well enough to know what he was doing. He was making this journey to discover not just new places but new versions of himself. He was no longer a married man. At least, not in this mortal plane.

The Mark who lived happily for 46 years, who created a family with two boys and three girls, and who worked 38 years for the same company was buried with his wife outside St. Paul, Nebraska. The Mark currently flying over the Pacific was someone new. He had no obligations to anyone or anything. He was just searching for his place in the world.

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone

I was certain it was a dream. Everything was blocky, monochromatic, and nothing seemed in focus. I entered a cave to find carefully stacked pixels forming the vague image of an old man. He gifted me a sword and offered no instruction, but I knew what I had to do. I scoured the world, defeated monsters, and eventually achieved my fate. She was safe, which meant I could rest.

I believed I would wake to familiar surroundings, but I was wrong. Instead I woke to a woman’s voice calling for help. My body was slightly recognizable, the landscapes more defined, but again I was tasked with a heavy burden. Weeks passed without rest until I completed my task. I had saved a kingdom, and my reward was another nightmare.

My eyes opened to the insistent nagging of a fairy who had found her way into my home. She bid me to follow her where I learned once again I was fated to save a world in danger. Something in me wanted to forego this responsibility, but my nature prevailed.

My travels revealed my fate to be the eternal struggle between three forces. The evil strength of a monster, the wisdom of a goddess, and myself. Each part woven together into the fabric of destiny. My eyes opened time and time again to complete a task that tested the limits of my strength. I would never know peace.

Through each resurrection I realized I was not alone. She was always with me. The goddess who took up arms beside me to battle the demon. I do not know how many lives I have lived, nor which memories are real, but knowing I will always find her when I wake up is enough. For her, I will never stop fighting.

Former Strangers

The rattling faded away into nothing as Gerard finished his third drink. He’d never been fond of traveling, but he found the train entirely tolerable with a tumbler of whiskey. It helped him relax and let his worries fade away as well.

Gerard preferred to travel in solitude. He’d found an empty cabin and pulled out a book to distract him further. The luxury of his loneliness was lost when a woman entered his cabin. He was miffed she hadn’t asked his permission but didn’t want to invite conversation so remained silent. He stole glances from behind his book. She paid no attention to him and he began to resent silence.

“Who are you?” he finally asked, putting his book down.

She smiled. For better or worse, Gerard found himself smiling back. Silence was no longer an option, and he was surprised to find he preferred it that way.

Phantom Queen

Three young women stood watching the sea. Footsteps too far to hear alerted them of a man approaching. Their wait was at an end. They all turned in unison and walked toward the small cottage they would call home for today. Two of the women turned toward the third and merged with her, disappearing like ghosts into the earth. The lone woman kept walking toward the cottage. Each step she took aged her until she was grey and slow. Hours passed before the young man came into view.

“Hello Madame,” he called as he approached, his leather armor defining his muscles more than hiding them. A long spear lay strapped across his back. The smile on his face dispelled any intimidation his figure would have normally held.

She stopped milking her cow and turned toward him in crafted surprise. This was the first time he had recognized her after many attempts to capture his attention. “Oh, hello young man. You must be weary to have come all this way. Please, have some bainne. There is too much for just me.”

He approached and graciously accepted the offer. He drank three full glasses of the fresh milk.

“Thank you for your kindness. This will help my strength in future battles.”

“You shall be the strongest warrior,” she said knowing the truth of her words.

“Alas, I cannot stay to enjoy a proper exchanging of words. Please accept my deepest apologies.” He bowed to her.

“No need for such formalities. Young men are naturally making use of their constant vigor, as they should before age strips it of them.”

The young warrior continued his path and the old woman watched him go until he was lost to the horizon. Then her body burst into a murder of crows scattering across the sky.