Jay emerged from the darkness and stepped into the light.
Into a perfect sunlit day at the beach.
The waves roared and filled the air with the smell of water and fish and life.
It felt so good to breathe it all in.
There was no pain.
No Mark Caten.
I belong here.
A figure made entirely of pure light walked across the waves. It stopped half-way to Jay and waited.
“I belong with you.” Jay ran through the sand. “I’m coming! Wait for me!”
Storm clouds covered the sun, but the figure’s brightness did not diminish.
The figure did not disappear.
And Jay could hear voices in the air.
WHY ISN’T HE MOVING?
Jay stopped. “Isellta?” He glanced around. “Where are you?”
He’s still alive. He’s still breathing.
Please help him. please.
Jay looked back at the figure.
It didn’t speak or move.
It stood still, waiting for him.
“If I go back, will I be able to come back to you?”
Even though the figure was far away, its voice sounded like it was standing next to him. “I will it. But you make that choice, Jay.” Its voice was peace and joy and love.
Jay yearned to run to the figure.
Jay. Please. Don’t leave me alone here. I’m scared.
He knelt in the powder-fine white sand and bowed his head. “I don’t want to leave you, but Isellta.” His tears fell into the sand. “He needs me. If I leave him alone…But I don’t want to leave.”
The figure said nothing to sway him either way. It stood on the waves, patient and unmoving.
“It hurts. It hurts to think it. It hurts, but I want to go back. I need to go back.”
Another roll of thunder and lightning. And, inside the storm, a woman’s beautiful voice sang an unfamiliar song.
Jay glanced around.
The scenery shifted and wavered with every note, every word, slowly fading into non-existence. Soon, Jay and the figure stood alone in the light.
And Jay understood. “I’m dead, aren’t I?”
“You are very close.”
“Can I go back? Is it possible? Will you let me go back? I don’t want to, but…Isellta. I can’t leave him alone. He’s just a poor kid. He needs me.”
“Close your eyes, Jay. Listen to Preyuna’s song. Follow its pathways. It will lead you to Isellta.”
“Will I…will I be able to touch him again?”
“In time. But not yet.”
“Can I touch you?”
“When it is your time to die, yes. I will come to you and I will hold out my hands to you. Maybe you will take them. Maybe you will reject them. I will offer them to you nonetheless.”
“Why can’t I touch you now?”
“Because it will overwhelm you. You will die and only my voice will be able to call you back to life. Now. Close your eyes and listen.”
Jay looked at the figure for as long as he could as if to scorch its image on his brain.
He closed his eyes and listened to Preyuna’s song.
Isellta knelt beside the fallen guard. “I’m here, Jay. I don’t understand why or how I’m not being pushed away, but I’m right here.” He sniffled. “Jay. Please don’t leave me alone. I’m scared. I don’t want to be alone here. I need you.” He sniffled again. “I need you here with me, even if we can’t touch. Jay. Please open your eyes. Look at me. Talk to me.”
He laid his hand on Jay’s face, just as Preyuna finished her song.
The magic flared up and pushed Isellta and Jay apart.
“Jay?” Isellta stood.
Jay moaned again and flopped onto his back.
“Ah!” Isellta ran towards him. Only to be pushed backwards. “Jay!”
The guard sat up. It wasn’t a very smooth movement. He looked like he was going to topple over again. But that was a minor detail as far as Isellta was concerned.
He’s alive! That’s all that matters.
Isellta came as close as the magic would allow.
It wasn’t close enough.
A slow smile crossed his face. “Isellta.”
Preyuna stood. “Well. My part here is done. Isellta, when you’re finished talking with him, come to me.”
His feathers bristled out.
“I need to talk to you. And, unlike Mark Caten, I don’t intend to do anything more than talk.” She returned to her room and closed the door.
Jay sighed. “I’m sorry, kid. I’m sorry I let you down.”
“I did. She hurt you like that again.”
“It’s okay, Jay. She healed me.”
“It’s not okay, Isellta. No one should ever hurt you like that. Human, fey, dragon, I don’t care what. No one has the right to do that to you.”
“You don’t understand. It’s my fault for not—-”
“NO! Don’t go blaming yourself. She was in the wrong. Not you.”
“She was frustrated with me.”
“I don’t care.”
“She needed me to comfort her and I couldn’t do it.”
“You are a good, sweet kid. You deserve to be treated a whole lot better than that. There are no good reasons for her behavior.”
“What am I supposed to do, Jay? I can’t get close to anyone else.” His wings flattened. “Not even Robin. I don’t know what to do. If I push her away, I’ll be completely alone. I can’t…be like that. I want. I need to be touched. I need to be loved.”
“And she loves you?”
Isellta twisted his fingers. “I don’t know, but maybe she’ll learn to love me. These things do happen, don’t they?”
Jay took a step forward and the magic pushed him back. “Isellta.”
“Don’t worry about me, Jay. I’ll be fine.”
“You don’t love her.”
Isellta lowered his gaze. “Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe I could learn to love her too?” Even as he said it, he knew that it was impossible. He gave up and ran to Preyuna’s room.
He entered the room and closed the door.