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Abused like my hands, my voice will no longer come. I scream again but what emerges is not words. The sound is just a harsh syllable akin a strangled bird. I kick at the door one last time, my shins and toes beyond pain. My delicate shoes of fish scale and satin are demolished by the treatment I have put them through. Flakes of pale pink scales scattered across the floor catch the lantern light, looking like the alabaster tears of a sea goddess.
Frustrated tears sting my eyes. Wiping them away, the salt wounds the skin of my hands as the wooden door no longer can. The shock of new pain releases the sobs in my body and finally I fall to the floor unable to stop the heaving, heart wrenched tears.
Stubborn, I reach fingers out to the narrow crack at the bottom of the door. There is air there and light. Even this effort is futile, just like the first shout, the first hit. Every motion and thought has been useless since the Priestess in her green robes led me to this room on the ship, her hand a heavy weight on my shoulder. I cannot reach the light held back by the oak door. Instead I pull my bruised hand back to my chest.
When the Priestess had brought me here, I’d stopped and stared at the tiny bed in its cramped dark room. My first thought had been that there was not even a window so that I could see my beloved island of Tiero fade. The Priestess’s hand had left my shoulder then as we stood just inside the door. Suddenly free, I had turned ready to dart around her and run – run back to my mother, father, and sister. I knew they were waiting for me out there in the sun as I’d seen them in the plaza. That last time I’d seen them.
But the Priestess’s wide form had filled the doorway. Her pudgy face had looked down at me without love or hate, but empty and distant.
“Scream all you’d like. It’ll do you no good when you get to the Temple.”
Then she had turned and shut the door.
I cannot breathe around the tears. Choking in pain, overwhelmed by fright and exhaustion, my last conscious thought is a childish pang of jealousy. Would my parents now take my little sister to Tehra’s beach tomorrow, since they could not take me?
I awake with a start, my scream held back by a closed throat. The darkness and creak of the ship merges the past with the present. For a moment, I am nine again and on my way to the Temple for that first terrible time. I think I see the glitter of fish scales fallen from my slippers in the light by the door.
But I am not nine. I am beyond twenty. This is a woman’s body now, not a little girl’s. This memory made a dream has haunted me since the first time I was allowed to leave the Temple. It had been my first trip to a town as a young acolyte to look for others like me: those gifted with powers born by the blood. The reality pulls at me with quickening breath. I have become the nightmare from my dreams. In the dark of my berth, I turn over and cry.
Hours later, I stand on deck with the wind in my face. Dawn is a faint smudge on the horizon, stars still wheeling overhead. I like this time when the night crew are tired and leave me alone by the rail. The great sheet of the sail breathes overhead full of wind. Hands clasped against my forearms under the wide sleeves of my Priestess robe, I rub invisible scars from splinters embedded almost fifteen years ago.
Tomorrow’s dawn brings the solstice. I will look for another child like I had been and as I have been trained to do. One with the gifts of an Elemental. If I find one, I will bring he or she back with me. But not so cruelly, at least not until they arrive in Solaire.
But for this in-between time of Temple and town, night and day, this moment outside of being what I have become, I am free again. I feel the lunge of the boat, the tip of the bow and I yearn for it to take me elsewhere, anywhere. Though I stand still against the rail, my spirit is with the wave riders dancing in the spray.
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