Truth is life.
Kazimir and I were in the water, and it was dark and deep, and silt billowed up before my eyes. Beneath me he had gotten as sleek and sinuous as an otter, though he still looked more like a dog, if a dog had glowing green stripes. His dim light illuminated the bottom of the river beneath us, stones shaped like faces looming suddenly out of the murk, glimpses of the silvered sides of fish as they turned to swim away. I saw the scalloped edges of freshwater mussels closing tightly as Kazimir passed over them. Suddenly before us gaped a mouth belonging to a monstrous catfish, larger than a man, whiskers like rope; it stared at us with pinprick eyes before thrashing away in a cloud of sand. Kazimir slipped through the murk like a curtain.
I had freed him while I listened to Gabi speaking to the other strigoi, the one I did not like at all, for the way he spoke to her, and then it had got quiet, and I had worried; and then we heard Zakhar and Pascha arrive. When I pulled free the last mirror shard near the bottom of the pit Kazimir had taken me and covered me with his hands, listening silently, and I found that I was unwilling to interrupt either. How strange and how sad it was to listen to them!
I could not have said what Kazimir might do, for though servitude seemed intolerable I was not sure if his loneliness was not more so. Would I myelf become the servant of Mother Forest’s golem again to be by Gabi’s side? It was difficult to think about, and I was quite sure that what I had experienced was much kinder than what Baba Yaga would put her servants through.
But it seemed that he had made his choice, though I had not gotten a chance to ask him. Even I could not speak underwater, and I had to put quite a bit of effort into making sure that none of me was drifting away with the silt. The bonds keeping my silver coin and my silver letters tied within me were growing perilously weak in the water. I hugged myself with my arms to try and hold myself together, but of course it did not help because all of me was made of the same clay.
I wondered where Kazimir was going, or whether he remembered that I was still with him: he only kept swimming further and further, kicking with feet that looked sometimes like paws and sometimes like hooves and sometimes like hands.
Something quite large and dark emerged from the gloom, but it was not a fish or rock. It was a rotted tree trunk, tilted yet still anchored to the ground, with branches covered in a swaying film of algae. Kazimir swam to it and climbed towards the surface, his claws or hooves or nails digging furrows into the soft wood and sending fragments and particles whirling away into the water.
We broke the surface, him now a black horse, me still hugging myself in the spot between his shoulders. I was not quite sure how I had stayed on him for all that, but my legs had seemed firmly stuck to his skin. Indeed, when he shook himself, spraying sheets of water in every direction, I was not dislodged.
I looked around and was surprised that I recognized the place. The river was fattened here, and it had flooded part of the forest, so that all around us the pale, barren tops of dead trees stuck up out of the water. Further on, where it got even shallower, there was a muddy swamp. I had been taken there by Noroc once to receive instructions from Mother Forest’s golem. We were in her territory.
Kazimir suddenly became a man, and I finally fell from his back. He caught me before I hit the water, and sat down on the tilted trunk with me in his lap.
“Thank you for freeing me,” he said, kicking the water’s still surface with one foot.
I sat down on his thigh, for he had bent his other leg to rest his foot on his knee. I was glad for the odd silken trousers he had conjured for himself, for they seemed to repel the water and mud that was currently leaking from me, rolling it down in droplets back towards the river. He was much too immaculate to make dirty.
“You are welcome,” I told him, though I wondered- I wondered how trapped he really had been. Perhaps he was not just referring to the mirrors, or perhaps I was getting ahead of myself. I did not know with him.
Kazimir tilted his head back towards the still-cloudy sky. I chanced a timid question.
“Do you know- do you know that we are in Mother Forest’s territory?”
He shrugged, as though it were so much more dirt he was rolling off his trousers.
I put a hand over my wrist and squeezed a little more water out while I thought about what to say next.
“Gabi can not follow us here. Or, well, I would not want her too, because Mother Forest has hurt her before.”
Now he looked down at me, pinning me with his lovely eyes.
“Is that not a good thing? She tried to kill you.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head very fast from side to side, “no, you see, that was not her, she was being-”
“She doesn’t care,” said Kazimir. “She said as much, she doesn’t care if you exist, she is only using you.”
Something plopped on the river’s surface, too fast for me to see, but I watched the spreading ripples as I remembered the stinging words: Only a golem.
“That is not true,” I said, “and I know it for certain. Even if it is not, I can still say that I want to be near her, because I have free will.”
“Ah,” said Kazimir, and a wistful smile passed across his face, “you are just like me, a fool.”
“I do not think that I am a fool- or that you are a fool!” I protested, but Kazimir was looking out across the water.
“I will return you to her safely soon. Don’t worry.”
“I- well, I do not mind spending time with you,” I said. “In fact I like it very much. You should stay with Gabi and I so that you are not lonely. I promise that she is actually not so bad…”
Kazimir shook his head. “No, I will leave you two and go out on my own. Perhaps if I make the Baba angry enough she will offer me a deal. She likes deals.” His lower lip trembled slightly, and he swallowed. “I do not know how long I shall last alone… without them, it is hard, do you understand? I… I fell like this water here, still and shapeless and cold. I hate being cold…”
I put one hand down on his thigh. It was very cool to the touch.
“I want to help them get free for you, Kazimir. Do you know how?”
He looked down at me.
“It is not like your strigoi, with her ribbon, our bondage. We are not toys, we are tools, and she guards us carefully. Maybe sometimes she lets us out to play, but she always reels us back in, winding spool onto a thread… To free us, you would have to undo the witch herself, I think. I don’t know how anyone could do that.”
“The Iele said-”
“Not them! They are all tricks and lies, Kezia, you should forget their words, because they always aim to torment.”
“But they said that a human could destroy Baba Yaga. Or… not destroy, but…”
“Baba Yaga eats humans,” said Kazimir. “Especially young girls, she chops them up and cooks them in her oven, and sometimes she spits out their bones and makes them a part of her fence.”
“Oh,” I said.
“I don’t want you trying to match wits with her,” Kazimir said, putting two fingers on the top of my head. “Even if you are made of clay. There are things beyond you.”
I found myself a little bit irritated by his solemn, world-weary tone, because after all he did not know about how I had helped Vasilisa! Did that not count as outwitting the witch? It did not matter, I could still resolve to find a way to help him on my own.
Kazimir did not seem to notice my annoyance, for he kept on talking.
“To be honest, the reason I sought you out wasn’t just because I was lonely, anyhow. I wanted to show you something… but I didn’t want to say so in front of the strigoi.”
“Show me what?” I could not imagine what Kazimir thought I might be interested in- was it good or bad? Was it living or dead or other? My mind sprawled with sudden exciting possibilities.
“It’s near this place,” he said, and picked me up and put me on his shoulder. “Hold on, I’ve got to swim a bit more.”
I grabbed for his neck, which was the only thing around I could hold on to since he was not wearing a shirt.
“Can we not walk along the bank?”
“It’ll take too long,” said Kazimir, and let himself fall face-first into the water.
I think that in any ordinary circumstance I would have been separated from him then, because I did not even have fur to cling to anymore, but again some force kept me clinging to his neck. It must have come from Kazimir himself.
He swam now, human-shaped, crawling through the water. His long limbs seemed gawky around me, but his movement was swift. We passed between more of the sunken trees, trailing their rotted algae streamers in the cold stillness. One brushed by me, running its slimy touch over my shoulders.
It might have been that awful brush, but I was beginning to get a bad feeling, not trepidation but a real bad feeling. There was no center to it or reason for it that I could imagine- it was only everywhere and bad. It only grew as Kazimir swam further, leaving the sunken forest behind and coming to a shallower part of the river, where it was so murky that his light penetrated no more than a few centimeters around us. When he finally broke the surface again, shaking his head from side to side, my feeling was so bad that I almost jumped off his shoulder and swam away.
“What’s the matter?” asked Kazimir, putting one hand up against me as I rocked to and fro. It was shallow enough for him to stand now, and he sloshed out onto a little flooded delta, where the water was only ankle-deep. His feet stirred up blackish mud, and with it, a foul stench.
“I do not know,” I said, for as quickly as it had come over me, the bad feeling was now receding. I was beginning to recognize the place where we were standing- yes, of course I knew it. I had followed Noroc here to meet with Mo- to meet with Mother Forest’s golem once. The place where I had been born was very close by. Maybe that was where my bad feeling had come from.
Kazimir rubbed the back of his head, as though he was going to say something, then shrugged and sloshed up to higher ground between some trees. When he put a hand on one to steady himself I got an eerie feeling, because once I had put my hand on that same tree while Noroc had sat in the branches. He had brushed a red ant off of my arm. Now that I thought about it, that might have been Gabi.
It was strange, but not bad, not the way that I had felt underwater.
I did wonder if we might meet the golem here, though, for this was one of the places she had frequented. Then again, perhaps I did not know as much about her as I had thought- well, obviously I did not. I had not even known she was a golem. I had only known her for a few short days for all that it seemed like a lifetime to me.
At least I could take some comfort in the fact that I was with Kazimir. I did not think even she could trap or harm him. Well, as long as he was not foolish enough to try and eat anything strange. But he would protect me.
…She had tried to get Gabi to destroy me, after all. This should have been what made me feel the worst, but for some reason I was not upset about it; the knowledge only sat coldly in my chest, like a lump of river mud.
“There it is,” said Kazimir, stopping short.
I came out of my thoughts, one hand on my chest, and looked out from his shoulder. We were still among the trees, though they grew sparsely here, and surrounded a little clearing with a swampy-smelling little meadow. The river curved around into it. I knew this place very intimately.
Beside the riverbank where I had been born stood a golem.
It was not Mother Forest’s golem, for she had been able to perfectly mimic a human form. (Though I had always known, from the beginning, that she was not human.) But this golem was uniformly reddish-brown, and only loosely human-shaped, if more so than some of the other ones that I had seen. It had five fingers, and even lumps that were probably toes. It had knees. It was standing perfectly still.
“Why did you want to show me this?” I whispered.
“Hm? You don’t recognize it?” asked Kazimir, and he took me from his shoulder and held me out to stand on his palm. I looked back at his face and saw some disappointment there. Maybe I had not reacted the way that he was hoping I would.
“Be careful,” I warned him. “It may be listening, or it might suddenly try to grab us-”
“No, no, it won’t move at all,” said Kazimir. “I found it weeks ago and it has stood like this the whole time. I thought- well, it was after you- well, I thought you were gone, so I tried to wake it up… But I have no blood.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. “Why did you want to wake it up? Do you know this golem?”
“Know it…” He looked down at me, his eyes very wide. “Kezia! Have a closer look at it!”
Maybe it was because we were back in this particular place, but I found myself getting irritated faster than normal. I could not let Kazimir sense that, though, with the was he was. I looked at the golem. It was ordinary… two eyes, a downturned mouth, no ears, no ankles, round belly… perhaps the only really notable thing about it was an etching on one arm, very faint and completely faded in places. It looked like leaves.
“Oh,” I said, and then, “no.”
“I was right, wasn’t I?” said Kazimir. “It’s your body, Kezia! Your old body! It got up, somehow, or somebody moved it- I went back to the satra, and there was only a small bit of red clay in the ashes. I don’t know how, but you’re here- and it’s here, too!”
“It can not be my body,” I argued, “because I have the- well, the things that run it are not there… and you said you found it weeks ago, and I have only been like this for…”
I trailed off, remembering what Gabi had said about time passing in Sorina’s house. And it was true, I had seen how the moon had changed shape. More time had passed than I realized, perhaps much more.
“I went to find your strigoi, to see if she could wake you up- I was certain it was you there, Kezia, somehow… But I couldn’t get her out of that house. And then, when I had given up, she came, and she had you…”
I tilted my head far back to see his expression: it was still wide-eyed, and maybe a little bit afraid.
“If you had stayed there a little bit longer, you would have known that I was not gone,” I told him, not meaning for it to sound like a reproach, but he shrank back. “I mean- I am sorry. Gabi did not destroy me, I was only… I do not know if hurt is the right word, but it was like that. It took me a little while to pull myself together after that. And this was as big a body as I had left…”
Or so I thought then… I returned my gaze to the silent shell that had once been me. The eyes- the hollow eyes were so eerie when I was outside looking in.
“Kezia,” said Kazimir, “do you think you could take it back? That is to say, have a big body again?”
“No, I could not, that was why I made this little one,” I said, and I did feel very certain about that: I remembered the feeling of struggling, in a great sagging pile of myself, to pick up every last bit that I still could. All that I was lay in two silver letters and a coin embedded in a bit of clay… and since that coin had replaced another letter, I was not quite so strong anymore. My body now was the result.
But of course, I had been forgetting something about my body, my old body, me, me and her. The thought fell over me like a shadow, and I did not know if it was a goodly or dreaful one: could it be that she was the one who had moved that body…?
I stared at my former self and got a very strange sense of longing. It was not just that I would have liked to feel bigger and stronger again. Though I would have liked it very much. No, it was- it was a kind of, of posessiveness, I think. Because it was my body. She had tried to claim it so many times but it was still mine. Could she have taken it? Could she? Because I- I did not like that at all. No, it was not hers.
“Put me down,” I said to Kazimir, “I want to go and touch it.”
Kazimir did not put me down, but he took a step closer to the shell, his eyes darting in the open space of the meadow, as though he was worried that there would be an ambush. But all that there was was a little bit of wind, moving the feathergrass under the gray near-dawn sky.
“So- can you get it back?” he asked, curling his thumb around me.
I remembered what had happened the last time I had touched another golem. If nothing else, I was certain that I could connect with what was driving this one… whatever it might be. But I was not certain of much else. I also remembered how strange and awful it had felt, like I might lose myself in the sweet, simple consciousness of that other being.
“Let me go and touch it,” I said.
Kazimir eyed me a moment, then slunk forward through the grass to stand right next to the shell. He could look it in the eye, but it was so much wider than him it almost made me want to laugh. I wished that Gabi were here, because she would have laughed, and she would have said something to me like, “You are so tiny, I want to keep you this way so I can put you in my pocket.” Or maybe, “Get big again, so you can carry me.”
I hoped that she was all right. I did not think that she would get into trouble with Baba Yaga just by standing nearby, but I was not completely certain, and also, I did not quite trust her not to make things worse for herself somehow.
But if I had a big body, it would be much easier to protect her, that was for certain. If I had a big body, many things would be easier than they were now.
I gripped Kazimir’s thumb, and he swallowed. I was not sure why he seemed nervous, but maybe he was picking it up from me.
He held me out anyways, extending his hand towards the empty golem. It was standing in a neutral pose, arms slightly out from its body, and Kazimir held me near the five-fingered hand, as though he were going to try to shake it. But he stopped just short. I had to reach out and close the distance myself.
I touched the clay hand that had once been mine.
“-you filthy- filthy-”
My consciousness was running like a river, now, and I could see it- the river, the dark water, the bubbles rising from my lips-
You’re back, you’re back, I was a fool, I needed you, Kezia, KEZIA-
“Jewess! You Jewess! The pork is poisoned, the water is poisoned, you’ve poisoned us-”
It was staggering towards me, a thing that resembled neither man nor woman, adult nor child, just a creature with human skin and weeping eyes and wounds with white branches poking out, hobbling towards me, spitting words.
“We let you stay here!” it screamed. “We let you stay here, beside us, the places where we slept, the places where we-”
I couldn’t hear the rest. Beside me, the roof of a house collapsed with a shuddering crunch, flames whirling up into sparks against the night sky. People were coughing, running to and fro, screaming. I knew these people. I knew that house.
It was my house.
The horrible broken creature kept hobbling towards me, whilst I stood paralyzed, until somebody grabbed my shoulder and made me gasp.
“Kezia!” He whirled me around, it was Elan, his face smudged and sooty, one eye swollen shut. “There you are! Ayla and Hadassah are waiting for us by the river, they’re safe, let’s hurry now-”
He didn’t seem to see the horrible thing that was still glaring at us, standing still amidst the chaos of what had once been my home street. They had come in the night. They had come in the night, but now I did not know who they even were, who was a firestarter and who was a victim amongst the frightened people running about, all filthy and scorched by the heat.
“Kezia, let’s go,” urged Elan, tugging on my arm, and I suddenly remembered why I had come out onto the street in the first place.
“He- he’s going to meet us there too,” stammered Elan.
“You’re lying, he wasn’t at home- I woke up and he wasn’t in his bed- where has he gone?!”
“I don’t know!” shouted Elan, as the fire collapsed our front wall with a triumphant roar. “I don’t know where he’s gone, but Kezia, we’ve got to get away from here now!”
“Not without Father!” I yanked out of his grip, and covered my ears- for the monster was still spitting insults at both of us-
“-filthy- abominations- greedy-”
-and I ran, ran barefoot, still in my nightgown, ran through the screaming hot hell that the Jewish quarter had become, a hell we didn’t even believe in- not until now- stumbling and sobbing, slipping on something warm and wet on the cobblestones, catching myself with one hand-
“Kezia!” Elan’s voice was faint, he must have been caught up by the crowd; for a moment I felt a terrible jolt of fear- what if I never saw him again? What if he was killed trying to look for me?
No, no, they had only lit the houses on fire, nobody was being killed, everyone had- everyone had made it out, it was a warning, a bad one, but it was not-
Not a golden coin over a well-
No, no, Elan- Elan is- Elan is-
Elan is still alive! Still alive!
My brother is still alive!
With a kind of shock I remembered myself again, as Kezia the golem, Kezia who had never lived those memories. I felt her there, too, reeling back, even though we two were as close as two beings could be.
I had thought she was gone, vanished when Gabi pulled out my silver letter.
Not gone. No. Only left behind…
Left behind in my shell.
I don’t know how, but I was able to move… I took the silver letter you left behind… I dragged myself here, to the river…
I sensed a kind of muddle of confused memories, like fragments: immense effort, struggling, crushing grass, Kazimir’s face peering into mine.
When you left me, I only managed to realize… I am incomplete. I am… I am…
You are complete, I thought. You have a name, memories-
I am nothing BUT memories! She flared, a spike of hot anger in the dark space we shared. I thought my mind was stronger, more complete- but I was wrong, without you I felt myself fall to pieces, memories, memories, over and over, nothing new, Kezia- I am truly dead, aren’t I? I have no present without your help, no future, only my past.
But you made it here by yourself…
No. I failed. My body was almost within reach, and I failed, got lost in that memory.
That memory. I knew where it led.
I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to see it…
No, I thought, no. Kezia, Elan is really still alive.
I felt this ripple through her in a series of little shocks and sparks, and felt her somehow probe me with a sense of hunger I had never felt before. She was looking for Elan… I imagined him as I had seen him.
Anguish, horrid anguish- I was blindsided by it, and for a moment felt it as my own- he was so old! How had- was it truly Elan? When had he gotten so old?
I pulled away from her, tried to let the explanation reach her- time had passed. Time had passed since her death.
My twin, Kezia… my twin brother… we should have aged just the same. Oh, God… I wish you hadn’t shown me.
I am sorry.
Don’t be sorry. Don’t be. I… My sisters, my father?
I could only answer her with silence. I did not know, but I could imagine from Noroc’s words.
God! I am dead too, why haven’t I met them again? Why am I alone? Why?
Her emotions rolled over me, and I felt like I was back in the water, struggling to hold the pieces of myself together. I had thought that the knowledge of Elan’s survival would make her happy, but I was wrong, very wrong. She was a ghost and any knowledge of the living would tear at her… now I understood.
It is good that he still lives.
But it was a reminder that Kezia was forever gone. And I understood, now, why Elan had reacted as he did when I told him that I had met his sister’s ghost.
He was always soft-hearted.
He’d just begun to harden, the last I knew him. He’d just started trying to emulate our father, to turn his cheek to things that would have brought tears to his eyes before. He was trying to be a man.
He was trying to be a man that night, when he sent our older sisters to the river and went looking for me… when he decided not to look for our father.
Ah, the choice, wretched choice, Elan, we each had to make it…
I’m sorry, she said, suddenly pulling back; and again we were separate beings. That memory… I can’t help it. It keeps coming back. My body is very near here…
It is all right. Do not struggle with it. Kezia, if you let me, I will help you to find your body.
I had no real reason to give her, only that it seemed right. Maybe if she saw it again, the spirit could unite with the body once more…
Don’t be a fool. I know I thought it before, but I was a fool then too. My body… what will be left of it? I- I don’t want to see it. No. I can’t. And you- I saw how you felt! You want to get rid of me, you want this clay body back for yourself!
I could not deny it, for I could keep no secrets from her. But I could feel awful about it. It was not as though I thought that she deserved-
Deserved! Maybe I did deserve it, maybe I did- you know who killed me, don’t you, Kezia?
I knew. I wished that I did not know. Just like she wished that she had not seen Elan so old.
It is the truth- the truth is life, and shunning it is death. They say that, but what does it mean to those who are already dead?
I was cold now, my bare feet slapping on the cobblestones. The fire was far behind me, and if I turned I would have been able to see it- a lovely red aura against the black sky. I could still go back to the river and my sisters and Elan. I barely even recognized where I was anymore. I never went to this part of the village, barely even ventured out of our quarter. I stumbled down an alleyway and over something soft. It screamed: a cat.
I backed away, nearly tripping over something else I hadn’t noticed in the shadows. It was also soft, but larger, and it did not move- something white was poking out of it, just visible…
I ran, my heart surging, feeling as though it would jump up my chest and out my throat at any moment. My father used to say that he could catch his heart with his teeth sometimes- where had he gone? On this night, of all nights? I knew that sometimes he left after we were all abed- I thought it was only to brood- but I hadn’t been able to find him. Not in the Jewish quarter.
My father, o my father, we had hardly spoken these last few weeks… not since the old woman had spat obscenities about me in the marketplace, laid my sins out for all to hear. After Ayla had confronted me, Elan comforted me, and it was like nothing had ever happened: no one spoke of it. Perhaps the gathering unease in the village was too distracting, for some sort of sickness was plaguing the goyim in the houses below our quarter- downhill, downwind- and as my father says, Jews must be quiet as mice in times like these. It seemed we had not been quiet enough, though.
The silence over myself- of my love for other women, damn it, I should not be afraid to think it after all I had done- the silence was a relief, and it was disturbing. I had no idea what my father thought of me. None.
And now who could even think of bringing up things like this- our home was afire! O, God, it had just struck me, and I stopped dead in the central square, eerily silent in the darkness. Would we… would we have to leave this place? No, surely not, this had to have satisfied them, they had to have come to their senses! They would see that this did not stop the sickness- not that I wished on them more sickness, of course, but if it stopped right after they burned our homes- God! It would be perfect evidence for them, wouldn’t it? Never mind that no Jew I’d ever known had even thought of harming the goyim, even of taking revenge for times like now- no!
BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG!
The sound of the church bell jarred me out of my reverie, and I clapped my hands over my ears, flinching. It split the silent darkness, and suddenly I became frightened again. Who was ringing it, at this time of night? And what would happen if they saw me, a Jew, standing in their part of the village right now?
I looked wildly around for sanctuary, and then flinched- there was the village well- but beyond it was the looming while wall of the church itself, the spire a high white point against the sky. Nobody would try to harm anybody inside a synagogue, and I thought it was the same for churches- wasn’t it?
I had never been inside a church, nor even close enough to touch one of the white walls, so I could not help but approach with trepidation: what did they do in there? Would there even be a place for me to hide?
There were two wide steps leading to the dark wooden doors, but this all seemed too imposing to me, especially all the little carvings of cherubs in the wood. I turned instead to a little side door, much humbler, and much more discreet.
I had nearly reached it when it opened, and a man stepped out. I knew him. It was my father.
I saw his face even in the dimness, and saw it pinched with a mix of rage and fear. He held something in his hands- a heavy satchel that clinked softly when he moved. He closed the door slowly and carefully behind himself, though I heard pounding footsteps echoing from somewhere within the church.
I was struck dumb by all of this, by the bewildering contradictions of the scene, and it was all I could do to untangle my heavy tongue and say, “Father?”
BONG! BONG! BONG! BO-
He whirled around, his mouth open, and swung the heavy satchel- it struck me and there was a great CRACK in my head, and it slammed against the church wall, and then I was on the ground, the church bells still ringing so that I did not hear the words my father’s mouth shaped as he stared down at me, and beyond his face, the white spire, and beyond that, the rising flames, and the bells- still ringing- and then-
I died then, whispered the voice of the ghost. I did not realize it. I was gone before he put my body in the river.
My father killed me… he was stealing from the church… did he know it was me when he struck? Or only after?
Both thoughts were horrid, so horrid, but how could he have struck knowing it was his own child-
I saw him doing a vile thing, a most wretched thing that we had always been accused of- I saw him being the Jew that the goyim spoke of, the wicked Jew. Why did he do it? I don’t know, I don’t know, maybe revenge, maybe simple greed- if a Jew should have any sin, it should never be greed, by God!
If he killed you because he was ashamed of what you saw…
Maybe not just what I saw, maybe because of what I was, he never spoke of it- maybe he was disgusted by my sin, maybe he saw the opportunity- what if I do meet him again, in death, and he tells me I deserved to die?
You did not deserve to die!
My father killed me…
Elan did not know! Your father never told him, he thought that you had been killed by someone throwing a rock.
A horrid well of sadness, a longing- my twin brother, my gentle Elan, made unrecognizable now by time. He had lived a life I would never know, because I had not been there with him.
No, Kezia, you could still speak to him… I swear to you, he is still your brother. You may come with me. I know where he is. Come with me, Kezia, and speak to your brother again!
With a grinding sound, suddenly my senses returned: I could hear the noise of the river, softly slopping against the muddy banks, and I could see the feathergrass waving at my feet. Not above my head, at my feet.
Someone was grasping my hand with fingers no warmer than my own.
By degrees, I slowly moved my head down. Kazimir was holding my hand. There was no sign of another little body in his fingers, but I did feel the silver in my palm- two silver letters, and a coin.
I squeezed his fingers back, and his face split with a relieved smile.
“Are you in there now, Kezia?”
“Yes,” I said. “I am whole again.”