Asiel tightened her arm around the large shell wrapped in the ragged silk. Widely, she spread the fingers of her free hand on the neck of her galloping tequin. She let the urgency she felt tingle through, feeling the powerful animal stretch its strides in response.
At the entrance to the cove, she stopped a little way from the guardian, dismounting from her snorting tequin, sending him love and gratitude before turning away. Mustering determination, Asiel approached the guardian. His ancient eyes appraised her.
Filling her voice with as much confidence as she could, Asiel spoke. “I persuaded the keeper to lend it to me,” and she pulled the silk away from the shell, opening it so its glossy inner coating shined with an ethereal quality in the moonlight. “I’m going back to heal the soul now.” She knew better than to expect any expression from the weathered face of the guardian, but still her chest filled with hope and fear for his judgement.
“You will not enter the cove of creation tonight,” he said in his deep, even voice. And Asiel felt her heart plummet so quickly that her hands loosened, and the shell slipped, landing with a thud in the dust at her feet. Asiel scooped it up hastily, wiping it off with the silk.
She tried to keep her own voice even. “If that were your decision, you wouldn’t have let me quest for the shell. You said if I returned with it, I could go back and heal my newest soul.”
“I sent you on the quest so I could look into the soul’s future,” the guardian replied. “The darkness that crept into it has bound itself there. Even with the shell, you can no longer extract it entirely. The race of beings that would spring from that soul would forever be infected. The violence they would unleash upon one another and the planet you’ve chosen for them with all its animal inhabitants, it would eventually destroy everything there.”
“But you weren’t with me! You didn’t foresee the divine possibilities for the soul,” Asiel argued. “Before the darkness snuck in, I could feel nearly infinite creativity from this potential. Its capabilities to love and to create and worship were greater than anything I’ve ever felt. The energy of that planet… the soul latched onto it with such… fervor, such enthusiasm. The possibilities for that soul were boundlessly bright. Someday those beings might even become capable and worthy of joining us here…”
“Never!” The small note of menace in the guardian’s voice hit Asiel as icy wind. “Believe me when I say,” the guardian continued, “it’s better, now, to let the light left in it be consumed and perish before such a race of creatures can even begin.”
“You must let me go back,” Asiel repeated. “Even if I can’t extract all the darkness, you have to believe me when I say this soul, this potential, it’s too great to let that happen. It can be healed enough to overcome.”
“Yes, this one can,” the guardian agreed. “The one you created, the one you know can, because it’s feminine. The power to overcome this type of darkness resides in the feminine incarnation. But you know that same power will only sometimes express itself in the masculine counterpart. Even if you can save her, she’ll carry in her womb her first masculine match, and whether she’ll pass that power to him or not will determine their future. If he possesses it, their race may express some of the potentials of which you speak. If he does not…”
“I know,” Asiel said. “I know by the time we find out, it’ll be too late for us to intervene.” Her eyes filled with tears of uncertainty and unquenchable love. Asiel continued, “But guardian, you have to let me try! This soul is too beautiful for me to just give up. If it doesn’t work… if this potential has to die… I… I want to be there for it. I want to help it pass out of the world just as I brought it in.”
Asiel could feel the guardian’s eyes staring. She fell to her knees and looked through the arching branches into the circle of dust. Everything comes from dust, she thought. Everything comes from the dust right here.
Memories of the sensations inside the cove washed over her. Even she had no words for what it felt like to enter there and construct a new type of being from just a flicker of soul and dust. Despite what the guardian had said, Asiel could still imagine some distant evolved iteration of this new soul’s offspring coming here in a far-flung future to do the same work she did. She had to get back to it now, to give that future a chance.
“You know what will happen to you.”
Asiel nodded. “If it doesn’t work, and I stay with the soul while the darkness consumes it, the evil will consume me too.” The guardian’s silence confirmed Asiel’s suspicions. “I have to try,” she repeated. “I have to try!”
Asiel felt her eyes forced to meet with the guardian’s. She gasped, unable to stop the tears from continuing to flood out of her eyes. She didn’t break the gaze between them though, a gaze that seemed to stretch on and on and even outside of time.
“Go,” the guardian said. Tears of gratitude joined on top of Asiel’s tears of fear and love for the little one awaiting her, light years away and just within the cove. She wrapped the ragged silk around the shell and plunged into the circle of dust.
About the Author: Cis/pan poet and author Juliet Lockwood (she/her) earned her first publishing credit at 18 with a poem in the The Magnetic Poetry Book of Poetry under her maiden name Juliet Bishop. Some of her other publications include short stories in Scarlet Leaf Review, Brown Bag Online and the feminine horror anthology Twisted (Lindsey Williams – 2016). She was also honored as one of eight finalists for the July, 2020 residency at Daisy Pettles Writer’s House. She holds a B.A. in English from Transylvania University and lives in southern Oregon (USA). Find more of her work at julietlockwood.com.