The Stone by the Stream (Part 27)
The stone glowed before her in the dying evening light Before long the luminescent stone would become the brightest light around her. Pulsating through her body she felt the energy of the stone, the Goddess pervading Cynthia’s chest and arms, already making her struggle to remember herself. A sound — or was it a rumbling from the Earth? — penetrated her mind, so low in pitch that it was barely audible and so absolute in its presence that she could not deny it or think of anything else.
Thunder still rumbled in the distance, but seemed quaint by comparison.
The Naiad stood behind Cynthia, expressionless as ever, the creature’s hands folded in an almost comical gesture of devotion.
Come to me, Cynthia.
And how Cynthia wanted to obey! Standing mere steps away from the stone, feeling the energy of the Huntress charging her body with its warmth like the sun on a pleasant day, the yearning to commune with her grew more intense with every breath. The flowing of her blood, the twitching of her muscles, the very hairs on her head yearned for the Goddess. What senseless arrogance to go on being Cynthia, fighting against nature, obstinately remaining one human being and not the embodiment of All… and what a relief it would be to give up the intolerable burden of being herself and only herself — always only Cynthia, all her life!
But she stood fast. “I’m not ready. It will take years before I’m ready to meet you.”
You choose to listen to the urgings of the Temple above the call of your Goddess?
She was right! What had the Temple ever been but a source of confusion and torment to her? In all likelihood they’d killed Sofia, anyway, just making up the excuse about her jumping into the fire as a ploy to cover their guilt. And what had they done for her, other than get in the way of her meeting with the Goddess, over and over and over?
But even as these thoughts tore through her mind, a small voice within her whispered Run. It seemed not to come from herself, but from something higher, beyond. Something mysterious and unknown, perhaps unknowable. Cynthia tried to drive it from her mind, but it remained, just as quiet but just as insistent, whispering Run.
But why would she run? She tried to remember.
“This isn’t the time,” she said, wishing it would all stop. Why did this have to be happening right now? She wanted time to sit back and think. Time to rest. Time to reconsider everything, remember who she was, and make up her mind what she should do. If only there were more time, she felt sure she wouldn’t feel this terrible movement pulling her both forward and back.
Come to me, Cynthia. Come to me now.
She remembered telling herself that if she joined with the Goddess now, she wouldn’t be Cynthia anymore. Struggling in the folds of her memory, she tried to recall why it would be a bad thing for her to stop being Cynthia. It ought to be obvious, shouldn’t it? And yet the question wandered through “her” consciousness, failing to find a reason that made sense.
But still that small voice, whispering Run.
“Why did you have the Temple build the dam?” Cynthia asked, to buy time.
I’m losing patience, Cynthia.
The enormous Naiad stirred behind her. Poised with its hands by its sides, the creature made no overt threatening movement, but simply reminded her of its presence.
In the darkness that followed the sunset, flowing streams of light appeared — rose, white, and orange, engulfing the clearing in a warm glow that seemed both to issue from the stone and flow into it, tracing both movements all at once. The light flowed between the branches of every tree, around every curve and crevice of Cynthia’s body, filling the space between Cynthia and the Naiad. Intensely bright like a sudden torch in a darkened room, it should have dazzled her. But it didn’t. The flowing light soothed in its glow, lulling her in its pleasant heat.
“What’s the rush, really?” Cynthia said, mentally pushing downward the trancelike effect of the light. “Time is nothing to you. Surely you can tell me a little about why you’re so interested in building dams.”
All will be revealed. Once you join me.
A gentle tug, coming from no visible source, drew Cynthia toward the stone. With only the lightest force, hardly stronger than a slight breeze behind her back. Yet not a breeze, as she could distinctly feel the energy pulling her from ahead. Something in the lightness of the tug, however, promised it could become much stronger if the Goddess deemed it necessary.
From down the path leading to the Temple, Cynthia made out a clownish whistling. Faintly at first, but growing stronger.
“… Sofia?” Cynthia whispered.