[19 January 2008]-Those Who Escape the Labyrinth-[winsomemastix]
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27 / M / Clow Country
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Posted 1/19/08
Fis collapsed in a cloud of dust and tears. The hand clutched to his mouth stained yellow with the acids of his disgust and made wet with the salty tears of his sorrow. His hat had slid quietly off of his head, throwing powder off of the arid ground. Just beyond the hat was a spectacle not unique to the setting yet eternally new to Fis. The smell of rotting corpses and that of rotting people even more deceased permeated the dry air of the shadow-cast hall. The flickering light of tiny candles was just enough to see them, propped grotesquely against the flaking wall, some moaning deliriously; it was more than enough for Fis, though too small to cure the odor. In a heap not unlike the one before him, he wept for the living among dead and his own tortured existence. His tears glinted in the scant firelight before they turned to salt and vapor on his very cheeks.

How long had it been since he’d come to this black maze, this pitch labyrinth with more chambers than a Dark Heart? The cursed tangle of hallways and dark corridors wound through and around the Darkest of Hearts: the City of Suratrat. High above the city was the single wall, the ceiling, the sky, the dome that enclosed everything. A barrier, thin as paper, yet more opaque than the blackest coal. To all inside, the wall was the gate of heaven. The dry petals that fell at five centimeters per second assured them that there was hope. Like lucky leaves they fell with the flakes to the ground, landing on hands and knees next to the wall, waiting for even a glint of light from beyond. Sometimes eroded bits loosened by the toiling fingers of desperate hands would yield such a treasure. The resulting white light was more divine than the light of any candle, but no brighter. These tiny moments of holiness were enough to shame the whimpers of Tantalus, a benign torture to the hopeless.

Fis jerked as a cold, starving hand touched his shoulder, rousing him from his melancholy state. Yor, his sister, stared callously with her deep-set eyes at the wretched, inhuman sight before them. Though she was five years younger by birth, here she was ten his elder. Fis had found her within these doleful corridors, a success worthy of credit but of little reward. Though reunited, neither was whole. Freedom from solitude could not recover a broken mind. Fis gave a nervous chuckle and a sob. His quivering finger indicated a small form under the dim orange glow of a fallen wick. There lay the remains of a lungfish, a monument to everything they had seen and everything that had once been. “Look at it,” Fis moaned. “It’s so pathetic. Even with all of its effort, the height of its function, it could not survive these barren halls of false hope. I’m sure it waited patiently for the promise of water, just as we have…”

Yor stared blankly at the brittle bones of the creature. At long last she spoke, “We have received that promise more than once within the city. We are not comparable to this noble creature that died ever perseverant. Leave it be.” Fis gazed at his sister in disbelief. She spoke of the fish as if it were a fallen comrade, like it was the emblem of virtue. Perseverance of this kind was no virtue to Fis. He pitied these things. He pitied his sister who had begun to join them. Had she forgotten light, the outside? No. She had made it her God. To her there was nothing else. She cared for nothing but that light. No candles. No brief gaps in the walls. No Fis. In his mind he understood all of this, even his own insignificance to her. He could never accept it.

Suddenly, Fis awoke to find himself parallel to the tiled floors. A stream of blood trickled from his forehead. He grasped his fallen hat and stood, ignoring the blood that now stained his sleeve. He glanced around. He recalled faintly that he had been following Yor, deep in thought. He began to panic. He recalled all the traps he and his sibling had avoided together during their journey out of Suratrat. Luck had been on their side until now. Fis felt along the walls, blind and desperate. He could not afford to lose his sister. He couldn’t allow her to be alone again. He stopped. He slumped under the candle resting softly above his head, illuminating his white fisherman’s cap. Dejected, he came to a cold realization: she would continue without pause. She had no issue going alone. Her God awaited her, and He would not forgive her for faltering. What did she think of this as? A trial? Some kind of holy tax? His clenched hand knocked flakes from the wall. He knew how she was. How she had changed in the bleakest chambers of the labyrinth, in Suratrat. She would wander through the darkness, taking every obstacle willingly, trusting that her efforts would be rewarded. She was no different from that pathetic fish she admired so. Fis looked up toward where he imagined the center of the dome was. “Nothing but black… can we ever escape the chambers of this Dark Heart? It seems anything can happen here.” He craned his neck to see the candle above him. As he stared at its dim aura he felt his troubles seep away. It reassured him. He’d never noticed how wonderful these little beacons were, that they stood alone in darkness as the only constant source of guidance. These tiny aids were his only company now.

Fis reached out and lifted the candle from its resting place. Such a simple gesture would provide him light in the darkest stretches of the maze. Fis began to laugh. Despite the loss of his sister, he couldn’t help but be amused at how easy it was. All of the traps, the obstacles, the dead end hallways they had suffered could have been quelled by the smallest of things. Fis was beside himself with excitement. With confidence he rose from the dust, lifting the candle to his eyes. Darkness was scattered by the quivering flame he now held, and the path became clearer. Confidently he walked through the maze, finding the path far less tangled than he’d imagined. Warmth came to his face as he walked. His step quickened. The traps that had once been hazardous became no more threatening than a simple stumbling block. It wasn’t long before he reached the largest of chambers, lit by candles everywhere. He smiled. Across the room he recognized the edge of the dome once more, but this time the air smelled not of corpses, but of grass. A soft breeze murmured past his ears, carrying the scent of the sea. He surveyed the walls and noticed an inscription:

“Here lies the source of our utopian city, who, by his suffering, allowed us to live a fantasy for many years. Let the farthest point of his escape mark the end of our dream, and the edge of a far greater happiness. Our city has fallen to a choice. We were forced by conviction to join those who walked away from it, so long ago.”

He looked below the text and saw the skeleton of a boy no older than fifteen. “I see,” Fis sighed. “You were their candle, because they could not find their own.” He sat down next to the boy and waited. He felt comfortable next to this long-passed child; one who, despite the most terrible of fates, saw fit to escape it. Yor would soon come through that passage, and they would leave through this final gate together. With this in mind, Fis slept with a soft, reticent smile.

Fis awoke to a sudden weight on his chest. Confused, he sat up with a jolt. A ghastly thud next to him quickly brought his eyes to the floor. He stared in horror at what lay at his feet. As his shirt grew damp and warm with crimson spots, bits of hair clinging to his jacket, he began to quiver. “What has happened to you? Yor!? What have I waited for?” He cradled his sister in his arms and let his head go lame. Her eyes were swollen and bruised, her body riddled with cuts and on her left hand there was nothing one could call a finger. She had lost everything to get here. He began to sob, “It was so simple. Even with your small body, you could have grasped happiness to sustain you. Why put yourself through agony for happiness? Why?”

She looked up at him and closed her eyes apologetically, “It seems I’ve already found my peony bush. I rejected the small and it was there, always in front of me. Even now, it sits in the way of my happiness, that shrub. Those little candles, I see them now. The light no longer drowns them out.”

Fis laughed as he had before, his smile displaying a happiness twice betrayed by water, “It’s a bit late for that isn’t it?”

“I suppose so,” Yor returned the laugh. They sat there like that for a while, laughing to give strength to one another, to keep the light of the candles going. “Hey, Brother?”

“Yeah?”

“We can’t keep these candles lit forever.”

“Yeah…”

“We can light them again right? These small things? We can watch over them, can’t we?”

“We might. Not now. We have a door to open, Yor.”

She nodded in understanding. At long last, they stood. Fis approached the great door that many who remained in Suratrat would have called the door to heaven, and, with a light tug, opened it. Wind rushed in from outside to a glorious ocean. On the shore was a fishing boat that had long lost all functionality. They saw the sky and clouds that should have been so familiar but were to them a fantasy made real. Yor walked through the door, and as Fis closed it behind him, fell to her knees. Fis watched the final moments of his sister without pain. He had known she was at her limit, and her eyes were not used to light. Her right hand loosened, and in it were the crushed bones of the lungfish.
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27 / M / Clow Country
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Posted 1/19/08
Author's notes:

[1] The chemistry references totally ruined my opening lines, but I suppose it's better than putting them anywhere else. Acids and salt water should definitely qualify as chemistry references. And in case there is any question, "acids of disgust" = vomit.

[2] The piece is about happiness. To me, the philosophy I was attempting to communicate is that happiness is a simple choice. The perspective that, you can either have ultimate happiness as the goal that motivates you (Yor), or you can make it the guiding light of your life, simply by taking it in your hands (Fis).

[3] There are tons and tons of references to several books in here. They don't need to be credited, but here are a few:

- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- Those Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin
- Happiness by Aristotle

I can't be bothered to list all of the others, but you should really read these books!

[4] I actually plan on submitting this several places, so please don't steal it. I work long and hard on it. It's my pride and joy in writing.
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