Aveline was unrecognizable as she lay there in her bed. She was thin and frail, barely clinging to life. By nightfall, Aveline would die.
As she held her infant daughter, Tabitha, in her weakened arms, tears streamed down Aveline’s face. Little Tabitha napped within her mother’s caring grasp. The endless darkness of dread and fear was kept at bay, if only for a few minutes, by Aveline’s love for her only daughter. Aveline was completely overwhelmed by pure joy. A primordial, unfiltered manifestation of bliss swept through Aveline’s veins, bones, nervous system, and spirit. As long as Tabitha was in her arms, Aveline was at peace.
Mustering her final bit of strength, Aveline opened her eyes long enough to see her daughter one last time. Tabitha’s pitch-black hair stuck to her forehead. She looked so peaceful. This gave Aveline solace. Before long, she thought as she closed her eyes for the final time.
Neither the high-speed screeches of the military aircraft nor the destruction of buildings and structures nearby could wake Aveline ever again.
Tabitha Solberg lived on a secluded mountaintop cabin with her grandmother. Their cabin sat atop Mount Laverne for nearly a century. It overlooked the town below. From their vantage point, Tabitha and her grandmother (whom she lovingly referred to as “Oma”) could only see the beautifully translucent blades that permeated throughout the town, everything else was a blur.
Once a month, Tabitha had to go into town to buy goods to sustain her grandmother and herself. As Tabitha trekked through town from her visit to the market, she wondered if she’d forgotten to purchase anything. Winter was fast approaching which meant they wouldn’t be able to easily visit town if they required anything.
As she ran through the market list in her head, Tabitha allowed her mind to wander. She took the same route she’d taken many, many times before. In her mind, she began to visualize the aurora light shows she’d witness from up above in her cabin home. With her grandmother by her side, the two surviving members of the Solberg clan looked up at the night sky, mesmerized. Ribbons of green, blue and mauve light danced and swayed in the twilight firmament. Tabitha grinned as she turned on Gisela Street, past the collapsed library. She’d be home before nightfall.
The ruins of the town had solidified in the years since the war. Back then, “modern” weaponry was used. It was unknown at the time but these weapons had strange—often marvelous—side effects.
When the bombs and gases first ravaged through town, many lives were lost. Buildings became ruins and children became orphans. In the years since then, the emissions from the bombs and gases seemingly clung to the destroyed buildings. In time, these emissions solidified, creating beautiful crystalline shapes. Sharp and otherworldly, these shapes may simply appear on one side of a building or may completely overtake a collapsed structure. The shapes jot out at sharp angles, holding their milky clear, glass-like form for all eternity, never budging.
Like strange, glassy blades of glass, the crystalline structures hung on to all the town’s decimated buildings. To a visitor, these “blades” would appear like something out of a dream. The locals of the town, though, had grown used to the blades. At this point, the townsfolk considered the blades nuisances.
At certain times, however, on the rare days when the sunlight was strong enough to break through the 20-year clouds that permanently lingered atop the village, lights in visible wavelengths would pass through the town’s blades. Reflecting and refracting, the light and blades created a beautiful light show. Reminiscent of reflections off the water’s surface, the light that was filtered through the blades would cause small rainbows to appear on other surfaces. If the town was busy, the silhouettes of the townsfolk would play along with the light show. Shadow and light would meet, creating eerie and spellbinding illusions.
It was a true sight, a wonder to behold.
The older townsfolk tended to compare these light shows to sunsets in the days before the war. Oma, for one, would continually talk about how beautiful those sunsets were. “These will never compare!” she’d spit, pointing at a nearby blade, then fall into one of her well-known laughing fits, her cackles echoing throughout the town’s alleyways.
Although Tabitha, along with the rest of the townsfolk, had grown accustomed to her town’s blades, she always loved a certain part of her route back home. During the war, many beautiful monuments and statues were destroyed or stolen. This was before the blades had taken over. Thieves and intruding soldiers would take whatever priceless artifact they could find, undoubtedly to try to sell it later on in life. The town, which was previously vastly populated with gorgeous statues and works of art, was now barren. Save for the head of Rhea.
For nearly a century, the marvelous, colossal statue of Rhea, mother of the gods, stood at the town’s entrance. She was built by a particularly adept and adventurous trio of artists in a time when no war could feasibly knock on the town’s door. This was a time when art and creativity flourished. A fruitful, generous time that seems like ancient history now.
The creation of Rhea was a feat so incredible that the town’s people had no choice but to place the enormous statue in the only place it could stand: right at the entrance of town. (She welcomed visitors with her towering presence. The townsfolk felt protected under her watch.)
Rhea stood proudly for years and years. That is until the war broke out.
On that fateful day, a thick veil of fog encapsulated the town. Enemy pilots couldn’t discern where the fog ended and the clouds began. The only sign of the town was Rhea. She would peek through the clouds. Her marble face, as arresting as ever, glaring down the barrels of enemy planes. She put up a good, noble fight. But as with most beautiful things in this world, Rhea was destroyed by man.
Although it took many bullets and bombs for Rhea to lose her footing, she succumbed to the tragedy of war. Not many people can recall the day they saw her fall, although many will lie and tell you a highly detailed, yet incredibly erroneous account of that catastrophic event.
A scared and untrained pilot unloaded his ammunition too early, striking the coast of the town. The explosion and shock wave caused the earth to shake tremendously. The gigantic statue of Rhea, an ode to beauty and birth, a colossal work of true majesty, collapsed that day. As she fell backward, in slow motion, Rhea took one last look at her hometown before she was destroyed. Many accounts say she shed a tear before she hit the ground. Others, knowing the properties of inanimate matter, refute that argument with pure scientific evidence. Regardless, everyone in town agrees that the destruction of Rhea was the behemoth needle that broke the camel’s back. After she fell, the war ceased. Most of the statue’s ruins were stolen, never to be found. All except for her marvelous visage. Her head, too large to steal in a knapsack and too beautiful to deface, survived the fall. It rolled through the wide streets of town for a few yards until it found its permanent resting place, right at the end of Condorus Avenue. There she lay, resting on her left cheek. This was bittersweet. Finally, the townsfolk could witness Rhea’s true beauty. After spending so much of her life high above them, she was at last at their eye level. In time, those marvelous vapors of war reached her but something strange happened. Instead of causing those all-to-common blades to jot out, Rhea’s stone face was encased in an impenetrable, glass-like substance. Forever cemented to the ground, immovable even by the hands of the gods. And even though the rest of the town seemingly grew tired the irritating blades, every resident, young and old, marveled at the beauty that was Rhea. On rare occasions, lights would penetrate through her crystalline enclosure, causing the most beautiful light to jolt out. She glittered and shone brightly, a true beacon of hope and serenity for a town that so desperately needed it. This was the head of Rhea. And this is the tale of how she came to be at the end of that street.
Tabitha stopped for a moment to look at Rhea. She could see the indented tear mark on the lower side of Rhea’s left cheek. Growing up, Oma would tell Tabitha that the statue was of her mother, Aveline. Three suitors decided to build an effigy in her honor. This little tale captured Tabitha’s imagination from a young age. Now, at the age of 20, she still held Rhea close to her heart because whenever she’d make eye contact with that enormous stone head, she didn’t see the mother of the gods. No, she saw the face of her own mother, Aveline Solberg.
Tabitha then wiped a tear away and continued down the dimly-lit street.
The shimmering lights in the sky began to shine and wave like efflorescent ribbons of neon. Tabitha looked up to take in the beauty as she walked. It was truly mesmerizing. So much so, in fact, Tabitha lost her way. When she looked back down, she noticed that her feet weren’t stepping over the familiar marble streets and alleyways. Instead, she was on a weathered path she didn’t recognize. Tabitha looked behind her and couldn’t see the lights from the village. The only lights that guided her way were the ones above, shimmering and dancing in the cloudy night sky. A sense of comfort enveloped Tabitha. Although she was venturing deeper and deeper into unknown territory, she felt at ease. Her heart was calm, her mind was resolute, and her eyes were focused firmly on the path ahead. Before long, she began to hear voices. Dismembered, undulating voices that didn’t seem to belong to anyone.