Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | March 1, 2010

Sunchild

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Photo by Mila Zinkova, Wikimedia Commons

Atayin pushed aside the vines, shielding her eyes from the blinding light. Sunchild, come closer, the voice whispered.

“I can’t, you’re in the middle of a lake!” she said, jerking one foot back from the sucking mud around the shore.

Come closer!

Atayin looked around, unsure of this place, of this soaking silver light. She’d left her family sleeping beside the fire when the dream shook her awake. Dazed, she’d risen and followed the whispers. She looked over her shoulder for the comfort of stars and the twin golden moons, Yenna and Neth, thinking, It shouldn’t be daylight yet.

But the otherworldly light over the lake had burned into her eyes, and she saw only black behind her.

Sunchild. We’re waiting.

“It’s probably just a dream,” she said, and stepped into the water. It was warm, and buzzed against her skin like a fluttering insect. Was the light doing that? Giving energy to the water?

The deeper she went, the more vibrations traveled up and down her spine, her arms, her legs. Power. It fueled her, sending her striding in strong steps that barely splashed, then swimming with easy strokes. Waves spread out around her, glinting silver-gold on the top, shading down to deep black in the troughs.

Beautiful. In the middle of the lake, All was light. The vines and forest and even the sky disappeared in the shafts of shining light.

Sunchild. The voice repeated.

“I’m almost 15,” Atayin said. Not a child, not any more.

You are both child and crone here, in the place of your birth.

“I was born here?” She wonders for a minute how it could happen that her mother gave birth in the middle of a lake, and then she remembers the tree stumps sticking up from the water. This hasn’t been a lake forever.

You are always being born. And always dying.

Creepy. The water feels chilly all of a sudden, and the light too harsh on her eyes.

“Show yourself! Why do you whisper?”

On her command, the water parts and a circular shape crests, spilling water off the edges of a thick, curved shell. The turtle finds a convenient stump and stretches out a neck splotched with rust red and yellow.

Hello, sunchild. Welcome to your destiny.

“A turtle? What do you know about my destiny?”

Much.

The turtle seems to smile before slipping back beneath the light-drenched lake. In its place rests an arm band woven with grasses, reeds, and strange sparkling stones.

Atayin reaches for it. In the second before her fingers touch the beautiful band, she wonders, is this really a good idea?

But it’s too late. The band shrinks on her arm until it fits so perfectly that Atayin knows she’ll never be able to take it off. Then the light dies and she’s alone treading cool water, far from home and certainly not dreaming.

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