When my father had closed his eyes and drifted into his dreams, I left his room and went to find my woman. It was late, but she had said she would stay awake for me. I made my way to her home and whispered out her name at the entryway.
She came out and didn’t say a word, she just wrapped her arms around me. I could tell she had been asleep before I came, but it was the sort of sleep which was light as she waited for me to come by.
Her arms remained wrapped around my waist for a long time, and it was here, in the safety of her presence, I could finally let the tears out which I held for so long beside the bed of my father. They ran down into the hair of my lover and she kept her head tucked into my chest. Her ear was against my heart, as if listening intently for something.
I had always been drawn to this woman, and there was something about her small size which drew me in. I always found that the warmth and size of her presence was inverse to her physical size. I could wrap my arms around her and feel the entirety of her being fit within mine. But the comfort she brought my body; the way her nearness seemed to relax every molecule of my muscles, was far bigger than her stature.
I found that even before I met her and adored her, I was always draw to smaller women. In many ways, they contrast the unfathomable vastness of the water. The water is an untamable void, black beyond comprehension and mysterious to the point of agony.
This woman—the end of all things—is equally mysterious, but at least I can comprehend her dimensions. I can measure her small, brown shoulders and hold all of her at once. This small woman is the antidote to my fear of the deep.
I held her outside her home for what felt like hours. My tears ran dry eventually and her grip around my waist loosened and she took a step back, letting her hands slide to my sides.
She looked up at me and said, “you will get through this.” Even in the darkness I could still sense the intensity of her big eyes looking up into mine. “You’ve been a good son and you will get through this.”
I could have stood on the ground outside her home all night, just holding her close to me, but that’s when everything changed. Her home was several hundred feet from the shore and that moment is when I looked up and saw something out on the water I had never seen before. It was a light. No, it was multiple lights, but all very close together, as if they came from the same place.
I had never seen lights so bright from such a distance. It was like they had tied miniature versions of the sun together and bound them to the horizon. Fire was not so bright, not at this distance, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. My woman saw my eyes and turned to see for herself.
“What is that?” she asked, as if I could possibly know.
I didn’t answer, but I took her hand and began walking toward the shore. Even being so close to the shore sent a shiver down my spine. The mysterious lights on the horizon only added to my quiet terror—after all, could this be a creature risen from the chaotic depths? Are those hideous beasts capable of radiating such bright lights, visible at this distance?
I tried to hide the quivering of my body from my woman, but I’m sure she still felt it in my palm. If she did, she didn’t say anything about it. She already knew about my fear of the water, despite my efforts to appear brave. My mind raced and I contemplated running to my father and waking him so he could see the lights. I made that decision inside a second and, turning to gently pull my woman by the hand, made my way back to my father’s home.
She understood and followed me silently toward our home, both of us constantly turning to watch the horizon and see what the lights would do. When we made it to my home, she waited outside the door while I went in and gently touched my father’s arm.
“Father,” I whispered. He didn’t stir, so I pushed harder and repeated it louder.
“Mmm, what is it, son?” he then jerked his entire body but then looked up and saw me, his mind still deciphering dream from reality. “Mmm what?”
“Father, there are lights on the horizon. They are brighter than fire and they are all grouped together, like a home made of suns resting just on the horizon of the water.”
Suddenly my father sat up and paced to the doorway. Without pausing to put on his day clothes or shoes, he tore down the trail that led to the water so he could see the lights for himself. It was as if he knew what was happening, like it had happened before. Like the wolves were back and were tearing apart the children.
He paused when he came to the clearing of the beach and looked out. His eyes were weaker than they once were, but he as far from blind. He stood there, staring out over the water for no longer than ten seconds before turning and running back into our settlement. He went to several of the homes where the strongmen lived and called their names.
The lights from the deep remained exactly where they were every time I turned back to look at them.
My woman and I, our hands still tied together, followed my father around at a distance but his crazed haste was nearly dizzying as he zigzagged from one home to another. Eventually, he slowed enough for me to approach him and ask, “What is it, father? What are those lights?”
He looked back into my eyes and at first said nothing, letting the smoldering burn of his gaze burn the gravity of the situation into my mind.
“Is it something from the water? Are they coming for you?” I asked.
“No, son,” he answered firmly. “This is far worse than a sea creature. It’s—” before he could finish his explanation, some of the other men had come out of their tents and were coming to him for instruction. He turned to them, leaving our conversation in the air, and began delivering orders. I watched his back, with his two long braids running down his back, as he ordered these men who had known and obeyed him all of their lives.
I turned and looked at my woman, still holding her hand in the darkness, and she turned from the movement of the men to meet my eyes. My hand impulsively squeezed hers and neither of us said anything.