My room in the Bormeas’ compound is oppressively warm and dry during the day. Finding it difficult to breathe and even move when I’m on the bed, I choose to spend most of my time in the expansive chair by the balcony. Sometimes, if I leave the drapes open, I can even feel a breeze coming in through the door, though it does little to cool me off. The breeze is merely a gentle reminder of what free flowing air feels like. At times it seems more like a taunt, as though offering a dry plant a single droplet of water and expecting it to be nourished and satisfied. The heat reminds me of the constant exposure to the sun during my stay with the Caysas. When I was with them though, the heat of the day just felt like the backdrop to the activities I was involved in, like roaming the outcropping with Dar-el.
* * *
“Mayta and the prophecy — do you believe in this too?” I ask her as we round a bend in the rock and find some shade in which to rest.
“Oh, I don’t believe in her,” Dar-el nearly spits out.
“I can’t believe in someone who allows people to die. Not only die, but to suffer so,” she adds quietly.
“But, your people … isn’t Mayta who you believe in?”
Dar-el runs her hand across the rock face, “It‘s mostly the older ones that hang on to this faith, the rest of us have no need for her.” Turning toward me she asks, “What about you? Do you believe?”
“I hadn’t heard of her before arriving here.”
“Now that you have – is she someone you could believe in?”
I ponder this for a moment, my gaze dropping to the ground as I do so. Quickly searching my thoughts and beliefs, I look up at Dar-el, “Actually, yes. It would be comforting to believe in a life after this one, instead of thinking that we are simply done once we’re used up. It means there are consequences to how you live … now. It gives me something to aspire to. That there is no sure proof of her existence makes that belief all the more important. It means you have to guard it well.”
Dar-el looks at me with an unreadable expression.
“There’s a reason why we’re all created that’s bigger than any one single life,” I tell her without breaking her look.
Dar-el blinks and turns away. “But it’s such a hard life,” she mutters. “You didn’t have it easy. How do you cast that off and hold on when there’s such loss?”
“You find meaning in the suffering, that it’s going to lead somewhere good eventually.”
“And if it doesn’t, then it’s all been a waste.” Dar-el’s response, while no less passionate, has been spoken with her back to me.
“But at least you lived with a purpose and didn’t just bump along in an endless cycle of living without a thought of what the next day might bring.”
“You’re sounding a lot like Elder,” she says, finally turning around and facing me.
“Perhaps I’m beginning to understand him.”
“You are still unable to convince me Mayta exists and even if she does, that I should care about her. Seems to me that she cares as little for me as I do for her.”
Falling back into what Elder told me, I phrase my response carefully. “She didn’t create this way. Those that came before us allowed it to happen, to fall apart. She won’t come back and make it better until everyone unites and works to restore it.”
“So, what do I get if I believe?” Dar-el asks, her voice rising with every syllable. “Anything? Nothing? I can’t say as it’s helped Elder any to believe. As for me, Mayta allowed everyone I ever cared about to be taken.”
“I believe because she gave me everyone I ever cared about,” I blurt out without a second thought.
Nearly ignoring what I just confessed, Dar-el continues, “I’d like to believe. It would give me some hope to hang on to. But there’s no proof she exists nor that she will come back. I sometimes think these sayings, this belief, was created as a comfort for us way back, at a time when things went bad. It does nothing, that I can tell, to believe or not to believe. It then becomes a choice. So, sometimes I choose to believe and sometimes I don’t. As a child I looked to see if my mother became a light out there. There were too many stars to know for sure. If we believe, why was Nemel treated the way that he was? You’re the only one who saw his plight and did anything about it. Are we to think you are so different than us? Better than us? And you knew nothing of our beliefs.”
Dar-el takes a breath and steps away from the shade and into the light of day. “If anything I’m angry at Mayta. If she did exist why didn’t she protect us, being that we’re such feeble creations? Why didn’t she prevent the Bormeas from invading? Why does she allow such dark things to continue to happen? Haven’t we suffered enough? How much longer must this go on? Has she turned her back on us and gone away and forgotten about us?”
Knowing Dar-el is speaking from some pain deep within her, I refrain from answering her. Instead, I just watch her, taking in her rigid posture and the tense tone of her voice. This is a different Dar-el than I’ve grown to know and … care about. That she is exposing deeply held and guarded hurts with me now says more about what I mean to her than a touch on my arm could ever convey.
Finally turning back to me again, her anger spent, Dar-el looks at me in silence, searching my face for a reaction. “You don’t seem shocked or outraged by my outburst,” she finally says.
I shake my head slowly, “I’m just … saddened by it.”
* * *
I keep wondering if Mayta does exist, even in a spiritual form, whether helping her people would warrant me the reward of becoming a light. I will sacrifice myself gladly for them … for Dar-el, if it means restoring her happiness. I hope one day she does pair with another male and raises young ones on the plains or in the gardens. Wherever she may choose to live, I hope she no longer feels tied to one place or exiled from another. And I hope when Dar-el looks up at the night sky she sees me looking down on her, the light of my star reflecting in her eyes. I hope most of all that she realizes anything is possible if you believe in it.