Falling – John Matthews

He hung on the edge of the sky like a tear in the eye of a queen.

Then he fell, and the darkness enclosed him, wrapping him round in its sticky webs. Only the bright glow of his sword, held out before him like a torch, illumined his path. The path that was no path, the direction that was without direction, the goal that was unknown to him because he has not been given any chance to consider it.

     Words had been expunged from his mind, so that he no longer possessed the language to formulate speech. Only a last brief glimpse of the Sword of Flame seared into his brain, and the sense of the Shaper’s thoughts rang in his mind. ‘You are no longer my Son. You have betrayed me. There is no place here for you!’

     Then there was only the falling, the darkness, and a silence which was made worse because somewhere, like a distant echo, he heard singing – knew it was singing even though he had no words for it – and longed to join his own voice to that of the Others.

     But he neither knew, nor could remember who those Others were, who the Shaper was, and why he could still see, like a last echoing cry, a flash of red wings. His own were white, shading to gold. He knew this even though he could see nothing in the darkness. Nor could he turn his head. His eyes seemed fixed, looking forward at the green glitter of his sword.

     Gradually, so gradually that at first it was no more than a vague sensation in the deepest recesses of his mind, he became aware of a change in the texture of the darkness. In some way, though he groped for the concepts to fashion the thought, somehow the darkness was growing thicker. His descent began, imperceptibly at first, to slow.

     And then ahead, giving for the first time dimension to his fall, he espied something else, something that was not himself nor his sword – a dim, distant break in the darkness, as though someone had thrust a pin through the vast velvet drape and let in some light – always supposing there was light, somewhere beyond the endless-seeming dark.

     Slowly the dim glint took on shape and substance. A tiny whirling ball of light and shadow, intricately patterned with spirals of what, in some fashion, he knew to be earth and water.

     The ball lay before him, captured in an eddy of time and space into which he fell like a stone into a pool. The noise of his landing must have woken the heavens themselves, but raised no echoes here. Its effect upon him was, however, vast. He found that he could hear.

     Sounds filled his head and with them came words that gave them substance. He stood upon something he knew to be ‘sand’, saw ‘waves’ strike a ‘shore’, felt a thousand glimmering droplets touch his face – ‘rain’ something within him said.

     His other senses followed in quick succession. Smell came first, and with it a tang of salt air and a scent he associated at once with greenness and growth. In his ears rang the sound of the waves hammering at the sandy shoreline. His fingers suddenly relaxed around the hilt of his sword, as the sensation of touch returned and he realised that he was still gripping the weapon as though everything depended upon it.

     He looked at the bright blade and saw the green flame still lit within its faceted and polished surfaces. Its use fascinated him. It had seemed no more than a beacon, but now he knew it for a weapon that could be used for a purpose he did not yet understand.

     Reflexively, he arched his wings and felt the play of the wind within them. He looked up at the sky and founds its blueness pleasing. A bright bead of light shone down upon him and he stretched out his hands to touch it – only to find that it was too far. A sadness overtook him;  a sense of loss.

     He stood thus for a long time, while the bright bead of light fell down the sky (fell, like himself?) and turned slowly to crimson. At his feet the sea turned first purple then to the colour of milk. He raised his eyes and saw another globe of light hanging where the other had been. This was closer, imbued with a milky white sheen. Again he reached towards it and again it was beyond his touch.

     Then, as he looked with longing and sorrow towards the light, something came between it and himself. A shadow, shapeless and formless at first, but slowly taking shape. Winged, like himself, but different …. a long neck and a hideous head – somehow he knew that he was beautiful and that It, whatever It was, was dark and misshapen where he was light and formed to the Shaper’s will.

     With this thought came the notion of his own ability. The sword rose in his hands and the green flame leapt within it as though at his unspoken command. The Shadow spied it and turned upon him such a concentrated beam of malevolence that it was as though a breath of fire had struck at him. Almost, he staggered. But then an answering strength awoke within him, and he sent forth a ray of light from his open hand that broke upon the Shadow’s front and sent it roiling backwards upon itself….

     But only for a moment. The Beast uncoiled its vast length and struck down with a speed impossible to its size. A lash of pure hate and fear struck him and pain awoke within him. So new was the sensation that he scarcely felt it at first. But anger awoke then, and strength, and knowledge of a deeper kind than before, and he knew that here was purpose, where before there had been only emptiness.

     Without thought he drew back the hand in which his sword was grasped and flung it forward and up at the shadow above him. Trailing a tail of green fire it flashed through the darkness and struck deep within the heart of the Beast. A terrible soundless cry echoed across the face of the sky and the ground beneath his feet trembled and seemed itself to cry out. The Beast spun away into blackness, its terrible body ruptured and hurt beyond healing.

     There was a moment of stillness that brought back to his mind the silence of his long fall, then the ground shook again and a fissure opened beneath is feet. As he fell – again, falling – he caught a final glimpse of the sword. It had passed through the Beast, or perhaps been disgorged by it. Now it arced across the sky like a comet, trailing green fire. Then it was gone from his sight and the rushing darkness and warmth of the earth surrounded him in a fast embrace. Somewhere he became aware of a voice that spoke out of the darkness.

     ‘Come. Sleep. Be at one with Me. Let us dream together.’

     And at once he knew peace, such peace as he had never thought to know again. After millennia of wakefulness he could sleep at last. And dream.

     And in his dream he saw again where the sword flashed in the heavens, curving upward until it could go no further, then beginning to fall back towards the place where he had stood in contemplation of a new world, a world of which he was now a part. As it fell, the sword began to change. The texture of the air through which it fell bent it in upon itself. The point was driven back within itself, and the hilts curved outward to form an enclosing rim.    Finally, it had a new shape entirely – that of a green cup-shaped vessel, from which something of the green light of its former master still shone – though dimmer now. It came to rest at last, on a table of stone, a vast flat-topped mountain that rose out of the warm lands like a fist. There it rested and there, for a time, he lost sight of it.

            Thus began his dream, which was to encompass long ages. Many things there were to see in that time – the coming of men, and a growing of knowledge of good and evil, light and dark. Sometimes he was able to speak to one or another of them, and heard his name – a name he had never answered to before – cursed for the knowledge he offered. And at last, after ages of darkness, he saw the Cup that had been formed from his sword taken up and wielded by hands other than his own. Then it was lost, and he saw men set forth in search of it, following a last subtle gleam of the old light – no longer green, but silvered now, like the colour of old bone. He knew that one day it would be found again, and that while the search continued it would not be forgotten. This gave him some comfort as he lay, between waking and sleeping, in the arms of the earth, listening always for the voices of the Others whose song he would one day re-join.

Text: Falling © John Matthews 2020

Painting: ‘Fall’ by Vyacheslav Safronov

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