At the age of ten, my father knew exactly what he would be. Like his mother and his grandmother, he woke one night to an over-warm room, the walls glowing in cascading white-blue-black from the liquid flames pooled around his hands. Like his mother and his grandmother – all keimon born from keimon – he had known it was coming, and did what any ten-year-old should have done in the quiet confidence of midnight: he raised his hands and let the light chase the shadows for hours.
By the time he woke up, he had figured out how to shape the fire, so rather than tell his mother the precious good news, he walked a delightfully clumsy starburst of an animal across her path. He said it was a fox. She said it was a little monster with three legs and a second head where its tail should have been. They both grinned at each other.
I wonder if the lighthouse keeper feels lost, even though he’s the one standing still with all his memories from daylight assuring him he’s still perched on the side of that cliff with the water always beneath him and the old town two miles down the hill behind him. I don’t imagine he sees very far out the windows, with that one running light over his head turning the whole length of night midnight-dark in contrast.
I wonder how lost the ship captain feels, always moving, but the familiar ocean always close enough to trade spit shots. He’s always perfectly centered between the equidistant edges of the horizon, with all the room he needs for his head as he stands under the domed sky. Starlight isn’t that bright, but it likes to keep nights gray beneath it.
As quietly as the two men were speaking, he still heard them, and he was sure they didn’t care. Galen finished pulling his jacket over his shoulders and straightened his sleeves. It had been too warm below decks, but here it was just cold enough to want to button it up tight to his chest while it kept most of his still-waking rigging squad at the bottom of the ladder. Galen pulled his collar high against the back of his neck and risked a short glance behind him at Alrein and Danic, his squad leader and the Watch Commander. If they had wanted to cover their voices, they should have waited until the others dared the cold.
“He’s early,” Danic murmured.
“A little too stupid to take sleep when he can, I think,” Alrein murmured in return.
Danic snorted. It was a deep sound, coming from him. “He’s too stupid for a lot of things, I think.”
On the ocean, a storm rolled the world under its palm like so much clay, shaping it into something flashing bright and alive. It pulled the waves up by their backs and threw them where it pleased. It tore the stars out of the sky at night, and grayed out the sun during the day, replacing them both with ice-white cracks of lightning. It turned the air to something fiercer that touched skin with electrified fingers. It poured rain over everything, until there was no air to be felt. The storm twisted and shook and bit and blew and ruled everything in its sight.
Cerena had been raised on an ocean. When she was very small, her father locked her in the cabin below and she listen to the laughing storm from a dry corner, with her back to the wall and her foot braced against her bunk. As soon as she was big enough to haul line, she’d stayed on deck, clinging to the rail or the stays or deck itself as the ship pitched in the rioting air.
Axelle’s new wristband chaffed, all the harder to ignore because she hadn’t expected to need one so soon. She’d just had it replaced five months ago, and the leather had finally settled comfortably onto the shape of her arm. But it had a symbol on it – her symbol, she couldn’t help thinking – the Demiai fish circling each other, fins spread in the dance, and the court had determined the blank wristband suited her better.
It suited her like lead scales suited a fish, and she was drowning under it.