This is now the 30th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”. See the table of contents here.
Ed walked through the arch and glanced around.
“Pillars,” he said out loud.
He was in a giant room, seeming to stretch to infinity in every direction. The unseen ceiling was support by row after row of Doric columns. Periodically a free standing arch was placed in the middle of the avenues created by the columns.
Ed took a few steps deeper into the room and took his bearings. The room was very dimly lit, a perpetual twilight. Uniformity that disappeared in the misty distance. But what was that? A faint light from one direction?
He stopped. He had been here many times before, lost in this forest of stone. Hadn’t he recently solved the puzzle? The faint light seemed to be sunlight, but he knew it wasn’t right. He slowly turned and saw it, a very faint green, much dimmer than the sunlight that he knew was a mirage. That was it. That was the way he must go.
As had happened before, the longer he walked towards the green the more the columns grew less evenly spaced and less uniform in size, rougher and more organic. Soon he was in a forest at the way sign.
He looked in the direction it was pointing and heard a voice, Lauren’s voice. He followed it. He hadn’t been able to go very far in the past once he reached this point. Perhaps this time he’d reach his goal.
The forest gave out, as did the voice, and the land became rocky and bare. Although he didn’t’ recognize it, he figured he must be on the moor. After walking for only a few minutes he realized that a heavy fog was creeping in behind him. He picked up the pace and climbed a small ridge. At the top he saw the ocean stretching away into infinity. So it wasn’t the moor after all, but the seaside. He walked down towards the water, the fog following just behind.
A sound filled the air. It was as if the gentle lapping of the water created a carrier wave for something else, but what was there? He had heard this before, this magic sound, the song of great complexity and subtle simplicity. A voice broke out, again it was Lauren’s voice, but changed. The song grew richer, more bewitching. He had to follow, it was a primal urge. But how? He studied his surroundings. There was a pathway out into the flat water. He had once followed it, hadn’t he? The voice continued its siren song. He took a step forward, one foot splashed into the water.
The cold water woke something inside.
When he was there before, following the voice into the water did not lead him to his destination, did it? Ed concentrated and remembered the other time he had been at this same place. He had walked and walked until he was chest deep in the water and far from any coast, but he had only drawn away from his goal.
The fog was directly behind him. In a minute it would be all of the way around him.
The voice, the song, pulled at him, trying to force him to enter the water, whispering his other name, calling to him with a promise of saving him from the dense fog that was now creeping around him. He had to obey the voice and go into the water!
Ed stepped out of the water and into the fog, resting the voice with all of his might, and walked away from the ocean’s edge, careful not to follow his track back to the way post, trying a new way, a way he hadn’t been before. Where would this lead?
The fog grew thicker. But it also became more clear.
The fog wasn’t made of water vapor, it was the fog of his life. He had always been in it, hadn’t he? As a child he felt it. Confused, timidly trying to discover the world. As a schoolboy he never felt right, never belonged. His life was never clear. Others seemed to adjust, but he never was able to. The fog had always been there.
He had taken the first job offered to him and stuck with it, thinking it was a clear path, but was it? As time went on, that path lead farther and farther from his true self, deeper into the fog. He was now in a job that had nothing to do with who Ed really was. He didn’t hate the job, but he didn’t like it. The job just was, and was what it was and filled Ed’s mind with nothingness, with a thick fog.
A marriage for love became a marriage for convenience. Somehow he always knew that Margret was a lesbian from the day he met her, but he hid the fact from himself, thinking he was on the right path, that she was his one true love. But that too had been wrong. Margret knew who shew as and had to tried to tell him for years, but it wasn’t until she had met the love of her life, a younger woman, that she became brave enough to leave that lie created for society’s judging eye. But had Ed grown or become braver? No, even after she left he was still in denial and lived his life in the fog. Up until very recently he still wondered how Margret could have really been a lesbian all of that time when they had sex, at least on occasion, sex enough to have two kids, but walking in the fog he realized that using sex to justify his idea of sexuality or love was part of the fog.
Thinking of kids, his children were bright spots, in their way. They were little clearings in the fog. But in other ways they were always closer to Margret and he never really understood them. As adults they were almost strangers. It was possible he could have followed a sunnier path with them, but he had continued the role he had perceived, the hard working father, almost always gone, and wondered into the fog again, as always, and left the kids behind as they found sunnier pastures.
The kids had grown, but he hadn’t grown with them, as he should, which is why they had became distant as they aged and why he was left in the fog.
It was like that all of the way, wasn’t it? The fog. He never tried to find his way, just followed his feet. He never tried to find himself, just accepted life. The fog. It was his life. Never a clear path. Never finding himself. Just fog. Truthfully, he never lived, just survived, drifting through his foggy life, never feeling deeply or thinking hard enough or understanding.
But did it have to be that way?
His dreams said no. He had been trying to battle his way out of the fog his entire life, but couldn’t find that first sign post until he saw his great uncle’s notes and drawings. That is why he had traveled, to find a place out of the fog. That is how he had found her, Lauren.
Ed could still hear Lauren’s voice. Only, it wasn’t her voice, it was someone else.
A strong wind roared in, blowing the fog away. He wasn’t surprised to find himself in the middle of the moor and confronted with the tower, his tower; the tower he had dreamed of his entire life. The wind strengthened and large black clouds rose up, making it seem that the tower had grown dragon wings.
A couple walked out of the tower. They walked hand in hand. Ed gasped. Was it him and Lauren? No. It was their doppelgängers from the side of the Others. It was her voice he had followed. She was the one who had found him when he had fallen, just as the man had found The Grubb, and yet, she was closely connected to Lauren, just as the man was closely connected to him. He had known them both since he was a small child, heard their voices and tried to follow.
The man beckoned for Ed to follow. He turned to find Lauren, to bring her with him, but on turning, he woke up in his bedroom.
Or was he awake?
Liza’s mother was there. She was very old.
“I know, dear Lauren, it is hard,” the apparition said. “You can see like no other ever could and the burden sits heavy. Don’t worry. You will find your way.”
The old woman smiled down at her granddaughter, who wasn’t there. But then she turned and Ed realized that she was seeing him.
“And as for you,” she said, “You will also find your way. Hand in hand with my granddaughter, you will find it. You are almost there.” She looked back to where the very young Lauren should have been. “Who am I talking to? Why your future, sweetheart, to your future.”
The room cleared of visions and a pale light of the predawn glow entered the room.
Ed lay there and thought about his life, this time in the clear light and not the confusion of the dream.
The fog continued to lift and by dawn Ed felt that he was in a new day.