This story is by T.J. Kraemer and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As she stared out the window at the crystalline skyline of blue, green, and white spirals, she wondered how she had come to this place of beauty, peace, and knowledge. She knew it had been her choice; a decision she had made a long time ago and yet, it seemed like only yesterday. However, today was the one day in her life that would matter. The decision she had to make would be final. There would be no changing her mind, no going back, and no room for regrets. Part of her welcomed the finality of it all while her heart cried for she’d sacrificed.
Sage heard a single celestial tone. It symbolized that the time for had come to make the final decision.
Sage turned and walked out of the room. Holding her head high, she entered the long Caribbean blue crystalline hall. The rays from multiple suns provided a pleasing environment of joy, and the perfect setting for enlightenment. Her soft soled shoes made no sound as she walked down the ever-pristine hall. It was truly a place of peace.
As Sage reached the end, she turned and entered a large round room of white crystal. It was known as the room of clarity—used to obtain a new perspective. She felt the room’s power, ebbing and flowing—much like the whoosh of life through her own heart.
“Grasshopper, it’s good to see you. I take it you are ready?” said a tall thin woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties, but Sage knew to be many millennium. The woman stood in front of a clear stand, a dagger lying next to an hourglass.
A sense of peace washed over her at the mention of her nickname. Unlike the names she’d been called in school, that poked fun at her height or long legs, this was one of endearment. Much like a grasshopper who jumped from leaf to leaf, Sage often jumped from one topic to the next; soaking up knowledge as she went. Sage asked questions before looking for answers that were already lying at her feet.
“Yes,” she said feeling distracted.
“When the sands of time have run their course, your time of reflection will be over. You must make a decision,” the older woman said while placing the dagger at the top of the hour glass. Once the dagger pierced the top, the sands of time would allow Sage to time travel back in her life.
“I understand. . .I am ready,” Sage said, her voice full of emotion.
Sage moved in front of the veil of mist and focused on bringing it into clarity. She had practiced refining her concentration skills, pulling energy to her, and centering it on one place. She saw a magenta glow form in the blackness of the room. It began to swirl, transforming into electric blues and purples, but everything remained a blur.
“Focus, Sage. The sands have begun to flow. You have less than an hour. Use it wisely,” the older woman said as she left the room.
It was a subtle, but much needed warning. Sage refocused and before long, the veil of mist lifted. She could now see to the other side—it all seemed so real. For the people and creatures moving in the mist, it was real. They were living their lives in the manner they had chosen.
Reining in her emotions, she focused on finding the one she needed to see. Her eyes searched for him. There! There he was. He looked well. He was as she’d remembered. They had grown up together, gone to school, on dates, fallen in love. It had been a wonderful time—one full of joy and laughter and the occasional heart ache.
Over the years, she’d heard him whisper across the distance, talking to her as if she were still there with him. He was there living his life and she was here. She had often wondered if people really had free will, or if one’s life was pre-destined by the power of the universe. Free will? Or fate? What had brought them to this point?
As she watched, she saw that he’d become a warrior against darkness and the evils of his world while she had chosen the path of enlightenment. Dark and light – each fighting to maintain the balance. She watched him move through his life. She had heard him begging her not to come to his wedding; telling her that if she showed up at the church, he could not get married. She had stayed away – if for no other reason than to honor his wishes. She had heard him call to her when his first child was born, asking her to tell him the name she had picked for their first born. She had whispered the name back to him in her dreams. She had freely given him the reason for the name. Katherine, as it was a strong name to carry her through the various phases of life, and Ann after his mother. He had named her Katherine Ann just as she had whispered.
Two years later, he had again called to her requesting a name for another female child. He had been relentless. Again, she gave him the name: Megan Marie. Megan as it was a strong name and Marie for his sister. She had justified these breaches by convincing herself that she had grown up with a family while he had been an orphan. In her heart though, a heaviness settled in. The sorrow of what they could have been and should have been was soul crushing. When he called to her the third time, she turned away. She had not answered him. The cost to her heart, her soul was too high. She cried. Sage had felt herself dying from the loss of what might have been.
She watched him work and celebrate his thirties. He had been a good husband, a loving father, and a steady provider. He had given his children a strong framework of honor, loyalty, fidelity, and love. He had encouraged his children to participate in life and pursue their dreams.
Sage glanced over at the sands of time—the grains sifting through the hourglass. Time was passing too quickly. Now she had less than half the time remaining.
Sage focused on his happiness. There was love in his marriage, but how deep or true, was unclear. He had satisfaction in his job as he made a difference in the world—fighting against the darkness. She watched as his life’s focus shifted from work to working out. Despite always being active, had his new-found desire to exercise been motivated by loneliness? Had he begun to feel life slipping away—leaving him? Or, was it because exercise reminded him of her? It was something they’d often done together, after all. Did he long for her? She couldn’t tell.
Glancing over at the hourglass, Sage knew she had only a few minutes left. She focused on his current life. He had just obtained an advanced degree, been promoted to a high post in the nations’ Capitol, was well-respected among colleagues and friends, and seemed to be happy. So why had he begun looking for her? Calling out to her in his dreams? Sending messages on the winds? Did he have regrets? Did he still love her?
As she watched, she realized how many times their life paths had crossed. They had been in all the same places, at the same times. Yet, they had never met, but rather silently passed in the darkness of night.
In the final minute, she realized she had done the right thing. She had chosen a path of enlightenment, knowledge, and healing; a warrior for light. He had married the right woman to help him successfully navigate the darkness he battled every day.
As the last grains dropped, he looked up, as if seeing her. He extended his hand, reaching for her as he called out her name. She tried to smile, but her heart broke. Sage raised her hand, blew him a kiss, and whispered in a soft voice, “Goodbye, my love. I will miss you for all of time. Be happy, love well, stay safe, and live your life with joy in your heart.” Had her message reached him? It was her final hope.
The last grain of sand fell with an unexpected thunder. Time had run out. A single tear trailed down her cheek. He had been the love of her life and she had let him go. She had abided by his wishes. She had given him everything. She had sacrificed her happiness for his. It was a noble sacrifice though the price had been high. How high, he would never know. While she would have him forever in her heart and soul, once the veil of mist closed, his memory of her would disappear—lost for all time.