“Do you hear that?” she asked Evander, bringing up her hood to cover the swirling mass of elflocks that floated around her head. “It’s louder than before.” A quick glance confirmed what Evander already knew. They had to leave. Now. Enough standing still. “Get your things; it’s time to go.” 

Not that they had much with them; their possessions had all but fallen apart or been lost along the way. “If we don’t get moving now, I’m not sure we’ll have another chance.” 

They had been through so much already. The last 10 years had seen an increasing wave of travelers streaming from one side of the world to another, chasing the light that never went out, but which also couldn’t be easily located. They had almost gotten used to it; being chased by the darkness. Evander knew in his heart that this was a part of some larger plan. ‘We aren’t done,’ he said to himself. ‘This has all been a warmup.’

As the world had gotten progressively darker, the ever-evasive light was the only thing that kept Evander hopeful for the future. Moving around the globe had become his only goal; and that of his unlikely group of survivors. But in the last few months, another concern had emerged; a howling now accompanied the wind just beyond the edge of the known landscape. People who went toward the wind usually didn’t come back. 

As their numbers had dwindled, populations collapsing and reforming across the globe, the winds continued, just always out of reach. 

No one knew what was on the other side of the darkness, but they could all feel that its breath was closer now, somewhere in the dark, howling out.

Evander shuffled to his feet, feeling the miles they had walked. He reached for the one thing that had remained, even after all of his other possessions had faded into the void. A half broken flight feather he had found a few years ago just as the darkness had begun to engulf them all, when that murkiness was only a small speck on the horizon.

That night, which felt so long ago now, Evander had secretly stolen away when everyone was sleeping; they all still had proper blankets and shelter back then. At some point in the middle of a deep dream of days gone by, Evander heard a voice on the wind. He got up and started walking toward it. 

The sound became louder as he approached what looked like the remains of a recent campfire. Evander knew that couldn’t be possible. Even back then, very few went toward the darkness, and came back. Evander knew every person in their group. This fire came from someone, and somewhere else.

The embers were still warm, and in the middle of that swirling haze was the feather; an asymmetrically shaped remex wing feather, to be exact. Evander picked it up and had held onto it ever since. For some reason, it gave him peace. Sometimes he even imagined the bird it had lived on, once upon a time. No one saw birds anymore. 

Coming back to the present moment, Evander was reminded of the task waiting for him. Recently, the few people who remained out of their once massive assembled multitude had pushed for, and won, a vote to set sail for what used to be the Nile Delta, and the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis, where it is said the Greeks inherited the love of wisdom. 

These Heliopolians, as they had taken to calling themselves, were convinced that the light they saw came shining from that exact spot, where philosophy was not solely concerned with speculation and reflection on life and nature, but was also preoccupied with love, intense desire and strong enthusiasm in the investigation of causes underlying reality. 

It was said that the Greeks sent their greatest thinkers to Egypt to study and learn. The Heliopians felt that this land would provide the knowledge of what they needed to do to survive. Evander knew they couldn’t stay where they were, so makeshift boats had been created, what little supplies they had cobbled together, and it was time to set sail on the heels of the ever-approaching night. Evander couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a mistake.

He couldn’t explain it, but ever since he had found the feather, something had been calling him in a different direction: Back, to the winds and the encroaching void. His dreams had shown him that there was a way to survive it, and that there was a space beyond the desolation, where they could start over. The light was a ploy, meant to distract them. As one of the de facto leaders of the group, Evander couldn’t let everyone get into those boats and sail toward what he felt was their demise at the apex of earth and sky. Approaching the other members of their group, Evander worked up the nerve to tell them why they couldn’t make the journey as planned. He remembered past conversations-turned-arguments where he hadn’t always shown respect for their opinions. ‘Give me one more chance,’ he thought to himself. 

Evander felt as though three options were open to him: He could be supported, ignored, or cast off. It wasn’t great odds, but Evander had been taught to be proud. He walked into the circle where the last preparations were being made and began. “We’re on borrowed time, but I need to ask for your trust.” 

Which way will Evander’s quest take him? (Readers were instructed to vote via a QR code)



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