An unearthly light filled the room.
He chased after her, but his lungs were becoming raw and his legs were tired. She ran ahead of him with the eagerness of a child that had been away from home for too long. He kept on, but the terrain was rough and she was too fast. But he had to try. This was too important of a discovery to be lost to children.
The ephemeral light seemed to come from somewhere beyond the ornate door at the door at the end of the ancient, half-destroyed hallway, and what was back there he only had a vague idea. He had read his stories and done his research and searched for years and years, and never once had he stumbled across some drawing or diagram of the thing. It was little more than an image in his dreams. The books described it like a circle of crystal with a net in the middle, woven around its many angles, with many hundreds of glass beads dangling off of it in long streams. It sounded like a beautiful thing. He couldn’t bear to lose it.
Finally, there was a precipice that he could not scale, but the girl that he chased leapt over it with ease. It could not be more than eight feet in height. But, he scrambled up its side anyway. He could do little more than cling to the edge and watch her go to the door on her own. He lamented, because he thought that after so many years of research and chasing and hoping and dreaming this girl would take the dream from him. She vanished into the unreal light.
Slowly, he slipped from the edge of the cliff and fell heavily back to the floor. He looked around, feeling sad and heavy, and realized that there was a small chance that he would be able to scramble out of the pit – at least, not without many trials and errors and scrapes and bruises. The trail was long and covered with cliffs that he had leapt over and debris 100 tons heavy. He had abandoned his pack full of supplies and food rations and water and maps and compasses in a desperate bid to catch up to the girl, and now he was sorely regretting his moment of insanity. He did not even know where the rest of his crew was, but he could call to them, and hope that they would come and help him. But a few of them had thought that this was a fool’s errand in the first place, and he wouldn’t know if they would remain loyal – though he knew that his best of friends, Ferdinand, would come, if he heard him. He began to call for him.
He knew that they would be disappointed in his empty haul. But that didn’t matter much if he couldn’t get out of here at all, now did it?
Something began to appear in the light again. The little girl came out of the door again, and this time she carried something in her arms. He looked up, in hopes of seeing what she had found. She cradled something in her hands, but it was too small to see or too hidden by the sharp contrast of the light. She began to descend the steps, having eyes only for the thing in her hands. As she descended into the darkness, he could faintly perceive that it glowed contrasting the shadows on her navy blue hood. There was a look of nostalgia and intense memories in her eyes, the memories of a thousand years. She was a lot older than she looked.
He could not help but glare at her angrily as she descended the broken stairway and leapt down the cliff to meet him. For a moment, all she did was stare at the necklace in her hands, while he looked at her from the place where he was seated a few feet off, feeling like she was a thief in the presence of her victim, unaware or uncaring to his feelings. How dare she come down here and brandish such a thing in front of him, and pretend that he wasn’t there!
At some point, she looked up. A look something like sympathy crossed her face. She held out her hands. “Come on,” she said, “Hold it.”
He looked up at her with a look of incredulousness. Then he scowled. He felt incredibly insulted for some reason. He told her to be off with her prize, if he was not allowed to have it.
“Prize?” She seemed confused. “But it’s mine. Daddy gave it to me a long time ago.”
He’d heard the story before. Every time, she gave the same old darn excuses and stupid story and he was quite fed up with it. He didn’t want to listen now. 1000 time she had told him that it was a gift from Daddy. But he was fed up with the story.
She clutched it near to her chest again. A couple of times she tried to say something to cheer him up, but he wouldn’t have any of it. Then she asked him if they could share it. She understood that he must have spent a very long time looking for it, and though it meant too much to her to just give up, maybe they could find a compromise.
He seemed to question the idea very harshly. On the one hand, even to have part ownership of the necklace was a boon; at the same time, he didn’t know if it would mean admitting defeat. It was less defeat than not taking the necklace at all, anyway. He did not like to acknowledge it, but he was a bit greedy and having only part ownership of such a wonderful thing didn’t settle very well with him.
They debated it for a bit more. At most, he was stalling for time, having to put off the inevitable. He had found where the temple was, but she had gotten the necklace before him, if only by a little bit. Eventually, she became impatient; she still wanted to make amends, but her attempts weren’t going anywhere. He was too resistant to any compromise. So she pocketed the necklace and begin to go out on her own.
Before she could go too far, he called out to her and said that he was alright with sharing. When she turned around again, after an absurdly and painfully long period of time, he looked like he might break into tears. It had been his life’s work to find the thing for almost a decade now. Having that mission end in utter failure would be too painful for him. He could not bear the sight of her leaving with it on her own.
With a sigh of the wise looking upon the follies of children, she came back forward, held out the necklace in her hand and slipped it over his head. It was as it was described in the books – a circle of Crystal, with a net in its middle, and tied to its base there were long strings of fine glass beads that cascaded down his front to meet with the ground. The crystal and glass were green and blue, and it’s cords were the color and sheen of gold, as if fashioned from the stuff.
A feeling of happiness began to come over him when he wore it. A feeling of peace, and comfort. He fingered the fine threads and delicate beads with childish joy and curiosity. At the same time that he smiled with serene placidity, he felt a gnawing sensation of guilt. He asked her to forgive him for his greed.
She said that it was alright. It wasn’t unlike humans to act as such in times of stress. So she grabbed him by the shoulder without asking him to take the necklace off, and dragged him to his feet.
“We need to go meet your crew,” she said. “They’d like to see you with that on. You look swell in it.”
His heart swelled with warmth and fuzziness. He was so glad for her warmth and kindness that he finally had the courtesy to ask for her name.
“Call me Opus,” she said. And then they went back down the hall together, and without map or compass she led him down the winding halls she had walked in her youth, which was so twisting and obscure that it could have been a map of human consciousness. Yet they reached the other side.