Burning in the Void – Chapter 36

compound vision _Sera

“Get up, Sera.”

Why should I, she thought, knowing the voice would hear her. Every time I get up from bed things only get worse. If I’d just stayed in my chamber instead of poking around in Master Rigel’s things, none of this would have ever happened. If I had stayed in my prison cell I would be dead now, but Kamon would still be alive and the people on this ship wouldn’t be fighting each other. Everything I’ve done has just made things worse.

“Far worse things would have happened if you had not taken action.”

As if that were possible.

“Trust me, Sera, you know nothing of pain. You know nothing of human suffering. You think because you grew up in that squalid Kingdom you know what pain is. Well, try having that filthy slum you call the Kingdom of Humanity inside of you. Try looking at it with ten thousand eyes and being unable to look away or even blink. In fact, why don’t you try it?”

The darkness peeled away and Sera felt as if her brain was shattering into a thousand pieces. Scattered points of light appeared around the edges of her vision, distant stars burning against the blackness of her consciousness, then the dark shattered and each speck of light was itself at the center of her vision. The shards twisted and wrapped themselves around Sera in a kaleidoscopic whirlwind, even as the points of light expanded to fill each facet with the colors and people of the Kingdom.

There: The King sits at the end of a table filled with sumptuous foods, surrounded by his court. He raises a glass of amber liquor in his wrinkled hand and shouts a soundless toast to the fawning courtiers. They all reply in kind, lower their glasses to their lips, and toss the liquid down their throats. A dozen glasses slam down onto the table in unison and the King pounds his fist against the dark laminated wood.

There: A group of children plays in the green grass of the Spine, their gaunt bellies and thin arms bespeaking a life spent in the depths of the poorer wards. One, an especially gaunt girl whose short black hair is beginning to fall out in patches across her scalp, darts up to the fence that marks the boundary of a garden under royal protection, glances around quickly, then jumps the fence. She scrambles up the base of a fig tree and cowers between the twisting roots, narrow face turned upwards, eyes searching for a morsel of fruit hanging low enough for her to snag before the guards catch her.

There: The three high priests kneel in a chamber Sera has never seen, but guesses to be deep within the temple complex, their hoods are pushed back to reveal their faces as they pray. The eldest of them, a man with a short crop of thickly curled white hair sprouting over a deeply wrinkled face, stands and walks across the chamber to a desk that curves out from the wall beside a featureless black cube taller than any two men. A portion of the desk begins to glow as he approaches it. The man reaches out with a shaking finger to press one of the brightly colored shapes.