I am born unto this world, not for the first time, nor the last time, but a time, one of many. Birthed in the heavens, among tree towers, and weather vanes, I tumble through the reaching smoke, bruises around my neck and finger. Soon I am surrounded by waves, pulsing and crashing into me - encasing me in a salty tomb. I sink further and further, until I, at long last learn to swim and break free of the kelp chains about my knees. Rays of sunlight dance around me as I climb towards the surface, as I grasp at the airy salve to soothe my burnt lungs. I reach solid land, and crawl to meet a stairway as wide as the beach I've washed up upon, reaching up past the clouds. On the lowest step, overgrown with vines and brush, nestled between two pure white petals is a loop, a lasso of bright red. As I negotiate my way through the lush, green natives and begin my ascension, I adorn the misfit ring that I could only assume was meant for me. A gentle, unseen force tugs at my hand, guiding me the only way possible, not for the first time, nor the last time. I notice that behind me, others, my brothers and sisters have begun to emerge from their liquid cocoons, not with wings between their spine, but with sturdy feet beneath them. They join me on the stairway to the stars, and we are one. I, now many, climb effortlessly, taking multiple stairs in single bounds, but soon there is dissention among my ranks, brother turns to brother turns to sister turns to sister, biting, pinching, tearing, rending, until flesh is separate of bone, soul separate of body, bough separate of trunk. My invisible guide, ignoring the conflict taking place at all sides, motions me further onward, to a person, a place, a feeling. Now among the clouds, the air is thin and leaves my lungs starving, craving more, and the steps seem covered in honey, holding my feet in place, like a sugary glue. My determination (my companion), like a solvent, allows my steadfast passage, to the top of the sky, to the final echelon. I cross the threshold, not to find a plateau, not to find a beacon to stave off the blanket of darkness, not to find a figure to congratulate me my arrival, but to find disappointment, not for the first time, nor the last time. As I stand on the step overlooking the world, there is a tug at my hand pulling me downward. As I fall, the crimson ring around my finger turns to a noose, choking me, growing tighter with each passing second. Just before my last breath is stolen from me, the cord breaks, my guide gone, and I continue my descent, splitting the sky, as though born anew. Not for the first time, nor the last time, but another time.

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