Uru's realm of dreams and nightmares
22ND OF JULY
Sundown comes too fast, and by the time we are driving over to the observatory, I don’t feel nearly prepared for what I’m about to go through.
“Hey,” Emma clasps a hand over my knee, which I’ve been bouncing up and down for the whole drive up Mount John. The observatory has been closed all day due to bad weather, which I’m not even surprised about. As we drive up, the road is clear as if someone’s pushed all the snow to the sides of the road. I try not to think about it, I try not to think about any of it as Em’s hand helps me settle into right here and now. “You know, it’s no big deal.” There’s an edge of nervousness on Em’s voice, even if she’s trying to hide it. “You’re only about to save the world, easy, you’ve got this.” She smiles broadly as she looks at me quickly, and then her eyes are back on the road.
We park at the top and get out of the car, the wind hitting us with full strength. Emma and Rongo join me and walk one on each flank as we approach the nearest dome-looking building.
“Is this the one?”
Rongo looks at me and nods once, his expression as serious as I’ve ever seen it. Em’s hair is furiously wrapped around her middle finger as she smiles, the warmth not reaching her eyes.
“I’m ready,” I say, even if I don’t feel like it. “It will all be okay.” I don’t know if I’m reassuring her or myself.
Em jumps forward and squeezes me on a tight hug, and when she lets go, she just looks intently into my eyes, her lips in a thin tight line. We don’t say a word; we don’t need to. We agreed this is not a goodbye, but an ‘I’ll see you later’ and I think we both rather not think about what’s about to happen. I told Emma the plan before coming over, but I purposely avoided all the tiny details on which… I just don’t know if my plan is going to work. There’s still one thing that might make it or break it.
Emma squeezes my hands one last time before I turn over and look at Rongo.
“May I?” A small smile tugs at my lips as I look up at him, and he nods.
I wrap my arms tightly around him, hugging this guy I’ve barely known for a matter of days but I have learned to love like the brother I never had. I hug him for what I know will probably be the last time, and I have to blink fast not to let the tears cloud my eyes. “Thank you,” I whisper into his hair. “I will never forget you.”
He squeezes me tighter, lifting my feet off the ground for a second as his lips brush my ear. “I believe in you, Sam.”
As he lets go, I look up, blinking the tears away and not letting them out. A sense of peace fills me up as I take one last deep breath and I let Rongo’s energy engulf me like a warm blanket.
“A parting gift,” he says softly, making sure Emma can’t hear him. I glance at Em, and Rongo nods, knowing I expect him to be looking after my best friend until the last possible second.
Before I can change my mind, I close my fist around the Koru hanging from my neck with my right hand, and open the door to the observatory with the left. Rongo and Emma take a step back as the door opens to reveal the most impressive blackness I have ever seen. Far into the distance, I glimpse a spot of light, and without looking back, I step in and let the darkness take me for the last time.
The moment the Sun sets over the horizon, the darkness that was surrounding me starts to drip back onto the world below, allowing the light to sip back into this realm. If it wasn’t because of what this entitles, I’d believe this to be a beautiful thing to witness; the way the stars slowly rain down, making their way to the Earth’s sky, leaving behind a trail of stardust that is soon replaced by dripping sunlight.
As the night takes over the Earth, the light around me intensifies, and with it, comes what I’d been fearing the most. Uru’s portal opens up, utilizing the energy of the exchange between his realm and the world below, and then I see her.
She materializes in front of me, a spot of light that expands as her beautiful lilac hair floats around her resembling a crown of lavender flowers, and then the whole of her follows. Her moss green eyes dart around until they find me; and despite it all, a smile spreads slowly through my face.
Her whole body is graciously floating only a few feet away, and almost as if by the strength of shared will, she slowly gravitates towards me. I see the Koru hovering between us, pulsating with a hypnotic gleam.
“Tane.” Her eyes travel down my body, and I can tell the precise moment she notices the shackles around my wrists. They’re made of pure stardust, and they snake up my forearms, keeping me linked to this place. The sole reason I haven’t been able to escape this realm and go looking for her. Uru hasn’t even showed up in the whole time I’ve been here, so typical of him.
All the joy erases from Sam’s beautiful face in the fraction of a second it takes for Hine to show up by my side. Her long raven hair is almost invisible among the darkness that seems to cling harder onto her, making the red strands stand out like a blood crown. Sam holds her chin up, her eyes unblinking as her lips part, and I feel my heart beating faster inside my too-human chest.
Hine’s rage is palpable by my side as she almost growls. “Human, I’m surprised you know who I am.”
“I do know who you are, I happened to meet your husband yesterday.”
The shackles against my wrists seem to tighten with Hine’s anger, and I give Sam a look, hoping she realizes this is not a good path to go down. Hine is already jealous of Sam, the same way she’s annoyed with every interaction I’ve ever had with a human. Knowing Sam has been talking with Ru will not help; even if I’m curious and a little surprised my little brother showed up.
“Did you, just?” Hine drifts away from me, getting closer to Sam.
I try to move closer, but I feel the shackles pulling me back as Tu materializes behind me. “Hine, this is between you and me.”
“Oh, no, this is between us girls, daddy. This is between me and this little thing called human that thinks she’s important enough to be a bigger part of your life than I ever was.”
“That was your choice, Hine! You were the one that ran away to the underworld and started taking away souls and burying them deep in sorrow and darkness while I was trying to guide them to the light!”
Hine turns around fast, and her fist rises up. “Oh, yes, because all you cared about were those damn humans you created, you were so absorbed in them that you forgot you were a God to start with!”
“I’ve never forgotten, looking after the humans as well as the forests is what I do as a God!”
Sam’s eyes are darting back and forth between us, occasionally glancing back at Tu, who I can feel towering over me. I have to admit to myself, there is some truth to Hine’s words; I’ve been longing to be among them humans for years, getting as close as I could, watching their ways and being amazed by how they’re able to find meaning in such short lives.
Hine turns back around, and her hand closes gently around Sam’s throat as she turns her head one way and the other, making my heart beat wildly in my chest. Maybe Hine’s right in so many levels, I do care about humans way more than I ever expected I would; specially this one human in front of me that seems to be holding my heart in her palm.
As I look at her, Sam winks at me in a slow and deliberate manner. What is she trying to tell me? I look into her moss green eyes, which look more like seaweed today, and I can’t help but notice the tears pooling in her eyes.
No, not in her eyes.
In her right eye.
As I look at her intently, Sam winks once more, and a lonely tear travels down her cheek. Sam’s lips curve up in a half smile for a fraction of a second, and then she looks at Hine, taking the attention back to herself.
“Hine, I’m willing to negotiate for what you want.”
“Negotiate?” Hine throws her hands in the air, letting go of Sam. “There’s nothing to negotiate, you’re going to give the Koru back to Tane, and with its power, he’ll be forced to destroy the world he loves. And you, my darling, will be gone with it.”
As I watch the lonely tear travelling down her cheek, I feel time slow down around me.
And inside the water of that one drop, I see myself reflected. The image changes, and suddenly I’m looking at Sam, standing by the lake with Rongo by her side. They’re looking at the water, and within the water… Tangaroa. I can’t believe Sam went looking for my brothers, what is this all about?
I see Sam in that little tear, I watch her converse with my brother, God of the Sea, marine life and all water bodies, and I understand this is Tangaroa’s magic working as a mirror, allowing me to see what Sam was up to earlier today. Sam talks for a while, and afterwards, Tangaroa presses a single finger against her chest, a small smile on his face as he places his trust in a human.
The image blurs, and then reshapes as I watch Sam inside an old chapel, the stone walls worn out and cracked. She’s holding a little kid’s hands in hers, and she trembles as the kid speaks and I can almost feel his magic rippling around Sam’s forearms. There’s a sad smile in Ru’s face as he lets go of Sam, touches a single finger against her chest, and disappears through a crack in the stones.
Sam blinks again, and the tear finds it way down her chin, making me look up to the two girls arguing in front of me. I make an effort not to smile as I blink slowly, letting Sam know that I understand her plan.
If we pull this off, I’ll owe Rongo a big one.
As Tangaroa’s magic wears out, I’m brought back to the present, to Tane’s eyes on mine, and the tiny drops like diamonds shining in the corner of his eyes.
“I am willing to give Tane the Koru back, but there’s something I’m asking for in return.” I sound more sure than what I’m feeling, the peace Rongo gifted me still keeping my thoughts in check.
“You’re in no position to gamble, child!”
“I am. If you don’t grant me what I desire, I will destroy this pounamu, and Tane’s power will be gone with it!”
“And with what power are you going to destroy it?” Hine laughs humorlessly. “You’re nothing more than a filthy human,” her voice is a whisper against my ear that gives me goosebumps.
“I might be powerless, but I have friends with a whole lot of power within themselves.”
Hoping this will work, I lift my hand up and see the energy rippling around my forearm as I touch Hine’s arm. A wave of electricity makes her whole body shake and Hine moves back, her eyes open up in astonishment.
“Ruaumoko… Gifted you his power?”
I grip the Koru tightly in my fist, letting the energy ripple around the outside of my skin as Ru explained. It’s like picturing my own aura and letting it dance around my hand. I take a deep breath, my mind vacant and calm thanks to Rongo and years of meditation.
“Just enough to destroy this precious stone. Now, are you ready to listen to what I want?”
Hine’s eyes seem to suck all the light off the room as she stares at the Koru. “Fine.”
I try to contain the fear as I ask the question that’s been bothering me since Ru told me the story about how Hine found out about the Koru.
“Why were you there the day I had the accident?” The energy around my fist ripples, and I almost lose control of my emotions as I fear the worst.
“Oh, I see why Tane has a liking for you, you’re smarter than you look.”
“Tell me why,” the energy shakes together with my voice, and I feel the Koru warming up, so I ease my grip on it.
“I was there to claim a soul,” Hine replies nonchalantly, as if life didn’t mean a thing, as if being in darkness for years was nothing. I close my fist tightly around the Koru, and a green light starts shining around it.
“Sam…” I look up to Tane, to his pine green eyes that are boring into mine. I see the sad smile on his face, and I ease my grip on the pounamu again.
Then everything moves so fast, it takes me a moment to understand what just happened.
Hine launches at me, squeezing my wrist tight with one hand, making my fingers open up as she yanks the Koru out of my grip with the other. She moves back, showing up by Tane’s side, a hand around his throat as she dangles the Koru in front of his eyes. The big guy that was behind Tane and I assume is Tu, rushes over to my side, pinning my arms behind my back.
“Yes,” Hine’s voice is a purr that makes my whole body vibrate. “You did guess it right, I know what you’re thinking… and I was there that day to take your father’s soul.”
A scream breaks the silence and rattles the few remaining stars as the whole space we’re in shakes. It takes me a second to realise I’m the one screaming, and Ru’s power is flickering out, shaking the space around me and throwing Tu back. My arms open by my sides as all the contained anger leaves me in waves: anger for never knowing my father, for never knowing my heritage, for every single lie my mother fed me through the years. Anger for knowing my father’s soul has been in darkness for so many years. Anger, frustration and pain leave me in that piercing scream as the power of Ru’s magic explodes outwards.
I may have never met my father, but no one messes with my family, and no Goddess will keep my father’s soul in darkness.