Published on 2011/07/31

Gifts from Light

Robert William Shmigelsky

The white silhouette of a winged figure emerged effortlessly through a canvas of light into a round and surprisingly less illuminated hollow.

A maiden of the featherfolk, the figure approached attentively and stopped before the source of this aura then pulled out the stone tablet that had been tucked under her arm.

Shalana looked down and parted her lips to read the tablet aloud. "Despite the merging of the crystal prism into the planet's core," she began. "The corrosion of the planet's core has increased at a fixed rate and will continue to do so unless the current inhabitants completely change their ways or we intervene at the source..."

As this was a world without Mother Nature, change didn't happen naturally. Light did this himself based on observations and recommendations made by featherfolk like Shalana. Without it, new trees wouldn't grow to replace the old, rain wouldn't fall where it needed to; plants might not receive enough sunlight and so forth.

Lately, these observations had dealt mainly with the rapid, highly destructive activities of the Earth's current inhabitants and the impact they had on the world, the inhabitants having ascended to affluence too quickly without realizing the errors of their ways.

Looking up as she lowered her tablet to conclude, Shalana added: "Lastly, based on my observations of the core's decline, it is my estimation that before the turn of the next century, the Earth will no longer be capable of supporting life as we know it." And, as Shalana knew, that meant a dark dead world.

Allowing her to witness him in his full glory, the figure at the center of the aura stood still for a moment, his facial expression unmoved yet, somehow, still managing to display a resemblance of open-mindedness.

"Thank you for your report, Shalana. As always, it is a pleasure to see your face."

"You're very welcome," Shalana said, bowing. Remembering her previous visit, when she rose back up, she added, "But as I said last time, you are far too gracious with your words."

"Then, perhaps, you could tell me again: how else am I to thank my attendants?"

Mindful of the level of separation involved, Shalana tried to think of something appropriate to say. "Same place, same time tomorrow, then?"

Light rose from his modest place of rest. Shalana detected a small measure of hesitation emanating from him.

"I'm afraid this shall be the last time we meet like this," he told her as she remained motionless, waiting for the inevitable explanation that would clear up what he meant by that.

"My purpose in being, mandated to me and one other, I have explored the celestial plane, created new worlds, breathed Fire, Water, Earth and Air into them and filled them with life," said Light as if perceiving the questions springing up from the stilled contours of Shalana's face. "As you know, every world has been a lesson of trial and error in fully understanding that mandate: what life should be. Like you and your featherfolk kin, those below us have been no exception, but I have watched them and continued to learn from my mistakes."

The light around them shimmered as the past came into view.

"Recall the day I created them and gave them the most basic but capable form," he continued. "How I stretched and massaged their bodies into giants, making them tall and muscular so they could easily weather away the many hardships that life would come to offer."

"I remember: I was there," Shalana replied, seeing an oversized man in an undersized world bracing himself against a voluminous current.

"Did you see how complacent they became? With every part of life requiring little to no effort they found no reason to put any effort into their lives."

The image splayed across the luminous surface of Light's aura shimmered and shifted. This time Shalana saw a fully-grown man sitting on the ground, gazing up absent mindedly into the vast blue sky above.

Light continued on, explaining how he had populated the Earth by simply giving them adult bodies and personalities they did not have a chance to grow into... how they had misused his breath of immortality, explaining that eternal life without wisdom – even something as precious as life – can dull in time.

"In a sense, I granted their every wish," Light eventually said. "They do not feel hunger or thirst or fear the elements. As they are, they are unable to appreciate the world around them."

“But surprisingly my greatest mistake may have been giving them complete soul shards.”

“Why is that? Is that not how it should be?” Shalana asked. The modest features of her face contorted in response to her questions as her mind raced to formulate a reasonable explanation as to why that could be.

"Make a being complete, what incentive is there for them to go beyond the boundaries that define them, improve themselves and accomplish more? An incomplete soul would result in a continual need for self-improvement and fulfillment and a yearning for its missing part. Men shall be the incomplete."

A noticeable curiosity etched in her voice, Shalana asked: “And the missing part?”

Light stepped forward and his eyes came into contact with her face. "I will shape them after the form I choose for you. Like you, they shall choose to wear their hair long, have fair yet perceived flawed skin and bodies shaped like the hourglass itself. They shall be cherished by their other half and they, after they are won over, shall cherish them back, bear and give life to the offspring shaped from their bond," he told her with a composed gaze.

Shalana's nonchalant look evaporated.

“Bond?”

"I shall leave it up to them to give it a name," he answered her. Light lowered his hand and strolled forward; his aura moved with him.

Them? Shalana wondered what Light would think up this time.

"How will one feel this bond?" Shalana asked. "Will it flow forth like a river or shall it fall like rain from the clouds?"

"It will come just like any other emotion," said Light. "But 'when will it come?' should be the question. Like a rare precious stone, it will be hard to come by as it shall require the coming together of two separate pieces, each piece shaped only to fit one exactly like it amidst thousands of similar looking pieces. In any case... I have a feeling it shall be quite complicated indeed."

Shalana wondered what this bond would feel like. Featherfolk felt no such bonds. For the most part, they were singular, without deviation or drive. For the most part – except for a small voice or nagging feeling that always seemed to break free from the tight confines of her soul and cry out in a desperate plea to be noticed.

"There's only one way of finding out," Shalana replied.

The next moment Shalana found herself beyond the confines of Light's aura looking across a vast seemingly endless field of emerald-green grass curving into the distance. There was no smell or feeling of fresh air, only a sense of warmth – a different warmth than normal.

The veil between worlds teetered at the edge of heaven. Shalana looked up at the sky and saw the brilliant blue and white tinctures of the real world etched on it.

"This bright new life and more could unfold in two ways," Shalana heard Light say. She looked down at him and saw him looking up at the Earth.

"We could leave this world and the Titans to their fate and create a new world somewhere else or we could create it here on this world. I have since grown tired of wandering and thus have no desire to leave this world now. That leaves just one option, but we would not be able to accomplish creating this new life here with the Titans as they are: they would surely assail those to come.”

“Unfortunately, I cannot simply recreate them. Although from the exchange of matter they would lose their consciousnesses and ceased to be who they are, the lifetime of a thousand years of wrongs will forever taint their soul shards. All it would take is a trigger of a memory for all those wrongs to come flooding back and the old personality to reassert itself. It is not in my heart to destroy them, nor would it be practical to banish them to another plane of existence given their size."

"That leaves only the option of imprisoning them here on this Earth and creating something new in their image..."

As he said this, Light pointed at the world and drew it closer; from his fingertip, a light began to brighten and glow. Shalana saw thousands of miles away but magnified in her eyes the sleek metal buildings and unmistakable outlines of slums belonging to the vastest Titan civilization.

As Shalana stood there, fixed by her awe, her mind raced through the many possibilities of what would happen next. In the back of her mind, she wondered what race would replace the Titans.

Seconds later, the glow on Light’s fingertip reached its zenith and exploded, blinding Shalana as it spread outwards toward the Earth . . .

The next moment Shalana found herself standing, surrounded by tall public buildings, giants – larger than life itself – turned to stone.

Shalana gazed in her new surroundings, reflecting. It was quite the feeling, standing there after the Light had displayed his power. She felt both amazed and terrified at the same time.

“Absorb it while you can Shalana for soon none of this will remain,” Light told her, informing her of his presence.

She looked in the direction his voice had come and saw him standing there, looking up at one of the buildings in the background. The expression on her face turned solemn, the feeling throbbing inside her telling her all she needed to know.

“And, very soon, neither shall I.”

Shalana shifted uncomfortably in her sandals. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“I have long grown tired of this endless existence of mine, weighed down by the countless sorrows I have witnessed. And knowing my children, I know it will be some time before such sorrows exist no longer. Still, I know there shall come times where they shall need me. Therefore, I shall descend and enter the void between worlds and let nature take her course.”

“I don’t understand.”

“In time you will . . . I have already informed the others and set events into motion for the world to go on without me. Now, I am afraid I must bid you a fond farewell for there is one last matter I must attend to before I depart . . .”

Light turned and headed down the road toward the other side of a nearby building. Shalana recovered and ran after him as he disappeared beyond the corner of that building, but when she turned the corner, she stopped in her tracks: he was gone.

Shalana stood there unable to move. Her mouth left ajar, she starred out in silent reflection, trying to grasp answers that were not there.

Specks of light appeared and danced above the ground around Shalana. It took a moment for her eyes to notice, but when she did she looked down and watched. In moments, tiny grains of sediment began to build up around her and bury the surface of the Earth. When it almost buried her feet, Shalana pushed herself off the ground, using her feet as a springboard, and hovered in the air, her wings flapping rapidly to keep herself afloat. Still looking down, she watched as the sediment slowly began to bury the Titans and their civilization under thousands of years of rock and soil, even though for her it would seem to take an hour at most.

Shalana snapped out of it: she did not have an hour.

Her thoughts firmly set, Shalana flew up and touched the lock of thread tied to the pendant around her neck. A flash of light swooped in and picked her up.

* * *

She reappeared high above providence. Immediately, she caught sight of something down below her. Wondering what it was, Shalana swooped down from the sky and landed on the ground.

She looked and saw Light before her, aglow with his luminous illumination. He stood before five regally dressed kings, who wore gold crowns atop their heads and flowing red robes draped around their bodies and wielded long scepters. Behind the five kings, dressed in equally regal attire, their entourage stood lined up in assembly.

One of the kings stepped toward Light's aura and was presented a looped cross as a gift. The king gladly accepted this gift before stepping back and rejoining the others. Shalana peered closer to see what gifts the other kings had received when one of the kings, who apparently did not receive a gift of his own, asked Light why this was so.

From inside Light's aura a reply came. He said he had no more gifts left to give and that they would have to learn how to share the gifts with each other. This was the first lesson they would have to learn in life he told them.

With that, Shalana heard the snap of fingers and the five kings and their entourage disappeared in a flash of bright light before Shalana could take a good look at the other gifts they held in their hands.

In unison, as if having used the last of his power, Light dimmed and his aura faded.

Seeming not to notice her, he turned and walked away. Naturally, Shalana followed after him.

Light lead her to a small hole leading underground. Following after him, Shalana felt her entire body and spirit shift as she traveled through the interwoven layers of the universe. The sensation, lasting only the briefest of moments, felt like her body had taken a step forward without her.

Thinking little of it, she shook it off and took the last few steps down. She emerged inside a thick nebulous area of stilled pink clouds entrenched in time and space.

To her left, she saw Light standing in front of a long darkened hall. When she approached, he walked forward into the hall. She stopped; he stopped. She ran; he ran. She stopped; he stopped. She walked forward and he did the same again. Like a trickster keeping them locked in a mirror dance, the two of them appeared to be caught in a kind of flux or magical enchantment.

Something in the corner of her eye catching her attention, she looked at the darkness to her left and saw an image of her past lit upon it: although the image was stilled, she saw herself watching a gift being bestowed by the Light onto one of the kings she had seen. Curious, she stepped back, but the heel of her foot stopped before it hit the floor. The image moved forward as she moved back and the king accepted the gift. She took a couple steps forward. Now, the images reflected were of her talking to Light amidst the petrified Titans.

When she moved back, the image of her edged forward in time; when she moved forward down the hall, the image of her lurched back in time.

She tore her gaze off the image and planted it on Light. He was still the exact same distance from her. Why she did not know.

A part of herself unwilling or unable to let him go, Shalana ran after him down the hall, paying no attention to what was reflected on the images cast on the unseen walls of the hall, but no matter how fast she ran – Light ran just as fast, always keeping the same distance between them.

Feeling slightly lighter all of a sudden, Shalana’s feet slid to a stop. She reached up over her shoulder and felt her back: her wings were gone.

No longer able to overlook the fact she was moving back in time – right now to a point when her people were not featherfolk – Shalana held still for a moment. If she continued – she knew she would eventually cease to exist. And she was not sure if she was ready for that yet.

But why this mirror dance – why not just depart? Was it for his sake? To help himself let her go?

Then she realized the answer and the look on her face shattered into a thousand pieces. The answer formulated in her mind for a moment before she accepted it. Her face resumed its original unimaginative form and she stepped back.

Their mirror dance broken, Light walked forward.

He disappeared.

In unison, Shalana felt the world below come alive – Gaia waking up and spreading her roots through the Earth. Then she remembered. As another image reflected the memory, she saw herself staring in awe before an ocean-blue light emanating from deep inside the Earth's core then pushing the crystal prism into it, the light bending to accept it.

She had delivered the final ingredient for this new life to unfold.

Unable to feel sadness but unwilling to feel joy, Shalana stood there and tried to sort out her feelings, but found all she could do was tilt her head toward the ground and dwell on the memories reflected upon.

* * *

Later that celestial evening, Shalana returned for the first time to where it had all started. To her surprise, she discovered Light’s aura still blessed the chamber with its luminous illumination. She had expected it to be dark and devoid of light. She wondered what this might signify: although Light was no longer here in body – perhaps, a small part of him was still here watching over them.

She considered following his example, but decided not now (if ever). For now, there were many new experiences to be had in the new world with this new life or more specifically – the new kingdom.

They called themselves man. Although they had only just landed the silver ships they were placed them in, they were already hard at work planning the construction of their kingdom.

They were led by the five kings, who had learned to overcome the fact there were only four gifts between them. They accomplished this by sharing with each other that which the other did not possess or by helping each other with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

Despite the fact they were given physical gifts, perhaps the real gifts were the mortal frailties their race was given. Although in many ways, they were similar to the Titans, having their own little quirks and imperfections, in other ways they were quite different. As she watched them from afar, never interfering, she saw their humbleness toward the Earth, daunted by the size of it. Their curiosity when they discovered something new to them and, most surprisingly, their constant willingness to learn from their mistakes and better themselves as opposed to simply being given the skills they needed. The five kings were guiding examples of this. Though she knew her outlook on this could change in time perhaps it would be these human frailties that would one day separate the race of men from their predecessors.

Shalana figured the physical gifts were something more for the short term.

Even if her role in this world was now taken over by the roots of Gaia, she knew in time – like life – her people would evolve and find a new role in this continually changing world. This – as she walked along the breadth of the aura, drawn around by her senses – she was convinced of. While originally not born of this world they were still very much a part of it. Even if they tried – they could not go on ignoring it forever.

That is what being witness to the Titans’ demise taught her. It would not be wrong to say the experience changed her in ways she was just beginning to notice, but at the same time she knew now – nothing lasts forever. It doesn’t matter how big or strong you are. Eventually, your time will come. All one can do is try to change and keep ahead of the curve. If you don’t, the burden of your actions will weigh you down, time will pass you by and before you know it – you’re buried under thousands of years of earth and rock.


Robert Shmigelsky, a residential care aide, is unapologetic in his pursuit of excellent high fantasy. Robert has been writing fantasy for himself in his spare time for the last seven years, but has only recently begun writing for others. Besides reading and writing, some of his hobbies include computers and medieval and ancient history. He has a dry sense of humor, which he blames his stepfather for. Also, he has a habit of making history jokes no one but he understands.

Robert is currently sifting through the first of three novels he wrote in his younger years in an attempt to make it somewhat palatable and can be found on facebook.