“Now that you are human, you won’t fight?” A tall, stately figure garbed in blue ceremonial robes and a warrior’s headdress comes before my eyes. She bears a sharpened sceptre in her right hand, and somehow I know there is a feather under the helmet.
I draw my right hand across my chest palm inward, and bow slightly, extending my hand in greeting, before forming it into a fist and preparing for divine battle on this stellar arena. The goddess dips her head almost imperceptibly, and I notice this is a different neck of space than before, with many more stars. The first time we crossed blades was in a quiet auditorium room with a veiled curtain, seemingly on Earth; I had manifested weapons at the time, but perhaps now that was unnecessary.
What is in your heart, child?
As my feet coil in preparation to spring, a scene begins to play down left.
She hits me again and again with the force of a fighter, and every time she does white words escape to the skies.
I cannot do this.
Her fists are powerful and clenched.
I am not good enough.
They beat me without false mercy or quarter. Her red shirt fills my vision.
It is too much of a risk.
Her face is neutral and her eyes composed.
I don’t know if I can trust you.
She jams my knees with her foot and black impurity oozes outward. Her fingers in my chest remove the same. There is pain in all these places, but I remain standing.
It will destroy me.
Her knee forces its way into the nerves of my inner right thigh, opening my hip in external rotation; her fingers find a nerve in my neck and press. She moves in.
Find someone else.
I don’t scream. Neither of us makes a sound.
Three innocent-looking gray balls with the energy of terra firma fly straight from the goddess’ hand toward me.
What do you fear?
Down below another scene unfolds.
She races through the woods on foot; a wide gravel path with sharp stones absorbs the impact of her strides. Droplets of liquid stain the path behind, but never more than a few in one place—she hasn’t stopped long enough for that.
Her inward breath draws a sharp pain in displaced bone, and her every step a concentrated throbbing at the joint. She ignores all this, though, knowing there is somewhere she needs to be.
She bursts into the clearing as the coniferous trees lining either side relinquish their boundaries. She feels the wetness of her shirt for the first time since the wind has abated, and the pain is excruciating. She wants nothing more than to curl up in a ball on the ground and moan, but something is more important.
She sees the growing darkness in a blue sea out of the corner of her right eye; in front of her is a secluded lake in the forest clearing. A woman in pink stands across the lake facing her, and suddenly she knows what to do: She forces herself to stand upright and breathe deeply, somehow drawing strength from the mysterious woman; it is agony when she raises her arm, but she props the other under it and forces herself to attain the necessary height, even with a broken scapula. More blood streams down her shirt as her hands come together in the shape of an imaginary ball at face level; she focuses all her energy on the essence of who she is and projects us both into an imaginary whirlwind swirling protectively around a lone island on the water. Her projection is everything but the pain, to avoid distracting me, and through her eyes I see mine are glowing white—oblivious to all except the task at hand.
She can barely make herself out through the swirling wind, but soon sees herself placing her hands under my collar, wearing a black coat to hide the bleeding—this I do not see. Her effort isn’t altruistic—that would never work—but there is a purity and practicality to her love that moves me: she could be shedding her last drop of blood, and still she would give me time and space to decide, with only the most of respect.
There is a bang as I make my decision.