If you have not already read parts 1-22, I suggest you click on the ‘Serials’ tab at the top of this page, and begin at the beginning, as this is the end, and it’ll feel rather anticlimactic to start here, I promise.
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The Captain dreamt of coming home to his beautiful Riesa, to the girl who had gotten between him and the feather dreams, the girl who had put her cheek to his, the girl who had sung to him. She had known what lay in the red dark, had known what it was he chose. She had chosen to fit her hand to his and love him, regardless.
He opened his eyes to look upon the abandoned child, and closed them again, in an attempt to return to Riesa’s side, to touch the hand of his son, to have a single moment outside the inexorable circle around this horrible gravitational well that was the last moment, his last moment.
He opened his eyes again, and there was the child, still waiting, watching him, never judging, never rushing him. It did not beg him. It did not plead. It did not condemn. His heart did all of these things in turn, all on its own.
He closed his eyes again, and there was Riesa, and there was his son.
It was not the decision upon which he hesitated, it was merely the vain hope that he could wait the instant until they were brought to the Desolation, that he could hold his son but once before it was all over. He saw the contentment on Riesa’s face begin to fade as the darkened sky began to warm with the hint of morning. Her eyes ever looked to the horizon out the window; she shook with fear as the grey clouds began to light up.
She knew what came with the sunrise.
She knew what left with it, too.
In his mind’s eye, in his heart, Riesa began to scream.
The Captain could wait no longer; as the sun clawed its way over the horizon, he stepped into the blade of light, and heard the song of the heavens pierce him. He embraced the abandoned child and felt him dissipate. When he closed his eyes, he knew the child woke within the camp, at the water’s edge, fingers wet, palm laid against the stones of SongFall itself.
When he opened his eyes, the clouds themselves were aflame, and the music the surrounded him, pierced him, was as though the whole world were made of light, of music, and his heart were merely answering its song.
He closed his eyes and reached out, as though to touch Riesa, as though to calm her heart. He lifted his voice to the song he could hear, and somehow, in the red dark, she heard it as well. She lifted her voice to the dying night and sang with him, joyous as the sun came up, and her son remained in her arms.
We all woke to the singing, as all of our children remained with us.
When our Captain opened his eyes for the last time, and looked upon himself, he did it without fear, knowing only that it was the end, not how it would come to be. He watched as his skin turned to light, to dust, to ash, and simply became borne in the morning air.
Painless, he dissipated into atoms, skin, blood, bone, each unto each flying apart into their component nothings, a fading red mist in a soundless wind. The heart of him sang with the morning’s light, and his last sight was that of the sunrise as the blade withdrew, the clouds themselves burned away, and the world took its first breath after the sundering, revealing the everything of above, and the return of the clearblue sky.