On each of the next four days, the girl lanced yet another of what she called my "eyes," and with each piercing, a new child would disappear. Of the band of angels, that is. The teeming hordes off in the distance seemed to draw closer and closer to us, though shimmering, as in a mirage. Silence during the day, though their voices seemed to fill my dreams. I hesitated to ask the girl where the angels had gone, for fear she would lay their disappearances on my head as well.
On the fifth day, I woke to find that feeling had returned to the left side of my body. I cried out in elation, but found that my voice was gone. The girl seemed unfazed by sudden resurrection, as if all was proceeding according to some calculus to which only she was privy. The remaining boy mounted one of the horses and she the other, handing me a tether to lead her on. The encasement we left behind. Late in the afternoon, the ocean appeared on the horizon, as the cry of gulls filled the air off in the distance.
"North," the girl announced, a terse command I was fain to resist. It seemed my journey, one I had envisioned ending at the ocean, was still not at an end. As the last light disappeared, she lit a lantern: instead of stopping for the night, we pushed on.
After two more hours traveling, a horse nickered in the dark. Out of the darkness, a one-eyed man stepped into our traveling light. A quick glance to the girl: she nodded, and he took me roughly by the arm, pushing me into the darkness.
We entered a coolness, as walls of stone closed in upon us. No light: the man, with his one eye, seemed to guide us on sheer familiarity: no need to see, no possibility of seeing. Our steps went downward for a very long time, echoing footsteps back on up the stone walls behind us.
An hour must have passed before we stopped, at which point I was pulled down and made to lie on my back in what felt like mud: the feeling was not unpleasant, almost comforting. Behind my head, I heard the scraping of wood against wood. Within moments, water slowly began to fill the space around me: salt water, by the smell of it. As it filled the space around me, its saltiness was confirmed: densely salted, as I floated on its surface, with no effort at all.
The voices of the mirage children seemed to fill the air around me, pressing so heavily upon me I felt as if I would suffocate. They rose to a horrifying crescendo, and then fell away into ghostly silence, as a rich orange light split the darkness. Defying all natural laws, two figures floated above me: twelve feet from me was the remaining boy, with a knife at his throat. Holding the knife was my father, a man I had presumed dead, since he disappeared over thirty years ago, in a hail of violence.
Glimmering in the mud to my right was another knife, twin to that in my father's hand.
"Make your move," said my father. His eyes upon me were serpent-like.
I lay in horror of the man, paralyzed by fear of him. Still.
"Pick it up." My father, again. Sick of my hesitation, he slid his blade inside the left nostril of the boy and quickly slit it open. The blood began to rain upon me.
A rage welled up and I picked up the knife. As I did so, I began to rise in the air.
A foot from my father, I lashed out, a quick slit to his brow. He laughed maniacally, as I found paralysis returning to the left side of my body.
The boy cried out, "Not him! Do not cut him! It only adds to his strength!"
"What would you have me do, foolish child?" I cried.
"I cannot tell you. All I can say is that, if you cut him, it will kill the both of us."
Blood continued to rain upon me, and my father seemed to grow as my strength diminished. In a flash, the girl's face exploded in my mind's eye, and with all the strength and determination left in me, I thrust the knife into yet another of the wounds on my arm. An avalanche of fire ripped through my body, ripped through the cave, and then -