I awoke as if from a relentless nightmare. My skin was cool with a bluish tint and my veins were pronounced and pulsing. Where was I? How had I come to be here? I had no knowledge of myself before this very moment, like I had just been born. The chamber where I found myself was somber and musty; ancient it seemed, yet brand new. Since I had no other purpose, I aimlessly wandered the strange, dark halls and cam unknowing to a sacred place.
And there they stood, dark and intimidating, more beautiful than any creatures under the sun. Her dress was of purest black, making her pale skin gleam like the reflection of moonlight off of a silver lake. Several copper keys hung suspended from her wrists, hung by intricately knotted golden ribbons. She had eyes like none I had ever imagined. They too were golden, but with such a luster to them that they seemed to truly be made of gold. And floating on the surface of those golden, shimmering pools were specks of crimson, vivid as rose petals. Her hair resembled a calm sea at midnight, a shining mass of blue-black waves that lapped at the base of her spine. But she was as the moon compared to the glory of the sun.
He was resplendent and perfect. His eyes held me spellbound. They were inescapably dark and seemed to go on into eternity, never ending portals of darkness. His hair was opalescent in the dim candlelight, shifting from every color imaginable. Now a silvery blue, now a pearly white. Robes of black satin trimmed in antique gold skimmed over his frame, accentuating the strong build beneath. I longed to stare, longed to glimpse a vision of his soul, of this place, in his eyes. From a deep place inside myself I realized that all of this was very strange. But that voice was very far away and another voice, strong and unrelenting assaulted my mind and drove out all thoughts but complete and utter compliance. I became aware that I was part of something very mysterious and ancient, even in its own reckoning.
I took my place before them, kneeling in acquiescence. And I waited, thinking little, if at all. Finally, she bid me rise, and her voice was fluid as a river's murmur. She pointed down a long path, a riot of reds, golds, and oranges that I had not seen before. It was as it if had just appeared. As she raised her arm to point I watched the keys dangle from her wrists, clanging, and heard their music as a wind chime… it was then that I knew my path had been chosen.
He approached me and from atop a table made of sturdy wood he took a set of bright red ribbons that fluttered and danced as he walked. With these ribbons my wrists were bound. Not tightly for they did not cause any pain or discomfort. Instead, they seemed to be merely an extension of myself: they became a part of me.
They then guided me along the shimmering, red-orange path; stopping to adorn my hair with ripe berries and gorgeous blooming roses that offered their fragrance to the night. At last we came to a door, and he spoke. I had never heard such a voice. It was like the wind, soft but powerful, graceful yet turbulent. What he said I did not understand. The language was rich and strange, a melody of lilting notes.
He guided me through the doorway, and into the Chamber of Light. I was blind for long moments, but when I finally saw, my breath caught in my throat. Columns of pure gold encircled the room. Hanging from the air, for there was no ceiling, were millions of diamonds of all sizes, glittering and floating. The floor was made of rubies and heady scented candles. I do not know how I walked on candles, it seemed as if my feet glided over them as steadily as if they were pieces of glowing granite. The air smelled of summer, thick with honey and sweetness and warmth. I did not know that I was walking alone until I looked to the center of the room where the Two stood. And then, in a flash of understanding, I knew them. They were Angels both. Kamal, he was called, meaning "perfection" and she was called Aegle, meaning "radiance".
Aegle held both of her wrists out toward me and I was blinded yet again by the movement of the shimmering keys that dangled there. When the keys stilled, I was drawn toward her. My feet moved of their own accord, no longer listening to my feeble commands. And then suddenly, I stopped. She held out for me four keys all alike.
"Much depends on this choice, little light, choose wisely".
I stared for a long time. I saw no difference whatsoever in the keys. How was this so important? I looked up at the angels, but neither one of them revealed a thing in their perfect faces. I looked back down at the keys. Small and intricate, with designs of a breathtakingly elaborate scope, they looked as if it would have taken a lifetime to begin crafting even one. Strangely, they looked heavy, almost thick. For items so tiny they seemed to carry a great weight.
And in the shimmer of a key, a quick reflection of light, no doubt just a trick of the glowing chamber, I saw a brook. A quick image, there and gone within a second, but it seared my mind. I touched the key lightly, feeling the smoothness of the cold metal, and something else as well. Invisible rushing water moved slowly across it; I could feel liquid moving against my trembling fingers. There was no other choice after that. I lifted the key and with much effort handed it to Aegle. And as I watched, dizzy with the effort of my choice, she smiled.
She took the key that I had chosen and walked to a set of red marble stairs. As she ascended, the train of her gown, midnight black, fluttered in a breeze that appeared from nowhere. When she reached the top, she slipped the key effortlessly into a magnificent lock. As the key turned, rays of sharp light pierced the warm glow of the chamber and bounced off of every surface. I watched as a tremendous transformation began. Aegle floated toward the center of the room and as a shaft of light pierced her, her hair became a golden red, and her dress the brightest pink. When she was placed lightly upon the ground, her cheeks held a rosy glow and her golden red-speckled eyes sparkled with beauty. She moved towards me, her soul reading mine as she walked.
"You have just witnessed the Birth of the Dawn. This I what happens each time the sun rises. The key that is chosen decides how much of the sun's light is shown when the day takes its first breath."
"Why did I take part in this?" I asked
"You, Ausra, like every other person born, shape the world in your own way. When a mortal dies, they are brought here. What they have learned their whole life through guides them to choose the correct key. Know that as long as the sun rises and bleeds its brilliant colors across the sky there is hope, for yet another mortal soul has been wisely guided." Aegle Answered with a smile.
So I was dead then. It didn't' even seem to matter. "What about the dreary days?" I asked.
"Let those days serve as a reminder that some souls have not learned life's lessons. Notice, though, that things do not stay dreary for long. Hope should never be overpowered by despair."
I turned then to look at Kamal. He too had been transformed. His black robes were now gold, and he looked as if he had just seen the light after being in the dark for ten lifetimes. His perfect face held awe and wonder as he watched the light reflect from diamond ceiling to ruby floor. He turned to look at me after many moments. He looked fresh, new, like a dewy rose newly budded, not yet bloomed. Aegle smiled at me again, and then she left. I watched her go; her pink gown fluttering and dancing behind her, and the copper dangling keys playing a love song melody.
Kamal took me by the hand and, with boyish eagerness, led me outside to a fantastic garden. Pools of crystal-clear water abounded and fountains sprang from a myriad of places.
"I never tire of watching the dawn; it is the eve that hurts me so. The ending of such a magnificent beginning…" his voice trailed off. "But today is a day of celebration. You have just become one of us."
I stared at him, uncomprehending at first. When realization came to me I stood dumbfounded. I watched as Kamal began singing and sprinkling water over me in rhythmic patterns. When he finished, I found myself yearning for him to continue. His voice was graceful, but with a deep resonating quality that reminded me greatly of the land and soil and deep places of warmth. I looked up at him. He smiled and pointed to my reflection in one of the clear pools. Amid the playing fountains stood a tall, lithe figure with pale blonde hair and eyes in the unexpected hue of orange. With creamy, flawless skin and glorious freckles across the nose, and lips as red as strawberries in summer. The ribbons that had bound my wrists now held copper keys, the same as Aegle carried, only smaller. And now I wore my own robe of pink and gold. He kissed me then.
"Be welcome, Ausra my love" He said as our lips reluctantly parted
Questions came at once to my mind, but he silenced me with a finger against my lips.
Love is predestined among Angels of Dawn. You knew from the moment you saw me, and I have known since the day of your birth. I have been waiting for you, anxiously, Ausra. We will live out our eternal days here, watching birth after wondrous birth of light. Thank you for your gift."
"What gift?" I whispered in awe as my mind attempted to fathom what was happening.
"You lived our life in expectation of me, knowing or not. If you had chosen a different key, we could never have been together."
Aegles voice rang in my memory. Much depends on this choice, little light, choose wisely.
"Thank you" I said to the wind, and smiled.