The sun sets for the millionth time, still the same beautiful, bright, shining circle of light it was in the beginning. It passes over the hills, which have also remained, taking with it all the troubles of another day. The horizon sparkles as the last lights of day strike the great castles of glass and steel, like bejeweled towers touching the sky. I see no trees from where I stand: they are all far away in a place where people pay to see them. I hate this world, with its white skies and colorless landscape. Yet every night I cry for it, because unlike others I knew it when it was beautiful.

A long time ago, I could see miles of endless blue from here: ships gliding leisurely across the fluid horizon to meet a veritable pantheon of adventures. The sky and the sea seemed to mesh together into one giant blue expanse, where, once the ships reached the horizon, they seemed to sail out of the ocean and into the sky. It was this boundless sea over which I sailed so long ago, to a place I thought I could call home with a man I thought I might one day be able to call my husband. They're both gone now, the land sunk beneath the waves and the man's bones turned to dust. Only I remain, sole witness to a classic world others cannot fathom for its lack of modern convenience. A world that in many ways was by the far the superior of this present one.

The moment the sun breaks my sleep each morning, my first thoughts are always sad ones; memories of what was flood my head and I long to return to sleep, to dream again. It is only when I sleep that I know peace, am able to flee my current reality and escape to past, happier ones. The present is too painful and during the course of any given day I contemplate taking my life at least three times, but know from experience that it will do no good: I'll only come back and have to start over again with a new body and a new name, retaining the same ragged soul that has been with me all these centuries.

Life is full of words, which are of no consequence to me now. Their sounds are hollow, as are their meanings. Of the scores of languages that have escaped my lips, none of them ever spoke my soul. My thoughts spilled out of my mouth, everything that ever entered my head. I have come to learn that souls, the dwellers of the heart, do not speak through words, but in acts. I learned this first when my husband came for from me across the sea. He won me when they drew his ring from a jar. He said he loved me and when I did not return his love he gave me presents, promised me the world. Then another came and took me away. He loved me and I loved him as I had not loved my husband. They fought for me, the men who loved me. This fact shone through not in their incessant 'I love you's' but in their actions. They were willing to fight, to kill for me. I was both honored and horrified at once.

I lost the man I loved, my captor. They killed him when he would not return me to my husband. I knew they would, as did he. He made me no promises, and I none to him. It was in the day, in the last standing garden that we finally realized that we had lost. I cried, knowing I would lose him. I would rather that I die than be not with you, I told him. He told me not to think of death. Live, he told me, and remember. Memories are the greatest testament you can make. I told him my memories would kill me, drive me mad with grief. I had a dagger in my room, and I would use it if they came for me: I would not be taken from this place.
His face became somber and his eyes troubled. He said no, that I must not take my life. Live, he told me again, and know that I will wait for you. I could not bear his words. They burned my ears and soul. He made me promise not to take my life. I promise, I told him, I'll wait for you. No one shall replace you.

I died the day they killed him. I felt as if my heart had been torn from my chest. I saw him when I closed my eyes, on the face of every person I met. I long to die, I told my husband, kill me as I cannot kill myself. But he would not. He still held to the hope that I might someday love him. He doted on me as before, but we became more brother and sister than husband and wife, and in a sisterly way I would indeed come to love my husband. But I would lose him, with time, and was surprised when his death brought tears to my eyes. I felt I was betraying my love and vowed to live the rest of my life celibate. I resigned myself to the promise we had made that we would wait for each other, he in death for me and I in life to join him there. I looked forward to death and old age was a welcome friend.

I would die, as all things do, when I had outlived everyone around me. They're all gone, I thought as I walked through the garden one day, what's left to live for? And with that thought still racing through my mind I collapsed in a heap onto the marble walkway. My head throbbed with pain. No doubt one of the servants who worked in the garden had seen me fall and had called for help. Despite the pain in my head I silently hoped that they would not get to me in time. Let me go, I thought to myself, as I have let so many others go.

I grew sleepy and the pain in my head seemed to cease. Everything around me became sharper and more focused. The grass was greener than it had been before, the sky bluer, and the bird's song more distinct. My body was numb, I felt nothing, and yet I somehow sensed the entire world. I saw my love's face before me, bright and shining. He told me to get up and go out of the garden. I cannot get up, I'm dying, I said to him. He said no, I had just been born, and that he was waiting for me by the sea if I would go down and meet him. I was walking out of the garden and could see my love's ship by the shore when I heard the footsteps. Then I was gone.

But I would come back: I would wake up a baby in the arms of a woman I'd never seen before. I would have a dream where I saw a pantheon of men and women passing judgment over me, saying I had been selfish, that I had killed more people than any single soldier who had fought in the war over me. They decided to punish me. They saw that living hurt me and how the prospect of death had long given me hope. My want of closure and lack of need for absolution swayed their judgment. They would be merciful and let my body die, but they would be cruel too; my soul would live forever, they told me, passing from body to body and never resting forever. I begged for an eventual end, a sentence of prearranged length to whose end I could toward in hope. The answer was given that I would live until I had experienced every misery and pain that I had caused to others during the course of my first existence.

A thousand lives later I am still living. I have naught to show for it save sadness and a list of therapists as long as my arm. I tell them that I cry when I see ships, that they are things of beauty and great promise. When I become hysterical or cry in their presence, they tell me to picture myself on a ship. They say that this will calm me and it does. But I did not need them to tell me this: through every life, I have held fast to the image of my love standing at the harbor with his ship, waiting for me, my lighthouse in the dark.