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The Un-Letters

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I find myself thinking about you a lot, at the strangest of moments. When a bird chirps, when it rains, when Will hugs me tightly, when his mother grabs my hand in hers, when I sit alone and try to search for my daemon. When things are sad, when things are happy. I wonder about the Tulapi, if having Dust back helps to keep them at bay. I wonder if Dust cares about such things as unsharp divisions between good and evil. I think of you, and the souls, and how when I die, I shall hope to see you before I pass. It's been a year, Atal, and it feels like yesterday.

 

Sometimes she thinks of Mary. Mary Malone, and the boy, and the girl, and how everything changed. Sometimes she thinks about fingers and how many there are. She thinks of Mary when she looks at Dust, she thinks of Mary when she stares at the water. For a long time, they tiptoe around her, saying she is one of the ngathi - the broken-hearted. It is a long time before she finds the ways to smile at those around her again, to look at the tops of the trees and not think of the softness of the human who came to cross her path. It is a long time before she finds a way to open up while they fix the nets, talking to her partner as they weave. Sometimes they talk of what transpired, but mostly they talk about other things that are simply Not That.

 

Two years. Atal, it's been two years. Still so much of nothing. Still so much left unchanged. I feel like there should be some cosmic split, but there is nothing. People have to want the change, isn't that what the angels said? I wish I could see the angels again. Will is still angry, and so hurt. I don't know if you have a word for it in your language, but he is inconsolable about so many things. His cat is bitter as well, except for me. I don't know why I'm telling you this. I suppose it's because I don't have anyone to talk to except a teenage boy, going through some very teenagery things. He's with me now, and I wish there were a way for you to tell Lyra, to pass a message through the souls. He'll wait for her, I know he will. Now that I know what's coming, it doesn't seem so bad.

 

She met someone, a quiet soul like herself, who did not mind her talking about what had transpired. He did not ask questions, and she liked that. He was from down stream, where they had worse problems with the Tulapi, but that was to be expected, them being so much closer to the ocean. He reminded her of Mary if she was being honest, but she wasn't really being honest, she was being nostalgic. He didn't mind being compared and held up to something and someone he could never be. His name was Rayan, and she decided to spend the rest of her life with him.

 

It's been a while. I hope you're doing well. I don't know what to say, really, about here. Will is going to school, he wants to be a doctor. I don't know why, I think it's because he wants to help people who have the same soul-ending emptiness that he feels. I try, I try to reach out to him, to pull him back, but he pulls further away. He seems to be happiest alone and sad. I don't know how to save him, but I suppose he's already had his saving. Lyra was his soul-mate, and it's funny, I never believed in them - not even as a nun - until now, with him. As for me, I'm still single. Not alone, though. I'm surrounded by so many scientists. I don't know who our benefactor was 6 years ago to get me off the hook and Will and his mother with me, but I'll never forget them. I'm surrounded by scientists and we've been trying to recreate this machine, the one I had so long ago that got me to talk with the angels. Maybe I'll never find it, but I think it's a goal worth pursuing, a life worth living. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is just as valuable as any other form.

 

Their first was Andaleeb, a son of the night, a seed-pod gatherer, just as his father is. Their second child was Mairany, and it was no secret she was named for the human that had so touched Atal's heart. Life moved on for Atal, quietly, yet steadily, and soon Mary and the story of the humans and devils and angels - the true story of the souls, was nothing more than folk-lore, told in the village as a wonderfully tall-tale. Even her children passed it on as part-truth, part legend, never elevating their mother higher than the simple being who had quite accidentally been a part of a larger story. She was not a god, she did not go up to the sky, her soul did not have to pass through the harpies and the land of the dead. She was just as she was, going quietly like she entered.

 

Atal. Years now. Will has been a doctor some time. He says he knows my heart always belonged to you, and he never tried to push it. Now I need a new kind of doctor, the one you visit when you are old and sick. I wonder if you have doctors there. I wonder if I'll see you as I pass, I wonder if I've outlived you. I wonder these things, and wonder some more, and all this wondering will get me nowhere. So little has changed, and yet it is everything. Did you ever find that, or did life pass on for you, like nothing had happened? Sometimes I get out of bed and my bones creak and I'm certain it was all a dream, once upon a time.