Jake Sisko’s eyes shot open. The bright light briefly blinding him causing him to move his hand to shield his eyes. As his senses returned he realised he was no longer in the world of white. His eyes adjusted and he found himself in his bedroom lying in a comfortable bed with the only sound the rasping of his own breath.
“Jake, are you up?”
Jake looked over towards the door just as a head popped around the corner.
“I am now, Korena,” he replied sheepishly.
“Well, hurry up! Benny has to leave soon. He has an early start.”
“Yes, wife! Right away!” he said, adding a mock salute at the end.
Korena scowled at him but it had little venom in it. Her head disappeared as she no doubt moved on to hustle Benny along. Jake heard her mutter, “It’s like raising two children!”
Jake smiled to himself as he started to go about getting ready. He was soon out of bed and entering the modest dining area of their home. At the table sat his son and only child.
“Hi, Benny. Ready?” Jake asked leaning down to plant a kiss on his son’s head.
“Yeah,” managed his son as he slurped down his food. “I’ve been practicing really hard and I think I’ll win.”
Jake ruffled up his son’s hair. It was the athletics day at his school today and Benny had set his mind towards winning one of the middle distance races. “That’s the spirit!”
There was the sound of someone clearing their throat and Jake’s head turned to see Korena giving him a stern look.
“I mean, winning isn’t everything,” stated Jake. “As long as you do the best you can, have fun and play in the right spirit it doesn’t matter what the result is because we’ll be proud of you. You should feel proud of you too.”
Jake made his way to his wife. “Better?” he whispered.
“A lot better.”
Jake kissed Korena on the cheek. They had been married for twelve years now, but he felt the same way he did when he first set eyes on her. She passed him a hot cup of coffee and he stole a piece of toast from her plate before going back to the table.
Benny was currently doing his best to clean his cereal bowl with his tongue. Benny was named after Jake’s father, Benjamin Sisko, though no one really called him by his full name. Jake had been reluctant to name his son after his father, purely because of the high esteem the Bajorans held his father in, even after over a decade since their Emissary had “joined the Prophets”, as they liked to say. In the end Korena had talked sense into him and that if he wanted to name their son Benjamin he should do it and ignore what outsiders said or thought. It was their family and life and no one else’s business.
“Done!” proclaimed Benny dropping his bowl on the table so that rocked and spun. He jumped up and ran off to his room to continue to get ready. Jake looked at his lovely wife as she cleaned up after Benny. “Have I told you I love you?” he asked.
Korena smiled. “Not today.”
Jake reached out and grabbed his wife, pulling her towards him. Korena let out a squeal as she stumbled onto Jake’s lap. Jake stared into his wife’s eyes and leaned in kissing her lips.
Korena broke their kiss and asked, “Finished?”
“Is that all I get for my romantic gesture?” asked Jake sounding insulted.
“It is when I’m busy.”
“Don’t worry about this, I’ll do it later,” said Jake waving his hand dismissively at the dishes on the table.
“Really?” said Korena with disbelief. “I find that hard to believe. You’re nearly as messy as our son. I almost spend as much time cleaning up after you as I do him.”
Jake just smiled. It was true; he was not the neatest person in the galaxy. He could leave a path of destruction in his wake that would make it look like a storm had hit, especially when he was busy working. Thankfully it was not as bad as he was when he was a teenager. If he were he would have driven Korena insane by now. She was naturally cleaner and more organised than he was or would ever be.
“Seriously, I need to go check on Benny,” said Korena lightly batting him to get him to let her up.
Jake reluctantly let her go. Korena went to clear up but Jake waved her off insisting that he would deal with it.
“Oh, there’s a message for you,” said Korena before she hurried off calling out for their son.
Jake cleaned up the table and went to the house’s main communication screen. It was already switched on and a list of information flowed across the screen. It was a mix of weather, news, and reminders from their schedule. Jake selected the communication function and opened up the stored message that was addressed to him.
On the screen an older Bajoran man appeared. Jake immediately recognised him as Ranjen Solbor, the Kai’s chief assistant.
“I bid you greetings and good tidings from the Kai,” started Solbor. “The Kai would like to invite you and your family as her personal guests to attend the Orb ceremony during the upcoming Festival of Tears.” Jake raised his hand to his forehead and massaged it. He knew that this was coming, he tried to forget about it but it seemed that no one else wanted him to. “If you wish to attend, and it would surely raise the spirits of the people to have you there, simple contact me and I will arrange everything. May the Prophet’s walk with you, Jake Sisko.”
The message disappeared, replaced by the symbol of the office of the Kai briefly before it returned to the main message selection screen.
“Do I even need to ask?”
Jake turned to see Korena standing behind him. “About?”
“You know what I mean,” she said gesturing to the screen. “It’s nearly the Festival of Tears and the dreams have come back, haven’t they.”
Korena let out a sigh. “I was hoping that last year would be the last...are they the same?”
“Are you still hearing your father call your name?”
Jake nodded. His dreams had not always been like this. As the years went by they seemed to grow, with the newest addition in the past few years the “summons” from his father. “Yes, always after the whispers and right before I awake up.”
“Jake, you know what the counsellor said,” said Korena, her voice a mix of soothing and concerned.
Jake remembered well what the counsellor had told him. The dreams had started after Korena became pregnant, but it wasn’t until a few years later that he had seen someone about them. They diagnosed that his issues regarding the loss of his father were brought to the fore by his impending fatherhood. They also said the dream would go away as he settled into the role of a parent. However, they had not and in fact had done the opposite.
“Do you think I want to have these dreams?”
“No, no.” Korena paused as the heavy footfalls of their son approached. “Look, we can talk about this later. I have to go.”
Korena gave him a kiss on the cheek before she went and herded Benny to the door. Jake wished his son a good day as Korena took him off to school. Jake watched as they left. Benny was starting to get towards that age where he’d not want them to go with him to school any more. He would make sure that he would take his son in with his mom or by himself tomorrow. Jake knew that these moments were precious and that the future was uncertain. To let them just slip by would be a mistake. If there was something Jake had enough in his life already it was regret.
Jake knew he was dreaming yet that did not quench his fear. He was surrounded by such an infinite and consuming whiteness that he could not truly comprehend.
“HELLO!” he yelled. “IS ANYONE HERE?”
As soon as he asked that he regretted it. First it came as a buzzing of an insect and it grew louder. Whispers. Unintelligible, bone-numbing whispers. He spun around but could see no other beings yet the sound continued to increase. It was coming from nowhere yet everywhere. Fear gripped him and launched his feet forward in a sprint away, yet towards the voices. He huffed and puffed until he tripped over something, himself or nothing he did not know. He crashed to the white floor.
The voices suddenly seemed to advance on him as if they were just above him. He curled himself into a ball, his voice, pitifully small, mumbling for a reprieve. The voices grew louder until they were deafening before unexpectedly becoming silent and single word suddenly followed.
Jake’s head jerked upwards towards the voice. Before him stood his father, Benjamin Sisko, as he remembered him. Tall and proud in his Starfleet uniform. His father looked down at him, his face steely hard.
Jake’s father turned and walked towards a floating ark, much like those that contained the Bajoran orbs. His father grasped it and before he opened it he turned back to Jake.
“Jake,” came out his name from his father’s mouth, yet it seemed impossibly distant and omnidirectional. His father turned back to the ark and opened it. The greenish light of an orb radiated out and basked his father in its glow.
Jake got back to his feet.
“Dad!” he called. “Dad, can you hear me!”
Jake’s father did not respond. Jake went over to his father and grasped him to pull him from the orb but he was stopped as soon as his hands touched his father. From the corner of Jake’s eye he caught a glimpse of the orb and as if mesmerised his head turned to stare deep into its mysterious beauty. The light started to intensify and Jake wanted to turn his head but he could not. The light blinded him to all else and flowed through him as a presence, as if it was drawing him into it.
Before Jake felt like the light had completely taken him a haunting word whispered into his ear carried by the voice of his long absent father.
Jake woke with a start. “Dad!” he called out involuntarily.
Jake’s head thrashed about as he tried to make sense of the darkness he suddenly found himself in.
“Jake! Jake! It’s okay! Calm down,” came the soothing voice of his wife.
A warm hand snaked its way to his chest and over his thundering heart. Jake clasped his hand over Korena’s and tried to settle himself down. Light filled the room as Korena turned on a lamp next to their bed.
“Was it the dreams?”
“Yes,” he said breathlessly.
“I haven’t seen your react like this since when the whispers first started. What happened?”
Jake turned to his wife. “I saw him. I saw my father.”
Jake felt tears run down his cheek. Korena leaned in and hugged him, her warm body a comforting reassurance.
“What was he doing?”
“He just appeared...in front of me. Then he opened an ark holding an orb and it held him. It entranced him so he couldn’t hear me. When I went to pull him away I looked at the orb and it...got me to.”
“Did you see anything?”
“No, just...light. It held me and I couldn’t look away. It was like the orb and I were becoming one.”
“That sounds a bit like an orb experience, just without any experience. Maybe the dream was trying to tell you something.”
“What, like don’t look into orbs?” he said jokingly.
“No, the opposite. Maybe your mind is telling you that it’s time to attend the Festival of Tears.”
“I already told –”
Korena quickly interrupted him. “Yes, I know we’ve gone over this and that you weren’t going to attend. But maybe this is what you need. You’re father has been gone for a long time. Maybe this will help you finally let go and give you a chance to put some of your demons to rest.”
“I don’t know.”
“Jake, where else will you get a chance to look upon a glowing orb?” pushed Korena.
Jake sat silently in thought before he spoke, “I nearly made it twenty years without attending it.”
“Well, maybe then it’s time you did. I know you’ve never really been into my people’s religion or were fond of your father’s role in it. However, if a few hours of discomfort can help you move past this...then I think you should do it.”
He lifted Korena’s hand from his chest and brought it to his lips. He delicately kissed her hand; he knew that she was right. “I’d be lost without you,” he whispered.
Korena’s other hand came up and stroked his face. “And my life wouldn’t be complete without you. If you want I’ll contact the Kai’s office and tell her we’ll be attending the festival. Now, let’s try and get some sleep tonight.”
Jake gave his wife an appreciative smile. Even after nearly two decades on Bajor he still felt uneasy when dealing with any official in the Bajoran religious system due to his status as the son of the Emissary. His father had accepted his role in Bajoran spirituality, but it was not something Jake wanted to be part of.
Korena smiled back before she turned off the light. She shuffled up close to him and wrapped herself around him, her head resting on his chest. The touch of her body comforted Jake but sleep eluded him. His mind was consumed with thought of the upcoming Festival of Tears and the anniversary of his father’s death.