Adam leaves behind The Waters.
They are cold and silent.
Where once he thought them serene and a way to be close to peace, they are dark and do not move, do not change, Adam finds himself seeking that change, something different, something more, something better than he can find in The Waters and on the banks.
He watches empires rise and fall again and again, travels through decades of war and rebellion, searches for civil movements and the crumbling government during spring changes.
Nothing satisfies his hunger for something new.
He’s burning through history, looking for a nameless something to appease this knowledge inside of him, this feeling of more and empty that leaves him breathless and panting, even though he does not breathe.
The pull to a soul is almost something he misses, standing in the middle of London as it burns around him, smoke billowing into the night, flames roaring around him like a beast chained.
It’s Isaac again, Isaac the fearless, and it’s so strange and yet familiar to see that Adam…
He touches him.
Just once, just a hand to a cherubic cheek, the teenager before him standing beside his broken body. A car idles twenty feet away, the driver struggling to climb out.
She’s devastated but her sobs don’t echo in Adam’s ears, they don’t call to him – not like the –
Suddenly, after wandering for so long without duty, without a soul to conduct across The Waters, Adam finds himself being called across the realms in so many directions – but when he tries to take Isaac to The Waters, he can’t. It’s not working.
The souls are calling louder and Adam has no choice.
He’s taken more than one soul before - from a fire or when a group or families dies close together, and that’s not difficult – but never across history, never across time, to find another, and the hunger inside takes him by surprise when he finds Ashley.
Ashley waits for him on a fallen log, her body burning inside a cloth and stick, her horse eating grass as a man tends to it. Blood, now thick and tacky stains the ground before the fire pit, and in the distance Adam can see more people packing away tents and axes, the spoils of war littered on the ground around them as they prepare to leave.
A child, still covered with the caul, wails from the breast of another woman as she daubs his head with red ochre.
The single biggest killer of women for centuries. She is nearly four hundred years away from the human innovation that would have saved her. It’s 1499, and Auia who Adam still sees as Ashley died from it.
Ashley holds onto Isaac’s hand – she can’t be more than sixteen, and her tattoos tell him she’s had one child already.
Her face is always proud, always determined to show no fear, only strength, but when Isaac takes her hand, the façade crumbles and Adam reaches for her too.
What is another touch, when Adam has already broken so many rules and not supposed to ways now?
And so it goes on.
Another pull, another soul, another journey.
A man in his sixties, wealthy, his cowrie shells in the vase beside the bed telling Adam that he is more than just well off, his family around him, singing, dancing, their cries ringing from mud and dung walls.
Outside, the tribe is electing a new leader and Adam sees the sadness in the old man’s face. Life is quick, but often, it feels much too fleeting even for the most content of men.
Hands weathered and covered in scars hold onto Ashley’s tattooed fingers that are offered to him, but he needs to no help to stand, no help to move. His face, despite the sadness in the creases and the wrinkles, is at peace
He looks like Adam should feel.
There are more souls – more than Adam can understand – a boy with red hair, a soul that Adam should see as male, but there’s something indescribably female in the hand and the face, and the eyes, a dark haired black boy child with the beginning of dreadlocks who bangs his hands on the tin pots around his feet as his mother tries to breathe life into his blistered and thin body, a teenager who wears brass knuckles and shouts in the New York Riots, a pair of sisters from the Ivory Coast, who die on a convoy on the way to the market, attacked by raiders, left for dead at side of the road.
It’s like a gathering, Adam leading a train of people, of souls from one realm into another, all holding hands and moving with him as he bounces from one to the next to the next, and Adam is not lonely anymore.
The hunger has a name. Loneliness.
And it is being appeased. Slowly, so slowly it’s hardly noticeable, but Adam can feel it changing inside.
Every soul he finds is another bit of the puzzle inside of him, but there’s one missing, one very very big one missing right in the …
The name still isn’t right, still doesn’t fit in Adam’s mouth like it should, and he wants to know why. It’s a need, a want, the newness of it burning away until it feels old and embedded inside of him where nothing should exist. Nothing fits inside of him, and he burns so hard, the chest that shouldn’t have breath, heaving.
Something is changing.
Watchers and The Waters are made of stone and silence, of peace and rock. They do not feel, they do not know, they have only a job to do, and humans are the dynamic, the changeable, the ones who flitter through…
Adam finds the last thread, the final pull.
It’s not the same as all the others – they were hands reaching out for him – but this is his hand reaching out for the soul that needs him, the soul that’s pulling at the place deep inside of him, into the raw and real insides that used to be empty and ready to be obedient to the Above’s wishes.
And Adam feels Isaac’s hand firm in his.
He finds a young man in the midst of a thunderstorm, the rain slicking down the blonde hair on his head, brown eyes and calloused fingers still and hidden.
Foam bubbles from blue lips and the snow around the body is pitted with rain.
Nothing moves in the still meadow, and Adam finds himself clinging to Isaac, struggling to stand up. Something inside is still clawing at him.
But there is no soul.
Adam cannot find the soul – nothing is speaking to him apart from this pull to something he doesn’t understand, but there is nothing here. Nothing here at all. The only souls he can find are his little group, gathered around the lifeless body slowly being covered with slush, and no matter how hard he searches, looking behind trees and rocks, behind hillocks and down in the ditches, and even wading to stand in the river nearby, searching for the soul that may be trapped beneath a bough caught in the rushing flood, though it has never happened before, waist deep in water that should be nothing to him but is suddenly ice cold….
Something is wrong.
His souls need to be taken to The Waters.
That’s all he can do now. The souls who need his help – the ones he can find at least – need to be taken to their next life. Or wherever they need to go. They can’t stay here – they’re vulnerable, and the Above – Adam doesn’t understand how he knows but he can sense something brewing with the Above – wants them protected.
Isaac holds his hand, and Ashley holds Isaac’s hand, and Brian holds Ahsley’s hand, and so it goes, down the line as Adam guides them across The Waters.
For the first time, The Waters are black.
Dark. Opressive. Cold. An empty bowl signalling hunger, raw ache, absolute nothing between the shores, covered in ice and glass that threatens to splinter and crack beneath Adam's feet, beneath his souls' feet.
No bloom in colour when a Soul’s feet walk across it.
No mirror grey.
No rainbow or muted hue to mar the solid.
They are not The Waters.
It is empty.
The opening to the Above is bright, so bright that Adam cannot mistake what he is supposed to do. He cannot disobey the will of the Above.
But he will.
Because Isaac’s eyes tell him once more, Ashley’s hand tells him just one more time, Brian’s gentle fingers, and the dark haired boy’s smile, and everything else tells him just one more life.
And the pull inside of Adam tells him that too. Something is not finished. The Waters are not still anymore. They are gone.
The Above is restless.
And the path to the human realms is hard under his feet when he treads on it.