This is an extract from Helen Brain’s new book Elevation 3: The Fiery Spiral
I sink ... through the water, into thick mud, so dark I can see nothing at all. Floating without sight or sound, I find myself breathing in time with the gentle vibration that ripples through the mud. Duff ... duff ... duff ... Nothing to do but float, all my needs cared for, and grow like a foetus.
In the quietness, I feel my injuries mending, new life trickling into my pinched-off heart.
I sense her rather than see her. She’s floating nearby.
We’re still moving down, sinking deeper into the mud, and I find myself anticipating the vibrations that push her a little closer each time. It feels like we are twins, sharing a womb, and our umbilical cords join us to the same placenta.
My ancestors have gone. Francis has gone. I’m dropping, dropping through darkness. Silence pushes against me. My thoughts, my memories, my feelings ... all leak away. Nothing holds me, connects me. Just the vibration pulsing against me, repeating the same word ... Lost ... Lost ... Lost ...
Zwelibanzi is gone. The mud is thinning, slivers of light creeping through the cracks. Ebba drifts near me, curled into a ball, her eyes squeezed shut.
Her eyes open at my whisper. She uncurls her legs and tail, opening up to her full size. She’s massive compared to my compact goshawk body.
“Lucas! I thought ... I thought I was alone.” She looks around, blinking. “It’s not so dark. Where are we?”
I try and work it out. We aren’t in mud or water anymore.
There’s space around us, an unending expanse of nothingness.
I wrack my brain, thinking of the books I have read, of everything I know about the worlds, the galaxies, the Spiral.
“I think ... I think we’re in the great blackness that lies between the worlds.”
“There’s nothing holding us. We’re standing on nothing. We are going to fall.” And she tucks her head under her wing. The ripples of fear from her quivering body scuffle my feathers.
Poor Ebba. No wonder she’s scared. I can fly, but her wings, though a thousand times the size of mine, are useless.
The light is changing. Deep indigo circles permeate the blackness. Awestruck, I watch as each circle swells into tiny bumps, then bursts open, showing a trillion pinpricks of light.
The pinpricks rise, grow, and a thousand shining threads like spiderweb erupt from each one and run across the sky.
They meet, join, split and rush on, creating patterns so intricate that my eye can’t take them all in.
“Look,” I whisper, nudging her with my wing. “Open your eyes.”
She peeps out, and stares at the iridescent net that crosses the sky.
“Look up, Ebba.”
She lifts her head, following my eyes, and gasps. A thousand threads run down from every direction and wrap around her.
“You can’t fall. Look – you’re held safely.”
I watch the muscles in her scaly body relax as she takes it all in. “It doesn’t matter if I can’t fly,” she exclaims. “I’m safe.”
I appreciate for the first time the extent of her fear, and the weight of the burden she’s had to carry as the owner of Greenhaven and the one chosen for the sacred task. She’s only seventeen.
She senses me watching her, and turns towards me. The eyes, under those scaly grey eyelids, are her eyes, as verdant as the leaves of the ficus.
“What about you?” she says.
I look down, running my eyes over my legs, my wings, my tail; no threads join to me. An unexpected pang jolts me.
Am I so unlovable?
She reaches out one claw towards my neat red talon. Dangling from it is a thread as fine as gossamer.
“I’ve got you,” she says as she puts her claw on mine.
“You’re joined to me now.”
Published by Human & Rousseau, an imprint of NB Publishers