The Songstress of Avalon
"What a pitiful looking girl."
Despite the straightforward callousness of her words, she looked down at me with benevolent blue eyes. Her tender gaze and angelic features were overwhelming, and I implored her to look away from me. However, the only sound that left my mouth when I tried to speak was a guttural wince.
That's right - I couldn't speak anymore.
The angel, or perhaps goddess was a better word, continued to smile at me. Thinking about it now, my lack of vocal cords probably didn't change anything. Even if I had a functioning voice, and the proverbial gift of the gab, I wouldn't be able to communicate with this being of unnatural beauty. Her entire existence seemed unearthly to me.
And her eyes, despite emanating benevolence, was devoid of empathy. She was staring at me like a child might look down at a broken toy. A child might feel regret that the toy was broken, but it was impossible for him or her to relate.
The goddess reached out a hand and caressed my cheek. An indescribable warmth coursed through my body, and it made me think about just how cold I had been. Not just in the moments immediately preceding this one, but my entire life.
Is this what it’s like to be in the light of God? Oh man, is this a NDE?
I couldn’t remember anything, not even my name, although that would have been no good to me anyway. After all, I couldn’t even speak. I must’ve died and this was my brain’s way of coping with oncoming oblivion; either that, or I had entered the afterlife already.
“A disease of the larynx? You are a poor wretch indeed.”
She was able to figure out what was wrong with me with just one touch. However, she didn’t say her diagnosis, per se. I certainly heard her enchanting voice, but her mouth did not move in the slightest.
“You can read minds?” I thought to myself.
She laughed sweetly.
“And whose mind is being read exactly? If anything, you’re the one reading my mind,” she replied without so much as a tremble of the lips.
“...” I turned away bashfully.
“Your life was not a long one, but it was filled with love. In terms of love, you might as well have lived ten lifetimes, but I suppose all the love in the world doesn’t make up for the fact that you were born under a blighted star.”
As she spoke, I remembered - I had loving parents, two brothers and a friendly house cat. Tears began to well up in my eyes. How was it that she could know all this just by touching my cheek? My first impression must have been right, and she was a goddess of some sort.
And this must have been my divine judgement.
“It’s not often that I happen upon someone as unfortunate as you, Arisa.”
Arisa. So that was my name. To think I had forgotten it…
“What is this place?” I mustered the courage to ask.
“This is the River of Remembrance,” the goddess replied. “It is a beautiful place, one where lost souls can reminisce about their lives before returning to nothingness.”
“Nothingness,” she nodded sagely. “One life for every soul. Fair, isn't it?”
I was hoping to hear a comforting bit about reincarnation or something. But it seemed like I had wasted my one chance at life, and worst of all, I couldn't even remember it. Even memories of bad experiences would have seemed a blessing at this juncture - proof of my dismal existence.
“One life for every soul,” I repeated in my head. “And mine’s over.”
“Unless you would like a second one?”
I stared at her, eyes wide.
“I can’t send you back to your world, unfortunately. Your body has already been cremated, and that realm is closed off to you forever. But if you would like a dream…?”
A dream world? I could while away my life swimming in lakes of syrup, eat clouds made of cotton candy for every meal and live in a gingerbread house. That was the kind of dream world I was imagining. My excitement must have shown on my features, for the goddess began to nod.
“Yes, let me bestow upon you a dream. Let’s hope that a prince doesn’t appear to wake you up, or else you’ll soon find yourself back here.”
“I’ll never wake…?”
“Yes, I’ll bestow upon you a dream from which you’ll never wake…”
The goddess’ hand still rested on my cheek, but she slowly lowered it until she had enveloped her slender fingers around my throat. To a bystander, it must have looked like she was throttling me with one hand, but I only felt that same serene warmth from before.
“That’s right, you don’t have a voice…” the goddess murmured sadly. “Well, that simply won’t do. I’ll give you my voice.”
“Yes, the voice of a goddess,” she replied, smiling broadly. “A splendid idea, Arisa, don’t you think?”