Neena sits quietly on the bench in the small room, staring across from her into the inky darkness beyond the wall. She was no stranger to this room of the High Elementalist Temple. It was the only reason she ever came to this city.
Quietly, she sat. Quietly, she waited. Quietly, she breathed. It wouldn't be long now. They usually felt her by now, or so she imagined.
Rest assured, before long two ghostly figures materialized in the abyss, just on the other side of the wall. They were so close, but Neena knew better than to try and reach for them. They would draw back and disappear, not out of repulsion, but out of concern. Neena's place was on this side of the wall, after all.
The figures stood side-by-side, with the woman holding the arm of the man. They were both delicate beings, with fine features and almost mystical beauty. The man was a manakete, and the woman a human. They were both smiling, rather warmly, despite their place. The sight soothed Neena, helping her hold back her tears.
"Father, Mother, I'm here to see you again, like I promised." She whispered, reluctant to say the words, always expecting to hear them echo back to her from the walls. The abyss swallowed them, however, and the spirits of her parents made no reaction.
She shivers, choking back a sob, and keeps whispering. "I'm sorry that it took so long to come this time. I really wanted to, but it's been hard to find the time, with everything that's needed doing and all the people needing help..."
Her parents say nothing. They don't move. Somehow their smiles reassure her anyways.
"Trais is still working for the Huckleberries... He's been growing up a lot. Mr. Camaxi's like a dad to him... Or a brother, I guess. I wish he could visit us sometime, maybe relive the old days, but he's had so much work, he can only get away to do more work on jobs..."
She smiles back at her parents this time, a sad little smile.
"Cynthia's the same as ever, always ready to go. I've never seen someone so... Eager, I guess. You know how she is, right? I don't really want to say it outright, but... Haha... She hasn't changed."
She gently grips her dress in both hands.
"Mr. and Mrs. Copernicus are doing fine, too. They're still taking care of so many kids. I can't imagine raising even one."
She gives a guilty giggle, and keeps going through all the people she's met since her last visit. Her parents deserved to know what's happened in the world. Rightfully, they should have been able to see it themselves.
"And Lao... Well, uh... We've gotten together, and it's nice, but... Somehow it feels a bit empty, too... It doesn't feel like either of our hearts are really in it. I don't know if it's because of the Shades, or if it's just a long blue mood, but I keep catching him just... Zoning out. He stares out into the horizon for whole minutes, like he's looking for something. I think... I think he really wants to see his parents, too... But he says they never come here."
She pauses for a moment, and looks down at the floor. "Sorry. You probably don't want to hear about the sad stuff. There's been enough of it from me."
When she looks back up, her parents are still smiling, like always. She shivers again. "Sorry... I'm worrying about nothing again..."
She huddles up on the bench, drawing her knees to her chest. "Mom? Dad? Is it okay if I take a nap..?" She asks the silence.
Silence is her answer, to which she smiles gently.
"Okay... Thank you..."
Neena wasn't generally a very imaginative girl, but she had been practicing imagining this scene, for nearly fifteen years. She closes her eyes, and slowly lowers her side to the bench. Only the council elders were permitted to disturb those in communion, and not for at least a day. Her sleep would be peaceful.
The bench was cold, and hard, but her mind didn't know that. To Neena, it was soft, and comforting, like her mother's lap. Her hips and knees rested not on wood and stone, but on her father's legs. A hand brushed through her hair. A finger wiped away her tears.
A nap with her parents had always been the best way to make her feel better.
What do you think of the planetarium?
That beautiful twinkling of eternity that will never fade, no matter what.
All of the stars in all of the skies are waiting for you.