The Unraveling – Part II
Correine awoke to the rumble of thunder and the sound of rain spattering on her window. She lay still in the early morning darkness, gathering her thoughts. As she watched the drops of water trickle down the panes, Correine decided that she could wait no longer. She would go to the Oracle, despite the risks, to confess and ask her question.
It was still an hour before dawn, but there was no point in waiting. She got up and lit a lamp and dressed slowly in front of the mirror, her fingers shaking as she did up her buttons. Breakfast was tasteless, but she ate anyway. Finally, she took some candles from a drawer and placed them in her bag, slung it over her shoulder, and stepped out the door.
The rain began to let up as she made her way through the city. The streets were still mostly in shadow, though lamps were lit here and there, forming islands of flickering pale light in the darkness. As she walked, Correine’s mind turned of course to her sister. That night played out in her mind again and again, as it had for the past two months: their evening walk, their conversation that had somehow turned into the same, familiar argument, and the blinding anger that had come over her. And when Sora had slipped and fallen on the rocks, Correine had just stood there and watched, numb, unmoving, still awash with anger. She had stood there and done nothing, and watched as her sister had died.
And now the weight of it was unbearable.
The city was beginning to stir and the sky was turning gray by the time Correine reached the square.
“You’ll want some water,” said a voice.
She turned and looked at the shopkeeper who had spoken. She hastily wiped her eyes and managed to ask, “What?”
“I know the look on your face – you’re going to the Oracle. You’ll want some water.” He extended a leather drinking skin toward her. “Here, take it.”
Correine took the skin. “Is it that obvious?”
The man nodded. “Not many go in. But I can tell which ones plan to. Something in the face.” He paused and then asked, “Is it worth the risk of punishment? I mean, the Oracle…”
For a while Correine was silent. But at last she said, “I need an answer. I don’t care what it costs.”
As the sun rose, dull and indistinct behind the ragged gray clouds, Correine crossed the square and went up the steps of the Sanctuary. It was dark and cool inside, and still. She could see that it was a vast space, forested with tall, thick pillars. Correine hesitated a moment and then made her way toward a small patch of slanting light at the far end of the room. Her footsteps echoed against the high ceiling, breaking the heavy silence.
Correine came to the end of the pillars and stepped out into an open place, under the open sky. The light here was sharp and clear and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. When they did, Correine found herself in a courtyard of sorts, the paving stones covered in lumps of pale wax and spent wick. Directly across from her was the Oracle.
He sat on a chair on a raised column and he was looking at her, his head slightly tilted to one side. Correine groped in her bag for the candles and set them upright on the paving stones among the countless others. Then, with horror, she realized she had no way to light them. Correine looked up at the Oracle and tried to speak, but no words came to her. Her mind was empty and her mouth was dry. She tried to clear her throat, and then remembered the skin. Fumbling with the stopper, she finally managed to undo it and squirt some water into her mouth. Correine tried once more to form some words, but nothing came.
This was going rather poorly.
Correine was here to confess and ask a question, and now, face to face with the Oracle, she had nothing. She had forgotten to bring matches, and now she couldn’t even speak. And he just sat there, looking at her, waiting.
Correine sank to her knees, then, and covered her face with her hands, unable to bear it any longer. Her body trembled and the trembling turned to shaking, and the shaking became sobs, sobs that wracked her entire body. She wanted to confess, wanted to tell the Oracle about her anger, how she hated it, but that its roots were deep and intractable. She wanted to tell how she had watched her sister die, and had done nothing to stop it, tell how her world had ended there on the rocks that night, but the words wouldn’t come. And so Correine knelt there, shaking and weeping, unable to do anything else.
“The Unraveling is coming,” said the Oracle. “It is coming soon, and you will know when it comes.”
Correine opened her eyes and looked across the courtyard at the Oracle. She wiped her face with her sleeve and finally found her voice.
“What? No, I came to confess that I let my sister-”
“The Unraveling is coming,” the Oracle said again. “It is coming soon, and you will know when it comes.”
Correine had still not asked her question. “Is there any hope that I’ll-”
“The Unraveling is coming,” said the Oracle a third time. “It is coming soon, and you will know when it comes.”
His words settled on her skin and sank into her mind and as they did, she finally heard them. The Unraveling. The end of all things, spoken of in whispers, feared by all. Not just her world, but the whole world was ending. And she knew it with crushing certainty; she could feel the end approaching, in her bones and in her blood.
This was her punishment. For failing to light the candles, probably, but also for failing to help her sister. Somehow, the Oracle must have known, and this was her punishment. She made no effort to hold back her tears.
Correine managed to turn and stumble back into the darkness among the pillars. Had she looked, she would have seen that the Oracle, too, was weeping.