The Unraveling – Part III
Correine sat on the cold ground at the top of the cliff that overlooked the sea. In her hand she held the fragment of sky that had first floated down. It was so thin, almost like a snakeskin, and she could see her fingers through it. A loud ripping sound caused her to look up once again to the sky above. It was steadily coming undone, tearing apart like rotting fabric, slowly billowing in the roaring gale. The Unraveling. The very end of things. It was happening just as the Oracle had said.
Correine thought back to her encounter with the Oracle three years before: her guilt had driven her to him, but she had failed to light the candles, had been unable to confess to him about her sister… all of this had led to her punishment. Instead of hearing her confession, the Oracle had told her that the Unraveling was coming, and that she would know when it arrived. And in that moment his words had entered her, they had sunk into her skin, and she had known. Correine had suddenly felt the ticking of the clock in the pulsing of her blood and had become aware of the approaching end in an inexplicable yet undeniable way.
This newfound knowledge had stolen her peace, and Correine had left the city soon after that. She had understood that there could be no forgiveness now for allowing her sister to die, and that the Oracle’s punishment was deserved. Her shame and guilt, already woven so tightly around her heart had slowly hardened and become this heavy thing that she now accepted as hers to bear alone until the very end. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going, and she herself had not known. But Correine had set off in exile, had become a wanderer, because it seemed the right thing to do. And she had come to Brye, a small town beside the sea. It was quiet and out of the way and it seemed to Correine a good place to wait alone for the end.
But despite her concerted effort to remain detached and alone, Correine had somehow allowed herself to become entwined in the lives of some of the people here: Mr. and Mrs. Burdough, the Thorntons, Fenn. She had tried to avoid entanglement, but it had happened, and so the old pain of her sister’s death, dull and buried deep, was now joined by the new pain of imminent loss, which was fresh and raw and sharp.
A ball of light streaked down through the tattered sky and struck the sea with a roar and a hiss. The waves were eerily lit from below for a moment and then the glow faded. The stars were falling Correine realized.
Shivering, she stood and hugged herself against the biting chill. She wondered then how long it would be until the end of the End. And how will I die? she wondered. Will I just stop breathing?
The wind rose and Correine shrank against a boulder so as not to be blown away. The howling tempest scoured the ground around her, tearing up dead grass and weeds, carrying them off into the darkness. And then the ground heaved. It groaned beneath her and Correine almost lost her footing as it seemed to writhe, like something alive attempting to break free. More stars were falling now, sizzling as they hit the water or thudding as they buried themselves in the soft earth.
As the ground convulsed, the wind died and Correine saw the crescent moon, now high above, begin to break apart and it fell, too. The pieces fell slowly, burning as they dropped and they landed in the sea a long way off.
The tremors subsided and Correine watched as the last remnants of the sky were torn free. They spiraled down like broken kites to land in crumpled piles in the gloom. And then the last star fell and she found herself in absolute darkness.
Silence descended then and Correine waited, expectant. She stood a long time in the quiet and the cold. Then there was a tugging in her chest, a shifting. She could feel her heart flexing and twisting, and the tightness that had been there for so long began to come undone, like the loosening of a knot. She imagined her heart pulling apart like the sky, threads pulling loose and it all falling to pieces inside her. Like the sky, like the entire world, Correine was also unraveling.
The shifting in her chest eventually grew still. And then she realized that she could no longer feel the end before her. The pulsing rhythm that had marked the approach of the Unraveling had gone silent. The end had come.
* * *
Behind her a bird’s song broke the silence. Correine turned, faintly surprised that she could turn, that she hadn’t fallen like a limp rag to the ground, dead. She turned and suddenly had to shade her eyes as the sun climbed over the horizon, a huge golden-white ball that cast its blinding light over the world. After a moment Correine’s eyes adjusted and by the sun’s light she could see the reddish earth scoured clean by the wind; not a blade of grass remained. But no. There was grass, new growth just emerging from the soil, a hint of green brushed over sienna.
And the sky. She had seen it torn asunder, seen it fall, seen the nothingness behind it. She had held a piece of it in her hands. But it was there, blue as a robin’s egg, clear and brilliant in the dawn.
Correine lowered her hand and looked at it in the long morning light. It was still here. She was still here. She moved and flexed her fingers, reached up and felt her face, her hair, brushed her hands down the sides of her coat. Pausing, Correine reached into her pocket and withdrew the peach. It was no longer battered and bruised, no longer a slightly withered thing. It was perfect and ripe and radiant and whole.
She breathed deeply, taking in the scent of the peach and the land and the sea and the morning. Correine breathed deeply and no longer felt the woven mesh of guilt and shame around her heart because it was gone.
As she walked back toward Brye, across the fields, Correine pondered the Oracle’s words, how she had been so certain they had been spoken as punishment. Heartless words, crushing words, words that she had earned. Words of the end. She had never imagined that they might be words of hope and words of beginning.