by J. L. Rowan -
As the waves swallowed the pod, Elmerin felt himself a boy of ten Foundings again. The sense of excitement and adventure that had faded with age returned with a force that startled him and left him slightly breathless. He pressed his hands to the glass of the viewport, his eyes narrowed. Perhaps now, after all this time…surely now…But as the Whale grew dim and the waters darkened, the aches and pains of elder years returned, and childish fancy bowed its head to hard-earned experience. He lowered his eyes and shuffled amongst the other passengers to his assigned seat to await the pod’s arrival at Zirconia.
He studied the water outside the porthole next to him. As black as space, and as deadly. He quashed the thought with a stab of guilt. The seas held something space never would—the sentient creatures he had spent his life trying to reach. Trying, and failing.
And now, there would be no more trying. He’d told his fellow wizards that he was retiring to Zirconia, but that wasn’t quite true.
Death had stalked him for months, and his failure at the last Approaching had made it clear that he would never realize his dream. No more Approachings awaited him—none but the Final Approaching, the journey all wizards must take.
So many years, and nothing to show for them. With a heavy sigh, he closed his eyes. It was a foolish thought, coming here to die. If he hadn’t achieved contact in the prime of his—
A vision blossomed behind his eyelids, a vision of colors and sensations, of joy and welcoming. He blinked, and saw outside the porthole a school of blue and golden fish that fairly glowed. They moved as one, and when his eyes met theirs, he was enveloped by the greatest peace he had ever known. They hovered beside him, shimmering in the darkness.
Come. The intense feeling washed over him, stronger than mere words. Come with us.
His throat closed up, and tears spilled onto his cheeks. Was it possible? After all this time? Their gaze seemed to confirm his deepest dream. A smile spread across his face, and he loosed a soft breath, releasing with it the heartache of years now distant. “I am ready when you are.”