The Price of Passage

          Bathed in candlelight, Leti waited for the woman to die. The midwife still worked frantically to save her; frantic and desperate against the inevitable. But Leti knew. She always knew when the time grew near. The call had woken her in the night, and drawn her to the widow’s door. She knew without any doubt in her soul that there would be a reunion on the Dark Road tonight.

          The blood began to flow faster. The midwife turned to Leti with her shoulders slumped.

          “Will you take them both then?”

          Leti shook her head. “Only the mother.”

          The midwife clenched her bloody hands and turned back to the dying woman. “She’s my sister, you know.”

          “Then take this moment.”

          The midwife bowed her head, and swept the limp locks away from her sister’s eyes. She whispered two words. “Forgive me.”

          There is nothing to forgive.

          Leti felt the words form inside her, but the midwife did not hear. She turned to look at the spirit. Tears streamed down the woman’s face.

          Come, Leti sent gently. The midwife was holding a blade. You don’t need to see what comes next.

          I want to see my baby!

          You will.

          Leti walked to the door. The woman hesitated, then followed her through it.

 

#

 

          Bathed in moonlight, Kara and the Soul Taker crossed the sleeping village. She studied each structure, hoping to take the memories with her. But Kara knew. She had known as the first birthing pain wracked her body that she would be walking the Dark Road tonight.

          They came to the end of the village and stepped onto the sandy beach. The Soul Taker stopped, and Kara moved beside her. She heard the ocean waves rushing, and felt the wind in her hair. She dropped her eyes and spied a golden coin in the sand. Kara laughed bitterly.

          How fortunate Soul Taker, that the price of my passage into the afterlife should lie at my feet on this night.

     The Soul Taker bent down and lifted the coin into her hand. Raising it to her mouth she blew the sand from it.

     This?

     Kara crossed her arms and nodded.

          The Soul Taker rubbed the coin between her fingers thoughtfully, and then flung it into the sea. Kara watched it arch through the night before falling into the hungry waves.

          The price has already been paid.

          Kara jerked her eyes back to the Soul Taker. What do you mean?

          The price of a life cannot be paid in coin. It must be paid in heartbreak and in sorrow, in love and in joy. The price for your passage is all that you left behind. No more is needed.

          Kara wrapped her arms around herself. It’s too high… I have lost everything this night. My life, my sister, my child… I have nothing.

          Nothing? The Soul Taker asked. She glanced behind Kara.

          Kara turned, and gasped. Her husband stepped forward to embrace her.

 

#

 

          Bathed in darkness, Leti watched the woman come to life.