The air felt heavier in my lungs at night, like I was breathing in a bog. Even though it had been only two months since life had become like this, I still felt myself doubling over, unadjusted to the change in the environment. It had only been such a short time, two months, but forever it had felt like it had been this way. With conveniences so long accustomed to rendered useless, life had become a burden.
Nights would find me open eyed in the kitchen, not needing the rest I almost ached for in the day. A shadow by sunlight and a ghost by the stars I was, gazing emptily out the window over the dish filled sink. The moon hung full over the calm ocean, its pale light rippling the sand from here to there with shadow. As the waves broke on the flooded sands, I felt the water underneath my feet, seeping up through the tile. The tides were the highest they had been since the hurricane, the groundwater rising into the house. I could feel it just under my feet, a miserable reminder of what this place had been through. I just wanted it to pull away, all in one receding wave; I could not rebuild with a wet foundation, and wanted nothing more than to be dry.
When one stares long enough, their tired eyes play tricks on them. I had been tired for a long time, and my eyes were beginning to see shapes in the sand. In the black ocean against the dark sky, something was out there on the horizon. Leaning over the dishes to get a glimpse, I was certain that there was someone out there. Walking along the shoreline, there was a silhouetted figure, bending over with every occasional step. Letting myself down, my interest had awaken me from the daze I had been, as I stared out there, wondering who could it be.
My run along the beach led to a Toa of Earth, picking masks from the sand. He had come from the ocean, his skiff nearly invisible on a sandbar in the mild surf. Picking up the masks like seashells, insouciantly adding them to a pile, while I looked on, revolted. Hundreds of masks had laid right in front of my house, the sea spewing back what it had taken from the island, and I had been completely oblivious to it.
“What are you doing?” I asked the Toa. “Leave them alone!”
“I’m collecting them,” he replied simply; either he did not know these were the masks of my brothers and sisters, or was apathetic to my cries.
“The sea takes the extraordinary and leaves the rest to be,” I quoted. “Let them rest in peace!” I grew angry when he kept collecting, ignorant of my demand.
“These masks came to me,” he informed, “So what should I not take what is given? As tragic as it may have been for what happened to these Matoran, the island does not need these masks anymore. You would collect them yourself eventually, but what would you do with them? Maybe someone somewhere else needs them.” I cocked my head towards the moon, thinking on that. Letting them back to sea would be honoring their memory, but there was no arguing this with him. He was going to win this argument, no matter what I did or said.
“Your island needs healing,” the Toa said, pushing a toe through the sand. I cast my eyes back to the shack I had come from, seeing ruins where a fine house had once been. The dunes were swept away to reveal a porch in shambles, the wood warped by the tides that had rushed forward in the floods. I winced at the sight of it, hurt by my own apathy. I had done nothing but let whatever dignity I had left deteriorate, and now my apathy was breaking me to pieces. “Maybe you need it too,” he added, placing a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. Looking me in the eyes, he could see the echoes of the pain as I remembered the storm. “Leave here,” he advised. “Go where your mind will be at peace. Let me take care of the land, so one day it will be fit to live on again”
“How do you know what is right for here?” I demanded.
“Stabbing a wound will not make it heal,” he countered. “Staying here will only make it worse for you. Leave. I will bring to this island what you won’t expect, and that’ll make it all the more interesting if you ever return.”
“Where would I go?”
“There is a meadow, far inland,” he explained, pointing beyond my house. “The woods will lead you there. The path may wind and fork, but trust me, it all goes to the same place.”
“And you swear to…?”
“I will help this island as best to my ability,” he nodded, a grim smile on his face. “Now go. Take what you have left and go. There’s people in the meadow, and trust me, it’ll do better to have company there than to spend the winter here alone.” I nodded, bidding him farewell. As I regarded the dark sky beyond my home, I felt the breeze tickling my neck, the quiet calling of winter. The woods beyond the island were dark, and I would spend many days in there before I waded through the grasses. I didn’t want to leave, to sever the connection between myself and the island. You can only appreciate this place once you leave, I thought grimly, as I followed the darkness to where I solid ground lay.