From the peak of the stairs, Ehkasa turns to face the masses. A hush falls as she raises her bronzed arms outward and up. Unadorned, she is yet more lovely. Her hands come together to create a halo of her arms, a perfect ring. The crowds barely breathe. Unmasked, she is yet more holy. She cradles the moon in her arms, and holds it in the sky.

A silhouette in coal and alabaster, the clouds part and white moonlight blazes through, washing over the masses. The man beside me begins to silently weep, tears streaming openly on his cheeks. He makes no move to clear them. There is no sound now, the thousand people around me do not breathe. We are awash in a sea of white, statues in the dark. My body is tight, a string wound to its peak. My muscles lock and I cannot move, I would not want to. Nothing can break this perfect stillness. No one would dare. I stand there among thousands and I know that I am truly alone. She looks at me alone and her eyes are midnight suns. I am burning, seared in the pale light. The years fall away and I feel my posture unbend. My heart is proud and steady, a drum within my veins. My chest fills with iced air and the sharpness of it breaks my heart. I know that I am alive. I know that she loves me. I know I will never be happier.

On the peak, Ehkasa begins to sing.

The note moves through the crowd. Like a glass shard it cuts through the front line. A man flinches as it touches him, his movement a blinding crack in the crowd. It does not matter now. The note continues, low and deadly. It splinters and spreads. It twists around, working its way between the open spaces and encircling those behind. I dare not blink, but from the corner of my eye I see it flicker as it comes closer. It sparks on the still-wet faces of the crowd, in their eyes and on their breath. The sound spreads like smoke. It is upon me now – like distant wardrums, like venom in the vein.

A foot stamps. A thunderclap in the dark. The reverberation runs up through my feet, a tremor in the stillness. The song thrums through us now. It is alive and we are captive. Still cast in perfect light, we statues begin to move. Colour streaks through, deep reds and blues on skin, a flash of emerald in a woman’s eyes. We stamp in unison now, a thousand feet hit the dust and it crashes against the pounding song.

The sound is alive. A sandstorm, it sears the skin and bone beneath. It rages inside my skull and peels the shell from my soul. It is around me and in me-


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