I stood alone on the top of the ridge, staring into the night sky as I had done upon the nearing of the equinox each 500 years from the beginning of time. The air – colder now that the sun had retreated – washed against my leathers and chilled my skin. I smiled slightly; even an uncomfortable feeling was still a feeling.
Without the artificial light of the city, the sky seems more in focus. The absolute black of the heavens was more pronounced by the brilliance of the stars. It was a velvety canvas that appeared close enough to touch and I raised my arms out to meet it, knowing that my hands would grasp nothing. Again I was left empty and wanting, yearning to feel the soft fabric of that rich backdrop.
I looked south, squinting to find the tip of the cluster of stars that would breathe new life into my battered soul, which felt as empty as my outstretched arms. I ached to be alive again, to feel and touch and be touched.
It was now only a matter of time.
As the moonless sky unfolded before me, I caught glimpse of my prize. The constellation Phoenix, the immortal bird of Arabian myth. The bird’s huge wings spread across the sky and in my mind I envisioned the vast flames licking at them as it rose from the great funeral pyre. The Phoenix’s head reached heavenward and I found myself following in that direction as well. Looking for salvation? Acceptance? Renewal? Or all three?
As I stared at the night sky, the stars appeared to shimmer, like the flames from which the Phoenix was reborn again and again. The shimmer soon turned to flame and in time the entire sky around the bird constellation appeared to be engulfed in it. The heat radiated towards me, coming in waves, enveloping me in them, licking at my body, encouraging me to be devoured in the flame.
I closed my eyes and allowed the regeneration to begin. I felt the layers of pain and guilt burn away, turn to ash and float harmlessly into the sky as smoldering embers. My heart now felt less constricted and I dared wish to love again. Branded by the flames of the majestic Phoenix, I was renewed: mind, body and soul. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I thought of the possibilities new-found hope offered. The liberation of a second chance made me nearly dizzy with joy.
The Phoenix rose in the southern sky and with it took my soul, cleansing it with fire and flame, purifying me, preparing me for another 500 years of living. I was again alive.