They gathered in a circle. Sat in huddled groups. Some not wanting to speak. Some not able to. Some quietly asking what happened. Those are the ones who have just arrived. Some are weeping uncontrollably. Some sob quietly into handkerchiefs. Some are fighting the urge to cry. Some others are even struggling to keep a straight face, fighting to keep maniacal laughter within. Some are there only because they know. They don’t even know how they’re expected to behave.
But they all share in two things. The disbelief and the grief. The shatteringly solid, heavy certainty and finality of it. The cold black breeze has blown through this place.
She hasn’t come. Not entirely, anyway. She can’t stand it. Not so much. Not up so close. Besides, she knows precious few of those present. She wants to be there for those she does. But she knows it will break her. Still, she’s here. In part. She can’t not be. A ghost, a spectre, a wraith, a force, an energy. She’s projected herself to this place. She’s hovering above them. Called or uncalled, she’s there.
She begins to expand. Slowly, she’s spreading herself over everyone present. It doesn’t matter how thin. Wrapping herself around them. Enveloping them. Cloaking them. Shielding them. Absorbing their grief. She’s doing this to everyone who knows. To everyone she knows and everyone she doesn’t. Everyone who’s feeling pain. Everyone.
It stings. Burns her skin. Causes her unbearable, unimaginable pain. Physical, actual pain. She screams. It’s a hundred million screams in one. She’s taking all that grief, all that sorrow, and it’s in her head now. She feels. She is the grief of a thousand widows. The agony of a thousand tortured souls. Tears well up in her eyes. But she can’t afford them. Her demons don’t allow them.
They hound over her. Peer over her shoulders. Slither between her toes. Poke and prod her. Try to push her away from her destiny. Her divine role. They taunt her. Ask her what she hopes to achieve. How she can help those she can’t bear to look at. How they will never know that she was, is, or will ever be there.
And this stings even more. The serpent may as well have bitten her. A hundred times. The devil’s words pierce her flesh like thin paper. She bleeds. The demons may well have not noticed. She wants to scream. Shriek till she has no voice. And she’s about to. She’s on the edge of giving up.
And then it happens again. She feels their pain again. Their unwitting call. She knows she must go where that wind has been. And again, she forgets herself. And her demons. Again, she has gone. Again, her skin burns. And yet again, she screams.