Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.

The Temple.

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The temple had seen many years of solitude. Great pillars of white had gone gray without cleansing, and the floor gritty with withered vegetation that had been swept within by the breath of wind.

When the priestesses found this abandoned temple, they found beauty beneath the cobwebs. They discovered joy beneath the film of time. It only needed to be uncovered. Their labor was hard, and often did the handles of their brooms break and splinter their palms. But they labored on, uncovering a sanctuary for themselves. It happened quicker then they ever could have imagined, watching the marble gleam and soak in the sun. Their heartbeats reverberated deep into the foundation, and the temple opened its eyes to a new life.

They took pride in their work and each other, for without their companionship the labor of one simply could not have accomplished such a feat. This temple begged to listen to two sets of footprints, to hear twin voices climbing up its lofty arches. They gave their all, their blood, their sweat and their tears that repaired the fractured flooring until it seemed as smooth as a still pond. For this effort, they were rewarded with sure footing and a warmth that leapt gayly through the arches of their feet each time they swung their legs free from bed to begin the day.

Though the temple was now beautiful, it was the generosity of the priestesses that drew the people once more up the formerly overgrown path. They hesitantly climbed the stairs, seeking the solace and comfort from the women who restored life to stone. The priestesses delighted in new companions, and all still and quiet quarters of the temple became more rich with each voice added.

It never takes long, however, for the world outside of nature and simple pleasure to find such places. First it darkens the skies, attempting to cast gloom. It seeks to flesh any imagined fear, to give the inky shadows power to stretch where they should not. The temple trembled and the guests fled, their belongings scattered thoughtlessly down long stone steps. The priestesses watched the skies and heard voices within the thunder, cruel whispers that beat relentlessly at their ears. Every day they swept less and worried more, unable to pull themselves away from what seemed to be certain calamity.

The priestess, who was the dreamer, chewed her nails and refused to come out of bed.
The priestess, who was the doer, paced at the outermost edge of the temple and gazed between the trees.

They had not even the energy to pluck up the articles left behind by those who fled, and instead stepped carefully around them as if they did not exist. Both of them were unaware the damage until one morning, they found their toes cold and their calves cramped with icy rigor.

The dreamer felt the gloom pierce her ribs, snaking its way to her heart. “I am afraid.” she said. The doer paced, forcing her legs to make each step. “I cannot stay. The temple is dying.”

Her dreams were pierced and the haze lifted, feverishly she begged. “We need more brooms. The garden has overgrown. I cannot leave, I can still feel life here. I cannot see it, I cannot grasp it. But I know, I know, somewhere there is life enough to scatter the clouds above.”

The doer spoke, “I will go out into the woods to find the answer, surely there is something to do.”

“But we did not need the world beyond the woods to love this temple, we did not need others to tend. Can’t we, ourselves, be the answer?” The dreamer cried, wrapping linen tightly around herself to keep the cold from creeping up past her knees.

The dreamer heard no reply. For the priestess she had labored with had gone. The woods had swallowed her up, and even the moss had risen behind her footsteps to hide the path she had taken away.

Alone, her misery fed into the clouds above. It began to rain. A misty rain that made the marble floors slick with mold. Her blood fed the encroaching grime each time she fell to her knees, her walk unsteady and weak. She could not leave, and no matter how hard she scrubbed, she felt as if she were trying to build a castle of sand at high tide. Each morning her work had been swallowed up, her tears tarnishing the once glorious metal statues that decorated within. The bed she could no longer lay in, for the depression beside her yawned hungrily for what it had lost. The dreamer slept on the stairs and waited, flesh melting from bone and color leeching from her hair.

When the doer returned, the dreamer rose up as if time had not passed. She ran to her fellow priestess, hobbling with her arms outstretched. When she reached her companion and collapsed into an embrace, she found the doer’s body stiff. It only took a single look to know, for within a moment she realized she did not recognize her face.

“What has happened?” The dreamer pled, “Why do I not know you?”

The doer looked over her shoulder at the now ruined temple, “I found my answer.”

It was then that the dreamer became aware of the voices behind her fellow priestess, the throngs of men and women that scurried on the tree line and watched with hungry eyes. “My God, who are they? I do not know them. I cannot hear their hearts.” in a start, she backed away and held her blackened fingertips to her mouth.

“I cannot stay, I cannot hold another broom with you. I have found my life beyond.”

The dreamer, unable to comprehend, sank to her knees. “I cannot do this without you. Please, don’t leave me here alone. I do not know how to hold them back.”

“You are the one that bound me.” The doer said.

She lifted her eyes, a crooked line deepening between her brows. “Bound you?”

“I could never stay within these walls. I hear a calling far away. I have found another kindred to restore myself. I am happy there, do not bother me. Do not reach for me.”

The dreamer looked down into her palms, “Without you I am nothing.”

She watched as the doer turned towards the trees, “The world will take care of you now. You too can find another joy. This temple is broken. I am too weary of you to build again, Dreamer.”

It was the dreamers cry that brought them, the bleat of a wounded animal. As she watched her companion walk away, she felt the ground shake as the world rushed in. Her head was filled with harsh neon, her ears with hissing profanities and her body battered with their selfish longing. They stripped her of her clothes, they tore at her hair, looking for the key that would empty her heart. Still, the dreamer reached through their bodies. She held her hand out and begged for the one touch that would give strength in her legs to run.

Her hand grasped empty air, a cold air that twisted through her fingers and dove into the center of her palm. Then, all at once, she disappeared beneath them all. The temple was destroyed stone by stone, smashed with heavy unyielding mallets. Though no matter how they labored, the foundation would not crack. It would not give. They stripped it of its roof, they battered down the walls and tumbled the pillars. But the floors they could not crack.

They threw her body there, draped brokenly over smashed rubble. The temple was quiet. Her heart was still.

Around her they rejoiced, letting wine stain the floors. Sweet fruits moldering on the stairs as they trampled them in their dance.

But what they did not see is how her hair still grew, slipping into minuscule cracks and feeling for the very heart of the temple’s foundation. They did not witness her fingers gripping the rubble, refusing to be dragged away. She bound herself to her home, to her memory of their temple, and began to hope.

She began to pray.

To once more grasp the hand that could rescue her.

The one companion who could save her soul.

It was her only wish.

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