Word Count 499
By Sharon Collins
“Awake!” commanded the voice that never slept even when the others did.. “Awake! Awake! Awake!” It shouted dragging all the other voices into consciousness . Immediately they took up the clamor, “Your prophecies are true. To your duty, Old Woman! To the Sanctuary! Save the children! To the ships, Ankara! Go! Now!”
Wrapped in a watered-silk bedrobe , Ankara, Elder, Seer and Keeper of the Crystals, struggled to stand upon the mosaic undulating like a leviathan of the deep beneath her feet. Losing her balance, she fell to knobby knees and crawled to the window, where she hauled her ancient body up. Peering over the blue-tiled, sill, she needed no lantern to see. The dark shadow of Atlas, vomiting gouts of reeking smoke and bleeding rivers of liquid fire, illuminated the hellish tableau. Blazing wooden structures, backlit the columned Temple of Poseidon as it collapsed, the glow of it orichalcum façade fading into the rubble. Choking fumes churned, as weeping men carried their children into the streets followed by silent, white-faced wives. Although foretold, the utter magnitude of destruction paralyzed her. Surrendering to despair, Ankara collapsed against the cobalt dolphins gracing her bedchamber floor and wept.
Stung finally, into action by a shattered tile slicing her withered cheek, she reached for her veil of byssus, a rare sea-silk, wrapped her long silver braids and covered her mouth. Clinging to the heavy mahogany furniture, now strewn in a shamble about the room, she fought her way out of doors and into the heaving chaos. Wheezing, and squinting against the acrid smoke, Ankara searched the horizon, and was heartened to see the ships still anchored a safe distance away. The sight of the beach littered with writhing sea-creatures, the sand extending farther than even the lowest tide, however, tightened the iron grip of terror heart into a stranglehold and she limped even faster.
Keening with grief and pain, she heaved open the Sanctuary gates, ignoring the heated bronze, singeing her palms. As Keeper of the Crystals, Ankara was sworn to protect The Eleven. Her children, as she called them, were in reality eleven unearthly beautiful crystals. No one, not even Ancient Ankara knew their true origins. The Scrolls spoke of wandering Star-Beings bestowing them upon the Ancestors. The color of rare gems, each vibrated with a single, perfectly-pitched tone. Ankara loved to hear them hum as she tended them. When coupled and tripled, their harmonies produced a powerful magic. When The Eleven sang in unison, their melody, it was rumored, could move mountains.
Unwinding her veil, Ankara reached the crystal of emerald-green as seawater surged through a widening rift. Swaddling her first child, she sloshed through knee-deep water to the second and chest-deep to rescue the third. As the water reached her mouth, Ankara faced a parent’s worst nightmare; choosing the safety of one child over another. As she made her choice, she knew the gratitude-songs of the chosen would never drown out the hissing curses of the un-chosen they sank.