The clouds overhead deepened, and as the rain began, Sigge knew thunder and lightning would follow. She had to move. The air would soon be filled with ribbons of light flying down from the sky, each searching for a target, each strike setting a new blaze along the parched valley floor.
The dry leaves and tiny bones of small, dead creatures crunched under her feet as she ran, eyes darting back and forth, hear and there, to and fro. She had to find a cave. This rocky ground always had a cave. The forest was too far to the north to reach before the storm began, and with the dry season stretching on for so long this year, it was only tinder anyway.
The rain died down wind began its climb from breeze to gale, sweeping around her ears, tossing about her hair, kicking up the sand. The first rumble of thunder echoed across the plain. It was coming.
What had she been thinking? What on earth had made her think that escaping her master’s hold under cover of an electrical storm was a good idea? At least he provided shelter, crumbling as it was. In another two minutes, she was going to be in the thick of thirty strikes a minute.
No caves. Sigge stopped and looked around her. In her panic, she had been running straight through the middle of the plain. Of course no caves were appearing. Caves are in the cliffs, which ringed the plain and were now much too far away.
She was going to die out here; and as soon as the lightning cleared, the carrion birds would strip her flesh clean. By morning she would just be another pile of crunchy bones for the next poor runaway slave to crush beneath her feet.
The lightning was nearly upon her, firing up the inky night with its crackling dance and the terrifying drum beat that followed. Sigge closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then another and another, watching the lightning trails streak along the back of her eyelids. Then she sat down on the barren ground and crossed her legs. She waited
This was better. It was not the freedom she had hoped for, but it was freedom nonetheless. Her skin began to tingle with the electricity in the air, and she stretched her fingers out before herself. These were the lined, broken hands of an old woman, hands of too much labor and not enough food or rest, hands of a slave. They did not belong on the body of a twenty-six year old; they should not belong to her.
The lightning was coming for her, and that was ok. The charged air prickled along her back, over the barely scabbed stripes from last week’s lash and over the older scars from the lashings stretching back years before that. No more of that for Sigge. Yes, this was better.
Her arms, too, remembered the children she had held over the years; and again they ached. The weight of the tiny one who had died on Sigge’s back because the master had insisted she tend his field instead of her withering child hung on her body like an anchor. “Hope” Sigge had named her, but her own hope had died that day. Today she would see her again.
Beneath the thunder, another song began to ring. Sigge had heard stories of the sand that sings in high wind. The grains rub together and make music. Quietly at first and then growing stronger, the airy, woodwind sound of the sand song hung above the low pound of the thunder. Sigge sat in the seat of music itself. The very earth and sky mourned for her and sang her into glory.
Yes, this was better. She would not die from another’s whim or cruelty. She would not perish in agony and despair. She would pass from life in music and awe. And love. This moment, this riot of sand and spark and song glowed for her alone, and she knew it for what it was. It was the voice of the Almighty saying, “I love you, and I’m bringing you home to me.”
And then the lightning struck.