The man I saw in the distance looked strangely familiar to me. Upon seeing his face only briefly a flood of memories came crashing down on me and I had to close my eyes as image upon image forced its way to the forefront of my consciousness. I saw myself sunbathing on the beach, lying next to a handsome man who was watching the waves. In the next image, I saw myself in a briefing room with giant windows in a tall building that was overlooking a busy street. There was a lady in there looking at me with concerned eyes and a soft smile. The next memory was of me running again, but this time it was a stealthy run into unfamiliar terrain. It took a while to recover from the sudden onslaught of information. After taking a breath to find my inner balance again I noticed that the man had vanished. I started running into his general direction, hoping and praying that I didn’t lose him. Suddenly I noticed my feet turning a corner without my explicit, conscious instructions to do so. It didn’t feel unnerving however but rather reassuring, like they had somehow remembered which way to go without needing to be told. As I turned another corner I came to a halt, completely out of breath. There he stood, the man who had caused me to take a dive into my reservoir of buried thoughts and emotions. All of a sudden I remembered him, his kind, Asian looking eyes, his fine, black hair and his sweet smile and my heart was suddenly overjoyed to see him.
Without a word, we hugged each other. “It’s good to see you alive Monica,” he said after a while. I let him go and looked him in the eyes. It took me a while to find my voice as flashback upon flashback was still assaulting my mind. In one frame I saw this man yelling at the lady in the briefing room, in the next I saw myself walking through a giant mountain as if it were made of nothing but air, in the next picture I saw him and I sitting across from each other at a candlelight dinner. “Tai!” The name rolled off of my tongue as if I had always known it. “Oh my God, I remember you!” Just the thought of me remembering something of my life brought chills down my spine.
Suddenly though, those chills were replaced with tremors and my body started feeling cold and almost numb. The memories came crashing in like wildfire and with them came an overwhelming sense of guilt. Before I knew it, I was convulsively sobbing from the emotional onslaught that suddenly took place inside of me. I felt light headed and my legs felt as though they were made of rubber and weren’t built to support my weight. With devastating sobs shaking me I sank to my knees. The images I saw were of me abandoning my friends, my people, all to save myself. It was in that moment that I remembered why I wanted to so desperately forget everything. I remembered, I was a monster and that I didn’t deserve to even breath the same air as the man before me.
Tai, for his part, carefully held on to me and kept his hand on my shoulder even as I sank to the ground. He was calm and complacent as though expecting me to react just as I did. Calmly he was kneeling in front of me and was emanating a soothing aura over my energy of heart-shattering guilt. All I could hear were softly mumbled words that sounded like “It’s ok my love, I got you. I know this isn’t easy, but you being back is all that matters right now. No matter what, we all love you and we always have and always will. You are not alone in this hardship, I promise.”
The unwavering love that he radiated calmed me down slightly but was also cause for an immense irritation I held for him. After what felt like an eternity I finally found my voice, as sob stricken as it may have been. “Don’t tell me you love me Tai and don’t tell me you forgive me when I cannot even forgive myself! I abandoned you Tai and all of our friends! I let you all down to save myself. I let you guys take all the hits for me! I don’t know how I could even live with myself after this!” after this exclamation sobs started assaulting me again.
All Tai did as an answer to my words of malice towards myself was tighten his grip on my shoulder slightly. “Listen, Monica,” he said with a demeanor full of concern. “I know you are blaming yourself for what happened, but you have to understand, it wasn’t your fault. You saved the Beacon, that was what mattered at the time. We all knew the risks as we signed up for this mission. Everyone knew they may not make it out alive but nevertheless, we all came with you. Please don’t ever undermine the sacrifices we were willing to make. We did it to help you succeed in your mission, which you have. That is all that matters in the end. And above all, you are alive! I can’t tell you how glad I am that you made it out alive.” Tai’s voice broke on the last word and as I was looking up I saw his eyes were filled with tears of his own.
“You might be glad that I’m still alive Tai, but I’m not. I don’t deserve to be. And I don’t deserve your forgiveness either.” I said, with all the self-loathing anger I felt in my heart.
This statement caused him to grab my other shoulder as well and shake it roughly. “Please, Monica, don’t ever say that. Don’t even go there, because it completely decimates all our efforts and the lengths we had to go to to keep you alive. You must believe me, Monica, when I say that you were worth all the hardship and that in spite of how you feel, the mission was indeed a success. The Beacon is safe, and so is all of Veritaya. Thanks to you we were able to defeat Tyrian and drive out all the evils that we were exposed to. The danger is by no means vanquished but at the very least it is now contained and we again have the upper hand. This was due to your actions Monica. It was due to your ability to prioritize the relic above the rest of us. It was an impossible situation to be in but you mastered it and did what you had to do to save the light. I and all the people of the island are forever in your debt my dear. The mission isn’t over, but we are closer than we have ever been to reigniting the Fire Of Truth.”
The next words he said were spoken with a much softer, almost pleading voice “I know I cannot ask this of you, but we still need you to end this war. If you are willing to come with me, I will explain more.”
Monica still felt the aftershocks of the emotional havoc that ravaged her heart and mind but hearing this man speak filled her with solace and a grievous determination. Her heaving breath stilled and she felt clear headed for the first time in a long time. She looked Tai straight in the eyes and spoke with an imbued certainty that could be felt in every word. “I will do whatever you feel is necessary to bring the Beacon to its full manifestation Tai. No matter what, you can count on me. Always.”