This fragment refers to the events at the end of the Book of Atrus novel, a prequel to the Myst series of games. It was posted during a fit of insomnia at 3AM on MYSTerium.|
Stitching Time: Anna Waits
"Yes?" Katran waited expectantly for the older woman to finish perusing her hurried emendations.
Anna splayed thin calloused fingers across the pages, staring down at them. "This part," she said softly, then glanced up at the girl facing her with a calm she knew neither of them shared, "is so yours, Katran, that I will have faith that it works, even though I cannot for the life of me figure out what you wrote there. Yes. It will have to do. You have the Myst Book?"
By way of answer, Katran shouldered her knapsack. "In here."
"Then there's no time to lose," said Anna. The corner of her mouth turned like the end of a flattened fishhook, whether in humor or uncharacteristic bitterness was impossible to say. "Enjoy your wedding, my dear." The old woman immediately regretted the words, seeing them fly home and draw a faint flinch from the girl.
Katran touched her fingers to her lips before Anna could apologize. Then her eyes dropped to the swirling window of the Riven book they had just finished rewriting. Her right hand hovered over the dark rectangle. First things first, however. She withdrew the Myst book from her knapsack and opened it between them, then sought Anna's eyes with a confident gaze that held nothing at all of fear, only faith.
Anna gripped the sides of Gehn's desk, staring down at the image of Myst's green sea and the onrushing shore. She would rather be going to Riven. But Katran alone could deceive Gehn now-- certainly his mother's presence would invite disaster-- so Anna had the most difficult task of all: waiting.
To have to trap her own son... to let poor Atrus continue his unwitting journey alone, not warning him, letting him find his own way... to leave his fate in anyone's hands but her own, even Katran's...
Atrus, what do you see?
But he cannot see. He will not know. The charade must be complete, or Gehn will suspect our secret ally, Katran, and all our plans be undone. So he will fear she has betrayed him.
It could not be helped.
"Anna?" Katran pressed.
"I'll see you soon, my dear," Anna said stoutly, and let her hand fall upon the page. Darkness enveloped her, then blinding sunlight, and she was alone once more.
I am an old woman. And I am waiting for time.
Anna sat on the gravelly shelf along the shore of Myst Island, dangling her feet in the water with the bemused wonder of someone who had, after all, spent most of the last thirty years in the desert. She paddled her feet, mentally laughing at her own image, a gaunt old woman in patched clothes, sitting in the sun dabbling her toes in the surf. Her gaze drifted outwards to two sea-birds circling in the distance, out over the glinting jewel-like surface of the green ocean.
Her thoughts circled back to the gnawing fear, the culmination of three years of tearing concern on Atrus' behalf, as she watched the white birds dip and wheel about each other. And on Katran's too, she added to herself, noting the pair. If all went well, Anna would get back a granddaughter, as well as a grandson. But she had grown adept at the art of losing, cheated by life too often even when she kept hold of part of what had been hers. Thoughts shied away from her son. And now, for all her faith in Atrus' goodheartedness, in Katran's uncommon intuition, they were still only children.
Her bony hands clutched at her knees. They must return. Atrus had meant to leave Katran here, and safe, while he went to face his father. Now it was Anna who waited, and it was not enough to tell herself that the trickling hours since Katran's departure were taking no longer than they should. Anna herself had suggested the delay before the instabilities began to manifest, to give Katran time to find Atrus in case, as she feared, Gehn intercepted him.
Anna had endured a handful of dark and hungry years in the tunnels, watching over her grandson from afar, hiding alone in the dark in the ruins of her husband's lost city, where ghosts walked every street. Just a little longer now, and she would be done with waiting.
With a puff of breath the old woman rose to her feet and headed back to her small bundle of belongings. "Stop fretting, Anna," she told herself with a dry chuckle. She drew out a large notebook, the pots of blue, white, green and yellow pigments she'd managed to save, found another rock to set her back against, and begain to work on a painted map of the small island.
But sun, the crying of the gulls, the rhythmic slap of water against the shore that made her think of docks in faraway lands, found another way to take her mind away from worrying. She awoke to the sound of a soft thump, a sudden skirl of wind that drove against her bearing wild smells, leaves, dust, and...
"Katran?" She was instantly wide awake and rising to her feet as the girl turned towards her.
Katran stumbled one step to the side, still not entirely used to the process in spite of her few years' training. Her trailing dark hair fell loosely aganst her shoulders as the unexpected wind spent itself. The fringed dress and finely-embroidered overtunic she wore were other than when she left, now tattered and trailing trim from one part of the hem. "Anna!" she crowed joyously. "I found him! He's coming."
Anna exhaled, although the knot of tension under her breastbone only drew tighter, bracing with expectation for Atrus' arrival. Katran reached for the older woman's hand to squeeze it firmly, turning to face the spot where she'd first appeared.
Doubts pulled taut as a bowstring made Anna's voice a little sharper than it might have been. "He was right behind you?"
Katran's hand gripped still more tightly; the uncanny young woman was not entirely immune to fear. Her black hair had fallen from its ribbons and beads, leaving straggling wisps before her eyes, but she was still as stone, not taking her eyes from the spot or moving to brush it back.
Moments stretched to a minute, perhaps two, the longest both women had ever experienced.
At last, with a wild gust of air and more windborne debris, Atrus appeared, landing on his back with a thump, staring dazedly up at the sky.
Anna started to move towards her grandson-- so many years now, since she had seen him anywhere but from afar-- but the younger woman was first to dash and stoop at his side, wrapping her arms around him.
Atrus touched her face, still dazed, but in spite of his disheveled weariness and the dried blood on his forehead, his expression seemed utterly at peace. "Swimming through the stars," he told her in a hushed voice. He sat up and drew her against himself in a fierce, almost violent hug.
Anna watched the children with a quiet smile, suspicions confirmed. She had been waiting for this time. But now time was theirs.
Katran, stroking his hair gently, glanced up and held out a hand towards Anna, green eyes shining. "Atrus, what do you see?"
Momentarily stunned to hear those words in another's voice, the boy turned and stared. "Grandmother!"
Anna knelt more stiffly than Katran, and gathered both of them into her thin arms. "Welcome home, Atrus."