I sit confounded on the temple floor, my skirt curled on my lap and around my legs, with silence filling the space around me. Where did everybody go? Is this the mortal world? I look around, picking out every detail of the room around me, but it's the same, I'm sure of it. Did something go wrong? Is this a punishment for my failures, a limbo? Fear twists like ribbons through my rib cage, clenching me so that I'm unable to move an inch. I look up at Ideón, motionless in front of me, grey in the night that - as I crane my neck up - is moonless.
I blink rapidly, the sounds and colours fading in my head like the burn of sunlight on the backs of my eyes, voices fading into whispers until they're entirely gone, and my vision is clear. I realise that I can move now, though I have no idea where to move to. I stand, careful that I don't trip on the gathering of my skirt and tear it. I wonder how they get this back if I'm wearing it... it hardly matters but I can't help but question everything as I spin around to locate each of the exits, the same places they have always been, only dark and shadowed, frightening me so that I have the urge to curl up beside Ideón - no matter how much He terrifies me - and wait. Maybe Akantha will find me, or Calliope. Somebody has to come for me.
Suddenly, there's movement at the corner of my eye, something moving between the fluted pillars, watching me. Fear seizes me, but I roll my shoulders higher and put my feet far enough apart so that if I have to fight, or run, then I can.
"Who's there?" I ask, my voice coming out choked and timid.
They emerge, a little form in the blackness that slowly comes forward. First I see little brown sandals on bare, hairless legs, and then a dazzling white chiton. Finally, I meet the eyes of a little boy, barely past his seventh year, with a gap where one of his front teeth should be, and blond curls that have turned into downy tufts behind his ears. Before I can stop him, he's running towards me, his sandals clopping in quick pace until he launches his arms around my waist, his hands too short to connect at the back. I stumble back a place, his grip tight on me, not willing to let go for anything. Is he lost? Afraid like me? He can't be a Muse, of course, so where could I possibly be? His nose nuzzles at my dress in a strange way, like trying to find a familiar spot on my stomach, or inhaling my scent like he knows me. Finally, he looks up at me with such a wide smile that it's as if there could be no better moment in the world than this one. Something stirs at me, I want to recognise him, but I can't, yet the temptation builds in me to smile back.
But then I look at his face again, and with no other concern than my own, I push.