The sky was dark above Ikan’s head. The moon was the only sliver of light in the night sky. The stars had yet to glow.
Ikan’s footsteps echoed through Sayil’s empty streets; a tiny echo in a deserted room.
He reached the golden steps of Adoc temple. They rose up into the distance, glittering faintly in the pale light of the white moon. The climb begun by every Sayil boy; the descent by the resultant man. It was every child’s most important journey. It was every child’s last.
Ikan began to climb.
The stairs seemed to go on forever. It didn’t help that each one came up to the top of his knee. His thighs strained with effort.
He was sweating. It was always hot in Sayil, but never like this. Not at night.
Ikan swatted the air, pushing back a swarm of errant flies. He wished he could swat away his dread as easily. What would they make him do? He knew it wasn’t anything that left a mark; not like what the Myrurnians did.
Ikan shuddered. Surely there couldn’t be anything worse than self-mutilation. Right?
A patch of white fog shimmered several steps ahead. Ikan paused, his nose almost touching the silky mist. He turned around, looking back at where he’d come from.
Ikan realised that he’d never truly seen the sea. He’d thought he had. Thought he knew it. It was only from here, high up on the steps of the temple, that he truly comprehended its true scale.
It stretched out into all directions. Immense. Intimidating. Infinite.
He took a deep breath. This would be the last time he looked over the ocean as a child. When he saw it again he’d be a man. Ikan turned around and walked into the cloudy fog.