The headlamp – a Radiant 475 – was the best money could buy. The light disappeared into the abyss, the tight beam turning fuzzy, before it was swallowed by nothingness.
Damn primitive tech.
Balanced on the edge, Qell was certain that this time it would be her. He’d climbed above the clouds hoping that he’d be there for her Wakening. She’d be confused and would need him. It had taken him four days to reach the pinnacle, and he prayed he hadn’t missed it.
It must be her. There’s no one left to Wake.
Qell’s fingers were raw from the climb, and his breath came in ragged pants. The air was too thin. This body wasn’t as strong as the last one. His foot slid on the slick rock, and he shifted quickly to keep balance.
At least it’s agile.
Something in the chasm stirred. The hairs on the back of Qell’s neck prickled. After so long, would this finally be it? He had cycled through three – or was it four – bodies waiting for her. As he peered into the darkness, his stomach roiled. An odd sensation.
The headlamp flickered and went out. Qell’s borrowed body was blinded, but he let his consciousness expand. He reached out, tentacles of awareness cataloging the thoughts around him. The mountain was ancient and sleepy, barely aware of his presence. The wind flittered, scattered and unfocused. A restless eagle perched in a nearby nest. Her mind tasted sharp and bright – angry at his intrusion.
Come on, Apala. Where are you?
Somewhere, far below, a familiar spark blazed. Qell laughed. It came out in a rough, deep baritone. The timber startled him; it was at odds with his skinny legs and arms. He laughed harder. Tears froze on his cheeks as he pulled the spark toward him, up out of the crevasse.
It was slow, difficult work dragging the glimmer up, inch by agonizing inch. The vacuum was peaceful, and souls fought against the uncomfortable process of Awakening. Sweat trickled down Qell’s back as he stripped away layers of oblivion.
After an eternity, a tiny sparkle of light hovered in front of him. It circled in a lopsided orbit over the gorge, as if uncertain of its own trajectory. Qell silently coaxed it closer.
You can do it, baby.
Qell froze as the wayward firefly zipped towards his head. The light grazed his face, wriggled through his hair. He could feel her curiosity.
Good. You know me.
Faster than a viper, the spark flashed past him. On the rock shelf, it found the shell. The tiny light explored the vessel. Stiff arms, at odd angles. A straight nose, dark hair. Lips a delicate, frozen blue. The lightening bug wavered for a moment, and Qell nodded. He shielded his eyes.
For an instant, night became day. Light pierced the chest, sinking into the corpse.
Then the body shuddered and gasped.
“Breathe, sweetheart, just breathe.” Qell gathered Apala to his chest. “This frozen body is temporary. We’ll cycle you into something better soon.” He rubbed her limbs, forcing the sluggish blood to move.
She opened her eyes, recognition sparking, and reached up to trail a finger along his jawline. “Very…” she coughed and tried again. “…handsome.”
Qell smiled down at his wife. “Stop flirting with me, Captain. The others have already Awakened. We have work to do.”
Edited to add: prompts for this piece were the above picture, and must include the words: radiant, expand, & orbit