He moves a dusty patch of earth behind him with every step. His steps, once eager, had slowed to determined, mechanical movements.
He didn’t know how long he’d been walking. A month? A year? A lifetime.
Always he was pulled on by a waft of air, reminiscent of her smell, her hair, or a flash of movement in the distance like the swish of a dress.
He slept by roadsides and ate what he could trade for. Sometimes, on the breath of the wind, he heard her voice laughing his name, and he was sure that if he went on just a little further, he might be able to find her.
She was like a ghost, dancing into his dreams but disappearing by morning, blinding him in the reflection of a stream, then not having the grace to show herself when the brightness had faded.
“Why chase such a phantom?” a man asked him who walked by his side for a day and listened to his story.
He thought of the way she’d challenged him to follow her, even to the ends of the earth. And he thought of the debt that he owed her. Which drove him more, the love, or the guilt?
“Because there is no not chasing her,” he answered, as honestly as he could.
In his dreams, she was radiance itself, but he knew what truly drew him on was the fact that even radiance did not compare to her true presence. She took it by turns to tempt him and eviscerate him in his dreams. “Have you given up your search so quickly, my love? Would you let such a thing as sleep stop you from finding me, do you think I would let you forget your crimes if you chose to stop? Do you think you could forgive yourself for losing the chance of winning me?”
“What did you do to make her run so far from you?” the old man asked, struggling to keep up with the traveler’s long, unrelenting tread.
“A little thing, in the vastness of the universe,” he said, his voice soft and musing. “I killed her, is all.”