The inside of the temple gleamed in indirect moonlight. The stars, so present in their distant silence, filled the temple dome.
"Before I go up there."
"Up there? Why would you go up there?"
"I mean, before I die."
"When you die, you go up there?"
"Well, yes. To the heavens." He paused for a moment, looking at the stars. He took a deep breath of cool night air. "Where do you go when you die?"
"Back into the Earth, of course." He saw from Jasper's expression that the concept was unfamiliar to him.
"We're born of fire, we have fire that lives within us. When we die, we are buried and our souls rejoin the fire inside of the Earth forever, waiting for the day when we are remade. The jewels we mine from the earth, they say that those are left for us by our ancestors as gifts. If one properly respects his ancestors, his mine will overflow with bounty. If not, his mine will run dry. That's the story they tell anyway. I don't know if it's true, but everyone performs the rituals anyway, just in case. Nobody wants to be the one in his family that made their mine go dry from his negligence. I just don't understand why you would want to go into the cold, distant sky, so far away from the people you love and the warm earth that sustains you.
"Well, I never really thought about it before. It isn't frightening to go in to the heavens when you are dead, it's as if you are released from the attracting power of the earth that's been holding you captive, weighing you down with earthly cares... and you are suddenly free. The heavens- that's where God is. That's where our real home is. We're just travelers here, for a short sojourn in the sunlight."
"If you go off into the heavens, isn't it difficult to get back?"
"Of course, but you never come back"
"Why wouldn't you want to come back!? Life here is so beautiful!"
"For someone who was in such a hurry to get out of this world, you seem in quite a hurry to get back to it."
Dakar looked at the ground.
"I love this world. I could sit and watch the sea forever, flowing in, flowing out, always different and always predictable. The variety of rocks, the bizarre formations they make. The way that a rock, so strong, must always bend to the will of water, because water is flexible and persistent, and the rock is only strong. But the way I feel about the world is irrelevant. I have no place in it anymore. I have no family, I belong to no one and no one belongs to me. And nobody wants to. I've betrayed my family's honor. I don't deserve the scent of the midnight jasmine. I don't deserve the feeling of my wings soaking in the afternoon sun. I don't deserve to live here. When I die, when I come back, born anew, I will have paid my due. I will start over again with a clean slate, I will be able to repent for all of my sins. It would be the only honorable thing to do. And so, true to form, I cannot do it."