"That's enough Joziah. I cannot take this anymore. I won't listen anymore. For three years I have been patient, been supportive. But we have a one year old child now and she is our focus. You know better than anyone that in this world our people are preyed on. Our daughter may die if we do not direct our entire attention to her well-being". For the first time, Shelendra momentarily paused for breathe.
Joziah jumped in. "I can hear them Shel. I can hear them all singing so happily. I recognise the song and its calling to me". Joziah closed his eyes listening. It was broken by the voice of his wife.
"That's just a memory. It was a song they all sang to you when you were a baby. It's a wonderful memory, but that's all it is. But your daughter is real, and so am I". Shelendra felt love and pity for him but her voice was harsh. She had to be.
"Shel, I love you and Aly more than my life. You are both my world". He feared to the point of knowing that this would not be accepted by his wife, it had never been so in the countless identical arguments they had repeated over the last two years, as Joziah's problem became more acute.
"That's not enough Jo", at least she was now using his short name. Perhaps, he hoped, she was softening. "I am tired. We are going round in circles and you are not getting better. These delusions are progressively worse. You need help".
"There's nothing wrong with me. How many times must I say it?" It was Joziah's turn to increase the heat into the argument.
"That's not what Evan says!" Back to shouting, Shelendra stared with fierceness in her emerald eyes that would have frozen a ghoul in its tracks, but Joziah was blinded to her by his own relived emotion.
"Evan is a charlatan. He's no more a doctor than I am. Fillian understands more than Evan ever could". A mistake to mention his uncle and he regretted it straightaway.
"Fillian! Fillian this, Fillian that. Your uncle doesn't tell you what you need to hear Jo. He's too much of a mouse to tell you. So let me spell it out one final time. Joziah, your family are twenty-three years dead. No amount of...memories or dreams or visions can change that. Why are you doing this to us?"
"Shel, I'm doing it for you, you and Aly".
"No, you are not. This is about you and your uncle, no-one else. And you can never explain how it's for us. If you want us to stay together, the family you have right now, you must accept that so we can move on". Her voice became quieter and softer as she wearily exhaled her final words.
Joziah's voice followed her lead. He was barely audible in sound but his words resonated in meaning like the hammering of a temple bell.
"I'm sorry Shel. I cannot accept something I know is not true. They are alive, all of them. I know that more clearly now than ever. I must find them. Shel, I'm sorry". His mind felt dark and the thought of his family was the only light, the only hope he had to cling to. He couldn't let it go even though he had wanted to for the sake of his wife and child.
"Then it's done. Goodbye Jo". Shelendra, eyes lowered, turned and walked from the room. As Joziah watched her slender frame head towards the door he could see that she was moving slowly, as if inviting him to stop her. His own voice was screaming in his head to say something to her, to go to her, hold her. But he didn't. He couldn't. He was forcibly stopped from doing so by something he didn't know what, let alone understand. As he thought of reaching out to his beloved, pain seared through him again. A physical pain the origin of which had always been a mystery to him since the first time he experienced it. A pain that had grown throughout his adult life and had now achieved an intensity he could no longer defy. His head pounded to a relentless rhythm. This time, only when he resolved to find his family did it recede and finally relent.
Joziah Kai lowered himself to the floor, tears mixed of physical and emotional pain flowing unhindered down his sharp features into his short, well-kept beard. The fight was lost. He succumbed to the inevitable.