(April, 33 A.D.)
Caitlin’s mind raced with fast, troubled dreams. She watched as her best friend, Polly, fell off a cliff, reaching out and trying to grab hold of her, but just missing her hand. She watched as her brother Sam, ran from her, through an endless field. She chased after him, but no matter how fast she ran, she couldn’t quite catch him. She watched Kyle and Rynd slaughter her coven members before her eyes, chopping them into pieces, the blood spraying over her.
This blood turned into a blood-red sunset, which hung over her wedding ceremony to Caleb. Except in this wedding, they were the only two people there, the last ones left in the world, standing at the edge of a cliff against a blood red sky.
And then she saw her daughter, Scarlet, sitting in a small wooden boat, alone on a vast sea, drifting in turbulent waters. Scarlet held up the four keys that Caitlin knew she needed to find her father. But as she watched, she reached up and dropped them into the water.
“Scarlet!” Caitlin tried to scream. But no sound came, and as she watched, Scarlet drifted further and further away from her, into the ocean, into huge storm clouds gathering on the horizon.
Caitlin Paine woke screaming. She sat up, breathing hard, and looked all around her, trying to get her bearings. It was dark in here, the only light source from a small opening, about twenty yards away. It looked like she was in a tunnel. Or maybe a cave.
Caitlin felt something hard beneath her and looked down to realize she was lying on a dirt floor, on small rocks. It was hot in here, dusty. Wherever she was, this was not Scottish weather. It felt hot, dry—as if she were in a desert.
Caitlin sat there, rubbing her head, squinting into the darkness, trying to remember, to distinguish between dreams and reality. Her dreams were so vivid, and her reality so surreal, it was becoming increasingly hard to tell the difference.
As she slowly caught her breath, shaking off the horrific visions, she began to realize that she was back. Alive somewhere. In some new place and time. She was no longer dreaming. She felt the layers of dirt on her skin, in her hair, her eyes, and felt like she needed to bathe. It was so hot in here, it was hard to breathe.
Caitlin felt a familiar bulge in her pocket, and rolled over and saw with relief that her journal had made it. She immediately checked her other pocket and felt the four keys; she then reached up and felt her necklace. It had all made it. She was flooded with relief.
Then she remembered. Caitlin immediately spun around, looking to see if Caleb and Scarlet had made it back with her. She prayed that they had. She didn’t know how she could go on without them.
Caitlin made out a shape lying in the darkness, unmoving, and she at first wondered if it was an animal. But as her eyes adjusted, she realized it took the shape of a human form. She got up slowly, her body aching, stiff from lying on the rocks, and began to approach.
She walked across the cave, knelt down, and reached out and gently pushed the shoulder of the large form. She already sensed who it was: she didn’t need for him to turn over to know. She could feel it from across the cave. It was, she knew with relief, her one and only love. Her husband. Caleb.
As he slowly rolled over onto his back, Caitlin prayed he’d made it back in good health. That he remembered her.
Please, she thought. Please. Just one last time. Let Caleb survive the trip.
As Caleb turned over, she was relieved to see that his features were intact. She did not see any signs of injury.
As she looked closely, she was even more relieved to see him breathing, the slow rhythms of his chest rising and falling—and then, to see his eyelids twitch.
She let out a huge sigh of relief as his eyes fluttered open.
“Caitlin?” he asked.
Caitlin burst into tears. Her heart soared, as she leaned over and hugged him. They’d made it back together. He was alive. That was all she needed. She wouldn’t ask for anything more from the world.
He embraced her back, and she held him for a long time, feeling his rippling muscles. She was flooded with relief. She loved him more than she could possibly say. They had come back so many times and places together, had seen so much together, the highs and lows, had suffered so much and had celebrated, too. She thought of all the times they almost lost each other, the time he didn’t remember her, his being poisoned… The obstacles in their relationship seemed to never end.
And now, finally, they had made it. They were together again, for the final trip back. Did that mean they would be together forever? she wondered. She hoped so, with every fiber of her being. No more trips back. This time, they were back together for good.
Caleb looked older as he looked back at her. She stared into his glowing, brown eyes and could feel the love pouring through him. She knew he was thinking the same thing she was.
As she looked into his eyes, all the memories came flooding back. She thought of their last trip, of Scotland. It all came rushing back like a horrible dream. At first, it was so beautiful. The castle, seeing all her friends. The wedding. My God, the wedding. It was the most beautiful thing she could have ever hoped for. She looked down and checked her finger, and saw the ring. It was still there. The ring had made it back. This token of their love had survived. She could hardly believe it. She was really married. And to him. She took it as a sign: if the ring could make it back in time, through all this, if the ring could survive, then so could their love.
The sight of the ring on her finger really sank in. Caitlin paused and felt what it felt like to be a married woman. It felt different. More solid, more permanent. She had always loved Caleb, and she had sensed that he loved her, too. She had always felt that their union was forever. But now that it was official, she felt different. She felt that they were both truly one.
Caitlin’s thoughts turned to the dark side. She remembered back to what happened after the wedding: their having to leave Scarlet, and Sam, and Polly. She remembered finding Scarlet in the ocean, seeing Aiden, and hearing the awful news. Polly. Her best friend. Dead. Sam. Her only brother. Gone to her forever, turned to the dark side. Her fellow coven members slaughtered. It was almost too much for her to bear. She couldn’t imagine the horror. A life without Sam in it—or Polly.
With a jolt, her thoughts turned to Scarlet. Suddenly panic-stricken, she pulled back from Caleb, searching the cave, wondering if she had made it back, too.
Caleb must have been thinking the same thing at the same time, because his eyes opened wide at the same time.