I heard the muffled crack of her forehead colliding with the floor as she threw herself at my feet. The woman's legs curled under her body, but her arms were stretched in front of her, hands clenched into trembling fists as though she were very angry, or maybe like she was so scared she couldn't stop the shaking.
"Please, Shining One, please don't Waken!" Her voice was muffled by the hard-packed earth under her face, and I suffered a moment of concern for her. It couldn't be easy to breathe like that.
"Rise," I instructed her, but she shook her head, the motion throwing up little puffs of dust to either side.
"I daren't, Light of the World." The world around me was growing increasingly vivid, the woman at my feet becoming clearer as I watched her. Her shoulders shook with emotion, and I could hear her breath rasping in the narrow space between her mouth and the dirt. "I daren't. But please, don't Waken. You are all that holds our world together. If you leave us... my village, my children!" She started to sob, and I felt a twinge of unease.
"I don't mean to Waken," I told her, but even as I said so I sensed something beyond that place. A sound, or maybe a feeling, from another body. Did I have another body? I couldn't remember.
"If you Waken, everything we know will fall apart into the Void. I can't let my children face that. Not after everything they've gone through. Please, take me instead. Cast me into the Void and let the others live. I beg you, Morning Star."
It was as though I'd heard that message before. Even as I looked at her, I saw a rapid succession of women, young and old, rich and poor, bowing before me in the same way, though she never moved. The words were different each time, but the meaning was the same. If you leave, we will die.
I didn't want them to die. Any of them. This one had a family and a home. In a moment I could see them. A battered little brown house with hardwood floor and tin roof, two small children and a picture in the corner of a husband that had perished in a mining accident more than a year ago. She didn't want them to be alone.
But the sound at the edge of my senses was growing louder, more insistent. I couldn't ignore it forever.
"You won't be cast into the Void," I told her, hoping that was true. "Nothing will harm you."
I saw her lift her face, tears streaming down her face. She cried out - there may have been words. I couldn't hear her over the noise in my ear.
Then I opened my eyes to the face of a hungry house cat, crouching on my chest and purring loudly. It was breakfast time for him. The fate of a hundred human lives didn't matter, as long as he was fed.