Why is it that the mind focuses on the tiniest of details when facing the short wait between intensely overwhelming experience? The settling dust tickled the back of my neck. I made nervous sketches in the sand. Insect bites tingled with an irritating itch.
I was lent against a caustic, rough, concrete pillar. One of many that seemed to have almost sporadically sprung from the roof of this tower, looking like trees of an urban desolation, with iron poles twisting out for branches. The building I stood upon was damaged beyond recognition, yet still harbouring enough life to allow for my purpose. It may one day have been a multi-storey car park, a day when such method of transport were as crude to require a place to store, now pummeled by what may have been some distant war. It allowed me somewhere to hide away from the grinding bustle of the lives below, a place we could meet without distraction or disruption.
I had been here for hours now, a whole day or potential destroyed by this one event, an hour before sundown.
You notice curious things when forced to observe your scenery for what seemed like time without end. With a careful eye you could see the heat haze of the metal chimneys stirring the sky like ripples on a lake. I ran my finger along the crumbled surface of the nearby wall, noticing how the sand had settled in the tiny crevices and craters upon it.
The heat had become almost unbearable through the early parts of the afternoon, scorching my throat and licking my back. Now the sun was dropping from the sky with an unnerving speed, drawing a blood red from the spacial blue. The cityscape around me demanded attention I could not give, something that had been stolen by tedium and worry. To an objective observer it would have been nothing less than astonishing, thousands of equally individual, yet completely repetitive buildings that stretched out over the horizon, the monotony broken by towers and temples, and the Newtajal; a temple to the modern age. The Newtajal is religious in looks, yet purely industrial in nature, a shining metal dome, hundreds, maybe even thousands of feet in radius, situated upon a square box of a base below. It glittered with a thousand windows, reminiscent of an untarnished diamond.
I realised that the scene had finally taken the chance to steal the attention it wanted, making me briefly forget my circumstance. I looked at the sun indirectly: surely it had fallen into the last hour we'd had? No that was not possible, not fair, how could she not be here? Pain and grief welled and tore inside me as I began to believe what little mercy I had been granted had been taken from me. But then my emotions calmed like the storm on a sea dying, behind me was the presence of another.
In one infinitesimal second, I turned.
She stood before me, an almost apologetic stance, she was tired and sprinkled with dust, yet shone with all her familiar, radiant, sad, beauty. Our eyes blurred with tears, I'd thrown my arms around her, faces pressed together, we were on the floor, writhing passionately, pressing so close we were all but one. But my grief had finally joined forces with my love and overthrew any of my remaining control. Clutching her head desperately almost praying to some benevolent God, I half whispered, half cried:
"No! Please... No! I can't... I really can't. Not you... I love you. I love you!"
I felt as if I was being strangled by my pain, made worse by seeing her weep against me, almost echoing my words.
"I can't either, it's not fair, not right! How... ? Not.... possible!"
We lay together, swimming in the sand, weeping what liquid the sun had not stolen. We were tortured by our grief and anxiety, we could have been lay amongst knives and broken glass and felt less pain. The wearying heat was no longer perceptible, only what emotions clawed at us. We did not speak for a long time, all we could speak was what we felt, and what we felt was the only thing we both still had.
After dangerously short minutes I spoke, half of our time had passed, the sun was sinking out of view, the vestiges of darkness were falling upon us.
"Are you scared?"
It sounded so simple yet baneful, I had been robbed of any conscious thought.
"Yes... So, so much, more than I have ever felt. And you won't be there..."
She collapsed into shaking sobs again, one's that carried such intensity as to cause her body to convulse in pain.
"Please, no, don't be, no matter what. What ever, what fucking ever happens! I will always be thinking of you! Wherever you will be, I will be with you in every way I can! You mustn't forget that! Ever!"
The urge to dissolve into crying was beginning to threaten me again, but she saved with me with her speech.
"Whatever happens... I love you! So... So much." Her eyes shined with such beauty, reflecting mine with so beautiful tears in them. She fought her grief to speak again. "We will be together again! I promise... I promise you that!"
Words became worthless, our love best felt through actions, passionate and intimate, with such desperateness and longing.
I knew that time was short, an evil cold wind was sweeping across my bare scorched back, burnt by the careless heavens and scratched by the rough floor. The darkness had almost fallen, leaving no light, almost hiding my love from view. We stood up facing each other, hands entwined, yet slowly uncurling, we had only three words on our lips, over and over, "I love you."
The pitch blackness had enveloped us our hands unfurled, I could no longer see her, I was no longer touching her, panic and pain gripped me, my arms swung frantically through the air, when I realised our time had come, I was alone.
The ceiling above me was curved and patterned, and I felt preconscious stirrings that reminded me of an inverted tortoise shell. However, much unlike a shell, which was generally pristine and bright, this ceiling was grimy and dark, with some sort of green sticky moss or mould growing between the patterns and indents. The curved shape of the ceiling was owed to the small shape of the room, barely twelve foot across, and almost the shape of a cylinder, except for the odd deviance that gave room to the contents, an example being the bed I lay in. Despite it's general lack of cleanliness, the room had a pleasant feel to it. The odd shaping of it gave the impression that it had actually grown, a feeling that was only dispelled by the slight metallic tang of cheap metal in the air. Though of course that meant very little, I had no idea how this room may have sprung into being, the metal could of course be some new life form, or a new quasi-organic material, even though it did feel anything but new.
Lying in bed is one of the few experiences that have truly managed to survive the onslaught of the new age. It seems something peculiar to dwell upon, but with natural life becoming something that has been so powerfully warped by science and discovery, it felt good to be able to hold onto some of more basic aspects that had managed to stand the test of time. There is a very firm distinction between the past and what I have loosely referred to as the 'new age', even though the transition may be less easy to mark. There is however a change that most people considered the start, or perhaps the end, at very least a significant event. It was something that allowed us to become Gods, it was when we had the power to extend our lives indefinitely. With certain medical advances we could even survive death itself, which proved to be the key to almost anything.
An unnatural extension of life meant that any further discovery became possible, as no longer were there any limitations put upon us, even issued like massive overpopulation became trivial due to out massive expansion across the universe. Of course though, this took things from us.
Religion could arguably be the first casualty, nothing disproved it, it just lost meaning and purpose. But worst of all, we could no longer have faith in reality itself, there was nothing that could no longer be changed, the only escapes became cities and planets where our nature had not yet been unchained by our power. Though little things, an example of course being that I'm lying in this bed, could not be changed, it would destroy us as who we are, and take away all we have to strive for, so we left these things as they are. Changing our nature as part of our nature is not a paradox that anyone wishes to face.
I'd realized that my brief review of history had drawn my attention from the traumatic events of the previous day, and upon realizing this my body once again seized with grief and pain.
"She's gone! Gone!"
My dreams the previous night had been a continual roll of our precious happy moments together, before being prematurely interrupted by her disappearing in the darkness, as if she had dissolved and become part of it herself.
Hours crept by as the memories tore through my body, mind and soul. She had been a constant in my life, something that had helped me through the turmoil of infinite possibilities presented by the universe.
"We will be together again! I promise... I promise you that!"
That promise had echoed through my mind ever since she'd gone. Conscious life had now risen to an almost omnipotent level, we were now almost Gods among the cosmos, we live forever. I could find her, I had the whole of eternity to do it.
Communication has become something that would have one day been considered telepathic. Individuals wanting to communicate over distance do so automatically and purely semantically, which in theory may appear to be perhaps the most efficient method that could ever be devised, however in practice it proves to be only used as a necessity, as confusion can often occur from a failure to distinguish one's thoughts from that of another, as well as lacking the ability to lie, or even express true emotion. I wonder which of these issues were confusing me now when I found myself considering my own sanity.
It was certainly a strange message to send, one that didn't appear to identify the sender, it felt almost as if it were a thought of my own, yet there were very few thoughts quite as strange to wonder. It had appeared without context or warning, leaving the only explanation to be that it was a message from some anonymous other. It is occasionally possible for someone to send such thoughts entirely upon accident, yet never anonymously, that requires a conscious effort.
I decided to leave it be, dwelling on the anomalies of an infinite universe is often a rather wasteful practice, one that could lead to more rational reasons to question my mental health. I climbed out of the bed and stood up, enjoying the feeling of solidarity in my body and the world around me. My clothes changed to a more suitable attire and I opened the door.
I stood on a short walkway to another door and gazed around me, the higher areas of this planet reminded me of the view from the canopies of gargantuan trees. Dappled sunlight shone down through a faint atmospheric mist, tinting it with a greenish hue. Around me hundred of buildings, all tubular in shape and covered with more of the familiar moss, and glinted in the sunlight, offering a beautiful contrast to the otherwise naturalistic feel of the scene. It was amazing to think that the whole planet was like this, endless mazes of twisting metallic nature, filled with secrets and hiding places, somewhere someone could come to forget and escape. Planets like these had become unnervingly popular as time passed. Too basic to be touched by the panic inducing difficulties that had destroyed the core planets, though destroyed is not the word, some say enlightened, all I know now is; ignorance is bliss.
I crossed to the other side and opened the door, flashing back memories of my arrival the previous night. In my fit of hysteria my mind responded by taking me to this place, somewhere that like so many others I had hidden away from the troubles of the universe, in a place that was so simple and crude, with little purpose and danger, except that posed by the lost wills of the inhabitants. Though I knew if I had any chance of finding my way back to my love, it wouldn't be here.
My mind raced through the memories she had left me, hoping for clues. She said she couldn't tell me where she was going, only that it was the end for us, yet despite the heart wrenching sorrow it would bring, it was something that could not be resisted. I thought it was some sick joke, I laughed nervously, then saw her expression, and felt the truth in her mind. Numbness befell me, and then I lost control. I exploded, screamed at her, shouted and prayed, swore death against whatever consciousness was responsible. Why? What can't you tell me? It was a long time before I regained any kind of coherence. I was driven against the suffering of losing her, and the maddening frustration on not knowing why it had to be. As angry as I was, I knew that all of the time I spent away from her was wasted. Our time was short, and I wanted every second of it to hold and to treasure. Yet as we got closer to that date, I saw less and less of her. She told me it was to help me "prepare" for when she was gone, I spent those days without her lost and confused. She disappeared just before the last week, giving me a date and a place, telling me to meet her just one hour before sundown, and after, we would never see each other again. Living forever was something that took away the irritating constraints of time.
Having our time limited angered me, anger that I was too afraid to direct at her. Maybe she was right, maybe it was helping me prepare, though all it seemed to do was fill me with fear. I now knew what it would do to me to lose her. It was even worse than I had expected, the reason my mind had taken me here was to protect me, I did not want to face the universe alone and vulnerable. So it had hidden me out of the great reach of the infinite realm of discovery and light. I wanted to cower in the dark.
On the other side of the opened door was some strange imitation of a town square, I suppose that there was no reason it wasn't, so imitation seemed not to be the word. Yet it lacked life, I was most likely the only person for miles around, maybe more, this planet was huge. I could have been the only person to have ever set foot here.
It was metal, unsurprisingly. And had doors on many other sides, all of which probably led off to millions of other pathways. The ground was dotted with three foot square panels of glass, which despite the organic rusting of the moss, you could peer down into the depths below, which disappointingly revealed nothing more than a continual green mist.
I stood in the centre and enjoyed the empty quietness that sat around me like a void. I could feel the metal below me, rock solid and sturdy, reassuring me with it's long and ageing existence. The mist flowed around my body giving me a sense of volume and space. The light from the dismal sun above was stopped in it's journey, casting a shadow behind me. These constants reminded me of her, echoing our fond memories. I was lying on the golden yellow grass, she was lay beside me, staring deep into my eyes. She pulled herself on top of me, her sleek her tickling my face, teasing and tempting. She pored her words of love into my ears, I kissed her passionately upon the mouth, we both ran our hands across each other's bodies, enjoying the tantalising sensations of it. I could almost feel her again.
But no, I was alone. On a planet that I may as well have been the sole occupant, and could well be for as far as I knew. I just remained, enjoying the silence.
Omniscience is a quality of a God, and someone was watching me. They were just to the left, crouching in a doorway staring intently, not with curiosity, but knowing. It was a calculating stare, one that knew too much about me, and was planning what to do next. I was immortal, yet I felt fear. I must have been some lesser being, otherwise they would have known that I could feel them, and would not need to stare so intently at me, and their posture was stealthy. With my eyes still closed and head still facing forwards, I tensed my muscles and considered my next action. I was immortal, they were lesser, I would give chase.
With a crack of a whip, I snapped round and propelled myself forwards, making half the distance of the square before it could even react with shock. It made a feeble attempt to run, scrabbling on the floor, it's menacing presence evaporated, replaced with that of pure animal fear.
It had just about made it into the dark room on the other side of the doorway before I had grabbed it's ankle, making it fall from it's half run onto the floor, hitting it's head, causing it to briefly slip into unconsciousness. By the time it awoke, I had it in my full grasp.
Upon examining it, I found it to be almost entirely human, as if one had escaped at only the beginning of the revelation of the new age. An estimated guess would put say it was from the early twenty second century. Male, middle aged and hideous. He was just a little to human, too out of place in this world of the future, quite how he'd survived in his current state I could not imagine, possibly just living amongst the endless mazes of this barren planet. As much as I was repulsed by his humanity, it still held my enviable desire to live amongst the crude and easy world that he had. It was what I felt when I was with her.
Returning his aggressively defiant stare I demanded,
"Can you speak?"
His retort came forcefully and quickly.
"Of course I can bloody speak! Don't you dare pretend you don't know me."
Know him? How the hell did I know him?
"What do you mean? I don't remember you? Who the hell are you?"
He didn't answer, just stared at me with what appeared to be frustrated anger. Something that was rapidly rising inside me.
"Tell me who you are, even if you are immortal, I can make you wish you were dead."
That got to him, I knew that whatever time period he had came from had achieved nothing more than the ability to live forever, something that had become so expansive, that a mortal was like some heinous anomaly.
"You won't, I don't think you can, not whilst you don't have her. And I can get her back!"
If learning that he knew me had startled me, this almost shocked me into letting go, but hearing it only my my grip more resolute. I was tempted to cause him pain just for saying it, but she mattered to much, far too much, I needed her.
"She's nearby, I promise. You dragged her into the light, where she saw it shone through her frail body. How could she exist whilst you grasped at the universe around you? She could only follow you, and where you went she could not. She ran from you."
I was dizzy, the world swam around me. I had let go of the man, I could hardly see him, I felt the panicking feeling of vulnerability claw at me. I was knelt on the floor whilst the human stood, the sun shining past him burning my body. It felt like insanity, I did not know what was happening, but I was laid bare before this man, and all I could do was listen.
"I've told you this before, please just listen. You just could not cope alone. But you were making your way back, back to a place that she could not follow you, the only way to have her back, is to be blinded by the light again, and to once again hide from it."
I fell to the floor, losing consciousness from the onslaught of some terrible feeling that I could only call insanity. But as I did, through the tiny gaps in my eyelashes, I saw an outline of a feminine figure approach me.
I always loved this place, grassy plains were spread for as far as the eye could see. Grasses of not just green, but blue, yellow and red. All bright and vibrant, and quenching your eye with beauty. The view was only interrupted by two things, a sky blue lake that sat just in front of me, stretching for about a mile across, reflecting all the vivid excellence of the world around it. The second thing however, was something far more beautiful.
She was lay beside me sleeping, I could feel her quiet breath tickling my ear. I put my arm across her drawing her closer whilst being careful not to disturb her delicate sleep. I lay enjoying the sun, making sure to shade her from it, she burns easily. I was happy, her small form was clutched against mine, a constant that made me feel safe. I never wanted her to leave, she was too precious, too important. As that thought occurred to me, I realised that the sun would probably burn me too, so I sat up and pulled on a shirt, she always hated the redness it caused. I lay down beside her again and fell asleep.