Volume 8 | Spring 2018
by Tony Craidon
“I’m so scared.” She said, breaking a two hour silence between them.
“I know. I am too.” He said.
“Oh God, is it going to hurt?” she asked.
“I hope not. If it does, it won’t be for long.” He responded.
Standing about a foot apart, he turned to face her. His hand trembled as he reached for her hand. For a moment, she didn’t feel his fingers wrap through hers. She had her eyes closed, lost in the feeling of the warm, salty spray from the ocean on her face. She paid no mind to the waves breaking against the rocky terrain they had climbed onto in the last five minutes.
The drive to the shore had been silent. Neither of them wanted to destroy the serenity. The radio remained off. The predawn stars twinkled above them, knowing their destiny. They had made this drive many times before. It was a place that called to both of them, year after year. It was a place they returned to on occasion, particularly before or after major life events.
The first time he saw her, she was standing in that exact spot. The morning air had beckoned her to the rocks, where she was safe from the deadly riptide, but not impervious to the occasional spray. Her long blonde hair had bellowed in the light breeze. He had made the climb down from the bluffs to get a photo of the sunrise. He would have to return to a desert life soon, taking and returning fire with an enemy he couldn’t identify. He was searching for a scrap of beauty in a world he had learned can be very cruel. He had been struck with the notion he wanted to see what the sun looked like just after it peaked over the horizon. Instead of taking that cliché photo, he snapped her silhouette when the warmth of the sun washed over the side facing away from him. The long elusive beauty he’d so desperately sought had finally been discovered.
There was a cosmic shift when he apprehensively touched her shoulder. That shift was masked by her surprise she was no longer alone. There was a recognition that went deeper than reincarnation. It was re-creation. It was almost as if everything that ever happened in the vast expanse of history had led to their chance meeting. There was something so right, and so dangerously wrong that lingered long after that initial touch. That sense of danger remained their entire relationship, but it was a danger neither of them knew how to avoid.
It’s where he had proposed to her. When her belly stretched further than she had previously thought possible, this is where they decided on the names for the twins. It’s where they scattered the ashes of their third born taken by leukemia. They returned here as a last resort when the pain from that loss was almost too much to support each other. When he had finally been released from a life of government approved killing, they came here to reflect. The last time they had been here was to celebrate twenty five years of an adoring, soul-trying relationship. That seemed centuries ago.
Now, moments before that same blazing sun looked onto them for the last time, she looked down at his hand in hers. They tried, in vain, to name the silent mechanism from within that filled them with the certainty all life was to end. Slowly, she faced him and reached for his other hand. Her pale blue eyes watered. He always imagined icebergs melted when he’d get lost in her eyes. His brilliant brown eyes, the color of a virile grizzly bear, struggled to meet hers. He wanted to save her. A Spartan of the ancient world might have embedded his bronze shield in front of his wife while the city was being sacked by a rogue Roman legion. But he had no shield, and this wasn’t something as tame as enemy soldiers plundering after a dishonorable win. Instinct demanded something of him he just wasn’t capable of doing.
He was incapable not because his back screamed in agony making the climb down a path the younger version of himself maneuvered like a water moccasin over glassy smooth waters all those years ago. Something told him if it was ever needed, he could shrug off the pain of a life’s worth of arthritis and nerve damage from a physically unforgiving life. He may pay for it after, but he would sacrifice his entire well-being to keep her safe. That was something that had drawn her to him when she was a young woman. She had felt an unseen power from him she had never experienced before. In return, she breathed fire back into the ashes of his humanity, and he would do anything for her. But he couldn’t do anything for her except stand next to and face it with her. It wouldn’t be long now.
Her now white hair blew around her halo, briefly obscuring her beauty from his vision. The rocks beneath her bare feet tremored. He felt it too. It caused them both to gasp. Though his faced glistened from the ocean spray, she could pick out a single tear working its way down his cheek. He’d never cried in front of her. It was a strength she had both valued dearly and resented deeply. So many nights she had stayed awake in bed, wishing he would show he hurt from their loss as much as she did. So many mornings, he rose with a purpose to be strong for her. No matter how long the toll of losing a child chipped away at his core, he would be her rock. Now that she was seeing what she had longed for, it broke her heart. She suddenly leaned forward and buried her face into his broad shoulder. She took it back. She took it all back. He was everything she wanted. He was everything she needed. She felt a pang of regret for ever thinking otherwise. She let out a sob.
He let go of her hands and wrapped her in his withered arms. Shadows now occupied the space where his stout muscles once were. Despite his weakened appearance, he squeezed harder than he would’ve dared were it not for the current situation. He closed his eyes and rested his cheek on her wet hair. He breathed in deeply, feeling her heartbeat throbbing in her chest. His own heart matched her rhythm, as it often had while they made love.
“I will. I always will.”
A strange sound crept under the waves like an unseen predator, crashing forty feet below them. At first it was indistinguishable, almost imperceptible. But after a few moments, he thought it sounded like hissing. To her, it sounded like the end.
If they had looked to the vanishing point of the ocean just then, they would’ve seen the most brilliant flash of yellow anyone on this great green spaceship had ever seen. But it passed unremarked as he smelled her hair for what would be the last time. It smelled like vanilla. A scent he loved, and she knew it. For decades, she had sprayed her perfume on his pillow so he would fall asleep thinking of her. When, through her guiding light, his nightmares evolved to dreams of internal peace, he’d often wake to see a love note placed on his nightstand. This simple act of love and kindness reminded him how lucky he was to have found her. He knew the alternative would’ve been to drown in darkness, alone.
The break of dawn was swallowed by a wall of ash racing toward the sky, rolling furiously toward them along the horizon. The sun disappeared behind the wall, seemingly ashamed it had any part of this.
Time slowed to a fraction of forever. There came a blast of air from all around them. Barely measurable, they levitated. The wall of grey blasted a deafening roar as it ran impossibly fast across the ocean’s surface. Even with time slackening, the wall made its way across an incredible distance like Apollo had for so many years in his chariot of fire. There was a pitiful and imperceptible cry from the sea as all marine life was snuffed out. The wall destroyed everything in its path without discrimination. It was now upon them.
Reacting to violence, her white blouse folded upward on itself. The bluffs behind them exploded in slow motion. She pulled her head away from his chest. Her hair sparked on fire like a fuse on a bomb. His left shoulder was ripped apart, molecule by molecule, reducing it to a broken emptiness. His iron-locked embrace of her did not weaken. Her eyes fluttered open a micrometer. The cracks of his eyelids disintegrated in a fire that would burn itself out just as quickly as it lit. Both of their lungs were set ablaze like dried paper mache, using the oxygen they had taken in as fuel. Gravity ceased to exist.
Her entire right side was taken apart. Everything that made her…her, was taken back by the same astronomical conditions that had lent to her creation. Her blood was vaporized. Everything needed for life to occur was stripped away unsympathetically, its every ingredient nullified.
His left side, built over a period of time to take punishment only a soldier can know, was dismantled. Protons and electrons were ripped from every nucleus that once made up the man she exposed her vulnerable heart to. Every thought, every action, every regret he ever had led to this event. He would not let go. He would hold her. If love was made of matter, that would’ve been destroyed in his last moments. But love isn’t made of matter.
Her body released a blue light a trillion times more brilliant than the aforementioned sunrise. Not the ice blue of her eyes, but a deep, intense blue that human eyes aren’t capable of perceiving. Though the rest of her physical life was wiped to non-existence, this blue light remained.
With only the power of celestial bonding, and his body gone for the end of time, a pulse of red light stood in his place. It was the kind of red that can only have been created deep in the fires of creation. And forever thereafter, there remained these two distinct pulses of light. But forever proved not to be enough.
While the Earth’s four billion years of molding and remolding was deconstructed, one had to focus on a pinpoint within of surrounding nothingness to see red and blue reclaim an entity older than eternal. While the two lights swirled around each other, they became eternally one. A Purple thought was all that remained where two sovereign illuminations stood just an instant before.
It did not hurt. It was the beginning of a new universe. A cycle the “Purple” had lived and relived before time existed. Once again, the two colors split and were thrust to opposite sides of a new design. Red reached for Blue. Blue reached for Red. Last time it took 14 billion years for these two to find each other. How long it will take to find each other again?
Dedicated to my wife, who is my entire universe