The Reflection

                There are places, the hidden lonely spaces, the frigid peak of a mountain or a basement corner in a condemned mansion, where the world wears a bit thin. One can stand there and peer into another universe. One that exists just behind, just above, just outside our own. In one such place a young man stood and waited for his reflection. The other mind behind the mirror. He who stopped mimicking his movements one day and winked. From that moment blossomed love.

                He knew what they planned to do in those woods was dangerous. As luck would have it, the forest behind his house—a land of strange sightings and unsolved disappearances, was one such space where worlds collided. He knew they hazarded the whole of not just his world, or his reflection’s, but the total of creation itself. But from that first moment when he realized that hidden in that glass was another life, with a smile so like his own, he knew they had no choice. They had to meet, to touch, to know each other’s intimate spaces.

                After a few minutes of waiting, he saw a transparent copy of himself approach through the forest. The same full lips, the same dark curly hair cropped close to the scalp, the same dark skin, dry and cracking in the winter cold. The reflection smiled, and he knew it to be identical to his own. How many times had he seen the same crooked smile in the mirror? He memorized it, and to see it belong to another thrilled him

They stood, face to face, under the auspices of an ancient oak. The wind blew and snow that fell the night before swirled down among them from the boughs, matting his hair, falling through his reflection like he was not wholly there. They did not speak right away, letting the mist from their breath come together and then dissipate like they might do soon, like the universe might.

He was unsure what to say and so, he sensed, was his twin.

                “You came.” He finally stammered.

                “I did, so did you. I didn’t think-”

                “No, neither did I.”

It was, as he suspected, like talking to himself. The same voice and speech patterns. Yet, somehow he sensed, there was another soul here. Another life apart from his own. His reflection looked up at the sky, gray and austere. The omnipresent cloud cover of a New England winter.

“Well that’s one difference at least. In my world, it’s summer.”

He looked behind his reflection, and saw—though faint—the same land and trees, but instead of leafless and bows laden with snow, the trees were blooming and covered in leaves. The sky was clear, the sun was just beginning to rise. They stood in grass, but somehow also in snow. He was cold and warm at the same time, and his feet were damp, the ice melting into water as it became unsure which world it belonged to.

“Should we do this?”

“Do what?”

“This, meet like this. Touch… you hear stories.”

“Yeah, present and past selves meet. The timeline collapses on itself. That kind of thing? Not really the same situation here.”

He kicked the snow, now slush, unsure how best to express his reservations.

“No, but it could be like… so the universe is made of matter and anti-matter. When the two meet, an incredible amount of energy is released. A cataclysmic amount even. Is it right to risk our… worlds? Our everything? Over this?”

His reflection frowned, thinking for a while how best to answer.

“Let me ask you something. When we first met, and realized that we were more than just each other’s reflections, how did you feel?”

He closed his eyes and remembered. His incredulity at the impossibility of it. The joy at discovering such a like mind.

“I felt… as if the sun rose after a lifetime of night. Like I just grew legs and crawled up out of the ocean and onto the shore. I was blind and stuffed in a box, but you let me out and gave me eyes to see. I felt as if… it was like…” Words finally failed him.

His reflection nodded.

“I felt the same. You ask, is it worth risking the universe to consummate… whatever this is. I ask, what else is the universe for if not this precise moment?”

“A bit solipsistic, no?”

The reflection took another step closer. Their noses were almost touching. He felt his reflection’s breath on his cheek. As they talked, he grew more solid, as did the world behind him along with its sun. He could see his reflection shivering and knew winter encroached more and more into his world as well.

“Perhaps, but look around you. In both worlds, at this moment, there is no one but us. Let’s be a little selfish, let’s…” And instead of finishing his thought, he closed his eyes and leaned forward.

He means to kiss me. The man realized. Then he smiled. Well, why not?

He leaned forward as well, and their lips touched. And in that moment, it mattered little to either of them whether the universes ended or not.

He opened his eyes to darkness, felt his reflection’s arms around him. He was an idea no longer, but love made flesh. His feet touched nothingness and yet he stood. He was not cold, not hot and sensed that the emptiness around them lasted forever. There was no light, yet he saw the man across from him perfectly. He saw himself, skin only slightly less black than the night and smiling. The young man smiled back, took his reflection’s hand, and they leaned forward to kiss again.

There was no light, no sound, no world, nor wind. Only love remained.

The Scorpion and the Frog

                We had fallen together for many centuries before I finally spoke:

"You know what's funny? Well, what I think is funny at least. Most readers believe a story is built of nothing more than the words used to tell it, a common mistake. They follow their structure, plot and character, ignoring the ur-tale that looms beneath. Take, for example, the common parable of the scorpion and frog. I will recount it to you now; you tell me what the story is about:

                "Once, many years ago, a scorpion tired of his mountain home. He began to travel down through the woods, to see what else his world contained. During his journey, he came to a stream he wished to cross. There, on the bank, played a frog. The scorpion approached the amphibian and asked to frog to carry him on his back to the other side.

                "'How do I know you won’t sting me?' The frog asked, naturally wary of the arachnid’s venomous tail.

                "The scorpion replied: 'Because if I do, I’ll die too. I’ll drown.'

"The frog, satisfied, allowed the scorpion to hop on, and began to travel through the current. It was the beginning of spring, and the melting snow had swelled the river's current to a torrent that almost dragged them both under. But the frog fought on, swam through it. A noble creature he held up his end of the bargain and made it through the worst of the flow.

"However, as they approached the other side, he felt a painful sting. Looking around, he saw that the scorpion had indeed stuck him. Paralysis rapidly setting in, he gurgled. 'Scorpion, why did you kill me? Now you have doomed us both.'

                "The scorpion shrugged, or approximated a shrug as best as scorpions know how. 'I couldn't help it. You see, It’s just my nature…'

                "So, entangled together, they sank beneath the waves.

                "Now, tell me, what is that story about?  The impossibility of creatures to overcome their baser natures? How it is God’s will that beasts do what they were created to do—the frog to swim, the scorpion to sting? Both to die? Or is it something else?"

                I smile, tail swishing in the dark.

                "Once, many years ago, I tired of my home. The sulfur, the burning heat, the emptiness. I climbed out of the void to see what else the universe contained. I came across many wonders, dying stars, thick clouds of nebulae, worlds containing nascent intelligent life slouching towards self-destruction. Looming over creation, I collected it all within me.

"Eventually I came to a barrier I could not pass, the end of this known demesne. A blank wall, a ferocious current of nothingness. And there you were, God, my nemesis, waiting to see what came next.

                "'Why should I carry you across?' You asked when I approached. 'He who was banished, carried by I who banished you? Surely you jest. Will you not touch your anti-matter to my matter, thus cancelling out both our powers?'

                "'But then we would both sink into nothing. I would also drown in the void between universes.'

                "You nodded at the sense of that, and so we entered and, well, you know what came next. My sting. Here we are still falling. Even those creatures within me, ignorant of oblivion, tell this tale in their own way as we hurtle down through the black. On a molecular or spiritual level, they know what I have done, what this story is about: the consumption of their known universe. How it all will end, has ended, with we two creatures of the cosmos tumbling off the edge into nowhere.

                "What? No smile, no comment? Not even a rebuke. You’ve said nothing since we entered this null-space. How many times can I apologize? How often must I explain?

                "You see… it was just in my nature."

It Ends Like This

                It always ended like this.

Mushroom clouds and blossoming radiaton; beings of flame pulled from a nether dimension; Earth displaced by gravitic forces to far outside the solar system. No matter what they did, mankind always destroyed itself. Again and again they ran their simulations, watching from beyond, but always the same result.

                Ironic. They note. Creatures created by immortal beings. Yet they inherit a predilection for self-destruction. Where does it come from?

                Over and over the same result. This time artificial beings develop self-awareness, usurp mankind and march through black skies with rotting heads on pikes. The next an alien race, drawn to the planet by a radio signal, incinerates the planet from beyond Pluto’s orbit. Death begets resurrection, and from that resurrection again comes death.

Man’s eyes turn to the skies and they wonder, “Why? Why must we suffer?” They feel in their bones that the destruction they bear is but a reflection of an end that is repeatedly wrought upon them, self-inflicted and deserved for their sins. In the end, there is light. In the end, there is another beginning. Primordial ooze bubbling with the promise of yet another death.

They watch, and pick through the ashes of the fallen race after each inevitable fall. Turn to each other, look up at the skies burned gray. The ashes in their hands crumble, but as they breathe upon them, they re-congeal. They sprout into life. And as they take their leave, the world begins again.

It always ended like this, with another beginning. With Life, the afterbirth, crawling free.