love

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.

Only Love Remains

Once missing, angels never return. Not even their shadows remain. Like whispers in a crowd or smoke in open air—that which seeps through windows and doors and dissipates in the night—these moments are gone forever. Not their Maker, nor their lovers, can save them. Every time the sun falls below the horizon, another passes. Most often they are alone when the call comes. As creatures born unheralded, they pass the same way. Never celebrated, never remembered. But not this angel, not my angel, not Marius. His name sends shivers through me still.

                When we met, all I saw at first was light. A brightness with substance, that danced and flirted on the wind. There was more there than I could see, somehow this I knew. A laughing presence, a playful life. And he sensed I was different. I was curious about him in a way most humans never were. Driven by the same impulses that drive us all, the fear of crushing loneliness, he allowed himself to be seen. Almost unheard of with his kind.

                Marius was beautiful. Skin smooth and cold like stained glass, blown and dyed a dark burning ochre. His smile was a beacon in the night. His eyes were smoldering coals, and in his glance you could feel their heat. His body was slim and taut, and hid a considerable strength in its slimness.

                "What is this?" I asked him on our first night together. The question pointed towards his nature, the nature of our circumstances together, my feelings for him and vice versa. Despite the indefinite character of our relationship, still I was pulled by the human need to bring order to a world tending toward chaos, to understand a love that belied comprehension.

                All he would ever say, no matter how many times, no matter how pressingly, I asked: "This is something that cannot last. I will leave you someday, though I will be sorry to."

                Our love blazed in an instant, furious and fragile. Our flame burned under a meager lean-to, constructed hastily in the rain. Circumstance contrived to consume us. And so we were consumed. But not before loving each other more fully than either of us thought possible. Not before knowing brief happiness in a world full of pain.

                His last words he spoke curled up in my arms, sweating, a-shivering, drifting to and from sleep. His wings, seeming such fragile things, fluttered against my chest. Each time they waved, they left tiny cuts, but each healed before a single drop of blood could spill, such was the nature of his magic.

                "Tonight," Marius said with calm certainty, watching the moon through an open window. He would not sleep unless a window was open, and somehow, even on the stillest nights, there was always a breeze howling through, tousling his hair as he slept. "Tonight…"

                "Are you sure?"

                "We always know. We never… we never fall unawares."

                "And there's nothing I can do-"

                "To stop this? No. In general? Hold me. No one wants to be alone on a night such as this, not even the likes of us."

                I tried to stay awake but, perhaps by the dint of some unknown enchantment, within minutes my eyelids flit and were drawn shut by some unknown weight. I did not feel the changing, I did not hear him hiss in pain, if indeed he made a sound. I only woke to birds chirping in the gloom that comes just before dawnbreak. My arms were empty, and as I looked down I saw my sheets covered in dust. He had passed in the night as they all do, quiet as they all were.

                Grief, somehow, even in death, his magic makes me immune to it,. My days are remarkably free of pain. Only in the nights sometimes do I wake, tears on my face. Even then I do not remember crying. Even then I am not sad. Even then, only love remains.

The Urtext of Love

I sit at the end of the bar, invisible in the dark, and watch as you, the protagonist, prepare unknowingly to meet the love of your life. Every inch of this place is known to me, is indeed a part of me. When I inhale, this world fills me like my lungs fill with breath. When I brush my fingers against the grain of the wood table my drink rests on, I feel my fingers scratching against the corners of my mind, I feel the drink's condensation cool and moist in my imagination.

For how long had I written and rewritten this scene for it to become so intimate a part of me? For how long had I pondered the taste of sweat in the air, the scent of cheese curdling just south of stale, of spilled liquor, the sound, the bass grumbling below it all?

You met in my mind a thousand times. His approaches timid, then confident, once he spilled his drink and stuttered am embarrassed hello. You found his awkwardness endearing, or his confidence arousing, or were struck by the tenor of his voice, the unique hazel dots in his eyes. Now, at last, I watch the 'real' thing.

He walks up to you, sly grin on his lips. "Is this seat taken?"

You hesitate. I know you recognize this moment, an echo of words on a page. A foretold dream, half-remembered through sleep's mist.

He sits. "My name is-"

"Not important, we need to- he's, he's-"

You point behind him, directly at me. He turns and gasps, fear and recognition in his eyes.

"That m-man?" He stammers

"I know."

"He's from my dreams."

"Mine too."

"He writes and what he writes, it happens. Is he... God?"

"No, not quite. Now let's go!" You grab his arm and flee.

I smile as you leave. You think I don't know where you will go? This has already been written. The path you take already pre-ordained.

I rise, in no hurry, sliding into the night. Everything but the path I follow lost in the fog of non-description. It is irrelevant to my story. Therefore it does not exist. Not yet. Have you never wondered at how small your world is? How things seem to slip into non-existence when you are not present?

You lead him to your home, locking the door.

He gasps. "Well if he's not God, then-"

"Who am I?" I grin, already there as I am everywhere.

I AM THE AUTHOR OF THIS MOMENT. This voice comes not from me, but is read directly the urtext of the world around us. YOU ARE BUT WORDS ON A PAGE. IDEAS IN MY MIND.

"I am irrelevant to you. As God is to me," I whisper. They quaver from my world's roar.

"Focus not on me, but each other. You are in love."

With that The Author recedes into the Real and the lovers look at each other. Afraid but not remembering why. Tentatively they embrace, like they had before in unremembered alternate presents. In a thousand acted passions, plays enacted only in my mind and on the page. Vaguely wondering at each coupling: "Why does this feel so familiar?"

After a while, even that fades.

The Lost Lovers, the Ocean

                She stands on the dock, ignoring in the distance the bells' faint clangor. Every day as the Earth rotates,--the sun rising and falling--her shadow recedes and grows, and she waits. Waits for her love to return. Waits as she has the past twenty years, the past twenty years hence her lover's ship sank.

                The wind tousles her graying hair, ruffles the tassels of her faded gold dress. Her eyes, deep, despairing pits, yield nothing but piercing blackness. Grief's total corruption. Yet in her guarded stance, her unceasing patience, there is hope. There remains a belief that someday her love will return. In whose arms she was safe, and who, when held by her, was home. The wind howls around her with all the stench of the sea, the fecund scent of death and life tussling amongst the waves. The ocean's constant cycle.

                Come home, come home… The wind's piercing call joins her own lament, her own elegiac cry for the lost.

                The local townspeople indulge her madness in public, pity her in secret. This poor mad mistress pining over one long gone. The innkeeper sighs each morning, watching her nibble at the same breakfast she and her love shared that final morning. Descending from the same room they slept in all those years ago before he departed to make the nation's fortune. The same room the inn now rents to her free of charge. She picks through hot porridge, pickled fruit, coffee and cream. Leaving, as always, half uneaten in memoriam of her other half, now departed.

                She passes through the streets in silence, frozen in the past by heartache. In her mind they are unchanged from the fanfare of the morning all was lost. In her mind the same celebration rages, the same opulence, the same golden glow of the morning. She walks towards the shore, blind to the decay of time. The diseased reign now in this city, pockmarked faces watch in disgust as she passes by. Rats make way before her, allowing the queen of times gone by to watch the sea. She watches the waves as her kingdom crumbles around her.

                By the coast, in her regular place. Her advisors bob behind her, faces etched with resignation and worry, brow darkened by the slow putrefying doom. One approaches, as they promised themselves one would every day. They implore her to return to the world, to save her subjects from misfortune's deluge.

                "My Queen…"

                "It's a beautiful day, isn't it?

                "My Queen, I think we-"

                "He would love this weather, this sun. This refreshing wind. I hope it's shining where he is. Wherever he is."

                Her advisor sighs. It broke her heart to see her Queen suffer so. It warped her soul to see the nation follow her into the overbearing defeat bereavement dealt her. The same conversation passed every day, the same unanswerable longing. She joined her on the breach, where the mist and waves met with the dock's wooden planks. And took her unseeing Queen's hands in her own.

                "I'm sure it is. Yes I'm sure."

                In the ocean's pits, in the depths and in the murk, dragging itself along the bottom, comes a muddy form. A skeleton in the brack, flesh beaten away by the sea's torrential waters, by the pressure of the ocean entire. A gilded crown melded to its skull. He's been crawling a long time, driven by need, by instinct, by a brainstem too rotted to consider the why. All he knows is that at the end of his journey, still years away, lies the golden prize. In his mind echoes her smile, her piercing, black eyes. He remembers, if nothing else, how they used to captivate him at night. Their darkness matched the shadows that surrounded them, constricting the world to just the King and his Queen. To him…

…and her.

                My love, I'm sorry. My love, I am coming.

Maelstrom

Who knows how long ago it all began. You are bound by it, cornered by howling winds, by the death you cause again and again, by your sorrow, by your loss. This memory remains, this small moment. It is yours and it in turn possesses you. And again and again the tale begins and ends…

“I already have.”

                He turns to you, sighing, “Have what?”

                The knife in your hand. Gasping, he says your name, a question already answered. In a moment, he is dead, and you are gone in the storm, carried back to before, back to the moments where he yet lives.

You do not know how long this maelstrom lasts. Only the knife and what you must do. An action, performed in rote like you’ve done it one thousand times before. His back is to you. He is leaving as promised, as he must not and, you are sure, will never do. The storm rages. Perhaps he sees the house, and a door he heads towards, but it matters not. The abyssal winds never let him leave.

                “Wait!” You say, arms wide in supplication. He turns, sighing, ready to rebuff one last attempt to forestall the inevitable. What he believes is the inevitable. You know differently now, perhaps he too remembers the past as it rounds the corner to bear once more. Eyes wide, he sees the knife. He says your name, questioningly, in disbelief.

                “What are you doing?” You see him in triplicate, packing, leaving, turning back toward his end, all at once. Every moment has happened, is happening, will…

                “I’m sorry,” Salt on your cheeks, you don’t remember tears before. Your heart is cold, still so cold. And as he retreats, you advance. The storm closes around you, the whistling gusts eat his words.

                “You don’t have to do th-,” Once, twice, three times, his blood erupts around your blade and over your hand. A volcano, a geyser, slackening quickly like the ardor of a lover, first powerful, then dribbling as they take their full. And you realize. The storm twists you and buffets you and carries you back to where you belong, him lying there on the ground still. Him standing, ignorant to his own past and future self dying on the floor.

                “Yes I do,” You reply, but it already begins again. Him receding, him leaving, you following to stop as you must, have and will do.

                “I’m leaving you,” He says again. His suitcase by the door. In the storm outside, or perhaps not, not anymore, there waits a taxi. This time you remain silent. The knife, like before and before, already cool against your palm.

                Unnerved by your reaction, or its absence, he persists. Something in him perhaps whispers that he may not leave, never has and never will. “Don’t you have anything to say?”

                “You do what you must,” You finally reply. Stepping forward, he finally sees the knife. “And I’ll do the same.”

                Fear is there this time, as always, but now something new… recognition perhaps? The winds cage you in. Thunder and lightning and his resignation encompass the universe entire. His acceptance of the hell that claims you both.

                “I know,” The tears on his cheeks mirror your own, “I’m sorry… for us.”

                “I’m sorry too.” You step forward, step forward, step forward, and stab, stab, stab. Your lover, he dies, and dies, and dies. You weep, he bleeds and he bleeds, you weep. And always he is understanding, this is what happens, what happened and what is happening still. You are blameless, or have become so. The people you were lost long ago in the past, before this moment had become eternity. Like two ships capsized in the night, your bow plunged into his stern. You are bound, spiraling to the bottom of the ocean that roars and rages over this replayed memory. You are stuck. Together. Forever.

                The world is become this moment. And neither of you can ever leave.