love stories

We Ride A Train

In the car behind the man of shadows and fugue and the lady of passion and hope, sit I, the betrayer, and you, the betrayed. Or is it the other way around? In contrast to their harmony, their longing, we simmer in silence, the gulf we brokered in life persisting long after. Too long is this train ride, this journey with no destination. Yet, though we are fated to suffer eternity together, neither of us will be the first to speak. Neither of us wants to be the first to apologize for the sins that distance us.

                Outside the window, I watch the train rattle through nothing, through darkness. Once we passed over ocean and in each drop we watched our lives disintegrate again and again, refreshing our anger, reminding us of what cruel hell it was to be for. In each drop we saw…

                I enter our home to a strange rhythmic noise, a musk in the air. Even before I can process it, my nose tells me what transpires. I creep into the bedroom, saying nothing. Waiting for you to notice me. Our eyes meet, and you do not stop.

Even in the throes of passion you are so cruel.

Now the ocean is gone, or at least is obliterated by the black that looms absolute beyond our windows. I turn from the night, dissatisfied, and regard you. Stern lips bound in a tight line. You look right at me, as though anywhere or anyone else would do to set your gaze. Alas, there is no other option. Nothing but the object of your scorn. There is nowhere for us to flee, the door is locked (we both tried in in stony silence when we first arrived). It seems that God, or whoever placed us here, is determined to let us marinate in this suffering.

Unless…

Anger grasps me, not like a hot lance but a cold storm, one that's been brewing in my suspicions for months, if not years. How many betrayals have I overlooked? How many apologies am I owed? I turn my back on the two of you, joined as one flesh in a way we never were. Retreat to my study where I grab…

…two, three bangs. Two, three angry flashes of sulfur and light and there we sat on a train. Alone.

"So…" I relent, finally speaking before madness and boredom consume me completely, finally resigning myself to offering the first olive branch.

"…What do we do now?"

They Ride a Train

One moment he is alone, slumbering in the train-car that has been his prison for longer than he can say; the next, a lady in a red dress sits beside him on the velvet cushion in the gloom. She looks familiar, yet he cannot place her. He can barely place himself, one with so much lost in this longest ride. His name, his memory, his past lives, what remains of the self when these are mislaid?

                Who is she? Where did she come from? How long I've been alone, oh so long… so long…

                She laughs at his discomfort, sighs sadly at his confusion and fear. He remains just as handsome as in her dreams, as he was the last time she saw him alive. Dressed and ready to go to war, before he disappeared into the great machine named Death. But her heart aches, so long this moment had been delayed, so long she endured when she wished it were otherwise. But now she is here, they are reunited. He will remember.

                "You are who you've always been." The lady speaks, plucking worries from his head like grapes from a vine. "I've missed you."

                "Who's that? Who have I been?" The man cannot help it. He should be unnerved by this strange passenger, yet all he feels is warmth. His feet tingle. When he sees her, he knows somehow that they should be dancing. That his feet would lead them into paradise, a world of ballrooms and chandeliers lit with gold.

                "The one. You were… you are the one. Even when you were gone, I knew there could never be another. And so I waited."

                The train passes over a barren desert. Any trace of ocean, of drops reflecting the life they shared long behind them. And yet he begins to recall. Echoes still, ghosts of a life long behind him. A dance, a kiss, a love that would last even beyond death. The warmth spreads throughout his body and he smiles.

                "I'm glad you waited, my love. I'm glad you're here with me at last."

The train rattles on, hanging in the black under a starless sky. Despite the dark, he can see clearly around them for miles, accustomed as he is to the constant nothingness.

I love you. Her lips do not move, but in her eyes he can hear her thoughts.

I love you too. I was nothing without you. A wisp, a reflection, fractured lives in an endless sea. Now I feel whole.

"Good," She speaks aloud, returning his grin with one of her own. One laced with passion. "Then you are beginning to remember. Perhaps here, at the end, we may start anew."

Lovers in Purgatory

                It took countless generations for the two to recognize one another. In the different forms in which they came together, trapped in existence unending. One life they spent as mollusks jetting around the lightless ocean bottom, hooking their prey and feeding together, long sinewy bodies always touching. Another they spent as silent lichens, stretching the width of a redwood, slowly growing until the tree’s whole length was covered in their luminescent blue green. For the span of a decade they ran with a pack of wolves, the breeder alphas to whom the others ceded dominance. And then again as men, truckers always on the road together, hand on hand, sharing brief moments of passion in secret and then in the open as the world embraced their truth.

They always wondered, as they stole secret smiles, as they grew old together and died in each other’s arms, why it was they felt like they had been, and would be forever, one flesh.

                In the passage of centuries, their souls grew together. The sum became truth, the total replacing what were once separate parts.

                Not until they became light, born apart but each drawn towards the other over a gulf of two hundred Earths, through howling gaseous storms, did they realize and remember what they had been and for how long. How often and how wholly they consumed each other’s lives. They communicated, beyond language, above words…

                I know you.

                And I you.

                For how long?

                Forever.

                And for how long still?

                Forever, if you wish it.

                I do.

                I do too.

                And there, at the heart of a storm were they joined. Part of a gale that would never end. There they finally understood what they were, and where. Hell is others forced upon you. Heaven, the perfected and idealized realization of self. But Purgatory? Purgatory is life. And life, they pledged in the red, howling gusts, was all they ever needed. And thus, it was all they ever had.

The World, Made Sea

                The last words they spoke to each other, weeks in the past, ring in their ears every morning and every night as death fast approaches, as no reprieve seems nigh:

“I’m scared.”

“Well, there’s nothing we can do now.”

“I know, but still… I’m not ready to d-”

“And you think I am? What option do we have? There is no escape, my dear.”

Each day the sea creeps closer. The blue mass alternating between solid and liquid as it claims more of the shore. Once they could see fish in it, swimming scared through the frozen, yet navigable, waters, but now even these are gone. The Hungry Goddess claims all.

And soon she will claim them.

They do not comment on their fear anymore, nor their hunger, both feelings so obvious, so omnipresent, that they bear little remarking. They do not speak at all, in fact. Exchange nothing but sad glances, silent touches. Bit by bit the island, once large, grows smaller and the world becomes ever more the sea.

A shipwreck abandoned them on this isle, a year or two hence. First the solitude was manageable. They had each other, the only two survivors were blessed to be friends. In the night, seeking solace, they gradually grew to be more. They huddled together for warmth, and then… for more than warmth. There had been plenty of food, trees that bore mangos and coconuts, rivers brimming with fish, trees for lumber, which they worked into fire and into shelter. Even the occasional animal, a squirrel or mouse or rabbit, to provide a new kind of protein. They could persuade themselves they were happy, that they didn’t need to be rescued. Not yet.

But then… things changed. Something odd in the waters. Or about them. They swallowed up the beach, negligibly at first but soon larger swaths of the island began to disappear. The hungering ocean devoured the sands, then the trees; obviated the rivers, their currents joining its own. Soon the small creatures of the island grew silent, drawn into its ever expanding mass. The sea… somehow they sensed it was alive. Its susurrus laugh kept them awake in the dark, the ever-rising tide crept closer and closer.

After a while, what was an island becomes a meager patch adrift in a limitless ocean, and the two survivors wonder if the whole world had become naught but sea. If they are the only two survivors of a creature whose appetite was limitless. They can see in the slow swelling liquid the bones of its past meals. They hug each other, growling stomachs touching, in their fear not daring to speak or move for fear that they too would touch the living mass and disappear and succumb.

Soon they are forced to stand, day and night surrounded by ravenous waves.

Soon… they will be nothing. Nothing but bones in a world made sea.

Through the Wasteland, Together

                Water dripped in the corners of Alden's cell. Its low even sound, the constant soft drops, drove him mad in the dark. Tomorrow was the day. He was to be banished to The Outside, a lamb offered to Oblivion's Gods. The door was not locked, he was no more prisoner here than the rest of the survivors. He was separated to gather himself, to prepare himself for the coming morning when he would be expelled and, for the first time, see the sun. This duty was named an honor. It was a privilege to be chosen, to help ensure the continued existence of the small colony, of this hovel of humanity lodged deep underground.

                He was to be honored, his death feted and celebrated. Yet he felt nothing but dread, but longing.

                All the young ones knew the stories. Elders dressed in filmy skins and the rags from clothing of Before recounted the day where mankind's avarice consumed itself and scourged the surface. When fire fell from the sky. When death reigned. When a few desperate, lucky youngsters escaped into a squat bunker deep underground and eked a bare survival in rooms of metal and concrete, and prepared to wait the centuries it would take Earth to heal.

                Alas such meager surroundings meant sacrifice, meant forcing some out into the world, where obliteration undoubtedly destroyed them. And so each half year, among the boys and girls just at the threshold of adulthood, lots were drawn. And so each half year, one unlucky youngster was cast into the brink.

                This time, Alden was that unfortunate son.

                A sound at the door interrupted his reverie. It scraped open, and another young man, tears in his eyes, stood in its frame. Timid and unsure, he refused to meet Alden's steady gaze. Alden's steel countenance in no way matched his feelings. As he watched the young man at the door, his heart broke.

                Oh James… why did you come here?

                He thought the words, but James could read the feeling in his eyes.

                "I had to Al. I-" Tears streaked his face. "I couldn't just… not say goodbye."

                He took a step inside, one step closer to Alden, one step closer to weeping.

                "It's not fair!"

                "I know."

                "W-we deserve more time."

                "I know. I know." Now it was Alden's turn to tear up and stare at the rusted metal floor, the moldy concrete walls. Anything but the avatar of longing and beauty that mourned his imminent passing. But even as he avoided James' gaze, the memories of their short time together flooded in.

                Stolen glances during the elder's lectures, hidden smiles…

                Hands clutched together briefly under the desk, grazing his thigh, the electric thrill of an unknown pleasure.

                Lips briefly, furtively brushing against each other as fellow bunkmates slumbered.

                Passionate embraces in the few hidden spaces, and those whispered words. Those desperate 'I love you's.

                And in remembering, Alden sobbed.

                "I'm sorry James. I'm sorry."

                Their time for crying done, the two came together on the rickety cot. There making best use of the hours they had before morning. No need for furtiveness on the eve of the end. Eventually they slept: James dreaming of a life of loneliness, Alden imagining a slow, painful death on the wastes, overcome with angry red welts, dwindling into nothingness. He pictured his near-corpse on the sand, no strength left, hand futilely reaching back toward the way he came. Only one word graced his lips as he died.

                James.

                Eventually they both dreamed of the same thing, the same impossible thing. Their hearts and souls and bodies, together forever. The unimaginable bliss of that union. They dreamed of the world of their forefathers;  a world wrapped in life-giving green, drowned in clear blue oceans. They dreamed of the happiness that had for so many decades eluded their species.

                The sun rose over a bleak hellscape, though the remaining men were blind to it. Waking instead to a blaring alarm, and the words of the First Elder echoing through the halls.

                "RISE MY CHILDREN! RISE AND BEAR WITNESS! THIS DAWN HERALDS SACRIFICE, A BURDEN WE BEAR TOGETHER!"

                The halls slowly filled with dead-eyed youths, sickly men and women, the receding tides of once great Mankind. A few dozen malnourished hominids shambled towards the lock. The gnarled hands of James and Alden's matron Clara pushed open the door to the expiatory cell. Face immediately softening as she saw the two still embraced, still sleeping even through the noise. They stirred only as she entered, faces leaving the peace of their dreams.

                Alden spoke first, surprised at the boldness in his voice despite his cracking spirit. "It's time?"

                Clara could only nod. Of all the boys it was her duty to mind, these two had been her favorite. She sensed that today she would lose both of them. Alden to the surface. James to despair.

                James moaned. All words left him, all the light from his eyes, the life from his limbs, consumed by impending loss. They made their way through the crowd, all present giving Alden a wide berth. James' hand gripped tightly to his own. At the entrance to extinction, the eldest of the survivors, the sole adult who survived the surface purge, had already begun the rites of Expulsion. His words, quieted by age, were even further muted by their grief. And they heard little of the rituals they'd heard recited two score times before. Naught but the faint echoes of ceremonies past. Only the final lines reached past their despair.

                And so we commit Alden to the light, to the void born from The Heat That Burned Before. We lose him today, but in losing we gain the most important reminder: There is no God but death. His will is sacrosanct. His power absolute. By losing this child, we forestall the day he comes for us all. But not forever, not for long.

                With that, the frail looking elder separated the pair with surprising strength. James looked as though stricken, but remained silent. The lock tumbled open, leading to a narrow dark chamber. The outer door would not open until Alden entered, and the rest of man could seal him away, and any encroaching death, on the outside. Al turned to James, eyes dry, but red.

                "Good-bye, my… my…"

                James tried to smile, though through his despair the expression looked ghoulish. "Good-bye, Al." No need to name it. They knew what they were to each other.

                Their eyes locked one last time, and with a sad shrug, Al stumbled into the lock. And the door slowly, painfully began to roll back into place. James' heart stabbed as the man he loved most began to disappear forever.

                "NO!" The words escaped his lips before he realized he spoke them. His legs propelling him forward before even his brain realized his heart's need. And as the crowd dumbly watched, as only a horror-struck Clara cried out in protest, James slipped through the disappearing crack and into the vast death.

                Alden gaped at James in shock, though hidden on his lips was the hint of a smile. "James?"

                "I had to."

                "You'll die."

                "I had to. Besides, 'Death comes for us all', remember? What is life worth if it's not spent how we want, and with who we want it?" James took Al's hand and brought it to his cheek, then his lips. "I'm not letting go again."

                This time Al smiled, and as he did, the outer doors rushed open. And both boys rushed to cover their eyes. For the first time they felt the heat of the sun, stood blinded in its light. The world beckoned. Arm in arm, Al and James walked out into the expanse, a void untouched by man or indeed any other life since long before either of them were born.

                They looked at each other, and despite the bleakness, they laughed. Perhaps all this brand new world had to offer them was death, a wasteland. But even so…

                …they faced that death together.

The Jupiter Lights

                The great red eye tracks its way across the giant's surface. An amalgam of vortices hurtling around with incredible force, fed by limitless energy from within the planet's magnetic core. It is a storm that has raged for eons and will endure for countless more. A squall comprised of gasses. A convergence of smaller, hotter storms that boil to the fore and cool into the red mass.

They say no life can survive here. Yet at the center of this gale, this ever growing mark on Jupiter's belt, dance lights from each joined storm. Lights that shade from white to pink to red as they tango ever closer to each other, that chitter with mad anticipation for the moment they finally touch. They exist below the cloudtops, beyond the scope of the prying eyes of passing satellites. Were there any observers to this phenomenon besides themselves, they might note several, odd things.

Behaviorists would see within them shivers of excitement, of longing, the mournful loneliness that comes with spending countless millennia apart as they slowly draw together. Chemists would murmur in awe at their unique make-up, exclaiming that they, apart from the oblate spheroid's atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, consist of carbon, oxygen and neon gasses, thought heretofore to be an impossible coalition. Religious scholars would point to them in wonder, and say that only a limitless God could conceive of such beauties, that only a designer would deign to break the rules It set for Its own reality. Authors would ponder their origins. From whence were they born? How did they learn to command the forces of the great planet's storms? Do they look at the stars and consider the nature of their own existence as we do? In their minds, or consciousness, if they do indeed possess these things, do they wonder if life of a ken beyond their understanding inhabits the little green planet millions of miles away?

Lovers however, lovers would see these lights and know, deep in their souls, the plight of those who seek a connection. Of the like within that seeks like. They would recognize in these lights the slow courtship of a strange gaseous creature, burning with a passion that is at once both familiar, yet entirely alien to our own.

And as these creatures grew ever closer to each other, they would smile at a promise long realized. At a consummated love, long overdue.

On the Loch

                They met on the Loch, two figures on a boat that cut through the mist. Jules peered wistfully into Nessie's waters, hunting for strange shadows looming in their depths. Roy stood on the bow, fresh water spraying his face, enjoying anonymous freedom in the Scottish fog. As he turned towards the boat's interior; as she looked up, eyes searching the gray sky; as the tour guide droned on about cryptozoological wonders, they caught each other's gaze and smiled. Suddenly their quests were made irrelevant by sudden attraction's haze. The world ground to a halt, or perhaps their souls flew together at a speed beyond light.

She rose from the boat's glass-bottom, previous wonders forgotten. He walked towards her, blind to the Loch and its muddled air. He who dreamt of myths, uncovered a quiet marvel. She who wished for the impossible, unearthed its striking reflection. In the skies above, grey clouds swirled together, intermingling and becoming one. So too did their souls.

They met on the Loch. Gliding atop the still waters, in a silent throng of tourists and thrill seekers. Taking each other's hands, the electric connection felt instantaneous and promised to last forever.

"Jules," She said simply.

"Roy," He replied, laughter in his heart.

They said no more, the comfort in this silence said more than any words need convey.

And two lovers, seeking monsters, they instead found each other.