Memories, and Nothing

Hello, readers.

Recently, on Facebook, I took a leap of courage and was pleasantly rewarded. In my quest to find readers before I start sending my novel out to agents and publishers, I asked a few friends who I knew enjoyed fantasy. Life is busy and hectic, especially now, and I expect nothing from those I ask to read my work. In fact, it makes me feel guilty, asking friends to read my writing and provide me feedback.

I wasn’t receiving as much feedback as I had hoped–honestly, I’m thankful for everything concerning my friends–so I asked my facebook world if anyone was willing to read. I expected and hoped for a few offers. To my shock, I’ve already emailed my book to nearly thirty friends.  Thank you, to all. I never anticipated such a surge.

This marked the first time I built up enough courage to ask publicly, but after writing over a dozen novels, this was the first time I felt confident enough in what I had produced. Most of my novels are dreadful, both in the writing and ideas, but everything in life is a process. Sure, there’s the .001% who possess absurd natural talents and succeed immediately, but for the rest of me, including me, we must work and stay positive and trust in the process. The whole ten thousand hour rule.

Life is hard, so it makes sense that achieving what we want most is also hard.

Anyway, here’s another section of the blog-novella. We’re almost done. After this, I’ll start another novel/novella for the blog.

——————————————-

He falls asleep and wakes almost instantly, silently thanks himself for not allowing dreams to take hold.

Shoal is asleep in her corner, nestled in her blankets, reminding him of a child, although he knows she is not. Children do not exist in this world, and she was never young. In some ways she seems older than he is, old enough to forsake hope and believe facts and truths. She’s wiser than him, but only because she chooses to be.

He hasn’t entirely abandoned hope, his search never ending, but sitting here, listening to the sea outside the cabin walls and the quiet patter of rain, he accepts her death.

It does not hurt until he says it aloud.

“She’s dead.” Just two words—words he has contemplated for days now, an idea he has battled with to no end, knowing he can never win—yet they destroy him. His body is aflame, his stomach churning, heart pounding and pumping liquid metal and filled with so much affliction that he clutches at his chest and stifles an agonized groan. His noises will wake Shoal, so he stands and stumbles through the darkness, up the stairs and out the door, into the drizzling night.

The rain is warm and falling softly. Clouds wisp the air so that pools of light mark the sea. The deck is barely visible, the railings dark obstructions in a darker night. He staggers, gripping his chest. Slow steps to avoid tumbling over the railing and into the swallowing sea. The deck is wet; his face is wet. Tears and rain wash away the dirt and soot and ash. Ash. He takes off his duster coat and tosses it to the deck beside the door. Removes what remains of the straightjacket so that he is shirtless, in just his pants. He lays on the deck and stares into the night sky, squints as rain falls into his eyes. He searches the darkness for stars and comets and planets and recalls many occasions, long ago, in the rain and out of the rain, with her and by himself, and how the sky, then, offered so much more to see. Darkness now prevails, controlling both world and sky.

He lays on the deck and crosses his arms, crying as the pain does not just linger but remains its piercing self. He can’t remember her name, but she’s dead. And even if she isn’t, she’s lost to him. The world is a big place, with too many twists and turns.

He lays there until his body numbs and the rain grows cold.

He looks up upon hearing the door open.

Shoal escapes the darkness inside and stands on the now moon-touched deck. The rain has slowed. Only a splinter, the moon brightens the sea, and on that sea, the lone craft.

“I’m sorry,” she says. Her cloak is gone. She wears a sleeveless shirt as dark as the night and a pair of faded jeans. No boots or socks. Rain soaks her black hair as it clings to her face, hides her eyes until she pushes the hair aside. Her ice eyes are brighter beneath the moon.

“I’m sorry,” she repeats, and by the sadness in her eyes he knows she means it. “I shouldn’t have told you she’s dead. I thought you knew, or at least realized. I should have let you hold onto hope. It wasn’t mine to steal. I have made many mistakes. I didn’t think another would hurt so deeply. This is why I’m here, I suppose. Amends must be made.”

He lays on the deck, staring into the sky, avoiding her eyes. He fears her haunted stare, knows his own eyes mirror hers. “It’s better I accept it now, so it will hurt less later.” His voice, like the rain, is soft and calming, void of everything.

“It will never hurt less. You will only become more accustomed to the pain, to the loss. You’ll learn to live with it or let it destroy you.”

“And if it destroys you?”

“You already know that answer, and if you don’t, you will. But you do.”

“Let me sleep,” he says. “Who’s steering this ship? Where are we going?”

“I will warn you.”

“I don’t want to be warned. You said you were helping me.”

“I am. This will be the last night you dream for a very long time. You know what that means, so use your time wisely. Don’t waste your sleep on what isn’t important. Dream, dreamer, and capture the world. You will not have this chance again.”

He raises his head and stares at her, refuses to remove his gaze until she looks away, into the sea. “How do you know my dreams are important?”

She turns back to him. “Dreams are always important. If you’re to resolve anything in this life, you must begin in that life..”

“You’re more than a ferry from land to land.”

Her eyes, so sad, do not blink as she studies him. She rarely blinks. “I am many things. But that shouldn’t concern you.” She begins to leave but stops. “Will it help to know that you’ll see her again?”

He sits up on the puddled deck. Rain drips down his chest. “But will I remember her? Will seeing her matter?”

“Every moment matters. Every fraction of life. Everything. You’ll remember her when the time is right. You love her, don’t you?”

“I’ve always loved her.”

“Then you’ll remember her.”

“I will always remember you,” she says. She’s standing in front of him, close enough to touch. But does he dare? Can he, without waking?

“I wish I could repeat those words to you, but that would be a lie. Even now, somewhere else, I don’t remember you.”

She smiles as if she doesn’t hear, as if he said something else. In another time, another place, long ago, he did say something else. Words out of love, and she smiles.

In her room again, where he stood so long ago, both in dreams and out. Although it shouldn’t, her beauty again amazes him, steals his breath and his eyes and refuses to let go of his senses. He can see nothing else, cannot look away from her. The blissful terror rekindles, the depths of her eyes. He has not seen a soul before, is not sure you can see a soul, but staring into her eyes is close.

She stands so near. She reaches out and takes his hand, and shivers race through him. Her eyes widen. She felt it too. She pulls her hand away and stares at it. “Did you feel that?” she asks, her eyes still wide.

“Yes.” His mouth is dry.

“When I accidentally brushed your hand, I felt something similar. Before any of this, even before we spoke, so long ago. Do you remember?”

“I have a horrible memory.” She frowns for a moment. “But I remember everything when it comes to you. There’s something here, between us, that remembers.”

He will let himself break. He will let himself shatter. With this, he cannot bend.

“Something real,” she agrees. She blushes, as she so often does, and looks away, as she so often does, and stares again at him, as she so often does. “Sorry. That sounds stupid. Perhaps it’s better I don’t talk.”

She takes a deep breath and sits on the loveseat. He sits beside her, their knees touching, her hand so close, fingers resting on his thumb. “This seems like a dream,” she says. “Does that ever cross your mind? It’s all so unexpected that it feels like a dream. I still don’t believe this. I’m not sure I ever will, or can. Will you dream of me?”

A series of snapshots flash through his mind, white on black. A lifetime of memories and dreams. “A dream that will not end. A dream I never want to end.”

“You may, someday.”

Lightning cracks the sky. There is no thunder. Just silence, and flashes of white followed by jagged streaks of the same. The searing light awakens him. He stares into the sky and his hands become fists. Her fingers are still touching him, through the dream. He smells her, the faint hint of spring flowers and lavender. Words whisper around him, her voice traveling up his arms and into his mouth.

“The world will not wake me.”

She’s kissing him, and he her. As suddenly as he woke, he’s thrown back into the dream, only now with her straddling him, hands laced together behind his neck. The embrace is desperate, maddening, uncontrollable, a tension between them even now, intense and invigorating. Her lips against his own, her tongue slipping into his mouth.

He once submerged his hand into a pool charged by lightning. It jolted him, forced his heart to skip a beat, numbed his arm for hours. This feels similar, far more enjoyable but equally terrifying. He never expected to call love terrifying or painful.

She stops and looks at him. She’s out of breath, pushing herself against him with an urgency, dark hair across her face wild and beautiful, her hand against his chest as she steadies herself. “Dizzy,” she says, laughing. There’s music there. And everywhere. “The things I’m thinking right now…”

“We share thoughts, if you’ve forgotten.” Something about forgetting, unable to remember. “I share your thoughts.”

“Not these thoughts,” she says, blushing even now.

“I love when you blush.” And that only makes her blush more.

He wakes on the deck once again, silent lightning searing the sky, the world soundless apart from his own ragged breaths and the sea lapping against Da Capo al Segno.

Night isn’t as dark as it once was. Rain falls, soft and warm again and faster than before. The raindrops feel like tears soaking his skin, sticking to him. “For all who have cried,” he says, wishing she was here to hear his words. “And still cry.”

“I’ll miss you,” he says, hands on her shoulders and pushing her away just for a moment.

“When?” she asks. “I’m right here. I’ll always be right here. When will you miss me?”

“Always. I’m sorry that I forget you. I’d give everything to remember, to see you in my mind as I see you here, but I can’t. I can’t. Life can’t be so easy.”

She kisses him on the forehead and puts a finger to his lips. “You will,” she says. “I promise that you will, just as I promised to never forget you. Through silence and space, I couldn’t forget. Not after you entered my life and changed everything. That was my first promise to you. And now I promise that you’ll not forget me. Most things are made to be forgotten, to be lost, but this. I promise.”

“Your name,” he says. “I can’t remember your name.”

She smiles sadly, looks older but still young, and nods knowingly. “You’ll remember everything soon enough. I’m sorry, for that.”

“Sorry that I will remember you?”

“It’s not that easy. It was never easy, for us.”

“It would be if we didn’t think so much. The mind can be a curse, can’t it?”

“Sometimes, but it’s also what brought us together. We think too deeply. Dissect too much. Alone, and apart, and no one is to blame. So stop blaming yourself, and when you’re bitter, when you hurt, and I know you hurt now and always, stop blaming me. Didn’t you tell me that everything happens for a reason? Believe that, now. Believe yourself, and believe we will never forget each other.”

“That never happened,” he says as he wakes. Night is still night. He has no idea how much time has passed, two minutes or two hours. He pinches himself; he is awake. Should he heed his own advice, or is it her advice through a dream? The dead cannot give advice.

“She’s dead,” he says, but this time he’s not nearly so certain, cannot believe when the dreams seem so real, when he sees her and hears her and feels her. His hands still tremble, his chest aching dully, his palms sweaty, his lips tasting of her.

“No more dreams,” he says.

But of course he is wrong.

“I brought the ferris-wheel.”

“I’d marry you right now if you did,” he says.

She glows, grabs his hand, moves in front of him and grabs the other, stops him in the middle of the boardwalk and kisses him deep and long. “I know you would. Perhaps I might bring you a ferris-wheel, someday.”

“Perhaps.”

A ferris-wheel slowly rotates against the night sky. The city behind it twinkles and glistens, mirroring itself in the river. Night is late, games and rides soundless and darkened. The ferris-wheel still spins, but most of its seats are empty now, filled only with the last of lovers and the drunken half asleep to the sloth motions of the great wheel. Street lamps dampen the boardwalk in muted yellow, and the sky shimmers with unfettered stars. The sky is glass tonight, sparkling and pristine.

Once boisterous with the chatter and footsteps of crowds, the carnival sits at peace beside the river. A gentle tide rubs up against the supports below, and somewhere along the beach a fire glows, and from that fire music whispers across sand and spray. An acoustic guitar and a man singing into the night, how his misery lost him all he ever wanted, how all he wants is to be remembered, and those who hear the music understand the words, and the notes, and the meaning behind the voice’s yearning.

It is not autumn, but when the wind stirs it feels like autumn. A tender chill, a refreshing cold that fills the lungs with air so crisp you can only smile and remember those days when the world feels perfect, when every breeze is welcomed, and leaves roll and tumble across the world.

“The stars are beautiful,” she says, looking at nothing but the sky, and him in the corner of her eye.

“They always are.”

And now they lay below the boardwalk, and the ferris-wheel, slowly rotating and lit although empty, spins above them. Always a full circle. He lays on the sand, her beside him, nestled against him, and he studies the sky and counts the stars and watches the shadow of the wheel move across the fine white sand and the water reflecting the sky.

She dumps a handful of sand onto his chest and spreads out the grains as if searching for something.

“I’m all sandy,” he says.

“Not all of you.”

“What are you looking for?”

She nestles closer against him, tracing lines in the sand. “I’m pretending I’m God, if there is a god.”

“And this constitutes as God, how?”

Her tone is grave when she begins. “The grains of sand are individual stars, and my finger is the finger of God. Your chest is the universe. A single touch and the stars spread far and wide. New clusters are created and others are destroyed, new galaxies and constellations. A single touch, and everything changes.

“I wonder if this is what God did when he created the universe. Or whoever or whatever created this, and everything else. Did He just reach out with a finger and scatter a fistful of stars across the universe? Was it that easy? Is there something out there with that much power, to just flick a finger to create life or destroy everything?”

She shivers and brushes the sand away. “Hold me tighter. I think too much.”

So he holds her tighter and agrees that she thinks too much, and that he thinks too much.

After awhile, she begins again. “What if that happened here? If God decided to flick our planet into oblivion? No, that would be too much, too quick. We’re weak, us, as people. We don’t need that to destroy us. Such a frail people.”

“You should think happier thoughts,” he says, which is unfair.

“Think of you, you mean, when I’m already right here?”

“Yes, that. I’m not nearly as complex as the notion of god, and I make you happy.”

“You make me very happy. I like you very much. And you’re complex.”

“No,” he says. “I’m simple. All people are simple if they just accepted life for what it is. We live to find happiness. We’re supposed to love, and feel, and care, and live our lives as if all these beautiful things can be stolen from us at any moment. That’s what makes us people, what separates us from everything else. That’s all that matters in life.”

“So, in essence, you need nothing more than me? If you love me, and you do, then I’m all you need?”

“Yes,” he says, knowing how vulnerable that makes him, but he knew this long ago, from the very beginning.

“So, if I were to vanish, to disappear, you’d be left with nothing? I won’t ever disappear, not forever, but I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Just memories.” He finds her hand on his chest. He laces his fingers between hers. “Memories, and nothing.”

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