In the decaying embers that flew around the last moments of time like a dying age, his utopian mind began to wander the past. It traced effortlessly back through every path, every fork in the road, every decision, every fate, and wondered if things would have turned out differently if only a different choice had been made. Every glowing remnant of hot ash spiralling up to the heavens chided him, as if they were the missed opportunities, the right conclusions, the better outcomes, which floated away so much more easily than they arrived.
And now here, to this, facing the last moments of a dream, hands warming by a fire in the thickest cold of night, an empty desert plain, a stark reminder of all that is left. A distant moon blown off course and hanging askew in the sky like a forgotten chandelier. Tiny gusts of breath sweeping dirt into a whirlpool when they could be bothered to exhale. A sky so far away it makes his head spin at the vast amount of space his eyes fall into.
And nothing but nothing could prepare him for the decayed hope that shattered to the ground in porcelain shards as the rumbling and trembling of the forgotten earth beneath his limbs began to slowly surf the molten core deep below. And the achingly empty air around him was matched only by the gaping hole that hunger bore in his belly and loneliness emptied out in his heart.
And so there was nothing to do but wait, and listen, intently, to the sound of time disintegrating into a final pinprick of now. The collapsing of eons reverberated out as tear drops squeezed the last morsels of moisture from his eyes, trickled silently down his nose and crashed in a meteor shower upon the red dirt. Shock waves bent the air as his remorse finally hit home and emanated into space. It would have created a sonic boom, if any sound was still to be heard, but all was silent. Watching all is if on a cinema screen with the sound off.
The ground began to rise a little more as the lava swelled deep below. In the distance he felt the cracking of millions of years of thick rock surrendering itself to the crumbling of new form.
Of no form.
He watched the glowing shadows of his history entwined with wisps of silver smoke rising up from the fire as he created his last memories of earth.
It was then, in those final moments, of remorse, and surrender, that a vision truly upended him.
Eyes traced entranced, along the lines of crystalline white antler, forking out into great branches from the glowing body of a deer, seemingly cast out of white snow, impossibly pure and delicate a creature to be present in this annihilation. As deer moved towards the last man on earth she left footprints of moisture in her wake, giving a remarkable blue green sheen to the rocky floor. Her gaze was fixed on the steady grip of man to his reality, as she strode past him towards a sunset that emanated not from the sky but from the lava of the ground below. Deer bowed her head and continued on, inviting the man to follow.
Well, why wait for the molten land to swallow me up, I may as well jump in first, he thought, as his feet stumbled forwards to the edge of solid ground, where it met the oceans brilliant display of lava flow. The deer remained steady; her body remained whole, even though every foot print now filled with a small pool of water. The man stopped at one such hollow, dipping a finger into the little pool. It was cool, so incredibly cool; he had a sudden rush of elation as the crackling clay of his throat anticipated a tiny moment of moist relief. As he dipped his cupped hand into the water the little pool expanded a little, sparkling like diamonds. Somewhere in the abyss of his destiny a pearl of hope trickled deep inside as a mouth full of sparkling water cascaded down his parched throat, exploding in his belly with blissful relief. His lips cracked as a small laugh escaped his hollow frame.
Sent a shock wave to his ears which had not heard sound for so long.
The deer turned, calmly, seemingly pleased that a noise, a joyous noise, had permeated the dreadful silence at long last.
Man took in a few more mouthfuls of the wonderful liquid and followed deer closer to the edge of the solid world. Deer seemed to be getting smaller, or further away, and man hurried himself to avoid losing sight of the beautiful beast altogether. Unyet, she was moving so slowly, and he was running so fast, and she got smaller still. And as he looked upon the path of footprints the deer left behind, he found they were becoming smaller too and closer together, until they were little more than a tiny stream etched shallow as a finger imprint in the dirt. Looking towards the orange glow of setting time up ahead he realised it was getting farther away too. Impossible. He scoured the ground for any sign of the deer, his only company for weeks now, and found none.
His fingers traced the silver stream in the sand until it stopped and he made contact with something solid in the ground. Brushing aside the dirt he pulled out a tiny mirror, barely the size of a thumbprint, framed in an intricately cast silver frame. Curiously seeking out his reflection in its tiny surface he saw the image of the stag ebb and fade away, and two red embers bore into view, eventually framed by two eyes, and then his weathered face. For a while his eyes and their glowing reflection considered each other, perplexed, and he shoved the small mirror into his pocket.
His eyed wondered back to where he had come from, and saw for the first time, where the deer’s footprints were, green moss and small sprouts were starting to poke up out of earth. Humph he thought, curious. Turning back on his heel he proceeded to pace the last of his time towards the orange glow. Step after step, breath after breath, surely they were used up long ago. Unyet he was still here. Pursuing the end with an ambition he wished he’s discovered earlier. Weeks earlier, or months, when this place still had a chance of survival. But his only mission now was to follow the glowing ember of his eyes as they drew him like a magnet to the molten river on the horizon. His feet adjusted to the occasional churning as the lava swelled underfoot, rippling through in waves.
His feet pounded in time with his heart beat, willing in a final end to this journey.
And still as he carried on the glowing river grew smaller, further away. And the ember in his eyes began to get smaller, and the hope of even finding an end got further away.
Turning his gaze back to where he’d been his eyes turned to saucers as he discovered the stream of water was following just behind him, and the moss that was growing in the footprints were now growing into a huge mass of trees. One after the other, in giant clusters, making their way back to the other side of a giant fire far off in the horizon. He felt for the mirror in his pocket, but it was gone. He wanted to see himself and whether he had shrunk! He scouted the stream, where it ended, and dug around in the sand. He found a solid surface, and brushing back the sand uncovered the top of the mirror, now the size of a door. Catching his own reflection he was startled to see his body transparent, as if half faded out of the scene.
He looked down at his hands and feet, they seemed OK to his eyes, all there, and yet in the mirror they were not.
And as he looked closer, he noticed his eyes had lost the amber glow. They had fallen to black, with a tiny swirl of diamond dots spiralling like a universe in his iris. A hammer of surprise hit his chest. Shaking his head back away from the mirror he looked around. Perhaps these moments were not the last of time after all. But how could that be so? The unmelted land of this world had been shrinking for years, everything he had known had fallen to the lava,
He’d watched houses and people and towns and ships and countries and dreams all fall in time, nothing could survive the fear, the flow, the thick deliberate pace of the molten core as it gradually dissolved every last outreach of its hardened skin. There had barely been a football field of land left, unyet somehow here he was, facing a network of fresh new forests stretching far over a distant horizon.
Knees buckled as a wave of uncertainty set his rear to the ground. What to do. To the right, the ever churning tides of destruction. To the left, an impossible new creation and growth. His soul had readied itself for freedom for so long, the thought of a possible extended embodiment caused almost as much grief as the end of hope. At least the impending end had finality to it. And of course the luxury of not having to make a choice.
He sat, resting chin on hands, waiting for inspiration or death to come.
He waited, feeling the coolness of the forest to his left.
He waited, feeling the heat of destruction to his right.
He waited, feeling the tearing of this crossroads in his core.
He waited, digging his fingers in to the cool soil on his left.
He waited, digging his fingers in to hot soil on his right.
A thin stream of glowing hot rock snaked into view. It forged its way towards him like a ridiculously outstretched glow worm driving through sand and soil. Barely the width of a finger, it travelled steadily and stopped, right in front of him. A small stream of water snaked from the left the meet it. A small hiss and a swirl of thickly delicate white smoke rose up where they met in the earth. Visions from his past flickered in the smoke screen like an old black and white film. Memories, family, home, dog, earth… was it a whole life flashing before his eyes?
Was he to die after all?
An invisible lung in the ground drew breath, sucking up the smoky vision clean out of the air.
The glowing worm receded with the tide back towards the orange sea.
The watery stream allowed the ground to drink it into its thirsty crust.
A tiny glisten in the sand was all that remained.
He drew breath realising it was the first he’d taken in a while. Wary fingers poked at what was left of this elemental collision. The mirror, again reflecting those big black pools of gems back at him. Only it was attached on each edge to a cord. A second mirror on the back, from which orange orbs burnt back into his vision. He found himself twisting the cords as if under silent instruction, then held them taught, spinning the mirror as he pulled. The flickering of white gem and orange orb spun faster, until they fell into a blur and all he could see was himself. His own reflection, furrowed in concentration, pursed lips curving up slightly into a smile. Someplace between destruction and inspiration he saw himself, whole.
He watched the orange glow of the sea recede to his right, curl itself up into a ball, and fall off the edge of the earth. Heavy and spinning it sunk into the horizon and flooded the sky with a wash of burgundy and red.
He watched the farthest reaches of the forest to the left, where deer stepped into view, illuminating blindingly from within. She nodded her head in salute, and toppled into the sky, curling into a brilliant orb illuminating the desert and forest in silver light.
He watched himself in the centre. Poised between inspiration and destruction, exactly where he needed to be, ready to create a world anew.
Written by Tjoni Johansen
Copyright 2016 all rights reserved
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