all, prose & poetry

Time walks beside us

A man walks beside us as the landscape alternates between morning and twilight burgundy. It’s been shifting all week – a change every ten minutes at first, now every five. We haven’t seen the sun in two days; it’s only fair – we gave up on it long before.

It’s getting cold. It’ll get colder and colder until it all ends and it won’t matter.

“Time,” she says. We’re the last people that talk in the world. We nearly gave up like the others, until we realized we were the last ones. That changes things. Our words are significant because they’ll be all the world hears before it ceases to be.

“Time,” she points again. The clocks have now stopped, too. The big one on the tower to the east is creaking in the wind. The long minute hand already flown off. The dial is crumbling on the side of 6 o’clock.

The man beside us stops and stands facing the clock. He checks his wristwatch only to see it crumble in sync with the one on the tower. The watch breaks in two and the man spreads open his mouth in a silent cry – once they stop speaking, the sound never comes back. He screams and screams until his eyes are wild and empty. The fractured watch pieces scatter into dust and he stretches out his arm in disbelief – only a part of the wristband remains.

A crack is forming on his hand where the watch once was, and making its way up the man’s arm.

“Stand back,” I say and she gasps, and then the crack spreads all through the man’s body as if it were fractured glass, and just as she grabs my hand, he shatters into little fragments and dust, immediately carried away by the wind.

That’s another one.

They’ve been breaking and dissipating like this since the landscape began shifting. He was the only one we’ve seen in a day. Maybe now it’s just us two.

We walk over and kneel. I pick up the dusty wristband. With time gone, it won’t be long now. Just then, the landscape twitches again, and the twilight holds long enough for us to clearly see what’s advancing: black skies, burgundy-tinted cityscape, the ground – gray and eroded into quicksand. And then it shifts back to faded afternoon.

“Did you see?” she says. “They’re showing us so we’ll stop talking and give up and disappear like the others.”

She’s cold, pale, and her lips are frost-bitten.

“Stop trembling,” I tell her. “It’s only time that went. We have no use for it now anyway.”

“It’s not that,” she says. “I felt the oceans die.”

//

It’s getting colder.

The only things that move now are the clouds – senselessly, to the northwest. We’re sitting on someone’s porch. All the sounds are gone now, too. There’s not even an echo when we call out. She hurls a bottle against a tree and it breaks amidst indifferent vacuum. A second later, there is another shift and afterwards, the glass shards are molded into the concrete they landed on.

“You look like you’re 1,000 years old,” she says. “You look like the sky.”

“You look like you’re made of ice,” I answer.

“I’m not,” she says, and moves closer. Her fingertips are cold, but so are mine, and when I kiss her neck, she’s warm and human. I may be 1,000 years old, but her skin makes me scared and alive.

It’s getting worse. The wind picks up and the clouds stop almost immediately. The landscape twitches back and forth, twilight to afternoon every minute now, and it’s becoming hard to tell which one is real.

“We can’t stop talking,” I say. “We have to ignore whatever happens.”

“Tell me about your childhood,” she replies. She always asks that. “Tell me about when you were a strange boy in a quiet town.”

She’s the only one who ever wanted to know about stuff like this. Everyone else simply talked about books and movies and the weather. And now, when there are no such things, she’s still the only one.

My grandfather used to always say, “When you meet a genuinely unselfish person, the world will end.” And it’s ending.

“Tell me,” she says.

“I kept to myself,” I start. “I was the oldest. Our house was at the very end of a quiet street, just like this one, and it bordered an apple orchard which turned into a field and then a forest.”

“And you stole apples from the orchard, and climbed the fence, and slept in the field at night, and never entered the forest,” she adds.

“And I never entered the forest,” I agree.

The forests were the first to go. We thought the cities would be next, but then it was the dreams and then the music, and then the sun and then water stopped reflecting, while the cities remained.

A huge cloud-shaped shadow is rising from the south; it’s vast and all-engulfing, and there’s no chance of it missing us.

“Why,” she asks. She’s sitting with her back to the shadow and can’t see. “Tell me why you never went into the forest.”

“Because I had a dream that told me to stay away from any place that had no sunlight during the day. And so I never went in.”

“And you always do what dreams tell you.”

“If I didn’t, we would have never met,” I say.

Half of the city is gone now. The shadow takes up the entire horizon.

“Tell me more,” she says. I should tell her it’s there, behind her, but I tell her my dream instead.

“I saw a hand with an apple. You were sitting on the apple and smiling at me.”

“Was I really on it?” she asks. “Was I how you saw me first?”

It’s so close now that even the twitches stop. Whatever happens now will have no consequences.

“No,” I say. “The girl in my dream was blonde and brown-eyed and didn’t look anything like you. But it was you. I know that.”

It’s now at the end of the block. The darkness in it is so intense that it swallows buildings whole. There must be little immense shadows in my eyes, because she shivers and looks away.

“I know it’s there,” she says. “But we shouldn’t say good-bye.”

I nod. It’s too late anyway. We’d never get through all there is to say in time.

“I’m here,” she suddenly says. She’s looking past me, addressing the dying world. She tightens her fingers over mine. “We’re here to be with you so you won’t be alone.”

And then the shadow moves over the porch and those are the last words ever said. The world ends into silence and whatever still remained from before permanently enters the twilight.

Black skies, burgundy-tinted cityscape, the gray ground, eroded into quicksand. Always and forever cold.

More then anything else, it looks like a setting of a feverish dream. Cities have dreams, why not worlds? We are trapped in an image from the world’s dream.

Nothing happens in the end, and nothing after.

Goodbye, dreamer. Goodbye.

//

We’re walking and the landscape alternates between morning and twilight burgundy. It’s been shifting for a while now – a change every ten minutes at first, now every five. We haven’t seen the sun since morning and we know it’s not coming back. It’s only fair; we gave up on it long before.

It’s getting cold. It’ll get colder and colder until it all ends and it won’t matter.

“Look,” she says, and points. “No music.” A teenager sits on the sidewalk, staring in shock at his iPod as it cracks in two and crumbles to dust on his lap. Sounds of gasps are heard from buildings all over the city as radios, stereos, pianos and guitars are crushed into nonexistence.

A crack is forming on the boy’s lap, where the iPod was.

“Don’t look,” I say and we walk away, as the eyes of the boy on the sidewalk turn empty and then he shatters and dissipates and the wind carries only a handful of dust by us and down the street.

We’ll keep moving until it gets too cold. Soon, time will stop and the oceans will die, and then it won’t be long left to wait.

We’re here because we’re the last people left talking. The world kept us around to hold its hand when it ends – again and again.

“Maybe,” she says, “we’ll say something that makes a difference and it all stops. It’ll just stop and a new world will be born, and it’ll be like before only better.”

“Maybe,” I say.

It’ll never stop. The world will die over and over again and we’ll watch it happen and have new words for it every time.

A man appears from under a streetlight and falls into pace beside us. He nervously glances at his wristwatch but keeps walking. At least time is still here. That means we can still say everything we hadn’t had a chance to yet.

We just need to keep talking. As long as we can still talk, I don’t want it to stop. I don’t miss the way it was before. There were too many things and too many people. A new world might be clean and simple and beautiful, like she thinks it will. But I’ve seen my world die and have no need for another one.

She’ll ask me to tell her a story again, and forget all about making this stop. I’ll never run out of stories. She’ll listen and remember that this is all we need. If words alone are enough for a dying world, only words and us two, then we can last the eternity on just as much.

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