Daybreak - Act II
Alice hung in the air above our checkered blanket: cream with light yellow squares, on the corners embroidered sunflowers pointed their petals toward the center of the fabric, toward where the sun would be. That’s where she sat. My own personal sun. She leaned against my chest while we both looked up at the planet. The shadow of night ran from the light of morning, across the spinning world. They never could quite catch each other. I felt bad for them, because I had found my morning light. I always rooted for their meeting.
I wondered if anyone on the surface was looking up at us, at the ring, this very moment. Maybe we were looking right at each other: Two necks craned upward wondering if there was someone looking down at them. All a matter of perspective, I guess.
It always started with a question: Honey, will you pass the honey? I knew what was coming. I had lived it so many times. Her head was turned and tilted slightly like she did when she wanted a kiss. The corner of her eyes crinkled with her smile. Her lip curled slightly. I feigned ignorance and reached for the honey. Right as I shifted my weight to move, her lips pursed in a little pout. Acting like the most ignorant man on the ring, I sat up and moved away from her. She fell in the space where my weight had been, we both fell into a kiss. The light and shadow racing across the surface of Alice stopped for us. There can be no fireworks when time stands still.
I curled my fingers around the jar of honey and slowly passed it her way. Elena held up her hand: No thank you, my tea is sweet enough. There were five scones on the plate. They were ordered in a clockwise spiral, like a sunburst. I could tell she wanted to say something but she didn’t need to. We nibbled on the edges of a blueberry, orange scone. I had no idea where she found the oranges. Citrus was something to be prized out here on the frontier. The sun started to peek out from behind Alice. It should be dark but it wasn’t. Instead of the usual clicking and whirring of the solflowers, we heard piano. They danced and adjusted themselves to better look at the sun. My gaze swept upwards toward the sun, where the solflowers should be looking. The entire field turned toward her. Like the sunflowers on the blanket, they knew precisely where the brightest light was.
Her eyes glowed with a secret little smile. I knew what was coming but I put the thought so far from my mind. Maybe if I didn’t acknowledge it then it wouldn’t happen. You give something power by noticing it. You give it a reason to exist. She looked at me from over the brim of her glass. I could never take my eyes from hers once our gazes met. Something danced in the air between our looks, over long moments of nibbles and sips of tea.
The wind swirled the dirt around us. Someday there would be grass here, flowers, and life. But for now, for this moment, it was just soil and solflowers. It was starting. Time became a stretching rubber band. Things pulled and slowed.
Her gaze was gone. She was looking up at the planet. A storm boiled across the surface. Yellow clouds swirled and distorted our looking glass. Stay in the glass, I begged them silently. The wind’s breath grew. It hummed and the solflowers creaked back. The piano song tilted and turned. It was a chord change: major to minor. The clouds swirled on Alice’s surface and slowly spiraled off of the planet. They filled our sky and lazily descended on us. Their tendrils were ethereal fingers, grasping at my wife. The light from her eyes faded. The ghostly fingers wrapped around her. Her cup fell. The tea spilled across the blanket. Embroidered sunflowers lost their petals and curled against themselves. The soil dried and cracked. Her lips moved, forming the sounds of my name: Talmai. Solflowers buckled and shook. Piano strings snapped and the melody broke.
The rubber band had reached as far as it would stretch, then things happened too fast. The clouds snapped. Her hand reached for mine. I couldn’t move fast enough. I couldn’t move at all. Quick as a viper’s strike, she was pulled into the looking glass, into Alice.
I jolted awake: arms and legs tangled in my sheets, covered in sweat, heart pounding through my chest. I sat on the edge of my bed and focused on the feeling of having the pads of my feet on the cold floor. This is reality. This cold floor is real. That was just a dream. I repeated that mantra in my head until my heart slowed. It was the only dream I’ve had since she left. I touched the back of the drapes and felt heat radiating through the heavy material. The sun would be setting soon, which was my cue to start waking up. I liked my early mornings in darkness. The dream was the same but there was something different I couldn’t shake today. Something seemed to have had come back from the dreamscape with me. I opened the window a little earlier than normal, just in time to see one of the eight sunsets of the day. Long brushstrokes of light painted the sky and blended with the fingers of the nebula.
I padded downstairs for my morning ritual. The water came to a boil a in a gentle crescendo. I dug into my coffee beans and scraped the bottom of the bag. I needed to go to town soon anyway. My mind seemed to float just above my body, untethered, in the wind. My hands ground the beans and piled them into the cylinder. The water sloshed and steam fogged the glass. Particles of the beans floated, suspended in the water and started the diffuse their dark wonder. The plunger pushed the grounds down with the perfect amount of pressure. I poured the coffee into a thermos and cleaned everything. The house was so quiet I almost felt like I was still dreaming. A long, deep inhale proved that I was awake.
The dirt of the driveway crunched and complained about my strides toward the truck. It took me a moment to notice what was wrong. One of those moments when an instinct rings an alarm bell and you’re left standing there trying to figure out why. Like any other morning, the garage and the house framed my truck. Elena stared out at me from our bedroom window. Also perfectly framed like any other morning.
She lifted one finger and pointed. I followed her finger to my truck. What was different this morning? It struck me right in the chest. Perry’s bike was gone. He was gone. I raced to my truck. I knew exactly where he was going. I just hope I could get there in time.
The story concludes later this week. Be sure to catch all the installments.
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