Thursday, February 21, 2013

2/21/13

Where The Heart Is
By David Edward Nell



At first I didn't take note of the shape navigating earthward from the clouds, my hands scraping off wood to mark the tenth stroke on a log. Ten was how many days I'd been on this island in solitude. Before then there was nothing, as though there never was a beginning.

I went towards the beach to get a better look. As the object grew I could dismiss it as a bird no longer, for its breadth began to cast nightfall. I retreated, warned by its croon. It rotated, breathing winds of fire, and negotiated something out its hind. Then, as quickly as it had come, it reversed its path. What remained, handed to the sands, was its legacy: a giant egg, where a crack soon formed and led to a halving. I gasped, agog at what had birthed. A woman. Her blush of hair fell like a waterfall over a strange, silver frock.

“Who are you?” I demanded with a stick.

“We're alike.” And when she spoke, I understood.

“Why do you set foot in my territory?”

She pointed up, and my tirade ended. “They, of the stars, have delivered, as they did you. We've been assigned a great role.”

“What are you saying? Who are they?”

“The gods. It's their wish that we repopulate their world.”

“Gods? They want us to be together?”

“Yes.”

I fell at her feet, and she touched my head.



“Will you tell me more about the ones from the heavens?” I asked beside her face one night, adoring her dimples and stealing, light-blue eyes.

“If I was wiser,” Olina quipped.

“Yet you are. Please, do divulge something, anything.”

“They brought us and guard from the skies. That's all. When I arrived, you saw them, their flying machines. Their powers and capabilities are beyond our understanding.”
“Are they like us?” I asked.

She paused. “Not exactly. But, Larry,” she cupped my hand, “I've never actually met them.”

“It's so strange that you know so much, I so little.”

“You were chosen as well. For this you should be honored.” She forced her lips against mine.



“Can't you bring the washing?” she called from outside when the trees had begun shedding for a new season. She was beating our mattresses with thick bark, her dress ruffling with the fierce southeasterly. The swollenness of her belly was visible.

I lumbered over with a load of freshly wet garments before something joined the sand. The round device I was furrowing my brows at didn't belong. In curiosity, I picked it up and went to slide my hand over a button.

“Don't touch that,” Olina ran and startled me, snagging it away.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“How can it be nothing?”

“Just promise you'll never touch it.”

“I don't even know what it is.” I laughed, incredulous.

She blurted out, “It's theirs. It summons them and their ships.”

“What? This signals for the gods?”

“Yes.”

“So you have met them?”

“No.”

“Now I'm confused. How did you get that, then?”

Olina fumed and hugged the load off me. “Larry, enough. I have a headache.”



“Many moons ago I saw a woman, and again last night,” I said. “In dreams, I mean.”

“My arrival was foretold, then?” Olina replied, cradling our first-born. “The gods entered your dreams, it seems.”

“Maybe. You're so different, though. Your face...”

She looked away.

“My mind must be elsewhere to remind of a nonexistent past, but why?”

“We're both adapting to a new world. Even I dream the same oddities. The imagination is strong, dreams symbolic of reality.”

“True, but it feels like something's missing.” I begged, “Olina, you know you can share everything with me. And I'm not trying to make you upset but--”

“Hm?”

“Will you spare a truth?”

“Don't I normally, Larry?”

“It's like you're always keeping secrets.”

She turned, betrayed. “Has your trust gone? I'm your wife.”

“But--”

“Promise you won't leave me.” Her arm tugged me into her embrace. “Do you love me?”

“Yes. I...I do.”



One morning, my half dozen children were assembled in our hut, shaking me to my feet.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

“Mama's in the air. Come see,” my oldest urged and pulled me into the briney winter, and she hid behind.

My hand went to my mouth. The ship was back, blaring that familiar mechanical tune and inciting nature's abandon. My wife descended a ladder, climbing out the ship's posterior.

“Olina!” I bellowed. “What are you doing there?”

She saw us, froze. Promptly, the ship roared into the ozone, and then it was just her guilt.

“It's nothing to worry over, kiddies,” she tried to convince our frightened children. She looked at me, frowning as if I was at fault. “Shouldn't they be sleeping, Larry?”

“Go back to bed,” I told them. They did so, and then we were alone. “Explain what just happened.”

“The remote you weren't supposed to know about--I used it. This was really important, Larry. Believe me.”

“Tell me what they look like.”

“They're light. Pure...light beings,” she said, stumbling.

I held her shoulders. “Tell me why you kept this a secret.”

“I'm dying.” She showed me an unusual tube of paste. “They gave this. It's supposed to rid of the cancer.”

“Oh, Olina.”



I listened to her heart's farewell. “I'm so sorry. All these years I never told you I love you. I've been stubborn.”

Olina brushed my hair, a matching grey. “Larry, I love you, you know that. And I'm sorry, too.”
“What for? You're the mother of my sons and daughters. Don't apologize.”
“Thing is, I lied,” she sniveled. “About everything. What I did was horrible. But you have to understand that it was a matter of survival.”

I leaned back in my chair. “We're so old, Olina. Does it matter at this point?”

“To me it does.”

“Let it out, then, if you must.”

“I took you from your world, Larry. I programmed you. There's--”

While she continued, I closed my eyes and let our best memories overwhelm what she was admitting.

“--no gods, just me. Nuralia, my world, got wiped out. And I saw what was left, saw what the sun was doing to it, to our galaxy, because...because I was what you would deem an astronaut, and I was in space, assigned with a mission. Repairing a beacon, laying the foundation of a colony. We knew it was coming, just didn't have time. It wasn't supposed to happen so soon. It just...” Her face was a mask of tears.

“Olina--” I rubbed my forehead.

“I was all that was left. When I found your world, your kind who were so similar, I chose you, Larry. And I'm so sorry. There you had a life, a partner.”

“--stop.”

“Larry, I'm sorry.” Then we both had to fight the sorrow.

“No,” my hand took hers, “don't. That was another life. I care about you, our children.”

She put the device into my palm, and smiled her last. “Your choice now, Larry.”



I held my children close, watching the waves take the device. “Where's home?”

“Home is here,” they agreed.



- - -
David Edward Nell writes speculative fiction in his limited spare time from Cape Town, South Africa. Visit him at http://davidedwardnell.blogspot.com


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