Pictures of You

Posted: May 31, 2015 in Featured Scribe, Guest Writers


Rob Davie, “Picture of You.”

“Could you love someone enough to die?” she asked. “I mean, if something happened.”
“Is something going to happen to you?” he asked her
She shrugged and smiled. “When the end comes,” she said, closing her eyes to rest on his shoulder. “Maybe then.”

The world was almost over. It was the last act before the play ended, but they had found each other, in defiance against the downward pull of entropy they had been born into. They lived on an earth spinning on a faltering path, lurching on a broken axis like a staggering and ageing invalid. It was slowly falling into the blood-red sun that now sat unwieldy in its size as it grew and grew to swallow up everything in its orbit’s spiral, and those who were left watched it rise closer each day.

“My gran showed me pictures,” she told him after a long silence as they sat under the huge dead branches of a hollow tree. “Before she died she had pictures of the way the sun used to look.”
“What did it look like?” he asked her, his imagination already painting inside his mind to show him. “How long ago?”
“It looked so far away,” she said with a smile. “Like it could never touch us. It was so small.”
He closed his eyes and wondered how the sun could ever have been something small. “They say it’s still millions of miles away,” he said. “And soon it will get so hot everything will melt.”

Sometimes the sky was opaque with the oceans’ first evaporated mist, and the blanket of tiny water droplets was all that stood between the searing sun and the scattered people below, but they knew that the sea would not be able to throw itself up to protect them forever. Someday, they would all evaporate with it.

She never belonged on the earth’s harsh and scorched surface, and he knew it would not be long before she was taken away. She was so beautiful that he had seen her a hundred times in his dreams, evaporating like the ocean into invisible droplets. She protected him like the mist protected everyone else, water to soften the heat broiling inside, but she had to leave before the end. It seethed in him like a wound but he didn’t want her to be there when it came. She had to leave before it all fell apart.

“Gran said it wasn’t all that long ago,” she told him. “She said the pictures were taken by her granddad. It happened too fast.”
“Do you think the sun got tired of us?” he asked her with a smile. “Enough was enough.”
“It looks angry with us,” she said quietly, staring up at all the colours sprayed through the mist. “I don’t know why it’s angry with the earth though. It’s still beautiful down here.”
“Do you still have the pictures?”

She sat back up, smiling at him, and took his hand. They rose and together they walked through the rubble of deserted streets and the hollow shells of forgotten brick houses, and she led him into one of them. They went in through a large jagged opening in the wall around the back of the house, overgrown with the remains of vegetation that had since died of the sun’s heat. Inside it was dark and warm, and he could see nothing, one hand being tugged by her and the other feeling on front of him. Somehow she knew which way to go, leading him up a creaking flight of wooden stairs and into a small upstairs room that was abruptly bright with the red light from the sun. He looked around at the bare floorboards, the missing windows, and old dusty pieces of furniture that were falling apart. They looked like they were made from oak, once sturdy before the sun’s heat leached them of strength and colour.

She opened a drawer in one of them and pulled out a wooden box that looked even more aged than the chest it had sat inside, and she opened the lid in front of him, a coffin of weathered photographs from days gone.

He took the box from her and stared inside at the colours, vivid colours, and things he had never seen on the earth before. There was bright grass and pure white snow, hazy summer and stunning autumn, and with them all were pictures of the sun, the way it used to be. A tiny piece of perfect sky set ablaze, sometimes golden and sometimes a beautiful sunken orange, but always so far away. It was so distant that he even found pictures where its light pierced and refracted through huge shapes made of ice, in places so cold it would never melt.

For hours he sat against the wall inside the room, and she sat next to him until they were surrounded by a collage of photographs, and after he had finished and looked at them all again the room was sunk in darkness.

The moon was falling to earth and rose gigantic in the sky, now tainted with a reddish orange, and they left the pictures scattered across the floor with its opened box and went deeper into the house to sleep. For a while he sat and watched her breathe, remembering photographs of the long-lost flawless night sky with its silver moon, and the feeling it had brought inside him was the same one he felt now watching her sleep. He closed his eyes and lay next to her and dreamed the most colourful dreams of his life.

When he was awoken by the humid air he sat again, waiting for her to wake. When she opened her eyes and looked at him he asked her what it was she dreamed of. “You saw the pictures,” he said. “When you were little you saw all the colours. Do you still dream about them?”

She smiled a tired smile at him. “Every night,” she said.
“Do you think they’ll ever come back?” He asked as she sat up next to him.
“Maybe somewhere,” she said with a long yawn. “Maybe there’s a place in some other universe. Maybe their colours are even more beautiful.”

After that day they would go back sometimes, the two of them, escaping the stifling humid air of the day in that tiny room and looking at the photographs, the wall’s shadow keeping them shored against the sunlight’s battering heat. Each time they would stay until it was dark and the uncertain, blood-red moon rose. Each time he sat and watched her breathing, and each time she slept for longer and woke more slowly, her eyes tired and her skin pale. “I’m fading,” she told him one morning. “I don’t dream about colours anymore. I’m fading away.”

He held her until the day she could not stand, and she lay with her head in his lap as he showed her the photographs and she smiled. “Thank you,” she would say each night, and he would lay his hand on her forehead and cry when she slept. He felt a fire inside to rival the sun, and it kept him alive, but it was not enough to keep her from fading away.

When she died he took her to the sea. He found a small boat and paddled through the mist, riding the aimless wild waves until he could no longer see anything through the vapour but the sun’s fiery glow, and there he let her fall over the edge. He watched her slowly sink into a depth that would be the deepest and last place the sun would ever touch when it came. He held the box of photographs, knowing it should go with her but not wanting to let it go. There had to be something to defy the end and remind him of her, so he kept it and let the waves lap the boat and slowly take him back to the shore.

Without her there was no-one, and he spent every day alone. Every day he looked at the photographs, watching them wither with the heat along with the long-dead people all around him until the colours drained into a lifeless brown. He felt himself dying with them, wilting, light-headed as his life slowly evaporated with the memory of earth, but he clung on, waiting in shadows and finding respite in the last corners of abandoned cellars and basements. All life collapsed around him but he clung on, driven deeper, until one day he stepped out and saw that everything was dead.

He was sure that now every person on the earth died and left him alone, that it was only a reflection of what was inside of him. All the animals that lay dead across the roads and birds that had fallen from a grey sky drained of its blue, all of it was his inner world folding further inwards and dying. The fire of anger he felt inside rising slowly to burn him away became the bloated red sun rising each morning, closer and closer to the earth it loomed over to devour.

The day it came to burn everything he stood outside and watched it fill the sky as the roads and houses softened to thick liquid. Slowly, against a wall of heat that began to melt his skin, he stepped into the fire, raging because he still loved her, slow motion pulling all the pain and memory of a life filled with loss outwards into the searing fireball, until it was all gone.

Photographs, memories, bodies and all of those colours dissolved into atoms and scattered apart forever, and the sun was fed. Then, once it had swallowed its fill, the sun gave in, collapsing into itself, and drew in all it had consumed with it before exploding out into the most magnificent and beautiful release that no-one was left to see, and it lit up the universe.


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