the He and the She [lost]

July 24, 2012
They were dying to the tune of Mexican music, along with the hum of a great and mighty machine. She could see them in his eyes, tiny silhouettes in the darkened corners of his pupils. Brown, mercy brown eyes that slowly became darkness itself, a frozen lake of cold fury buried in the center.

The dying, the lake, the two - boy and girl, fell into the boy’s gaze. Fell into the labyrinth. Whimpers of fear and hurt came from the “they”, those nameless creatures who huddled together, knee deep in their own pain. The He and the She walked past, eyes averted to the sky of his pupils.

“It looks like it’ll storm,” she said.

“Chin up,” he replied.

“It might hail.”

“It may not.”

“We may drown in tears.”

“Stop blowing things out of proportion!”

She fell silent. The wind of the labyrinth blew hollow through her bones and a five note melody vibrated in the air. It echoed, over and over, incessant and pounding. The anticipation of the tune itself made her cry out. It was thunderous against her head.

He found her a chair, hidden behind some twisted branches and set her upon it.

“The eyes are the window to the soul,” he remarked and she slowly removed her hands from her ears, unwound her legs, and lifted her gaze to look at him.

Her eyes were cloudy, like spoiled milk before it curdled. “And what of the heart?”

“It’s nothing. Merely a facade, an illusion to give us all something else to lavish with attention.” It was as though he was reading her lines, from a script that she had written. He pointed to the sky, stuck it seemed, in perpetual cloudiness. It still had not rained.

A bird flew across the sky. No, not a bird. A vulture. “The ones who consume the dead, they care about the soul. They dispose of it. A vile but important job.” The vulture hopped to the now still “they.” They were still attached by the hip, their limbs and bones merely a mutant outgrowth from their true center. The vulture leaned down, leered at the “they” with its wide beak, and began to swallow their eyes.

She was lying comfortably on the chair and he sat by her side. He asked her about the past, about things she had never told another person. The lake did not ripple or whisper. It was as still as her heart.

“Don’t you want out of the labyrinth?” he asked.

It was a simple enough question. But her hands shook and she could imagine coffee in her arteries and veins instead of nasty white blood cells and platelets and oxygen carriers that drifted all day. She was turning white, slowly, eyes shut and fists clenched. Perhaps, if she had the strength, she would have hit him. But she didn’t, so she didn’t try.

He repeated the question. She couldn’t find an answer.

Sometimes, the two saw figures. Not the dead and dying “them”, but other pairs. A man and a boy. A woman and a girl. Two cars piled up, one on top of the other. And others, more others. They all came, slowly, without a sound. Circling the perimeter of the chair and the lake. But the crowd never came closer, though the palpable anger swept through the invisible barrier and gave the two - the boy and the girl - enough strength to hit each other. With words, with fists. It made no difference.

It went on. “Don’t you want to escape the labyrinth?” He would ask and she said nothing. It wasn’t a game of tug and war because the rope was locked in place. The girl was getting colder, though the rage enabled her to throttle him, just once. He dropped and she clambered off the chair. She rolled him onto it.

Then it was her turn and her question (“Don’t you want to escape the labyrinth?”), his own ghosts and his answer of yes. She fed him cold rage and spun him in a circle until the dark ice spilled over and they were farther from the exit. Perhaps she was afraid that if he left, if he forgave, he would leave her.

They walked, gingerly on the ice. He was worried it would break, but she wasn’t worried at all. They were like nameless pieces of gingerbread, cut from the same cookie cutter but baked in different temperatures. So while they were inherently the same, they were still quite different.

Run, run, run as fast as they can, you can’t catch them, they’re the gingerbread men.

It was a century long journey across the lake, for while the edge always seemed close, he would squint more and see it slip farther away. He would try to keep her spirits up, hug her in the middle of the white clouds that came from her bitter words. In time, she accepted a few. But mainly she pushed him away. This hurt him just as much as the ghosts hurt him. It didn’t hurt her at all.

“Don’t you want to escape the labyrinth?” they asked each other.

He said yes, she was still unsure.

“I’ll come back for you,” he promised.

He broke off his own chunk of ice and floated off. A couple of years later, she saw the ghosts around them disappear, one by one. He had forgiven them.

He still holds her in his gaze, but he looks past her now. Her hair is covered with a thin dusting of stale sugar and her eyes are crystal clear. But she still cannot find the heart to forgive. And he still hasn’t come back.

She is not sure if the story ends there, or if he remembers her. Only time, centuries, and ghosts can tell. She still waits for the help she had pushed away.

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