She first saw Him while tending to the other gladiators who were under the rule of Julius Caesar. The small, golden haired youth did not seek to be the center of the room and instead placed himself out of the way of everyone else, head hanging down, shield and armor too big, skinny legs pointing inwards. He belonged in this world of bloodshed and brutality as much as she herself did. He looked up. Green eyes met blue but She quickly ducked her head down and continued dabbing at the gaping wound of the pale soldier in front of her. She knew those green eyes from another place, another time, the deep jade color, the long eyelashes. How could one forget a color that vivid, so full of youth and optimism? But She never spoke to Him and instead bustled around, tending to the wounded while the beasts roared from inside Coliseum, seeking blood. The audience was no better--they, like the beasts, feasted on the gore and carnage night after night. They tore open the bodies of the gladiators with their eyes and quenched their thirst with spilled blood. Every so often a scream would pierce the walls and reverberate through the halls, a scream of sorrow and a life gone by, and every time, She shuddered and turned back to trying to save another young man from this ghastly end while He just stood in the corner.
She remembers the feeling of the day when She walked into the infirmary and did not see Him. It was as though her heart had physically torn itself out of her body in sacrifice to the gods. She could not get air through her system, and so She fainted.
When She came to, the boy was back in the corner of the room. His hair was matted on one side and his torso was bleeding heavily, but His eyes remained fixed on Her. She tended to him and poured spiced concoctions over the wound and winced when he was in pain as though she could feel what he was feeling, as if their bodies were interconnected as one sentient being. At one point He opened his mouth as if to say something but instead nodded stoically and resumed his spot in the corner. He leaned on his helmet and gritted his teeth from the pain.
The day after that, to her internal protest, they sent him back into the arena.
He did not come back.
They had heard whispers, rumors of invaders from the North. However, the people of Hungary had believed that their army was strong enough to push back any offenders--what was one measly army to that of 80,000 men? Now, as night fell upon those fighting on the Sajó bridge, rumors of a Hungarian victory reached the nearby town in which She lived. She celebrated with the others, fighting her way to the camps in which the army spent the majority of their time. The air was charged with excitement and anticipation along with the fear of the unknown. She entered a particular tent and found herself in a crowd of young folk who were drinking and feasting and enjoying themselves. The night got colder and darker but She was safe for now. There, She met a young man who had been fighting earlier that day. He was dirty and covered with blood--others’, he assured her--but he flashed a wide smile and his green eyes twinkled in the dimming candlelight. They talked for what seemed like years but at last it grew so dark that she could barely see the outline of the other tents surrounding their own. The candles had died hours before. Wait here, wait here, He said. Wait here, and I’ll be back soon to celebrate another victory. We’ll win tomorrow, don’t worry. She reassured him that she would be back tomorrow evening.
The next evening there was no campground to return to. As far as her eye could see, there was rubble. The Mongols had burned everything down within 10 miles. They had left none alive on the battlefield with the introduction of fire powder and flaming arrows that spun through the air and caught fire upon contact. As she looked back at her old town, now a blazing inferno of ashes and flames, a single tear welled up in her eye and caught the light as it fell.
It was a brisk November day as She hurried down the street, wrapping her coat tighter around herself. Too busy focusing on the ground as the leaves entangled themselves in a dangerous dance, She did not notice the young man rushing past her until they collided. Knocked over by the force with which they bumped into each other, She sat on the ground dazed. The leaves rustled, whispering to themselves. The man reached out a large, firm hand and she clasped it. Their eyes met for a brief second, green and blue gazes finding each other once more. As their hands met, she felt an electric spark ignite her nerves, bursting from the nuclei through the dendrites and spiraling down axons, unhindered by myelin sheaths. The details all came back to her: the musky, overwhelming smell of a dirty arena, the shaky gaze of a scared young boy, broken arrows, and green eyes, the color of fallen pine needles. She opened her mouth to apologize but words failed her so She only managed a quick “I’m sorry.” He smiled an easy smile before saying “Don’t worry, we’ll see each other around again. I’m sure of it.” She blushed a bright scarlet and shook her head to clear the acrid smell of death and lives cut short that had assaulted all of her senses at once. She collected her things and started off again, not without looking back once more at the man. He was still standing there with His back to Her, clutching a piece of paper. She only caught the first lines of the paper before she rushed off again, a small square of an official-looking document:
This is to certify that in accordance with the
Selective Service Proclamation of the President of the United States [...]
They never did see each other around again. There was a war going on, after all.
The subway is crowded and hot and humid and bodies are packed together indiscriminately. She grabs on to the metal pole above her as if holding on for her life and squirms, trying to get marginally more comfortable, but accidentally gets pressed up against a man, eyes level to his glinting military dog tags. She looks up as he looks down and it’s the same moment they have every time, the same that they will have for eons and eons until the sun gets tired one day and decides to throw down his arms and go home. But for now, all they see is green and blue and not the formation of the earth and the discovery of fire and dinosaurs, big and terrifying and beautiful, and Roman generals and the Visigoths and the Magna Carta and the Mongol Invasion and religious intolerance and the brilliant, brilliant Renaissance. Nor do they see the Enlightenment, the discovery of a second kind of fire, or the Industrial Revolution, during which smog coated the chimneys of cities and choked the flowers trying to poke their heads out from the cracks in the newly laid cobblestone streets. The World Wars, both of them, the 9/11 attacks. The Middle Eastern crises. The Brexit. They all mean nothing to them because they are in this moment and in this moment worlds are colliding, citizens are revolting, armies are shooting at one another, babies are being born, deaths are occurring one after the other 1-2-3-4- now 5- but that doesn’t matter anymore not now when they have finally found each other across time and space and alternate dimensions. They have blurred the lines that He Himself has laid down and for that they figure that they once were gods themselves.
“Hi,” He says.
“Hi,” She responds.