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Knowing the Horizon
They crouched on a broken stone ledge. She faced north, overlooking the dense jungle so far below. He faced west, toward the setting sun. He could see where the jungle became desert and where the world abruptly dropped off at the horizon. Their ledge was part of a gray, stone pyramid that emerged out of the jungle, a huge, artificial structure that was more ancient than the nature below. The steep sides of the pyramid were almost vertical, and an inconstant flow of sand and pebbles tumbled down its sides. The sky was dark magenta. The sun couldn’t reach fully toward the figures, so they were only vague black outlines in the obscuring light.
“I don’t like you.” He said, unmoving from his crouching position. They perched like birds at the edge of the stone precipice. Ready to leap up and fly away or to tip forward and fall? She wondered.
“The feeling’s mutual.” She answered coldly. Her own eyes darkened with a hint of betraying emotion. She couldn’t see that his did the same.
“I don’t want you.” He said. His voice was even, without emotion. She looked down at her hands that lay on her bent knees. Her fingers twisted and untwisted like the many living entities that are found at the bottom of the sea.
“I know.” She answered, her eyes still downcast. I wish I could feel the same. He kept his gaze on the horizon. She returned hers to the jungle blow.
“I don’t love you.” He said in that same flat tone. She flinched at the words, but it didn’t matter because he wasn’t looking. Words unsaid slapped at her with the sandy winds. Regret.
He allowed his gaze to lower, his head sinking to watch the sand fall down the smooth surface. His only sign of weakness. She didn’t see it.
“I never loved you.” She bit back, her pride making her respond with venom. It was a lie. He returned his gaze to the landscape in the west.
“I know.” He replied. Once, she would have thought he sounded said. She didn’t know him anymore.
They sat in silence. The wind moaned sporadically, stirring sand and dust before settling. The meager film of dust and pebbles stirred halfheartedly to lick at their faces as the sun sat full-bellied and golden orange on the horizon.
“I hate you.” She said.
“You don’t.” He traced a pattern on the ledge with his finger, head downcast.
“I wish I did.” She said. “I wish I could.”
“Me too.” He said. It would be simpler if she hated him. She thought he spoke of himself, wishing he could hate her. Before, she would have easily known what he meant. She had always known him best.
“Are you leaving?” She asked, still not looking at him.
“If you tell me to.” He responded, still staring at the half sunken sun.
“What about your promise?” She finally looked at him. All she could see was a dark silhouette. It seemed to glow with a burnt copper at the edges. She couldn’t see his face.
“We were different people then.” He spoke over his shoulder. His face was visible for a fraction of a second before he turned away.
“What changed?” She asked, knowing it didn’t really matter.
“The world stopped wanting us.” He said. She nodded. It was true. Too bad the world still needs us. Another long silence passed.
“I wish I could remember.” He admitted. “What is was like, back then.”
“I remember.” She answered. You were something to see. She didn’t say it; those type of words can’t be taken back.
“I know.” He replied. While his voice was still even, his onyx eyes swirled with emotions. You were beautiful. He thought. You were everything.
“I wish I never loved you.” He added.
“I know.” She sighed.
“Remember when we thought we could fly?” She said. Remember when we thought we could catch the sun, when the stars still visited our eyes, once in a while. She thought. He didn’t answer.
Eventually he stood, finally speaking. She looked up at him, but he didn’t turn.
“I think I could do it.” He ran his thumb across the horizon with squinted eyes like a mother wiping grime from a son’s face. Then he lent against the smooth incline and closed his eyes. His fingers caressed the horizon like a pianist traces the ivory keys. So familiar, so soft. She felt a twinge of loss because he had a half-smile on his face. The look was bliss. She knew he was lost to her.
“I think I could do it. Alone.” She winced, inwardly this time. The dream was no longer hers to share. “I might be able to.”
She stood too, wrapping her arms around herself as the air chilled. She faced away from him, to the east.
“With what wings?” She spat, hating that her voice held emotion where his did not. She didn’t see the tension enter him, and he didn’t reply.
“They still need you, you know.” She added. “It’s not over yet.”
“I don’t need you, but they do.”
“I know.”His voice was impatient.
“Do it then!” She broke, turning to him, flinging her arms open. Her voice held tears. He turned at the same time, their imaginary wings brushing.
“Do it if you’re going to! Make the jump. Go!” Her eyes burnt into his. Chemistry arched like blue lightning between them. She wanted to shove him back, force him to go. She wanted it over with.
“I can’t.” He admitted, turning away again. The fight left her. She stepped forward, reached for him, stopped, reached again, put her hand on his shoulder, pulled it back, wrapping her arms back around herself. He nodded his acceptance of her apology. She turned away, back to the north. The stars began to appear.
They both returned to their crouching perches. Beautiful gargoyles. The night was silent. All she could hear was his breathing. A long time later, when the stars had begun to fade, he sighed.
“I love you.” He sighed over his shoulder.
“I know.” She answered, meeting his gaze for an infinite second. He turned away. A silver tear slid down her face. Then the silence stretched between them again.