Horse hooves clamored across the cobblestone crosswalk. The pleasant wide blue sky stretched out into an endless expanse filled with the heat of an unbridled sun. The wind rustled the leaves in the trees just slightly. The trees flanked the carriage pulled slowly down the road. The white wheels rattled forward. The fine white paint adorning the carriage glowed in the sun, as a figure dressed in his black tuxedo steered it onward. The figure abandoned a smiling man at the side of road. The figure fingered the rim of his hat, pushing it further down his brow, and flashed a knowing smile at the man as he flowed free from the chariot.
The man heard the reins snap and the driver call to his horses in a hiss of cold wind that rattled loose form the slight gaps in each of the driver’s bone white teeth. The man gnawed at his fingernails as he watched the rider and his chariot turn into a distant shadow. The man came to this place in the finest threads he ever wore.
The man felt the smooth lining of his suit coat. He hooked his thumbs underneath his suspenders and pulled them up an inch before letting them snap back to his shoulders. He rubbed some crust loose from the corner of his eyes and stretched out his arms. His eyes darted left and right before his hands started to wiggle his tie loose from his neck. He squeezed the top button of his shirt out of its hole before moving to his cufflinks. He slid his arms out of his suit coat and slung it over his back.
The man eased himself down onto the cold soil. He leaned against a tree at the side of the road, taking in the sweet summer winds. Small blue birds frolicked through the sky. Their swift wings pitter-pattered against the pale blue sky and the puffy white clouds. The blue birds docked, and other birds rose. Red cardinals burned their path through the air. Little yellow birds swayed through the sunlight likes sparks flickering free from the massive orange sun that hung in the air. The man fell into an easy state. He leaned back against the tree, and felt his eyelids grow heavy. He felt the sweet syrupy darkness encompass his bright hot world. A blanket of warm summer air formed around him. He felt weightless.
He dreamt of a fair haired woman. He knew her as she knew him. He knew of her ungraceful twitches and throaty coughs. She seemed to shine in the sun, offering a smile full of imperfectly aligned teeth. Her pink lips pursed slightly, and she formed a string of words, though he heard no sound from her. Her features were smooth and thin, almost frail. She smiled wide and he felt as though he were staring into the sun. He had to shield his eyes, until she gave an open mouthed chuckle. He heard only the memory of laughter. How he longed to manifest the memory in this reality. The sight of her consumed his vision. His eyes started to search the expanse in quick darts and glances, hesitant to leave her. He saw nothing but a blanket of pure white that extended for miles. He felt a slight caress on his shoulder and stood up sharply, twisting around. A frail orange leaf perched itself on his shoulder. He eyed it for a moment before looking up at the tree.
This tree towered over him. Its auburn leaves parachuted slowly through the air. The brown and orange leaves descended from the branches in massive heaps, like clumps of hair falling loose from a scalp. They formed large clouds of oranges, dark reds and browns. He saw the roots of the tree push into the foggy white about his feet. He reached down to feel the ground. He felt something very cold to the touch, and his gashes of white and black cut his vision to splinters. A wash of frost coated his skin and caused him to tremble. Waves of fluffy white embraced him. It fell loose from the never ending, cloudless sky. He shut his eyes and the cold faded. The warmth of spring encompassed him so quickly that he felt his head grow numb as it tried to process the shift. The white mounds that clung to the massive network of gargantuan branches blossomed into a massive berth of colorfully hued leaves. He heard children cavort and carry on. He felt he knew those kids. Some of them were distant smiles; others were eyes he had breathed vision into. He wanted to rush his hand through the hair of those young souls and shake tangles into a brown mop of hair. He felt a tear trickle out of his eye. His soul swam in the salty water of that tear, and he felt himself spin away from spring. His head stung as he staggered down to his knees. His skin felt numb. Intense winds beat flakes of frosty white against his red and raw ears. He crunched down in a mound of snow and shut his eyes.
His eyes shot open, and his breathing became heavy. He found himself sprawled on his side in the midst of a dusty plane of cracked ground. He could see the woman out in the distance. She was a shadow beneath three massive suns beating heat into the earth. Mechanically, she moved her legs. Each step seemed out of raw obligation. With each step her leg would wobble and twist. Her hair thinned out into individual strands. A hoarse whistle trembled out of her throat. The whistle swept up into the air, fraying and cracking as it approached the higher notes. She broke into cough that shook her whole body. The cough startled sensation back into his legs. He stood up wearily. He tried to shake loose from sleep. If this was a dream, it rung of reality and he would not escape it with a pinch. He started to make his way towards her. She had his back turned towards him. His feet nimbly skipped across the cracked earth, which spit up dust wherever his foot fell. The brown flecks licked at his legs. He could hear the suns churn and spark out in the distance. They groaned beneath their continual effort. The woman whistled once more. She started to assemble her steps again. They were slow and stilted still. He started to lose his patterned footfall. He shambled together an awkward gait. As he neared her, he could feel the heat of the suns. He wanted to say something, just give her one word, but the letters cluttered around his tongue. The suns sapped the moisture from his skin. He watched as the skin on his arms turned dusty and dry. Cracks and scratched began to glide across his arid skin. He gazed at the thing cracks in the earth. He felt himself swelter with the torn earth. He felt the chalky sensation in his mouth. His throat grew hoarse and he attempted a rough whistle, which quickly corrupted into a rasp. The suns pressed down upon him and he stumbled. He caught himself. As he gaped at the ground, a crack tore open in the earth beneath his eyes. It stretched out wide and looked empty. As he crawled towards it he realized that a clear black liquid stirred within. He saw his reflection in a black fluid.
He stared in awe for a moment. He bore the reflection of the woman, smiling wide. Her face was all a mess with wrinkles, and dry, cracked skin. Her smile only held crooked yellow teeth now. He watched in the pool as his hand caressed the dry cracks on his face, and felt the smile he never meant to make. She never meant to make. Her hair was thinning. A wild wind flew across the plain. The cracks of dried skin flaked and splintered off. They started to peel and come loose. Small bits of agitated red rose to the surface, as though her face had been scuffed against gravel. She looked at the earth and saw chunks fly by, to reveal reddened soil. The smile started to splinter. She heard the words stumble out of his mouth. She felt him finally come with her. Perhaps she finally came with him. She could not remember who the late arrival was any more. Still she felt him smile. They smiled. They reached out to run her fingers across the water. It rippled and splashed. It crawled from its splashes, up onto the cracked, dry land. It started to worm and drag itself across the terrain. In twisted fingers and writhing hands, it began canvassing the earth. It stretched around her now. They could feel it coming to surround the land all around them.
(End of part 1)
~Austin R Ryan