Author : José A Harkhan

He flew that night. His dreams flooded with visions of ecstasy. The blue of that river. The black of those eyes.

They hove into the light of day that shone through the Pleasure-Dome’s glass shell. Like white-cloaked wraiths. Fixated. Forgotten legions in a perpetual ritual. Cords drooped from medication towers like bleach-white veins. He secured a cord to his abdominal catheter. Milk of paradise flowed into his stomach. He sat still, awaiting relief. Others sat around him. Hummingbirds. Born-addicted. Some lay sedated. Others giggled luridly. Some broke into un-tempered screaming. Once they became tolerant of the drugs in the milk, many killed themselves by flying into the glass shell of the dome. Their bodies lay perfectly preserved.

Sedation eluded him. As he waited, he strained to focus on the world outside the dome. He saw it now as he had never done before. A deep chasm ran past, carving the vivid, green, velvet, tundra in two. The river, at its base, ran far into the umbra of the land whereupon it poured into a looming and distant darkness. Overwhelmed with such chaotic beauty, he wept.

Something moved.

The next day he didn’t bother to medicate. He sat close to the glass with the hysteria behind him. He scanned. Searching. He had been watching all day before he saw her.

Just as the sun set sinking into the chasm, he noticed a female figure perched naked at the edge. He stared. Transfixed. She was looking down into the violet aurora of the setting sun, scintillating as it refracted through the surging water. She tilted her head with a graceful motion as if in song. Calling. She turned to catch his eye. Darkness fell and she was gone.

She reappeared the following day. Closer this time. Facing straight at him. Her existence went against everything he knew about the outside world. Full of superbugs that kill and inflict suffering. The only beings that had survived the four pandemics were freaks of nature. Mysterious, grotesque creatures to be feared as much as the pathogens. Yet she looked so healthy and strong compared with him. Her mere appearance erased a hundred years of lies. Her long black hair played over her figure as if moved by an invisible force. He could see her eyes now. Cassiterite. As black as night.

It was then that he knew he must leave.

He stepped into the airlock and the door slid shut behind him. He knew he couldn’t go far before the pathogens would take him. So long as he could reach her, then it would be rich to die.

He clamped his eyes shut but the light burned through the lids. His pupils boiled in their intraocular fluid. He staggered through the flashing tundra until he reached the chasm’s edge. The air was alive, humid and thick with the scent of the grasses. It rippled over his body in all directions. It whispered in his ears, enticing him down.

He had fallen to the river’s edge at the foot of the great chasm and was bleeding. The thick pale blood diffused through his white robes and mixed with the fertile earth beneath him. She surfaced. Effortlessly swimming against the current, maintaining a steady gaze upon her subject. His heart soared. Propping himself up with one arm, holding the other out towards her. She drew closer and took his hand. She saw that he was bleeding and she kissed the cuts. The icy water clung to her lips and his lungs contracted when he felt her touch. She sang to him of fools and kings and of the end of days. With melodic melancholy of purest serenity, the liquid notes pierced the turbid ether. And the river, seething with ceaseless turmoil, carved its chaotic course.

Then she dived.

Dragging him under the stygian water. Her body coiled tight around him, breathing life-giving air into his mouth. The torrent dragged them lethe-wards into the ultraviolet abyss. Fathoms of water forced down upon him. He could feel his body breaking but she made him strong.

He realised that until now, as he lay in the shadow of death, he had never truly lived.

He awoke on the shore of a sunless sea of shimmering indigo, met by an immeasurable expanse of black sands. The shore, teeming with naiads, black eyed angels, feasting on white clad carcasses. His lungs were full of water.

Numbed by blissful lethargy, he adored the feeling of her teeth setting into his neck.

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