A fantasy short story.
By Jenny K Brennan
“Hey cutie, you’ve been sniffing that beer for almost an hour now. What’s crawled up your ass?“ Without waiting for an answer, the woman put her frosty drink on the table and sat down on the seat opposite to the sad puppy. She used both hands to pull her hair out of her eyes and let the swell of platinum blond fall down her naked back. She loved that feeling. The soft touch that made her skin tingle and start a shiver down her back.
The puppy-eyed guy across the table was something new. Nice looking was an understatement, but she suspected that the perfect polish and high-class intended casual could get tiresome. Snob. A ‘my shit don’t stink’ guy.
But then again, maybe not. The sad eyes and faraway gaze was nothing if not intriguing. He seemed tired and just a bit wary of her. His eyes were some shade of green, reflecting the light in the bar in a way that made them shimmer with silver, in the next moment streaked in sunset cobalt clouds, wind-torn and fleeting, beautiful and knowing.
The young woman shivered and realized she had lost her smile, actually lost any sensations of the world around her wile losing herself in him. His shredded mysterious eyes, and whatever misery he was just barely hiding. Curious puppy watched her right back.
He frowned suddenly and started spinning the glass, around and around. He didn’t like beer. Why had he ordered a beer? To seem like everyone else. But if he didn’t drink and didn’t make noise, he would never blend in anyways. He let his eyes drop to the luke-warm brew and smiled. He knew it wasn’t much of one. Crooked, halfhearted, pained.
He looked up as if he had just thought of something and pushed the glass to the side. “Buy me something I can actually drink and I’m yours for the night.” He said and meant it. The more he watched this stranger the more his first impression faded. That hair was natural. That was something of a novelty. Interesting. A bright-eyed curiosity that was open and direct in the way she focused on him instead of her appearance. No fiddling with locks of hair or out of place garments. Not that she was wearing much.
She didn’t answer him and the blue eyes darkened slightly as she frowned. Clouds sweeping across the evening heaven, he thought and suddenly he knew. Recognition struck hard and fast but acceptance came just as quick. That was how it had always been for his kind.
And hers. He straightened up and cocked his head raising his eyebrows just a fraction. Her frown deepened just as the curiosity. Flared up into something he would have taken for frustration. And it was too. He let out a short laugh and shook his head slowly, wondering when she would know. The moment stretched as the air around them stilled.
“Sky, snap out of it.”
The blue eyes widened in shock and her mouth opened as if to speak but her remembrance and acceptance came just as quickly as his had. Sky’s world whirled, scattered, and rearranged around her in a flash. Once it settled in the way it had always been and should always be; she barely remembered who she had been for a brief time in human disguise. She shook her head no, but not in denial so much as protest. The hand holding the fizzy drink cramped and shattered the glass in the half second of dislocation of thoughts, memories, and realization.
“I am.” She whispered to the sparkling remains of the glass that lay in front of her in a puddle of drink. She ignored the little rivers probing their way across the Formica for an edge, a crevice, a lower level to settle in. She tore her eyes away from the mess and looked up. Reproachful or relieved to be so abruptly woken from a thousand year dream, she didn’t quite know. A thousand years? It hadn’t been that long surely? She looked at her former, future, forever, lover looking for answers.
He looked back at her. He smiled. And straightened up. His eyes didn’t just look streaked in kobold cloud, they were shredded led, streaked with silver and deep green. He opened his mouth, but said nothing. He looked at the mess of broken glass and alcohol slushy on the table and pointed at it, put a finger on a piece of glass and made it tip and Klink against another. He pulled his hand back and leaned forward and finally said. “You can put that to right, can’t you?” He let his gaze and finger indicate chards and liquid, making a sweeping, collecting motion with both hands as if putting everything in a pile. “I know you can.” he paused and grinned as everything came back to him too. He had been sure, just not certain. Certainty was not how it was in his existence. Certainty was what had led them to this point. Too much certainty, too many assumptions, not enough humility and old fashioned observation and responsibility. But that wasn’t important now. What mattered was that he had found her.
“I know you can, because I showed you how.”
They had been on top of the world once. Masters and mistresses of heaven and earth. Dictators of all elements. Sky, Steel, Wave, and Flame. They held the balance of all things and let things become what they would, by pondering possibilities. Then they played with the creations their curiosity made possible; much good came out of fortunate chance, evolution, as well as the natural selection and survival of the fittest made some things better, and some things inevitably inferior. Quality control was never on the agenda.
There was nothing inherently bad about their play with life. All things made could be unmade, they said to each other when abominations surfaced. But nothing was ever made undone, as the process held too much of interest to the four. In the end, one can argue that a harder line would have been more appropriate, but once over a billion of the most flawed creatures chance had ever created lived and breathed, it was too late to rethink their slipshod attitudes. They grew tired of the play, bored by creations that started to grow stale and close-minded; they started creating tales of their own, and all of a sudden the charm of thinking civilizations faded and was replaced with despair over the growing aggression, the frequent territorial disputes, the stubbornness to se beyond self fulfilling prophesies written by mad men.
The four broke apart and scattered across the earth, to ponder, to analyze, to hide from the monster that had evolved from their innocent games and wishes. With time, they all forgot to ponder as the shame grew powerful, and despair did not suit the four. They saw the simplicity of ignorance and wanted the bliss it could give.
So they forgot.
Sky looked into Steel’s eyes. She remembered, as if she had never forgotten. Her voice never touched her vocal cords when she spoke to him. “I could. Why should I?” She made a sweep with her hand over the glass and one brow rose. “Why don’t you? I am not as good with stone as you. Why don’t you do it? If you think I should.”
Steel sat back, watching her, still smiling but there was a shadow of apprehension behind his eyes. He put one hand on the table without moving his body any closer, and touched a chard with the tip of a finger. He stared at it, tensed into perfect stillness as his eyes shifted and clouded over in steel gray, copper, deep fertile brown… then he relaxed and pulled back, dropped a trembling hand in his lap. His eyes turned to dull amber and he shrugged and sighed. “You are right. We cannot mend this world, why mend a piece of imperfect glass.”
Sky fixed Steel with a chilling penetrating stare for a moment, mirroring his posture with both hands in her lap. Then the sculptured features softened and she smiled. The ice between them melted and gave life to soil long thought barren. Seeds dried and forgotten started to stir in hidden depths. It wouldn’t take long for them to sprout, to rush into eager growth, bloom, and fruit.
Sky thought, with a moist glint in her clear blue eyes, why not? She caught Steel’s eyes and she saw the same thought, heard the same words echo from within him. Why not?
“We are still young.” She whispered.
“We can try again. Steel replied, holding a hand for her to take.
“Wave and flame will want what we want. They are on their way already. Sky looked up in the heaven she couldn’t see but sense through the corrupted metal and wood, through pollution and the interfering signals crowding the air. “Yes, they are coming.” She squeezed his hand and let out a long pent up breath of frustration and disappointment.
Steel looked into Sky’s hopes and wishes taking form. For one moment that would become forever if they wanted it, he saw a world made again, creatures living with one another, working in harmony, not in constant pursuit of territory. A world swept clean of toxins and second rate sentience. Steel smiled, leaned over the table and kissed the mistress of the sky, sat back to wait for their brother and sister. He took a long lingering look at the shabby bar, its imperfect glass, its sample of flawed humanity. And he knew. Nobody would miss Earth. They could make up a new name, something with a nice ring to it. Undo. Reset. Start over.
Steel smiled and he let the excitement sparkle through his words. “We can do better.”