The sterile hospital room smelled of antiseptic and sickness, but the boy laying between the crisp white bed sheets was caught in its confines, unable to leave. He was dark of hair, with solemn black eyes, yet his face was a drawn, haggard white, and under the flickering florescent lights he looked like a pale wraith. Too weak to move, he lay still and silent while his mind roamed the realms of thought and imagination. It seemed as if he had been forgotten in this lonely room, where perhaps no one would ever come to see him again, and suddenly he was struck by the strange and irrational thought that perhaps he was the only person still alive amidst a ruined world. He knew that it could not be, and yet a deep and nameless fear filled his body. He lay still, perhaps minutes, maybe hours; he could not measure the time that he spent, grappling with a terror so close that it seemed as if he could see it through a piece of thin tissue paper. He closed his eyes tightly, listening to the hum of the equipment around his bed, until gradually it seemed to him that the sound of it was dying away, and all that remained was the rhythmic, high pitched beeping of some single insistent device. From somewhere far away he heard a distant clamor, and then all was silent. He lay still and empty, relaxed in the all-pervading silence, until he realized that something had changed, that he was no longer weak, no longer unable to move. Slowly he opened his eyes to find himself in the presence of a strange and beautiful girl.
She had long, dark hair that framed her clear face on either side before pouring down over the shoulders of her smooth white dress like a waterfall of dark silk. The boy noticed all these things in a glance, and yet it was her eyes that attracted him most, for they were an alluring shade of silver that he had never seen before. Looking into the depths of her swirling eyes he could see the thoughts and wisdom of a thousand minds and feel the march of endless eons of time. He lay there with his head turned toward her, knowing that he could have stared into her eyes for an eternity, but too soon she looked away, no longer at him, but through and beyond him. For the first time the boy looked away from her and found that he was no longer in the hospital room.
He was lying in a carved wooden bed, outside in the open, at the top of a hill overlooking the vast and endless vista of night. Just over the horizon a full moon hung in the dark, its cold bluish light outlining the twisted, organic silhouette of dark trees against the nighttime sky. The boy, however, lay in the dancing illumination of four large torches that rose like beacons from each bedpost. In the aura of their living light the night was active with a restless, endless movement that thrilled his mind in strange and powerful ways. He looked back at the girl to find that she was once more staring at him in wordless silence. The boy opened his mouth to speak, to ask, but she reached out and placed her fingertips upon his lips, as if to silence him, and in that instant he felt in his heart and soul that there was no need for speech, for questions that could not be answered with mere words, and which could never capture the thoughts of his mind.
The girl climbed into the bed beside him and enfolded him in her warm, soft embrace. At that moment he felt a great loneliness, a great longing, for he knew somehow that he would never see that hospital room again, and even though he hated it, deep in his heart he wanted to be back between its walls. He felt a terrible emptiness inside and he wrapped his arms around the girl who was all that was left for him in the universe. Gradually the loneliness died away, and he felt that perhaps here, in her arms, there might be nothing he wanted that he did not have, and he gazed once more into her swirling silver eyes.
It was then that the girl spoke, and her voice was as the sound of wind whispering through the treetops. “Look up,” she said. “Look up, and see the stars, those glimmering shattered diamonds that dance upon the night.” The boy turned his head and looked up into the great velvet vast with its distant pinpricks of cold silver light. As he watched they danced and swirled like the girl’s eyes and he gazed at the sky, transfixed by the subtle profound. But even as he watched the stars swirled faster and faster, jittering wildly in a dance of endless bursts, and suddenly the boy found himself in a strange and frightening place.
Both the bed and the girl were gone, and he was standing alone, looking up at a deep blue sky full of soft white clouds. He could feel warm sunlight upon his back and shoulders, yet a low, ominous drone resonated in the air, and he felt deep dread. Looking around, the boy found that he was standing on a dirt road, at the edge of a lush green field where cows grazed upon the verdant grass. Here and there upon the road lay dark, twisted bundles, strewn upon the dust with no apparent pattern or design. It seemed an eternity that the boy looked at them, unable at first to realize that they were bodies, sprawled upon the ground, lying in their blood. The cows in the field grazed on, never noticing the narrow dirt road, ignorant of the horror, the wrong, but now the strange droning noise had grown more insistent, snarling and growling with cold fury. Looking up in surprise the boy glimpsed a low-flying formation of planes, just appearing over the horizon. They swept toward him, deliberate and evil, and the boy saw small black cylinders falling from beneath them in a constant, terrifying stream. Then he understood that they were bombs, and he leaped off the road into a shallow, rocky ditch, laying on his stomach with his hands over his head. The first bombs hit with a deep, rumbling roar that grew in intensity and volume as the ground shook beneath him. He could feel the pounding vibrations as each bomb exploded in turn, tearing away at the ground of the lush green field. Then the force of their fury hit him with all its power and he grasped the sides of the ditch as a great wind pulled and tore at him. The crescendo of sound swept over, and he felt that his head would split apart from the shear volume of it, until suddenly it all ended as quickly as it had begun.
The final aftershock died away and the boy felt that he was no longer lying in the rocky ditch at the edge of the road, but on fine sand. He sat up and looked upon an empty and desolate scene. All around him great sand dunes rose and rippled beneath the cloudless blue sky, and the sun hanging above glimmered like a bright diamond. A soft wind blew across the desert dunes, constantly sifting and resifting the sand in an endless, hypnotizing pattern. With the wind came the haunting, ephemeral sound of a single flute playing. The tune was endless and soft, hovering in the air with all the care of sympathy and all the distress of pain. The boy rose and followed the sound of the flute. Sometimes the music was so quiet that he thought he was walking away from it, but then it would sound out again, so clear that he was sure it must be coming from just behind him. The boy wandered among the dunes; he did not know how long it was until he discovered the music’s elusive source. The girl with the silver eyes was sitting at the top of one of the dunes, playing a wooden flute, her fingers dancing up and down its length, piecing together the beautiful melody that the boy had heard. As he came closer the boy realized that she was naked, sitting cross legged upon the sand with her long dark hair spilling down the front of her body like a curtain. The boy looked upon her and he understood in an instant the purity of skin, tan and pink against the desert sand, the innocence of birth, and youth, and hope. Laying on the sand beside the girl was another flute, and picking it up the boy sat before her and raised the flute to his lips. He played it without thinking, without knowing how or what he was playing, and over the desert their melody and harmony intertwined. As the girl played tears dripped from her swirling silver eyes to the parched desert sands below. The boy did not know why she cried, but he felt the music pulling at his soul, and he felt a vast sadness as well, until his tears too fell upon the dry ground. Slowly the boy came to understand that the song was ending, that the melody could not continue forever, and gradually their music faded away into the whispering sound of an endless wind, forever blowing across the desert dunes.
They lay side by side upon the sand, in the quiet, in the peace of silent presence, and the boy watched as thick clouds slowly drew across the sky like a gray curtain. From far away the deep rumble of thunder reached his ears, and now the desert wind brought with it the smell of fresh rain. The boy turned his head to look at the girl, but she still lay upon her back, unconcerned, though her silver eyes looked up at the clouds overhead. Minutes passed, and the boy could see rain falling, far off across the desert, pouring downward toward the ground in a soft liquid curtain. It was now that the girl spoke and in her voice the boy could hear the music of the flute, and the sound of gentle rain falling in the night. “The Earth weeps,” she said, “The Earth weeps for all the wrong, for all the pain, for all the suffering.” And rain fell upon the desert, a million tiny tears from all the world’s eyes, soaking into the thirsty ground, cool drops washing the world clean and pure of every wrong. Gradually it seemed that the sound of many waters filled the boy’s ears and poured through his mind, great torrents of water, splashing, foaming, leaping liquid, until the waters slowly receded and the rain stopped.
The swelling desert dunes had disappeared, and now he stood in the shallow waters of a clear, tranquil stream. On both sides he could see the smoothly worn curves of a sandstone canyon rising upward toward the windswept, china blue sky, and the sound of water splashing over smooth stones echoed and bounced off the canyon walls like endless wind chime music. The girl with the silver eyes stood beside him, and now she wore a long flowing garment that shimmered like mist in the air. The boy looked down at the clear water and saw beneath its crystal surface a great many bright, multicolored jewels floating along in the current, bobbing on the surface, nudging along on the bottom of the stream. He bent down to look at them closer and saw that each swirled with the same incessant motion that he saw in the girl’s silver eyes. The girl spoke, her soft voice echoing in the canyon like the sound of the stream, “These are the hopes and dreams of a million hearts and minds, the promises, the vows, the memories that last forever.” As far as the boy could see upstream, the jewels still flowed downward toward him, and as far as he could see downstream the jewels flowed away from him, and he understood the scope of consciousness, the endlessness of sentience, but he still wondered where the jewels went, what was around the next bend where they disappeared from his sight. “Come,” the girl said, and taking his hand she led him downstream, through the ankle-deep water, stepping over smooth stones, the foaming water streaming past their legs. As they walked the boy became aware of a great and powerful roar, echoing through the canyon from somewhere up ahead. The water flowing past the boy’s feet became deeper, rushing along as if eager to get to some important destination, and the girl too pulled him ahead faster and faster, until they were running downstream, leaping through the foam, their feet skimming the water’s surface as droplets danced and sparkled in their wake. Then the canyon opened up, and just ahead the boy could see the water dropping away into a great void, thundering gloriously as it plunged forward into the expanse. He felt no fear and together, hand in hand, the boy and girl leaped off the edge into empty space.
Downward they fell, wind whistling in the boy’s ears, until suddenly all became still and calm, and they floated in a great empty space where countless millions of jewels hung in the air, spinning and turning, bouncing off of each other with small chiming noises. Far away he could see the great cataract, falling ever onward like a vast curtain, the water droplets spreading out into nothingness as a shimmering mist, the jewels pouring forth from reality to float forever in this strange void.
Together the boy and girl floated in peaceful harmony with the universe, hand in hand, a small part of all the dreams and thoughts that ever were. But then the boy felt a faint stirring in his mind, a pulling, and he saw very dimly a different scene, where anxious people stood around a hospital bed, looking down at a limp, still body. He knew that he existed and yet did not exist, he knew that somewhere people were concerned about him, that somewhere he was missed. He turned toward the girl and found that she was looking at him, her silver eyes both joyful and yet sad as she let go of his hand. “You have seen,” she whispered, “You have seen and you know both the pain and the comfort, the joy and the tears, the end and the hope. You must leave now, but you will not forget, for you are the one who can make a difference. Someday you will return to stay, but until then I will always be here, and until then your job is not yet done.” The boy heard all these things, and his heart swelled with a great desire, both to stay by her side and to go, yet he knew that he had to go, he had to return to the place from which he had come.
He waved to the girl as he floated away from her, and she waved back at him. He knew that she would be there for him when he returned, and he floated away, faster and faster, until he was rushing through half-lit darkness, pulled along by some powerful force. Suddenly the boy felt himself break through a thin, resistant barrier, and he found himself in a small, dark place. Far away he could hear quiet voices. At first he could not understand what they were saying, and he listened to them until they seemed to grow louder and closer. He opened his eyes and found himself back in the hospital room, looking up at the happy faces of those who knew him, those who were glad that he had returned, and he looked at them and smiled the smile of one who returns from a long trip to find that home is exactly as he left it.
The visitors had long ago left, the nurse leading them out and shutting the door behind her, yet the boy lay in the narrow bed, tired, but unable to sleep. He felt a restless longing, and in his mind he saw bombs falling from the sky, a beautiful girl sitting upon the desert sand, a great cataract pouring forth into space. On the other side of the room a mirror hung on the wall, and the boy stared at it, sure that if he just looked at himself in its reflection, then all his questions and all his fears would be answered. He pushed himself up, slowly, painfully, to a sitting position, and stretched forward until he could see himself in the mirror. A dark haired boy stared back in pale surprise, his eyes swirling silver orbs, alive with the thoughts and wisdom of endless eons.