Tuesday, August 7, 2007

New draft of "Untitled"

When I first posted this story, Elizabeth commented that that it needed something more, that the twist at the end really didn't change any thing for her.

So, I added a little more. The original version was a bittersweet glimpse of love; this new draft is a bit more sinister.

[Still] Untitled

We came up, breathless. A cross-hatching of fresh grass clippings stuck to our skin, making us look like two members of some new species.

I breathed in. His smell mingled with that of the newly-cut grass and filled my head. I closed my eyes. I wanted to stay here forever like this; I would never wash off the grass stains.

I looked at him. "Don't go."

He smiled and chuckled softly, brushing some grass off of his arms. "It's just a meeting. I'll see you later tonight."

"I meant, don't go to Africa," I said.

His expression became more solemn. We'd had this conversation before. "You know I have to."

"But it isn't about you having to go! You want to!" Frustrated and embarrassed I lay back down. The cloudless sky filled my field of vision but the beauty was marred by the threat of tears. I held them back.

I felt him lie down beside me. "I do want to go, you're right. But it isn’t because I want to leave you. I want to go because this is the most important mission of the decade! I want to go because of what our discoveries could mean for society...for the world!"

"I know," I said softly. "But it's so far away. It's so foreign."

"It's our ancestral home," he replied. "Part of me, a large part of me, hopes that it will be familiar when I get there." He sat up and turned to look down at me. "Would you feel any different if I was going anywhere else on Earth?" he asked. "South America? Europe?"

"Would you?" I snapped, then softer, "No, I wouldn't feel different about it. They're all equally far away from here. But I would miss you just as much wherever you went, no matter how far away it was."

He leaned down and kissed me on my forehead. "I'll miss you, too."

I sat up and took his hand. "Just promise me, if Africa does feel like home, that you won't want to stay."

At this he smiled. "I can promise that, no problem. No place can really feel like home without you."

We kissed one more time, and then he stood, brushed the rest of the grass from his body, and headed off to his meeting.

I fell back into the grass once more, gazing up at the blueness of the sky. That it was artificial, an image projected across the high domed ceiling of our city, didn't make it any less beautiful, any less awe-inspiring.

I breathed the last traces of his scent, now overwhelmed by that of the grass, knowing full well that it didn't matter if he promised not to stay in Africa. Their discoveries would be of priceless importance to humanity, but by the time the mission returned from Earth, I would probably be dead. Even if I wasn't, I would be far too old for him to have any interest in me anymore.

Which is why I took matters into my own hands.

The chemical I had secretly been delivering to him for the past six days worked slowly but with predictable precision. By the time serious training for the mission began in two weeks’ time, the muscles in his legs will have atrophied beyond the standards of the corps, and he would be removed from the program.

In time, he might regain the use of his legs, but in the meantime I would happily wheel him around and comfort him about his misfortune and lost opportunity. Forever by his side, always together, the way it should be.

Looking back up at the sky, I smiled wistfully. I loved our snow globe world but, as he said, “No place can really feel like home without you.”

I closed my eyes, wanting to stay here, like this, forever. I would never wash off the grass stains.

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