By Alexander Zelenyj
They’d met at an outdoors music festival in the sweaty heart of summer, noticing one another standing alone at the parking lot’s periphery while the throngs of people watched the stage and the band on it. She looked small and shy and cute, her summer dress clutching at her body in the humid night air. He was looking tall and gangly and more than a little drunk staggering a weaving line towards her observing him with her small dark eyes.
Their initial conversation easy, as if they’d known each other many years. Tipsy and wishing to impress her with his intelligence and quirky sense of romance, he’d told her, “Let’s hang out tonight – maybe we’ll stumble on an empyrean.” Explaining to her his definition of empyrean while she’d smiled at him with an amused patience: a good place for them to be together without anyone else there to intrude on their conversation and peace.
They’d spent the night together, killing the long hours in late night coffee shops and on parking blocks overlooking vacant, moon-washed lots long after the shops had closed for the morning and the loud drunken bar-goers had stumbled homewards.
With the sun rising they’d retreated indoors, to his nearby apartment and a platonic sleep holding one another gently while the day breathed at the tightly shuttered windows.
It was on their second night together, while seated in her van in a lonely lot overlooking the Detroit River shimmering with the moon in its current, that they’d first kissed. He’d been gentlemanly about it, and simply asked her permission: “I want to kiss you right now. May I do that?”
He’d never been kissed like it before: desperation lived in the gesture, her lips clutched to his own as if they were long-lost lovers reunited after many years apart. Again they’d returned to his apartment, beating the dawn and spending the hours before noon making love in his darkened bedroom.
A week later she cut him.
She’d drawn the knife from beneath the pillow where she’d slipped it while waiting for him to enter the bedroom, surprising him not long after he’d slipped inside her. Blood trickled over its keen edge. His throat bled more and more. It was an epiphany. Something in them awoke in the blood and heat of the moment. It made him fuck her harder. Sex had been good throughout their few days together but this was something entirely new. Nearing climax she lunged forward and bit into the wound she’d opened. She tore at it with her teeth. Blood spurted. The taste of iron filled her mouth. They screamed together, revelling in their inhuman harmony. They came at the same time.
Soon afterwards she was driving him to the hospital, the towel he clutched to his neck heavy with his blood.
In this way, through a cut and a bite, began Daniel and Ellen’s ascent to better places.
“It doesn’t look so bad,” he called from the bathroom where he examined his neck wound in the mirror over the sink. Its raw edges had scabbed over in the week following, and the surrounding purpled bruising had faded to a sickly blue and lighter green-ish tinge beyond this.
He saw her reflection appear in the doorway behind him, earnest-eyed. She said, “It looks beautiful.”
They watched each other’s reflection. Wordlessly they retreated to the bedroom to stretch the night hours.
Their relationship deepened. Their secret nights stretched interminably and within their eternal folds the things they did grew in number and extremity. Often she led the way and, emboldened by her courageous madness, he would follow her into new places.
She beat him. He beat her. Open-handed and fisted. He dislocated her jaw once, and she broke his aquiline nose on several particularly primal occasions. They took to using tools with which to pleasure each other, initially ordinary household implements because they were too sheepish to enter a sex shop let alone purchase any of its products. She liked being whipped across the back and shoulders (first they used leather belts and electrical cables, later an actual tasselled leather whip); and he relished when she burned his neck and chest and genitals (eventually substituting the run-of-the-mill butane lighter for candle wax, which she thought added significantly more romance to the act). Knives for cutting and stabbing and pliers for pinching and twisting and rope for binding: all these implements and others played their roles in fairly equal measures, too. More often than not they returned to the simplicity of using their hands: choking each other, pinching, scratching zigzag patterns into each other’s flesh; and biting until blood was drawn into the bed with them, their perennial partner in the night. Every so often they would need to rush to the emergency in the middle of the wee morning, making creative excuses for spurting neck injuries or gaping stab wounds in thigh or ribcage or her left nipple cloven in two.
They grew to admire the scars they gave each other. Like art, they considered them pieces worthy of scrutiny, to revisit and reinterpret often. She’d given words to themselves in this way, one night while watching him towel off after a shower:
“You’re like an art gallery.”
Smiling, he told her that she was one, too.
Their evening escapes grew to invade their daytime duties to work and academia. Distraction plagued her while seated behind her desk, the computer screen all but forgotten before her and the payroll spreadsheets unfinished as visions of her and Daniel’s previous night together haunted her.
Likewise, it became increasingly difficult for Daniel to concentrate in class, his professors’ lecture voices dwindling into inconsequential background noise as startlingly vivid scenes of Ellen distracted him: her lips wrapped around his cock; her welt-lined buttocks quivering as he attacked them with the belt in his fist; her plaintive, primal cries bouncing from the bedroom walls as he fucked her from behind while gauging her back with the thumbtack gripped between his fingers. Then, stirring as if from a profoundly deep dream to find himself back in the lecture hall, the students around him oblivious of his most recent journey as well as the erection sprouting and throbbing between his thighs.
The manifestations began making their appearances soon after.
She’d see them over Daniel’s shoulder while he was fucking her, floating above the bed. He’d see them coalesce from the dark wet tangle of her pubic hair while he gave her cunnilingus.
Vague half-formed, hallucinatory spectres born during the long hours of their fucking. Silently moving through the air, something in their fluid movements beckoning to Daniel and Ellen; as if they were meant to follow the lights to whichever place they disappeared each night.
In the aftermath of the sex-visitations neither Daniel nor Ellen questioned what they’d witnessed. Neither did they rationalize the experience, chalking it up to imaginations running wild with frenzied lust. They knew: their love was mightier than a definition so small. They knew: there was a reason they’d been shown this gateway. And they knew: they were meant to understand this mystery, somehow, to fathom it and embrace it, somehow.
Once, while laying sweaty and weary and bruised beside each other after sex, they watched a pair of the spectral presences drift along the ceiling over their heads. They coiled about each other, their pale luminescence glowing a sexually-charged crimson wherever they touched. The lights disappeared within the ceiling, trailing tapering appendages, as if urging them to follow.
“I want to go,” she whispered, fighting tears that had risen from her without warning. “So badly, Daniel, I want us to go, too.”
He said, watching the amorphous lights disappear and leave them in blackness, “We weren’t built for this world, darling. We have to do something, darling.”
In the wake of his confirmation of her own despair, she allowed herself to cry. He did, too. Together Daniel and Ellen remade the nature of their tears, as was their way. They clutched one another tightly until they were ready to fuck again.
Occasionally – very, very occasionally – the outside world trickled into their shared bubble of escape.
Something stopped her hand and the knife it gripped, its moon-glimmering blade ghosting his cheek. Concern and a lucidity entirely removed from her earlier mania shone in her eyes when she whispered, “Why do we like to…why do we need to do these things?”
His answer was simple and so brazen with revelatory truth that it elicited a startled cry from her and pulled her headlong into her frenzied passion once again: “Something awful happened to me, too, and I’ve been living with it every day since it happened. I…I was really young when it happened.”
She kissed-bit his lips. He bit her back harder. She wept through it while slicing patterns across his back with the knife in her trembling fist. Above them the spectral lights mirrored their fucking, wrapped about each other in a hungry intimate air-dance. Feral and violent, Daniel and Ellen stayed entwined until the sun rose, stealing the moon and the silver ghosts it had painted across the bedroom walls.
As the months passed they began exchanging letters via postal mail, a romantic mode of communication in a fast-paced virtual world in which they too often felt misplaced.
Having used the key Daniel had given her to enter his apartment, Ellen made her way directly to the bedroom closet. There she retrieved the extra-large bubble envelope from where it lay resting conspicuously on the top shelf. It was marked with a single word, in her neat cursive: Daniellen. She spread its contents across the bed: their collected correspondence, letters dog-eared from much rereading, some stuffed in envelopes, others loose and folded neatly. She liked that they’d decided to keep them together in one place: one day they planned on making an album of them, each letter framed behind cellophane like the pieces of art they were, like documented proof of the places they came from and the place they’d found in each other.
She placed a hand among them, drew a handful randomly from the pile of them. Opening the first of these, she read:
You said you thought about me a lot when you arrived home last night!
So, let me ask you: what do you think about, specifically, when you think about me?
Am I taking this in a very naughty direction? I think I am! You know I am…
I blame Cosmo.
Smiling at her playfulness and boldness she replaced her initial letter in its tattered envelope and retrieved the next, remembering from the red paper on which he’d written it that it was his answering letter. Always more like prose than mere personal communication, always brimming with fiery kinetic energy the way she relished, his letters never failed to arouse her.
Don’t blame Cosmo: the culprit is you…
…I think of kissing you, and how your lips and tongue taste. I think of all the incredible wild sounds you make when I'm touching you, and putting my fingers inside you, and moving my tongue inside you. I think of how your voice changes when I'm doing these things to you, and takes on a primal high timbre that makes me crazy. I think of how you smile sometimes when I'm touching you, a very specific smile of ecstasy and release that I've only ever seen from you while we're in bed together. I think of how amazing you feel when I'm doing these things, and how amazing you taste and smell when my tongue is moving around inside you in search of the secret madness I always want to awake. I think of how wet you get. I think of how much I love squeezing and licking and kissing and pinching and sucking on your nipples. I think of how much I love gently running my fingers across your inner thighs, and then squeezing them as roughly as I can, and then kissing them and biting them and leaving the scars of my bites deep inside your skin. I think of how much I love it when I'm in your mouth, and of how the anticipation of exploding in your mouth while you're sucking me builds and builds until I think I’m going to lose myself in the moment and never return. I think of your tongue and what it does to me. I think of how much I worship the sweaty burning little temple of your body, and how much I love turning you around on my bed and filling your cunt from behind and just fucking you forever, until the sun replaces the moon in the sky and still I can’t stop fucking you. I think of how amazing it is when we do this exact same thing but standing, me behind you while you're bent over our bed, as if we’re worshipping the bed for the holy place it is. I think of you on top of me, riding me hard and fast while I bite your swollen bleeding nipples and bite your neck and wrap my fingers around your throat and squeeze and squeeze and tell you how much I want to put my tongue inside you again and climb on top of you and hold you by your ankles while I fuck you until you’ve lost your mind in the fucking. I think of scratching you with my nails and carving messages into you with my knife and leaving a new belt of welts across your hips from candle wax dripped across your skin. I think of your spit hot on my face and your blood burning on my hands and your hair tangled in my mouth while I’m making you scream like an animal. I think of you telling me you're coming while I'm fucking you and fingering you, moving your hips and legs around in my bed like you're possessed by a demon, and how incredible this serpentine writhing is to behold – frantic and helpless with head thrown back and toes splayed and fingers clutching your perfect scarred breasts – and so madness-inducing that I’ll never be able to properly articulate to you. I think of the cigarette between your fingers burning circles into my chest. I think of the knife in your trembling little fist threatening my jugular while I’m growing harder and longer inside you, and your feral eyes watching me and waiting for what will happen next. I think of becoming so enraptured in the moment and each other that we feel as if we’re close to losing what shred of control we have remaining and just devouring each other with the most incredible lust we've ever known, so that when we're finished and laying beside each other, sweaty and weary and bloody and scalded and spent, it feels as though we just returned from the longest and most mind-alteringly miraculous trip with each other, from a place far and far and so far away. I think of how amazing it is that I'm able to elicit a reaction from you like crying while we're in bed together, and how that in our rare case it's a positive and desirable emotion, and you feel incredibly good while experiencing it. And I think about how I want to make you feel this good, and much, much better, every time we're together, in bed and out.
I promise you, Ellen: I will take the tears from inside you, from whichever deep well they exist, and drink them all away until that well is dry and you have nothing but happiness filling you. I will drink away all the badness of memories and fill you with new memories: us, together through all the darkness the world hurls at us, together through it and stronger than it by far. And we’ll pity the darkness its weakness when faced by the burning light of us fucking and loving and loving and fucking forever…
…Thank you, Ellen, for always being there when I come back from bad days, and reminding me how lucky I am to have found you.
Ellen stared at the words covering the paper, remembering her initial reaction to it. Heart hammering, lust reawakened in her, she let the paper drift onto the bed and hurriedly opened the next letter.
Last night was the only good crying I’ve ever done in my life.
Looking among the chaos of letters strewn on the bed she knew exactly which answered the one she’d just read, recognizing it for the yellow mark of semen like a series of continents etched into its crumpled, battered surface. She recalled how he’d fucked her on that particular night, clutching her calves while thrusting into her, pausing from time to time to glide the knife blade across her stomach while she dug her nails into his forearms; and later filling her mouth; and the prodigious amount of his ejaculate she’d swallowed. She recalled this night and this letter with them in bed, crushed beneath their entangled bodies, sodden with their sweat and come and blood, marked with their bodily fluids like a signature of their passion and violence.
All day long, I kept remembering in the most uncannily vivid way how it felt when we were sitting up in my bed last night, kissing and biting and licking each other for that prolonged period of time before fucking. I've been experiencing the amazing ghost-sensation of your breath on my face, and your lips brushing mine, and your tongue in my mouth, and the feel of your neck and shoulders and nipples between my teeth as I'm biting you and making you gasp and cry out and shiver and writhe in the incredibly entrancing way you do. I want to bite you and kiss you and ravage and scar every inch of your perfect body right now. I want to trace your new scars with my tongue, exploring the map of you again, and again, and again.
You open a gate for me, to a place beyond definition. Its ingredients are fire and blood and come and sweat and more love than the world could ever contain.
I am going to devour every part of you: hands, arms, neck, mouth, tongue, breasts, thighs, calves, feet, and then finish by devoting myself to consuming the amazing and transporting portal of you, until the light that burns inside of you lies revealed for me to swallow.
I will cannibalize and drink every inch of you, and then breath you out like fire to burn away this sad, desolate, angry world.
In her eagerness to read more she neglected to replace the letter in its envelope. Instead she dropped it beside her and snatched another from the pile.
I was thinking about you today. The day after we spend the night together I always find myself zoning out and thinking about the night before.
You have no idea how much you mean to me, and I wish that there were some way that I could show you, and you would believe me, but I don’t know that there is.
All I can say is that I’m yours, always.
Finally, she reached among the papers fanned open before her and came away with a single sheet of paper which she recognized for its bent corners, its tattered evidence of having been read and read time and again. Unfolding it she read his words to her, written following the night that, wholly devoted to their shared moment of fucklust and bloodlust, she’d given him the gift of a first cut, and then drowned his chest with candle wax and touched him with naked fire:
Momma, the world was bright and kind
You were all I ever knew
Then in a great darkness a man was born
And inside a night he brought it to me, too
Momma, I cannot jump away
Momma, this dark is spun too tight
O you, you are the one I hate
O you, you are the one I hate
But you don’t have to worry, momma
You don’t have to worry about your boy:
I found a girl
I found a girl and with her we make a new world
The letters inspired her to masturbate. She removed all of her clothes, laid in his bed amid the letters, on her stomach with her pelvis raised, touching herself. When she was nearing climax the thought occurred to her: snatching the telephone from its cradle on the night table beside the bed, she called him at school.
She could tell by the officious way he answered that he had someone in his office with him, an undergraduate student disputing a poor mark on a term paper, a professor meeting with him about this or that. In a playful but firm voice she told him:
“Daniel, I’d like for you to come home to me right now, and cut me, and burn me, and shock me, and hit me, and fuck me, and punish me for making you feel uncomfortable right now. I need you to be the demon possessing me. I need to be consumed by you. I need to be completely consumed by you right now. I’ll be waiting.” She clicked off the phone and lay with it pressed to her breast. She was waiting for him like this when, thirty minutes later and his office hours cut short and forgotten behind him, Daniel burst through the door, pulling at his clothes as he came to her.
Their city was mid-sized and considered a blue-collar lunch-bucket town for its many automobile factories and trash bars. Daniel and Ellen were drinking at such a bar, only because of its close proximity to his apartment. As always, they felt out of place there, on this night especially, being that the long holiday weekend just passed had seen them indulge in their secret deeds with even greater fervour than usual: without co-workers and classmates from whom to conceal the various evidences of their nights together they’d felt even less inhibited than usual. But their scars were on the mend, and they wore their coat collars up around their necks, and they huddled closely together over the little wooden table, and so they remained invisible to the other bar patrons and content within the usually impregnable bubble they created between themselves. They were talking quietly about their respective days, discussing with excitement their forthcoming anniversary and the ways they would celebrate. There were nights, though, when against all odds the outside world succeeded in invading their fortress.
A couple entered the small dingy room. It was clear from the way they loitered in the entrance and examined their surroundings – furtively but with eyes looking into every corner at once, as if they didn’t wish to appear as the newcomers they were – that it was their first time in the bar. It took Daniel and Ellen a moment to recognize them as Daniel’s neighbours, who from time to time would bang on the bedroom wall in condemnation of the sex noises keeping them awake. The woman’s gaze passed over Daniel and Ellen huddled at the small table alongside one wall, did a quick double-take and found them again. Her eyes widened with something like horror, drawing her partner’s attention. They looked Daniel and Ellen up and down with a blatantly critical and disdainful eye, examining openly the scar-mottled flesh of their arms, the purple and black bruises and welts like tattoos adorning their necks, the fine blading-scratches etched across their faces. The couple whispered something between themselves and appeared ready to leave, when the man turned back and called out over his shoulder towards Daniel: “So, when can we get our turn with her? You’d both like that, right? You sick fucks.” Shaking his head, he spat with theatrical disdain onto the tiles. Together they exited the now-hushed venue, indignant, contemptuous, and with no small amount of discomfiture showing in their faces, in the telling manner with which they hurried on their way.
“Maybe we should bolt the doors and shoot up the whole damn stupid place.” She was genuinely angry, resenting this unwarranted derision from people who neither knew her nor wished to know her. She felt exposed and ostracized, too, suffering ambush in the middle of an otherwise tranquil night.
His wisdom came in a gentle voice. “Every inch of the world is so covered in fog that no one can see anything but the tiny space of their own life around them. Let people live there. We’re like fogcutters, you and I. Right? We sail through the thick of it. We chart open waters.”
Daniel and Ellen took solace in each other, clinking bottled beer in a toast to themselves. “To navigating the misty streets together,” he said, and they smiled at the romantic flavour of the words.
They looked through the window after the departing couple walking down the sidewalk: they might go elsewhere for a drink, this man and woman, and then home, possibly have sex later that night – good or bad but non-transporting in any case. They might split up before long, or continue plodding through their same-old lives, wholly content or wholly dissatisfied, but either way with their vision of the world dimmed by what they deemed aberrant and forbidden. Daniel and Ellen, though, bonded by blood and love and a secret cache of shared memories, would endure. They’d beaten much with an initial cut, bite, and revelatory bloodletting. Friends, if they’d had any besides each other, and family, if any knew what it was their children had discovered in each other, would have envied them their finding. He was right, Ellen mused: in a world of loneliness and wickedness, they’d found a solace known to few.
And yet something in her continued its persistent gnawing, and it was the selfsame ache she saw in his eyes every so often, once the rabidity of their lust had went to sleep in conjunction with the ghost-lights disappearing into the ceiling and walls and he lay beside her staring at nothing with distance in his eyes. She witnessed this transformation overtake him then, while he sipped his beer and stared off into the smoky air of the bar with eyes miles and miles away, making her wonder, making her anxious, making her fearful: without him anchoring her she could feel herself drifting into old and deadly places. She clutched his hand, and though he squeezed her tightly in return, still the fear continued to constrict her, a forbidding touch the likes of which she knew she couldn’t endure alone.
Much later on, in the deepness of the A.M. long after they’d made love and fallen asleep to the swirling tangle of phantom-figures weaving patterns in the air over the bed, Daniel woke to find Ellen missing from beside him. He followed the faint illumination in the hall to the bathroom door and listened to the sound of her crying within. Among her weeping he discerned the words, muffled through the door:
I hate you. I hate you so much. Why won’t you finally fuck off and die?
His heart ached: it was the sound of her old despair, a world removed from the good crying.
The day had arrived – their true anniversary, marking a full year from the night they’d discovered their true nature and bond – and Daniel vowed to make good on his promise to Ellen.
“My gift to you... you’ll love it. It’s the most I could ever give you. I’ve been waiting for this night to give it to you.” He said this while helping her from her clothes and handcuffing her to the bed; both wrists to the sturdy oak headboard and her ankles to either side of the footboard so that her legs were held parted wide. He repeated the words while running fingers between her breasts, down her belly, among the curls of her pubic hair and across her cunt, along her inner thighs and tracing a path the length of her scarred calves to her small feet.
She trembled. A shiver snaked its way the length of her spine. She exhaled a wavering breath. She smiled. “I can’t wait for it,” she told him.
He smiled at her spread before him, his own gift that special night. He pinched her disfigured nipple. He leaned to her. They kissed. He ran his tongue from her lips to her small round chin, down her quivering bruised and blood-blistered throat to her collarbone where he bit her gently but not so gently.
Standing from her, still smiling a feral smile, he said, “One moment, my darling.”
When he returned to the room several minutes later he was naked and stroking a massive erection. She smiled when she saw him, her Adonis, her beautiful and mighty conqueror.
He climbed expertly on top of her. She was wet. He slipped his cock into her. She groaned, tingling with the expectation of what was to come. He shook, too. He told her he loved her cunt. He explained how much he loved her but admitted he could never define his love with mere words, only through the medium of his cock filling her, his tongue filling her, his fingers filling her, his lust filling her up until it swallowed the outside world and pulled her into ecstasy with him again. This was the poetry she deserved from him. She wondered excitedly what pleasure-pain he was going to give her on this, their special celebratory night, and watched entranced as he revealed two more pairs of handcuffs encircling his wrists and with which he bound himself to the headboard alongside her own bonds.
She watched with a start as he reached as far upwards as he could with his handcuffed hand and dropped the key to their bonds through the ajar window and into the night. Her eyes widened with alarm. She smiled then, whispered in a voice tinged with excitement and fear, “Oh my. Now what are we going to do? We’ll be trapped here forever.” Knowing, of course, that she was safe in the throes of his mad plans.
He shared the secret with her, in a whisper like a scream into her ear that reached her heart with a vicious and beautiful stabbing of epiphany:
“Do you smell it, El? I’ve always loved the smell of gasoline. I drenched the apartment with it. A sea of gasoline everywhere. I dropped a match into it before joining you here. I’ve set the place on fire. We’re burning down right now, as we speak. The door is locked and bolted. The building alarms will go off anytime and warn everyone but no one will get to us in time. Happy anniversary, darling.”
Her eyes widened further. Her jaw dropped. She breathed, “We’ll never get out.” He felt her heartbeat against his chest pressed tight against her: mighty and frantically fast.
He nodded, smiling as he leaned to her and clenched her upper lip between his teeth, biting her hard enough to draw blood. He grew harder inside her. Her nipples, crushed against his scar-mottled chest, grew harder, too. He began moving around inside her. Her wetness had grown, an ocean of warmth for his cock to move through.
Minutes stretched past languidly. The fire’s glow seeped into the bedroom from the apartment beyond, red and wavering like some living agitated thing. The temperature had risen sometime during their fucking. The bedroom had grown hot. Sweat beaded their faces and bodies. They shone with it like melting wax figures. The excited crackle of flames devouring wood and wallpaper came to their ears and, a moment later, the distant wailing of the building’s main fire alarm. In the air over the bed they appeared: the orgy of phantasmagorical figures, a dozen or more of them tangled in an elegant but excited air-dance, sending red tendrils of their light towards Daniel and Ellen entwined in the bed and other appendages ceilingwards, once again as if urging the lovers to follow in their wake.
She gasped the words into his ear: “Oh, sweetheart…they’ll never hurt us again...No one will ever hurt us again…”
He whispered into her face: “Oh, darling, now – finally – I’m going to fuck you forever…”
She smiled. He did, too. He thrust into her with greater violence. She moaned. She screamed. He did, too. The fury of the fire grew, devouring the door and eating its fill of the room. Wallpaper curled away in strips and plaster fell away in charred jagged pieces that clung sizzling to their naked flesh. The heat rose and rose and scalded their bodies while smoke darkened the air. In the great conflagration she screamed; he screamed; and the flames themselves roared with a voice like all the agony in the world pushed to its limit and – breaking through the difficult barriers of sin and death – became something else entirely.
Through the suffocating, scalding fireful of pain:
They woke, as if from the longest of lives and into the gentlest, most cradling of dreams. They struggled to see but the strength of the light blinded them. It seemed to flow all about them in a saturnalia of perpetual movement, caressing them gently everywhere. Tears flowed from their eyes as they thought back to the night behind them, of fire and fucking. It seemed distant and like a dream, too. It had been no dream, they understood, sensing the potency of the alien atmosphere surrounding them. The light touching them was warm, and stirred against their skin, like a million burning kisses, like a tropical sun. The scent of flowers was heavy on the air – heliotropes, roses, magnolias, and countless others merged into a heady brew – dizzying them further. A sound of music around them, too: the song of a million birds nesting and rejoicing among the trees. The thousand gentle ghost-touches continued to caress them, coddle them, soothe them.
They sat up, the ground beneath them soft and thick: the lushness of grass, the velvety touch of flower petals. They clutched each other, anchors, as ever, for one another. Their eyes cleared. They made certain that they were the first thing they saw. From the brightness they materialized. Their scars were vivid against their pale complexions, blatant and regal like insignias of honour, marks of valour from a time when they’d needed to be courageous. Light seemed to shimmer in wavering prismatic lines from these scars, as it encircled, halo-like, their bodies, too. They smiled. Together they’d reached their empyrean.
They stood on trembling legs, still staring into each other’s watering eyes. Inside, they felt a great missing thing. They understood then that they were unburdened.
Then, as one, they turned and faced their Paradise.