The Moments Passed

Submitted into Contest #160 in response to: End your story with someone dancing in the rain.... view prompt

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Drama Romance

"What would you have done differently?" he asked.

She looked at him quizzically, "Done differently?"

"Yeah, you know, what do you wish you would have done differently if you had known it would… well, would end like… this," and he gestured broadly about, as the darkened room trembled from the pandemonium outside.

She exhaled slowly, casting her eyes back to the stony floor. "I don’t know. I suppose I wish I would've spent more time with my sister, I would’ve gotten to know her when she was younger instead of just picking up the pieces down the road. I wish I would've left with her. At least then I wouldn't be here."

He could only respond with a curt grunt of agreement.

She glanced over, "I don't mean it like that. Any other day, I'd be happy for time like this. But it’s hard to be happy when," - a boom resonated from outside the building, shaking the timber of the walls - "when it's like this…" She tried to smile, but her lips were pursed too tightly to allow it. "How about you," she said, sniffing back a tear, "what would you have done differently?"

Unable to focus under her stare, he turned away. "I don't know," though of course he did, "I would've… I would've been less afraid."

She managed the smallest of smiles, though he couldn't see. " 'Would've been less afraid’? You'll have to do better than that."

He glanced at her hurriedly then looked away again. "I don't know, really I don't. I guess I would've… wanted to tell people how I felt… about them," he mumbled out quickly. "It's not like I have something better - I don’t have a sister to think of in times like this!" he tried to joke.

His words faded quickly as he realized their impropriety, and he anxiously looked over. She didn't seem to have noticed, her eyes were again focused on the black ceiling above, and the even blacker sky which could be seen through the fresh cracks in the roofing. He followed her gaze, staring through a hole deep into the canopy of night for any last glimpse of the stars, but found none - all were covered by a thick smog of sulphureous expulsion. They sat for what felt like minutes, fixated upward on the inky void enveloping the world.

A thin pitter-patter began, rain from the polluted heavens. Drips crept through the ceiling’s breaches, and small puddles began forming on the wooden floorboards.

"I would've danced," she interrupted.

He looked at her. Her eyes hadn't moved, but tears were pooling, verging on spilling out.

"I loved to dance when I was young," she continued, voice nearly breaking, "but once it was just me and my sister, there was never… never time for it." Streams of tears burst forth, carving paths down her soot-blackened cheeks, but her voice grew stronger, "I would've danced. I would've danced in the fair, I would've danced at the solstice," and her tone turned defiant, "I would've left this place, and danced wherever I went. I would've danced." She glanced down and then over to him guiltily, before darting her eyes back to the sky.

He studied her, and despite the ebony backdrop, he could almost see her as the radiant angel she was in his dreams. He felt a drop roll down his own cheek, hesitate on his chin, before cascading down to the ground below. It was soon joined by many more. "Everybody - I mean -  I would've watched," he stuttered. She looked at him: this time he held her gaze. "I would've joined you," he whispered, and cast his eyes down.

She looked away as well, staring straight forward. She pulled her arms around her knees tightly, drawing her elbows up near her mouth. "I know," she said, almost inaudibly over the rumbling world outside.

Their eyes met again, slowly. She continued, "It's a waste. How many star-crossed years we've had, how many missed chances, when maybe…"

"...if we'd known what it would come to in the end," he finished.

"That's right."

Silence took the room once more, besides the battering winds assaulting their sanctuary  and the crescendoing drumming of the rain.

Gingerly, he stood, aching all over. The last hours had brought more pain than he could imagine. He thought of the frenzied crowds fleeing as the mountain had begun to shake and spew its black exhaust high above to blot out the sky. Crowds no longer, now just she and he left in the city neither had ever escaped.

She looked up, startled by his movement, "What are you doing? Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," he lied, "but if you're going to start your illustrious dancing career, you'll need a partner - I volunteer," he smiled cheekily, somehow more confident now at the end than ever before.

She was bemused, mouth half agape. But slowly, she too stood, and reached out her hand. "Well then, lead on… partner."

Hesitantly, but still with that strange courage of the apocalypse, he reached out and took it, marveling at how soft it could be in times like these. He turned, took a deep breath, stepped forward, and opened the door which guarded them against the world beyond.

Instantly they were hit with a wave of acrid, noxious smoke, a single breath of which was enough to drive both of them to a racking cough. It was a bitter miasma which scorched the skin, throat, and lungs. The rain provided no respite from the fumes - so infused was the darkened sky with sulfur that every drop pricked the skin with a caustic bite. They huddled in the doorway, holding each other up against the tide of nature. But after mere moments, they rose together, walked forward into the end of their lives, and started to dance.

It was a slow thing in the beginning, deliberate. Her arms circled around his back, her hands moving up towards his neck; his wrapped around her head, which nestled into his shoulder. The ground trembled beneath their already shaking legs, but they held fast to each other, trying to resist the winds.  Their movement was imperceptible, but they could feel each other, turning back and forth.

Slowly, their pace quickened, distance grew between them and their feet began to move, in simple steps to start. One foot forward, one back. She held back a ragged cough, and chose  the moment to  glide further away, taking his hands as she went. He let her guide him, mirroring and inverting her moves, and interlocked his fingers with hers to keep hold of the moment. A tilted smile crept onto her face; he couldn't help but mirror that as well.

Their steps became more nimble, pushing and pulling against each other, swaying defiantly out of time with the buffeting gusts. The sky erupted in lightning, and the rhythmic echoes of thunder were like an empyrean chorus cheering their movement with that most ancient language of the skies. They pushed apart, arms stretched to their limits, and just as the bond seemed ready to break, he pulled her in close.

She twisted as she came, landing with her back against his chest, with their hands still clasped. She turned to face him. Their watering eyes met, emerald on amber, and suddenly the world muffled, as all thought of calamity and tumult abated, leaving only their halting breaths and beating hearts. He pulled her in, bringing his lips towards hers.

Just as their mouths began to brush, a calamitous boom rocked their moment of revery. With a disapproving fervor, the freshly unsealed mountain had replied with a thunderous roar greater than any before, which cracked the land and echoed resoundingly: the boast of an unhinged god. The shockwave knocked both dancers back several feet, and their clasped hands separated. They landed on loose gravel, which shook and bounced gleefully at the booming call of their master the mountain.

Seeing double, and hearing nothing but a piercing ringing, he slowly steadied himself to his knees. As his vision settled, he saw the color of the world had distorted with a motley orange hue. Casting his eyes up he saw why - the cap of the mountain had opened, spewing forth more black clouds into the sky and unleashing a torrent of blindingly hot lava onto the world below. The molten river bathed the landscape in bright orange shades; the stark contrast with the black plumes above made him blink furiously.

He spun, reaching out to where she lay, but found her unmoving. With dread he knelt, and lifted her to reveal fresh blood where her head had hit the stony ground; blood already being washed away by the growing downpour. Frantically, he rose, dragging her to her feet along with him, but he immediately collapsed with a panged cry. Pain shot through his left leg and rattled his skull. He gritted his teeth through the pain as adrenaline forced him to focus on the horror in his arms.

"Hey! Hey! Wake up! Please! Please wake up!" He shook her violently with no response, she simply lay like a ragdoll in his arms.

"Please! Please! Please!" His cries became waterlogged as tears flooded forth, mixing with the blistering rain.

"Please! Wake up! Please!" He buried his head in her chest listening for her heart, but could hear nothing over the pounding deluge.

"Please!" he sobbed, squeezing her.

"Please… please…"

"please"

He choked, raised his head to the sky, and let out a primeval howl; the beheaded mountain laughed in the distance, the heavens sobbed along with him, and the suffusing orange light grew brighter, saturating all.

"You're louder than the mountain."

His head swung downward so fast as to give him whiplash; another malady not worth noticing. There he saw her, just as she had been the first time all those years ago. Her eyes were half open and bleary, but slowly blinking.

"Don't think I'll let a little tumble end…" her eyes lolled for a moment before snapping into focus   "… end… end my illustrious career just as it's getting started" and she weakly smiled that same tilted smile.

He knew no words that could match hers, and so simply drew her close in embrace once more, to make sure she was real, and to make up for all their missed time in one ardent moment.

Gently, he drew back, feeling heat to his back, and seeing her face was illuminated with fiery orange tones casting dramatic shadows from her wetted cheeks. He smiled her tilted smile. "Then I guess I won't be able to hold you back either."

"I guess not, partner."

He stood, setting her on her feet and ignoring the agony which threatened to unsteady him. Turning, he saw the blazing river was only a few hundred feet away, and moving fast. He didn’t mind. Their eyes met, emerald on amber, and he pulled her in close once more, completing that kiss which they had waited all their lives to share. They held there for an eternity, knowing nothing but the other's touch.

She stepped away, eyes glimmering, pulled his hand above her head, and began twisting in place.

The air itself lit up around them, and for that last brief moment, as she held his hand and pirouetted, there she was: a twirling angel blazoned against a heavenly backdrop of blinding glory.

The moment passed, the fire arrived, and the world ended.

But for them, there was only the dance.

August 26, 2022 05:10

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3 comments

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Chicken Nugget
02:51 Sep 02, 2022

aaaa I'm crying that was so good thank you <3<3<3

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Howard Seeley
14:42 Sep 01, 2022

Thank you for an engrossing story. I enjoyed the way you held out what was happening until the end. One thing though. Perhaps you could have been more descriptive as to what was happening in the beginning and named the characters. Oblivious to the chaos exploding in the streets, Paul calmly whispered in my ear, "What would you have done differently?" More descriptive and easier to relate with the characters.

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