Fiction Fantasy Drama

I remember you, still, even though you were different the first time you came here. I remember how the earth trembled as you settled among the burning trees, your wings like the sails of a ship as they bore your magnificent presence. You instilled a conviction in the hearts of all who witnessed you that day, a faithful confidence that such majesty would never be seen again, not until the heavens are opened and glory descends like a dove.

And then you stripped it all away, for you would not allow them to remember you.

But I remember you, still, even with the gentleness that defines you now. The world is so cold—the sky is so dark as I reach for you and she reaches for me. 

I told her not to come here—I said very clearly, “Don’t follow me.” So why is she here, so delicate, so pale, her skin like porcelain as she stares into your eyes? 

She thought I was crazy because of you—that’s what started all of this. I came to you on a Thursday evening, three years ago; the sun was low and bold on the horizon, a candle held by the impossible hands of the cosmos, and your scales were continents of black ice, your jaws the jaws of a thousand sharks as you settled on the hillside. 

Your voice was like thunder as you called my name, and I would have gone to cower in a great, deep pit if the tremors in the sky weren’t so persuasive. I followed your tongue to the edge of the wooded hill that overlooks the valley below, where the creek winds its way to the lake beyond. 

Your eyes were each a great abyss as you opened those great, humid jaws and said to me, “You have been found righteous in the eyes of your father, and he has sent me to you.”

The raw power that surrounds you, that dusty, sparkling nimbus, had brought me to my knees, and I could not move as the rest of the world fled and collapsed in terror. The shadows of evening were receding, impossibly, as the sun stood still and then, impossibly, began to rise. 

“Witness me,” you commanded, “the sincerity of my existence. Behold: I have reversed the course of the sun that gives you sight. I have presented myself before the Lord, and I have heard that there are few like you on the earth, blameless and upright. But I know your blessings are the reason for your cleanliness. I also know your wife is who you value most—she is the jewel that brings song to your heart, and surely, I will take her from you. I have come to tempt you for three years, and I assure you, very soon, your wife’s affection will belong to another man.”

There were tears on my cheeks as I knelt before you, and then there was blood flowing from my ears, dotting my bare shoulders, for my clothes had disintegrated in your aura even as the hands of God preserved my flesh. 

“I’ll kill you,” I pledged, and you laughed at me. 

A gust of wind sent me flying through the air as your wings carried you away and I landed in a heap in the grass. 

I was fully clothed when she found me, and it must have been you who clothed me, for I was still lying at the foot of a tree when she discovered my unconscious form. 


“Baby. What happened to you?”

As she knelt beside me in her red sundress, I became aware of the astoundment that was lacking in her eyes. Her eyes are what people imagine they’d find behind the magnificent fires of sunsets; they remind me life isn’t all bad, that, on the contrary, life is all good and lovely because life has her. Her eyes make me want to kiss her scars and love her worst sides and drink the blood of all the wounds on her heart. Her eyes make me hers, and within their irises is where I hope to find miracles. 

But they were not as bright as they should have been as she laid her hands on me and brought me back to life. I knew her eyes as well as I always have in that moment, and their beauty pierced my soul like knives, and yet… I could tell by their dullness that she had not witnessed the impossible.



“Where have you been?”

Her face became irregular with the wrinkles of a frown, for she never frowns, is never anything short of beautiful and happy. “What do you mean?” she asked. “I was just inside, and then… God, then I noticed you lying here and… baby, what happened?”

She wouldn’t believe me when I tried to explain the horrible miracle I had just witnessed behind our home; everyone around here, they blamed the scorched trees and the craters in the earth on a storm. 

“Honey, you’re scaring me,” she would say after that night, whenever I broached the topic. “You really need to stop it with this, okay? It was a lightning storm.”

Eventually, I gave up; I was never going to make her understand, and so I searched for you. Hunted you. I roamed the woods for miles, scouring the forest floor for hints of your grandeur. 

You came to me in my dreams every night, bringing me the vilest of nightmares, so I woke with a start every morning, sometimes in the dead of night, drenched with sweat.

“Just another bad dream,” I told her whenever this happened. 

You showed me the manifestation of all the warnings you had given me; every night, I lost my wife. You took everything from me, every night, and every day, I was sure these dreams would come true. 

I was living in constant fear, and maybe I did go a little crazy; maybe the sight of a grown man delving into the woods for hours on end, long after the sun has set, and returning with his skin like a marinated pig, glistening, on the hunt for some monster… perhaps the man who does these things is the precise embodiment of all we mean by the word “crazy,” but I knew you were real. 

After a year had passed, Frank came back into our lives. I hadn’t seen or heard from Frank in years—a decade, maybe. We had worked together as officers on the city force, back before he became a detective and moved out west. 

“Frank Green?” I asked when Aurelia received the dinner invitation in her email. 

“Frank Green,” she said, beaming. “Gosh, when was the last time we saw him?”

I shook my head, scoffing. “Years.”

After a year, I wasn’t as paranoid. I still saw you every night, of course, and I stayed vigilant, stayed close to my wife, but I wasn’t out in the woods every single day—just most days. I was certain I’d find you there, somewhere—what I didn’t know was what I’d do with you once I found you. Negotiate? Beg? 



“Are you ready?”

There are other people who remember you, people who witnessed the reversal of the sun, people who did awful, sick things the night you descended from above. I tried explaining this to her as well, that the people who killed themselves that night were under your spell, but of course she wouldn’t listen, just called me crazy.

But I am not. I never was. Those people, they built a tower out of themselves. They climbed on each other’s shoulders in the shallow water at the marina downtown, straining for the stars, and then… they all fell. Jumped. 

It was a tragedy. 

“A tragedy,” she said. 

That’s what they called it. 

I examined the marina on our way to dinner that night, and I could hear the falling people’s screams as we settled into our royal red chairs with Frank Green. 

It was a pleasant dinner; Frank and I were always friends, and I was excited when he told me he had come to town for work. 

“I was hoping we could help each other out,” he said. “Got a few cases I’m working on that led me here, and… well, we’re good together, aren’t we?”

But then I started seeing him in my dreams, and I remembered the way he used to look at Aurelia, the way I used to worry, and I began to worry again. Your hold became tight around my heart, and my fear drove me to terrible measures. 

I stopped her in the basement a few days after our dinner. She was bent over a basket of laundry, picking up a few loose socks, and I was waiting, leaning against the doorframe with my hands in my jeans. 

“Oh,” she said, turning with the basket and smiling. “What’s up, honey?”

“Aurelia,” I said, standing straight, blocking the door. “I need you to trust me.”

Her face became troubled. “Are we doing this again?”

I hated seeing her this way, making her feel all of this confusion, turning her heart dark and against me. She is so small when she’s angry, so helpless when she fights me, and it should never be that way. 

“Aurelia, I’m serious. This isn’t a joke anymore—it never was.”

She set the basket on top of the dryer. “You need to see someone about this.”


“I’ve been saying it for a year now. You need to talk to somebody about this… dragon you claim you saw, otherwise… I just…”

“It wasn’t a dragon.”

“Tom, seriously. What is it with you and… no. You know what? Let me through. We’re not even discussing this. I thought you were finally over it all.”

“I have tried telling you, Aurelia. I will not be over it for three—”

“For three years. Yes, I know, Tom. I’ve heard your tall, deluded tale. Now, let me through.”

She stood there with the laundry, waiting for me to move, not quite understanding. 

“Please,” I said, and there were tears in my eyes now. 

“Tom. Let me through.”

I seized her arm, my knuckles turning white, and she gasped, dropping the basket. Clothes spilt at our feet and my heart became two halves as true, deep fear crept into my wife’s eyes. 

“Tom. Let me go.”

“Aurelia, please. I need you to stay here for two more years, okay?”


“I need you to stay here and never leave, okay? I need you to be safe. Do you understand? We are in a lot of danger right now, and I just… I need you to trust me.

The last of my words came as a growl, and she wrenched her arm free from my grasp. I watched her stumble away into the corner, where she grabbed a fire extinguisher and stood with her knees bent.

“I don’t trust you, Tom. I feel terrified right now.”

“You shouldn’t. I’ll keep you safe.”

“You’ll keep me locked away!”

“No, Aurelia. No. You’re not…” I took a moment to swallow my frustration. “You are not listening to me. There are… forces at work right now, and they are trying to take you from me. I need you to stay here, away from the world, and I will be here the whole time. I swear to you. I will go to work and come home, every day, and I will be here with you. For you.”

She was still cowering in the corner, her eyes betraying only the slightest hint of sympathy, of trust, and then she was an animal again. 

You’re crazy,” she cried, and the fire extinguisher soared for my head. 

I seized her ankles before she could make it up the stairs. She was screaming now, as if I was a danger to her, and I could feel you working in her. The Aurelia I know, the one I married and love, she never would have run from me. 

Her left foot kicked me in the face and blood began pouring from my nose. I lost my grip on her and she was like a starved mutt, galloping up those stairs, until I found her legs again and tore her away from the door, let her fall, let the blood begin to seep through the curtains of her hair, a crimson halo on the concrete floor. 

Eventually, I convinced her to keep quiet, but we had some difficulties at first. I think she began to fear that her life was on the line, even though I was doing everything I could to protect her.

“Tom,” she whimpered, my name the first thing to cross her lips. “Tom, where are you?”

“I’m right here.”

She jumped at the sound of my voice, directly over her ear. She was calm at first, asking me what had happened, until she remembered. 

I kept her sedated with injections of ketamine, which I safely administered every few hours—after twenty years of policing, you learn where to find these sorts of things. 

It took me two weeks to soundproof the basement, and I have never worked so meticulously in my life. I saw to every detail, covered every inch, even installed new doors and windows. See, we were supposed to be on vacation for those two weeks, had plans to go to Paris, but it’s not like we could go to Paris with you closing in on us, sending Frank to fulfill your hideous prophecies. 

On my first day back to work, I left her a few boxes of protein bars, some leftover lasagna, and a water bottle. These endowments were untouched when I arrived home, and she was sober. Mostly.

“I wish it hadn’t gone like this,” I told her. “But you’re safe now.”

Can you even fathom the impossibility of keeping your wife hidden from the world for two years? 

“Tom,” she said to me one day as I came down the stairs, a plate of spaghetti in each of my hands. “I seriously can’t do this anymore.”

She had started telling me she believed me, that she understood, but what else was she supposed to say? I was gentle and loving with her; I made sure she was safe and clean and fed, but I remained vigilant. I refused to trust her, for I could see in her eyes that, despite all I’d done for her, all the lengths I’d gone to, she no longer trusted me. 

But she had to, just for a little longer. 

I set our plates on the table I’d assembled in front of the TV and held her hands as I prayed. 

“I want to have a baby with you,” I said amidst the clinking of silverware. 

She didn’t seem surprised, didn’t seem to understand that I meant now, right now, after this meal. 

“So do I,” she said. “Maybe once this is over.”

I set my fork down, clink, and folded my hands together. “I need there to be permanence between us, Aurelia. I want to make a child with you tonight.”

Of course, Frank was the one to find her. He showed up in a collared dress shirt and jeans, casual, and we sat together on the back porch for a while. 

“So, Aurelia’s still away at that marketing job, huh?”

I set my coffee down on the glass table beside our hot tub. “Yeah, they’re keeping her out there a few more days.” 

“Hmm. Awfully long time, don’t you think? Little strange.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “But, hey, if she’s making money…”

It was inevitable that Frank ended up in the basement with a crater in the side of his skull—I mean, come on. You think he’d have believed me? My own wife wouldn’t believe me.

“You’re a psycho!” she screamed, kneeling with her arms around the motionless heap of Frank. 

I tried to explain that I had no other option, but she wouldn’t listen. I tried to tell her that Frank had a gun in his waistband when he got to our house, but she just kept screaming.  

“You’ve kept me here like a dog. You stuck needles in me and watched me while I was paralyzed, and—”

“All right,” I roared, and I could feel the madness burning behind my eyes. “That’s enough, Aurelia. No—shut up.

She could see I meant it. Something in me had finally snapped—perhaps it was the realization of us, here at the end of three years, still at war with each other. Perhaps some part of me knew then, in that moment, that she would never love me again. 

“You forced me to overdose on the ground and raped me,” she cried, but I was no longer listening. “You raped me, you monster!”

She came at me with a pencil from Frank’s pocket, but I punched her in the stomach, hard, and it clattered to the floor. She lay, wheezing, as you returned. 

I paused halfway up the stairs. “Don’t follow me.”

And here we are, standing on the hill. Frank is behind me with his gun drawn, summoning backup, and Aurelia’s hand is grasping the fabric of my shirt. 

“Don’t,” she says, and my hand falls away from yours. It is the first time she’s touched me, truly touched me, in months, and there are tears streaming from my eyes. 

“Why… why are you me?” I ask you.

But I already know, and so does she. I look at the bruises on her arms, the broken sadness in her eyes, the needle marks on her flesh, and I know. 

We admire you as we stand here in terror, your blonde hair and your blue eyes, your pale skin. You are not as you were; you are me, thirty years ago, and you do not walk away. You simply vanish, and I am left to wonder if the knowledge of your existence will be enough for her to forgive me. 

September 13, 2023 20:57

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