The light was unnaturally yellow, garish, like paint. It was the only color in the world,
and there wasn't much of it. It dotted the horizonless landscape in dying flickers. In some
places it appeared in morbid clusters that blazed stubbornly in the foggy air.
The setting was a ghost metropolis. It was wet; the black sky had been crying. There was
little wind, and it was warm, but the air smelled like winter.
-Blood,- she thought, standing in its center. She wondered if it would look orange in this
lighting. She knew what to look for; it would glow, just like the lights. Everything that
was not dead in this world glowed. She was glowing. The lights were glowing, too, but
they were slowly vanishing, one by one.
-Welcome to hell.- The yellow street lamp flickered over her, sick and cheerful. -Be
Finding him was easy. He was a lone street wretch, dressed in rags but begging for
nothing, for he cherished his poverty. He knelt in the rubble of a crushed building at the
edge of an empty road. He looked up as she approached, watching her quickening strides.
His flesh was weathered as the cracked concrete. His hair was black as the sky, darker
than his shadow. His eyes were the only denial the world knew--they were green, bright
and alien. They glowed, too.
"You don't have to come here," he rasped as she crouched before him. "This place
doesn't belong to you."
She touched her fingers to his face. "I want to be here. Always."
"It makes no difference. You can't."
"It does, and you know it."
The yellow was encroaching on his eyes, threatening to consume the denial. It wanted to kill the green, to make it like the rest of hell's dead light. His dusty fingers caressed a
piece of cement at his feet. "The greatest sin is denying freedom."
"That's right," she said.
"That's not why I'm here."
"No, it isn't."
He nodded sagely, acknowledging her agreement. "No. Freedom leads here. There is no
salvation in freedom. Only in servitude, and I am no one's servant. I am a prisoner, but at least the choice is mine." He smiled, mirroring her gentle touch to catch one of her tears. "Besides, I like this place. It suits me." The yellow was once again defeated by eyes that accepted only her. "What's tragic--what I choose, or the choice itself? A choice that has only one answer isn't an honest choice. It's a lie. Life is full of lies; they're natural. The real question is what kind of choice life is."
"It's coming," she whispered past her tears.
"I know. Here is my answer--" he leaned forward, taking her shoulder, green light
blazing in his eyes as it warred with the yellow. "There is no salvation. There is no
damnation. There is only love and what it costs. No eternity except in death and being
born again. Over, and over...and over...and the worse is death, the more beautiful is
She felt herself smile and placed her hand over his dirty fingers on her cheek. The shared
touch stained her with his grime, but she did not care. "Knowing that, it still hurts to
watch," she whispered.
Without further hesitation, he reached out, took her hand, and pulled her down with him.
She came without resistance, curling into a fetal ball in his filthy arms. "The pain is the
price of this moment," he spoke into her ear. "I'm happy to pay it, though I wish you
didn't have to."
"You wish that, but you're glad I do."
"Yes. If you find joy here, so do I."
She closed her eyes, nestled in his embrace, which, while soiled, was warm and gentle,
and she could hear the beating of his heart and feel the heat of his blood. "Let's not talk
about it anymore."
The distant cry--like a low siren--approached slowly, the haunting sound urging them
closer to one another, tighter in each other's arms. Like the promise of pain, the vanishing moments made the contact more potent, their mingled light ever more beautiful, the sin that stained them both trivial and irrelevant. It was dark, it was inevitable, it was hell.
It was Home.
The crying stopped, and the blood appeared on his tattered shirt. The warmth spilled over her, and then she was torn from his arms. In the fiery yellow light, she held her heart, watched him die, and smiled, much to the pleasure of the dandelions.