He raised the bottle of bourbon to his parched lips one last time then tossed it away into the gutter. It shattered into a spray of crystals, each one reflecting the light as if it were a newly cut diamond. The cold sea air permeated his leaden black overcoat with the icy sharpness of steel blades. The liquor scorched his throat as if it were a nest of angry fire ants. Deep in the pit of his stomach anger and hatred burned. Like quick sand it consumed his very soul.
Once he had cared. Once he had loved. Deep down a thought emerged. Like a bubble of trapped air from a shipwreck of centuries past, it worked its way to the waters surface. He was young again. The girl he held in his arms sighed with delight as he ran his fingers through her golden hair. Her eyes glowed like pools of liquid sapphires. Her lips pouted, as ripe as the corn of autumn. Everything was perfect. In his hand was the diamond engagement ring that would unite them forever. Lover eternal.
Suddenly the scene was changing. Fog descended like a hungry vulture and the girl was torn from his grasp. Dark tendrils of water vapour rose from the sea and wrapped themselves around her ankles. She held out a pleading hand, her face a mask of terror, but he couldn't see her. The fog was too thick. The sand held his legs captive. Panic clenched at his heart like a vice. Once again she was lost to the dark murky waters of the ocean. Once again she had swam away from the shore, never to return to the mortal world.
No one grieved for his fiancee. No lifeguard had come to save her. No rescue had been launched. "Too foggy", was all they told him. Now it was pay back time. The idea had formed slowly in his mind like a benign tumour. Slowly it had developed from fantasy into reality as discreetly as day slips into night. The lifeboat station would be blown apart by the device which he had created. Now he stood back and admired his work with all the sadistic fascination of a mad scientist.
The lifeboat station was a large and resembled a cottage. Its dark brick walls contrasted sharply with the grey and silver lead which coated the roof as if it were some kind of space probe. The building stood out proudly in its position on the old rugged pier. The slipway that led from the building to the sea was covered in a coat of dark green algae, like then tongue of some great monster.
No one had noticed the package placed strategically by the dustbins the night before. He rested his weary back against the steel railings of the old pier and gazed at the building ahead of him. People milled about their daily routines. It didn't concern him that they would soon be dead. Life and death didn't seem to matter anymore. They were simply cleansed from his mind by the falling rain that seeped along his brow and down his chiselled nose in a silver cascade of running water.
Just moments to go....but something caught his eye. He was being watched. Standing by the dustbins was a small child no older than five or six. She stared into his eyes with amazing intensity. He felt uneasy under her gaze. There was something strange yet familiar about the child. Her skin seemed so pale it was almost transparent. Her hair was long and dull blond. Her thin pale lips were drawn down at the corners. He looked back into her lifeless eyes. He could see tears cascading down her cheeks in tiny rivulets, she was crying. Crying at him? Crying for him?
Still she held him in her gaze, transfixed like a rabbit in the headlights of an oncoming car. It was as if she could see into his very soul. Sweat began to pour down his brow. Her gaze became unbearable, something familiar? The recognition struck him with all the ferocity of a thunderbolt. Someone was screaming "Bomb!!" Someone was running towards the child. The voice and the legs belonged to him.
He reached the child with seconds to spare. His out stretched fingers caught her and scooped her away from the bomb. I the same instant the world around the erupted with all the dazzling, explosive power of the apocalypse. Both were tossed into the air like rag dolls in a tumble dryer. Then the world became silent. He welcomed the thought of oblivion.....
He opened his eyes and looked up into the smoke filled sky. His broken body screamed with pain. A stream of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth and ebbed its way towards the Tarmac on the floor of the pier. The child in his arms seemed uninjured, but nobody seemed to notice her. Instead they gathered around the man and spoke to him as if she were not there at all.
He reached out to touch the child. His hand brushed her cold cheek. She reached for him, put her hand into his. Something cold fell into his palm. But it was no longer the hand of an adult. The cold object fell into the tiny hand of a child. Suddenly he was free like a butterfly first emerging from its cocoon in the spring. His pain melted away like the darkness at dawn. Peace and love filled his very soul and at that moment the child before him looked different too. Her hair was golden, her eyes clear and blue and her lips smiling.
He stood up and held her close. Gently he ran his fingers through her hair. His lips met with hers and together they were lifted in a crescendo of light. He glanced back one last time at the figure hunched upon the floor. It lie there broken and torn, old and worn out. In the aged hand of the body something caught the light. Something gold and yet opaque too. A ring of gold and diamonds. An engagement ring.
Hand in hand, the two children turned to face the light. Returned to
innocence. Eternal lovers.
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