Why Are the Lights Always On?
By Kenny Moore
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"Come on!" he yelled behind him. She was taking her sweet time getting here.
Slowly a figure emerged from the overcrowded foliage. The shadows of the trees moved with the wind, creating ghostly images before her feet, scaring her half to death. He laughed as she slowly closed the distance between them, her eyes flicking back and forth looking for a sign to get scared.
"There’s nothing to be scared of here…at least not yet…"He trailed off, his eyes growing wide, his hands waving around him in a spooky gesture.
She punched him in the stomach.
They walked along the cracked tar path to the playground. The swings before them hung limply, devoid of life. The jungle gym complete with fireman’s pole and slides looked like an eerie citadel. Even here in the place where only years ago, children played merrily without a care in the world, the trees shook like ominous beings with every whisper of the wind.
It had certainly changed.
She immediately took to a swing, kicking her shoes off in mid-air, reliving childhood memories. Her long brown hair swooshed about her, and suddenly her eyes sparkled with something that wasn’t there minutes before.
He sat next to her, the sparkle not quite as strong as hers. She really did look younger in the pale moonlight. The beams shone on her skin and made her look so delicate, so childlike, and that…spark gave him a smile he didn’t realize he had in him. She was enjoying herself.
In one fluid motion he ran off to the jungle gym, climbing up the slide in a way so many adults had warned him not to do. She went on after him, clumsily climbing up the metal slide, falling and slipping.
"Help me! I’m going to fall in the lava!" She begged. He laughed, remembering memories he hadn’t thought he could remember. A certain respect came upon him then, almost a desire to be like her, to be able to shrug off the cares of the world and become a child again. To have that imagination that ran away with every sound and every movement, to be truly innocent again.
He was envious of how easily she could shed her skin and move back ten years.
Playfully, he grabbed hold of her hand, pretending to be scared for her life. "You’re not helping me up! Come on, aren’t you strong enough?" She played.
A smile grew upon his face, a Cheshire cat smile that sat from ear to ear. Suddenly, he let go, and with a yelp she fell on her butt in the sand. A look of daggers made him smile even wider. "You’re such a meanie." She pouted, going to the cracked tar path again.
He didn’t immediately follow after her. He looked around him. The stillness, peacefulness filled him with something he hadn’t felt since he was a child. The way the wind blew, the way the trees hissed, the noises of cicadas and frogs in the pond. Everything sounded so…real. It went on as it had for many years, unchanged, unnoticed.
He almost didn’t pay attention to that unavoidable green haze behind the dense foliage. That haze that meant death and decay and rot and festering disease. It was so funny, this place almost felt like it had protected itself from the death and destruction that reeked everywhere. Like there was a great invisible bubble that covered this tiny park, free from noise, pollution and stank.
Sliding down the slide, he went to follow her. He found her walking the path, arms crossed against her chest like she was hugging herself. He couldn’t help but notice the way she walked, like one of the great giant trees swaying in the wind. Her figure was so perfectly silhouetted in the darkness and moonlight.
He ran up on her, and tickled her sides, unable to help himself. She giggled, begging him to stop. They walked till they got to a clearing, finding a circle of land ensnared by a pond, surrounded except for one tiny land bridge.
"Let’s go over there." He said, pointing to it. She shook her head no, her thumb moving to her lips, a scared look in her eyes.
"The swamp monster might get me…I’m afraid of water." She mumbled.
He laughed. "You’re afraid of everything!" He said. "You wouldn’t have even have come if I hadn’t put you over my shoulder half the way here!" He laughed. He pushed her forward, and reluctantly, she moved on ahead.
They went and sat on the circle of land, watching the water trickling. A noise sounded behind them, and she jumped, scared to death.
"What was that?" She demanded of him, as if he had all the answers.
He turned behind them and saw two ducks, a male and a female. He laughed, while she awed over them. "I’ve never seen a real duck before!" she exclaimed excitedly.
He just shook his head, and lay down on the grass, his hands tucked behind his head. Looking up at the stars he was suddenly awed. That was something he’d never seen before, so many stars. They seemed to fill the sky. He could barely make out the constellations through the dense fog of them all.
She lay down next to him, so close their bodies all but overlapped. Gazing dreamily at the stars, the wind breathing on them gently, he felt he couldn’t think of any place he’d rather be, and no one he’d rather be here with. Everything seemed so perfect, as if someone had crafted each and every blade of grass, every leaf of every tree, every whisper of the wind.
"There’s Ursa Major, and the Big Dipper." He said, pointing at a box of stars with a handle. He rolled his head over to hers, to see if she was looking. Likewise, she rolled her head towards his. Their eyes met then, and he turned away, back to the stars, a little bit too quickly.
"And that’s the North Star there. Polaris." He said.
"And that-" He stopped. A bright flash flew across the sky. They gasped at the same time.
"A shooting star! I’d never seen one of those before!" He said. A thought popped into his mind then. What more than a shooting star could make this night more special?
"Quick, make a wish." She told him. They both were hushed for seconds. "You’re supposed-" Another noise startled them both right then. A noise like they’d never heard before. They both sat up quickly, their eyes darting to and fro.
The duck couple swam off in the pond, quacking happily at each other.
The two laughed.
With a sigh, she lay back down, closing her eyes. Looking behind him, he noticed the giant buildings looming in the background. Pieces of them missing, like a giant had taken a bite out of them, and left each building torn, jagged metal sticking out in places. They were enveloped in that green haze that the park seemed to be immune to.
He turned back to her. He lay on his side, his left arm propped up, holding him up. She lay in front of him, so close, so very close. As if the wind had grown stronger and blew only at him, he fell on to her. Not a violent fall, but graceful, like it was perfectly planned.
His lips met hers and locked together. His right hand moved up to her left cheek, his lips gently touching hers.
It was as if a thousand shooting stars flew by, a thousand ducks quacked happily, it was as if the world had moved forward, back to reality, and simply stood still, waiting for their command to move again.
Time simply halted as pure energy rolled through him and into her, and back again. Their minds went blank, words escaped them, and all they could think about was a certain hunger that suddenly overtook them. Not a hunger for anything they were usually hungry for, but a hunger that was meant only for the other. Neither one of them were aware that anything like this had ever existed, especially inside of them, and as his lips left hers, the energy actually grew stronger.
Like two attracted magnets, he had to work to move away from her. Slowly, his lips found air and could breathe normally again.
Then, for the first time in his life, his lips opened to speak, and nothing came out. He was sure that there was something that needed to be said, there always was, especially from him. He had a comment for everything, and was usually slapped for saying it.
"What?" She asked, sounding distantly worried.
He didn’t know whether to laugh or be scared. "I honestly don’t have anything to say." He shrugged. "Nothing….nothing is coming out."
He lay back down again, his hands back behind his head. He looked for solace in the stars, wondering if any of those bursts of light really truly existed anymore, or whether, like his world, they’d exploded in a mass of destruction and hate and violence and gore, and simply ceased to exist. He wondered if they had all expired and all of the beauty he was seeing now was gone, dead, just empty souls haunting him and his eyes.
"It’s like the part of me that is me, the part in my body, the part that talks and thinks and is…was gone." He said. "Or not gone, but took me over. It wasn’t me that did…that. It was….the part that is me." He wasn’t doing a good job of explaining himself, though in her mind he really didn’t have to. He was simply bothered with the fact that he didn’t realize he had wanted to kiss her until he did, and that he didn’t have a damned thing to say after he did.
"It wasn’t me who kissed you, but the part of me that exists. And when I went to speak, that part hadn’t gotten back to where its supposed to be yet." He continued to try to explain.
She sat up and put a finger to his lips. He stopped speaking, and lay back down.
She lay next to him, so close they were almost overlapping. "Your soul…"She whispered. A tiny laugh filled his body.
Without saying another word, the two simply lay there, watching the stars as they stood still, listening to the wind breath through the trees, and the chirps and calls of the cicadas and frogs.
And days later, on a tree not so far from where his soul kissed hers, was an etching. The tree etching was a sketchy heart, and inside the heart was one simple word; Forever.