I drove the hybrid S.U.V. thru the raging thunderstorm. It was late afternoon and not too long before the unseen sun would set. The rain bore down in great sheets and the lightening kept up a quick cadence of flashes and booming roils. The slight glow outside seemed to be fading to the point where my promise of a great sunset would have to be broken but, I knew better.
Gina sat in the passengers couch scanning the wall of water repeatedly. An occasional tug at her harness told me her level of unease. She blinked with each flash and sighed under each blast of thunder.
Twelve years ago I had met her at a car wash. A few days later I found myself falling in love. She’s a no nonsense woman with plenty of free will and She has the potential intellect to be able to accept what I do for a living.
“You weren’t lying when you said this place was way out in the boonies, baby-doll.” She said to me. I could taste the merest tinge of her unrest in her voice.
“It’s always been worth the drive babe.” I’d invited her out to a secluded gazebo I’d built a long, long time ago.
I felt it was time to pop the question and see if she really did have all the qualities I sensed she did.
“I don’t think this rain will ever let up. I’m tired of it. I wish it would go away.” She looked over at me and I bathed in her bashful frown.
“I will keep my promise. You’ll see. The sun will set and the stars will come out.” As usual, my words seemed to placate her frustrations and she sat back into the seat.
The radio station went into static and she fiddled with the controls for a few seconds before giving up and rolling her eyes at the storm. I’m sure she expected a tower had been fried. The darkness outside the cab had finally taken over and the only things visible were the immediate roadsides and the dashed black ribbon just ahead.
“The turn off is just ahead.” I warned her.
I’d really wanted her to fall asleep before our arrival but things would still be okay. My flare for dramatics would recover soon enough. As I slowed and hit the left turn signal she craned over to try and see where we were going. Just then an unusually bright flash occurred. She yelped and covered her eyes. There was no thunder and as we headed across the open meadow her sight slowly returned.
“That hurt!” she exclaimed to me. “Wow!”
“You alright Babe?” I asked even though I knew she was.
“Yeah, just blinded for a bit there.”
The blackness slowly began to break away.
“Where are you driving Jose’?” A smile arched itself onto the left side of my face away from her.
We were crossing an open field of grass. I half expected her to wonder why we weren’t getting stuck but the bright green burning its way thru the semi-darkness had a solid grip on her mind for now. Clouds were racing slowly into the distance and curtains of rain were trying to keep up with them. A light punctuation of trees drew our eyes to the horizon where they became a squat rumpled border of a lighter verdant. The ride was smooth as we made our way down an almost imperceptible slope. Just ahead, our destination loomed closer.
An alabaster construct grew with each moment into what looked to be a place of rest with an awesome view of the surrounding countryside.
“You built that?” Gina asked with an accusing finger pointed ahead and eyes wide stabbing at me.
“Yep.” This was shaping up as I had hoped.
She lowered her hand but never quite raised her jaw back up before I returned my gaze forward.
The sun was still cloud wrapped as I pulled up to the car-dock. It was a semi-circle running fifty feet in length connected to the lowermost stair step. The main structure was seventy-five feet in diameter with a four step rise. The roof was a twenty-five-percent pie-wedge that covered a refreshments area. There was a covered telescope opposite the roofed section and several small speakers built into each of the six fat columns that ran around the outer circumference. The floor was a mosaic of quartz-marble-gold that I had imported from many lifetimes ago.
The rain was gone and the crisp smell of its passing was hanging around as it always does. Without a word I opened the door and stepped out onto the grass. I walked around to Gina and studied her face for a moment. She was looking at my gazebo like a newborn child looks at their cradle accoutrements. As I pulled the door open her face maintained wonder and her jaw was still sitting on her chest.
“Oh My God!” She drew the words out over a long deep breath. “You built this?” She seemed to find her legs and walked up to the first step. She gently placed her right foot upon it, and then her weight. It looked like she thought it might not be real and her weight might burst some bubble of imagination she had stumbled into. After a few moments she traversed the other three steps and slowly took in the view from the main floor.
The sun slowly broke just below a far off band of dark rain cloud and bathed us in a warm red glow. Blue sky and white thunderheads appeared above the dark, rain swollen band and rays of gold stabbed out. Shadow fingers raced over and above us to the eastern horizon. The wind was cool and crisp, but not the least bit chilling.
“I will always keep any promise I make to you Gina.”
She turned to me as I came up the stairs behind her and gave me a look of contentment that I am totally convinced she found in a deep corner of her soul.
“Thirsty?” I asked.
She once favored old number seven but had to give it up when her body began to fail her. I had felt guilty for every drink I ever had in front of her. Now I took her over to the elegant bar and opened the cabinet. There were a few bottles of her favorites as well as mine and off to one side sodas, water, and beers.
“Water,” She whispered. “, and I need to sit down.” I fetched a chilled bottle and a straw because she never drank from any bottle, ever. By her elbow and with a light touch I guided her over to a pink marble bench and let her slump down. The bench was dry but she didn’t notice. I squatted in front of her and opened the water, inserted the straw, and handed it to her. I held onto the bottle until I was sure she had a good grip. After a couple of long sips she sat it down to her left and put both hand together as if in prayer. Long moments went by as she looked left and right slowly and then at me, eye to eye. After twenty-nine seconds she asked slowly, “What do you do for a living again?” Her face turned into a-deer-in-the-headlights.
“I work in the oilfield for a living Babe.” I told her as usual.
“How can you afford this place way out,” she glanced around and never finished the first question. “Where exactly are we?”
“You have the key to all your own questions in your hands.” She wrinkled her nose and brow together and looked at her hands. They were still in that prayer position. “Take a deep breath and hold it for a moment.” I watched her chest rise.
I slid back in time thirty seconds and placed one of the golden skeleton keys I’d been carrying in my pocket between her hands just as she brought them together. She looked me in the eye and asked, “What do you do for a living again?” I slid forward in time to watch her chest fall. It rose again slowly.
“Trust me.” I gently implored.
She pulled her hands apart and caught the glint of the sunset off the key. I caught the glint off it in her eyes. She took a deep breath and held it. I took the key and returned it to my pocket. “How,” was all she could manage to say.
I held out my right hand, palm up. “Touch my palm Gina.” Her face held its wrinkle as she complied. Her right index finger landed softly in my hand and without provocation she began to stir it around. She looked quickly up to my eyes and then back to our hands and took a sharp, short breath. My skin began to swirl as if it was melting where she drew her finger about. Soon it became like flesh colored water. Gina sped up her hand and then drew it up quickly and away. A single drop of ‘skin’ hung in the air above my palm a few inches. “Push it back down babe.” With the slightest of hesitations she did so and then went back to stirring my skin. “Draw it up slowly this time?” I softly requested. As she did so a long thin spire of flesh followed her fingertip. “Hold there.” When she stopped her motion the strand undulated and furcated into nine tiny spheres.
“I don’t understand.” Her voice came to me as a small warm breeze.
“I’ll explain.” I stood up and turned towards the sunset as the spheres above my hand began to transform. “I come here because the storms have no equal, because the clouds give their best show of shapes and forms, and because right now it’s the calmest place on Earth.” With my left arm I motioned at the retreating storm, the clouds, and everywhere in general. “Look there.” I guided her eyes to the retreating storm line. “The horse head.”
“That shape on top of the dark clouds?” she had turned her upper body a small amount around to see straight on. “Yes. There’s one just like it in the Orion constellation.” I then motioned to the white thunderheads above the dark band. “See all the faces? See all the living things reflected there?”
She stood and leaned into me as she studied the clouds. She began to recite a long list of shapes and what she saw in them to me. I felt her tension evaporate and the cold loneliness that had rooted itself so deeply into my soul began to thaw for the first time I can ever remember.
“Would you like to see more?” As I asked she turned to me and betrayed no fear. “What would you have me promise you?”
“What can you promise?”
“More than you can wish for now.”
I blindsided her with my true intention and asked, “Will you marry me?”
“I…” She took another sharp breath and then in true slow motion, a smile arced across her lips. Her eyes watered and she answered,” Yes.”
I pulled her gaze back to my palm. The little globes had completed their transition. A larger than reality section of DNA was now visible. It spiraled around nine times and glowed golden. “Then take my hand.”
She slowly reached out until her hand was just above the DNA strand. Slowly she lowered her palm. As she did so the strand disappeared. I felt the unmistakable tingle of a new electricity building up both between us and more in her than in me. She clasped her hand with mine and broke into a full wide grin. A single tear rolled down her cheek and a sudden gust pulled it away. From deep within I felt it drift out onto the grass. When it touched down I felt the burst of something new waking into the universe. The shockwave raced away in all directions and the stars seemed to tremble just a bit in acknowledgment. The sun dropped below the horizon and the bright red undershot began to soften.
“Promise me this,” Gina began.
“Promise me I’ll get to see the next universe.”
“Forever is just the blink of an eye.” I began. “I once tried to get back to the beginning of this universe but could never quite reach it. The next one will be a piece of cake to get to. I can easily promise you that you will see it.” Then I added, “And the next, and the next, and so on, and so on.”
Gina embraced me as we took in the beauty of the fading light. We kissed, hugged tightly, and then She looked up into my eyes and said matter of fact. “I think I’ll have that old number seven on the rocks now.”
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