There was one night recently when, knowing full well that our time together would once again be cut short by other obligations, Brian and I found it difficult to fall asleep. I told him the following bed-time story. He liked it, so I have reproduced it (with only a little extra embellishment) below. It’s a five minute story that I made up as I went, and I have left it mostly in the same state as I found it — like a rough hewn stone, not yet smoothed by waves of constant rewriting and editing — so please forgive its jagged edges.
Once upon a time, there lived a young man and woman, and they were in love. They were not rich, but neither were they extravagant in their lifestyle. Working hard at their respective crafts, they spent most of their time traveling from place to place, seeing the best and worst of what the world had to offer. The years passed quickly this way, but the two never tired of one another, and only fell more deeply in love.
One day amidst their many travels, the pair found themselves trekking across a wide grass plain. The air was hot and sticky, but there was also the feeling of coming rain. There was no shelter in sight from the rain, and they had only one red raincoat between the two of them, having lost the other years ago.
The man gave it to the woman with a smile.
“For you look much better in red than I, my love,” he insisted.
As they walked, they spoke about their plans in coming months: new destinations, slowly dwindling funds, where work could be found, and so on. Life was difficult, but it was also beautiful.
Perhaps the Heavens frowned upon their love, or perhaps they were simply jealous of it. In either case, that hot, wet day was the lovers’ last together.
It happened in a brief, sudden moment. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide — a sound like a freight train thundering by, a flash of blue lightning, a stab of white hot fire down the man’s arm, and then darkness.
Mere seconds had passed when the man awoke, flat on his back, blades of plains-grass raining slowly down around him, the black tendrils of a receding storm above him — with a single tiny red dot high up in the midst of its grasping fingers.
There was nothing left for him to do, but to run after that terrible storm, in chase of his red-clad love…. so he ran.
He chased the storm across those grassy plains, its grey tendrils dancing just out of reach. He chased it across bone dry deserts, as Death chased him. He wondered in those moments, when the heat burnt his skin and the sand clawed at his throat, if the sun ever tired of chasing the moon. Yet the sun continued on in its arcing path across the sky, even if it knew that it would never catch the moon. And so, the man continued on as well.
He climbed over mountains, stumbled through tundra, crawled through jungles, forever following the fading grey tendrils of the vanishing storm, until he reached the Eastern oceans. He wondered in that breath, as the ocean spray filled his nostrils and the crashing waves wiped out all other sounds, if the water ever tired of fighting the sand to reach the cliff’s rocks. Yet the water rose with each tide, continuing its endless struggle to reach the cliff. And so, the man continued his struggle.
He carved out a boat for himself from the fresh carcass of a fallen tree and set out across the waters.
That was the last I saw of him. I helped him build his boat, while he told me his tale. I watched as he disappeared beyond the horizon, chasing the ghost of a fading storm. Perhaps the raging ocean waters will have swallowed him by now. Or, perhaps, the sun’s hot gaze has scorched the flesh from his bones, leaving the remainder for the buzzards. Or, perhaps, he is gaining on the storm, and its helpless red-clad hostage. Do the Heavens laugh at his desperate foolhardiness, or do they fear his unwavering determination?