An indigo sky held Aquarius, Pegasus, and faintly, Grus amongst the less-discernable, ancient creatures; explosions from eons past that fluttered through a thinning atmosphere over the Pacific. The last rim of daylight was gone and the water that sopped the sand at their feet sparkled black and foam stuck to their toes. The boy held his knees close to his chin, replicating the wave noises with his mouth, perhaps looking for boats or giant whales—anything to deliver them. The girl sprawled out next to him and looked at the sky and her breathing matched the rhythm of the waves and the breeze off the water made the short hairs on her legs stand still. The girl closed her eyes and wondered if in any other circumstance this would be considered romantic. She opened her eyes and still saw no airplanes.
“Would you rather.”
The girl looked at him and waited for her options; the bandage, before hidden by her profile, gleamed in the pale moonlight. She stared with one eye.
“Would you rather be rich or inspirational?”
“I don’t know. Like ten million dollars.”
“I’d take the money. No question.”
He took a small package of peanuts out of his pocket and began chewing absently. The salt stood on his cracked lips and he flinched at every attempt to smile. The girl thought he looked ridiculous sitting on the wild beach with his T-shirt and cargo shorts. It seemed childish and not at all like survival attire. She had cut her pants short and only wore a bikini top because it felt dangerous for some reason. Already, her skin had darkened which made the cuts less noticeable.
“Would you rather,” he began.
“No, this one’s good.”
“Would you rather be a boy for one day or invisible for one day?”
She sat up. “That is a good one.” She scanned the infinite rim. “Would I be able to pass through walls?”
“No. You’re invisible. People can still touch you. You’d show up on infrared.” He smiled and flinched. “You’d have to be naked or it’d just be your clothes floating around.”
“I think I’m going to have to go with being a boy.”
He dug his hand deep in the sand, picked up a pile and let it drip through his fingers. Silent lightning scorched the distant sky. “Yeah? What kind of stuff would you do?”
“I guess I would have a lot of sex.”
He laughed nervously. “Same here. I mean, I’d be a girl.” He laughed again.
A star shot overhead and left a trail near the leg Pegasus, the winged horse that carried Zeus’ vitriolic lightning. The ancient god was practicing in the distance, throwing light with no promise of rain or thunder. The enormity of it all and the shimmering, endless ocean made the girl weep.
“Would you rather.”
“Just,” she said. “Just stop. Please.”
“What else are we going to do?”
“We are. Waiting.”
“Wait some more.”
Their fingers touched in the sand and the girl quickly withdrew hers. In the forest behind them, a tree exploded and the sound of splintering wood stopped both their hearts momentarily.
“What was that?”
“Probably just more of the wreckage.”
“Good lord.” Her breathing remained heavy. “All right. Go ahead.”
“Would you rather kiss me or check on Alicia?”
“Please don’t make me.”
“Then you’d better kiss me.”
She leaned over and he pulled her face to his. She tried to keep her mouth closed. It didn’t work and he tasted the inside of her mouth.
“You’ll get used to it.”
“Now, your part.” She motioned to the jungle behind them. He sighed and the jungle swallowed him. She wiped her mouth again, using the whole length of her arm. When she got to the knuckles, she balled her hand up and screamed into her fist. The boy came back but didn’t sit down, only stood in the wet sand in front of her. He began making little steps and the mud overtook his feet. He sank down to his ankles.
She listened to the sound of the boy’s muddy steps. There was nothing to do but wait. Wait for delivery, for stronger advancements from the boy, or death. “You know,” she said. “I wish we had a record player and The Beatles’ White Album. I’ve never been a fan of that band, but right now, they just seem really important.” The boy nodded and they continued to wait.
All rights reserved to Ryan Bradford.
Illustration by Graphic Design Intern Jarad Jensen.