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Posted: Jan 12 2017, 12:39 PM
Joined: 21-February 11
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She had two dreams. In the first dream, they were dancing.
They were alone in the middle of an enormous marble ballroom, all alone, though she could hear a small orchestra playing music from nowhere. There was a great mural of cherubs looking down from heaven on the great domed ceiling, and the enormous chandeliers hung like branches heavy with fruit of light. She was wearing a long, black dress, whose bodice choked her and whose skirt fell to the floor and trailed out behind her, like feathers of a peacock's tail. The small of her back was bared to the nape of it; Ariel had settled one of his hands there, against her skin. His touch was warm and frightening.
"Do you know that I love you?" he was murmuring to her. She had her head folded against his chest, and couldn't see his face. They swayed across the floor in a weaving figure eight, and she moved with him automatically, watching their feet glide across the tile. Her heart was pounding. In that moment, Iris was so terrified of his loving her that she wanted to push him away and run. She couldn't love herself as much as he loved her, in that moment. She couldn't be perfect enough to deserve how much he loved her, how much he wanted her.
"I know you do," she whispered. She turned her head the other way on his chest, without looking up at his face. For some reason, Iris wanted to wait until the song was finished to run. Just a little while longer.
"And I'll always love you." As they turned, the emptiness of the room increased her fear. It seemed to go on for miles in every direction, great yellow marble with gold inlay in curling diamond patterns, stretching out, out, out with Doric columns holding up the wings. Far away, at one end of the room, were windows that stretched from ceiling to floor. A navy sky bursting with stars lay beyond them. They were dancing on the edge of the world.
"I'm afraid, Ariel." She said it more to herself than him.
"I know. And I still love you."
She lifted her head to look up at his face. For a moment, there he was, blond and smiling and true to her. She saw in his face that he loved her. Then his face melted into blackness, a blackness that disintegrated him and left her arms empty. It spread from his shadow on the floor and rushed to every corner of the room, devouring it, leaving her to scream until the darkness took her too.
In the second dream, they were standing on a great red cliff in the desert. The cliff stretched out over sand and salt flats, with a hot wind tossing tumbleweeds to the west. Ariel was dressed in the clothes of a nomad, his body and head covered in light linen. There were crows’ feet at the corners of eyes and his mouth, and a grimness to his look. He was older. She was still in the black dress, still young, though the tail had frayed at the edges, and the lace had come away from the bodice some places.
"I have to go now,” he said. They could see nothing out on the desert, no band of brothers waiting for him. There was no horse at his side to carry him through. Iris thought he must be mad.
"Where? Why?" She was smiling, her voice on the edge of hysterics. He couldn't leave her, she thought. She had already left him.
"There are people that need me.” There was sorrow in his voice.
"Who?" She opened her arms wide, and gestured out at the great nothing.
He nodded towards the horizon. As they stood there, a crowd came into view: they started as a small blot, a patchwork of other colors that could be sand or dirt. The blot came closer, and it was hundreds and hundreds of people, walking, wandering. She stood with Ariel in silence as they marched towards the cliff, walking seemingly without guidance or direction, until she could hear the footsteps, and the murmur of their voices.
"They need me," he repeated. "They have been waiting a long time for someone to love them."
The cliff rumbled beneath their feet. The side of it caved, sucking in its sandstone to form a staircase down to the desert floor. Ariel nodded to her, and began to descend. Balancing with one hand on the rock wall, the other lifting her heavy skirt, Iris followed him. She grabbed his hand.
"You can't go!" There was so much she wanted to say. She wanted to explain to him why he couldn’t leave, why he had to stay with her, even though she did not want him to stay. She wanted him to look at her and understand that she was worth so much more than this dirty rabble who came from nowhere. He belonged to her world, not theirs.
Ariel stopped, and looked back over his shoulder. For a moment, he stared at her hand clutching his. It stuck Iris suddenly that both were bare of rings. He pulled his hand away.
She followed him down still, down and down, grabbing him, at his hands, at his cloak. He tore his hands away, tugged his cloak from her grasp, even as she struggled to balance on the narrow stairs. Finally, she shouted, "I need you! I'm the one who needs your love!” They were so close to the bottom now, and the people had stopped, were waiting. She could see their dirty faces, clean only in places streaked by wind and tears. She could hear the soft moans of the sick. “I need it more than any of them!" It did not matter that she was young, and beautiful, and clever, and filled with poetry, and all of them were not – she needed Ariel, to the exclusion of them all.
Ariel stepped from the staircase to the desert floor, while she remained on the last of the stairs. He turned back to her, and spread his palms at his side with a shrug.
"I can't stay with you," he said. Again, that sorrow in his voice. "They need me, and you don't love me." The last words came out as a sigh. Anger welled up within Iris.
"That's not true," she spat, not knowing which of his claims she was arguing with. She clutched the cliff wall with both hands. Her legs were tired and shaking.
Ariel shrugged again. "I'll always love you.” He said it with such patience, the way old men said of droughts that one day, it would rain again. Then he turned away from her, and moved into the crowd. She watched as the people lifted their hands to touch him, their fingertips brushing against his clothes with soft whispers. He moved in further and they pressed closer, the whispers rising into shouts. She watched as they swarmed him, fighting amongst themselves to come closer, piling upon him until he vanished in their midst.
Iris screamed. She came down into them, pushing them, fighting to the center where she saw Ariel disappear. But as she turned and turned within the mass - as her eyes frantically scanned their faces, and the earth beneath their feet – she could find nothing. He was gone.