Young Geoffrey (ed_rex) wrote,
Young Geoffrey

For Nikki - Eternity Can Wait or, Life Begins at 110

Okay, I didn't get a chance to do any of this at the office. And when I got it done at home, it turned out to be too long for a comment - so it's for your eyes only, darlin'.

I don't know (first draft, I haven't had a chance to read it, and all those other excuses) if it's any good and fear that it's hideously corny, but it feels right, right now. With luck, you'll consider that this has a happy ending ...

Once upon a time, many, many, years from now, a very old woman named Nicole awoke in a very dark room.

Because she was old and movement was hard, but also because she was not alone in her bed, she took her time and very quietly, very softly, rolled to her feet.

She shuffled through the darkness 'till her outstretched hand found her door. She pushed it open, letting in a tithe of the morning light and then turned to glance back at the two sleeping figures she was leaving behind.

The larger figure mumbled something and moved a little beneath the silk sheet covering him, the smaller stayed still, curled up against the wall.

The old woman pulled the door closed as quietly as she could and shuffled towards the dawn at the back of the house.

Outside, where the air was warm and clear as it might have been at the dawn of time, and the morning sun splashed over and through the wild greenery of the old woman's backyard, she dislodged a pair of ritually resentful cats and took her place on the old, but very comfortable, over-stuffed chair.

She closed her eyes and faced the sun, taking in the heat and light, like some pale plant feeding off the autumnal sun. Nicole lived in a big old house (how old? It was old before Nicole was born) in a park so well-enclosed, she could barely hear the sounds of the city around her.

She closed her eyes, at once at peace - the party to celebrate the opening of her latest film had been a good one indeed; and, indeed, she and those left behind in her room had celebrated until the sun began to brighten the sky - and yet strangely tense.

Something is going to happen, she thought.

And presently, she heard something in her yard.

She opened her eyes and found that the sky was no longer blue; thick grey clouds, shot through with shades of dark green had moved in as she dozed, and the air was very still.

A man stood in the middle of her garden, tall and slender, with thick, raven-black hair falling from his head like a silken shroud. His skin was pale beyond white, his eyes black with hints of red. He was dressed in black, a long coat draping his body, a shimmering shirt clinging to his torso like gossamer. Black boots rose to his knees.

Nicole blinked back tears. Somehow, she knew him.

"You," she said, her breath catching in her mouth. "You've come - again?"

The tall, thin man nodded gravely. "We've met before, Nicole, many years ago now."

"I don't, I don't ... I don't remember ..."

"But you do." The man stepped forward, somehow leaving no trail through the tall grass, despite the heavy boots. "May I join you?"

Do I have any choice? the old woman wondered. She was very frightened, and yet she could not feel her heart beat.

"Why are you here?" she croaked as he came nearer. But as she spoke, she knew why he had come. "No," she said quickly, "you can't -"

But already he was before her. Taller, thinner and more pale than he had seemed from afar.

His dark eyes regarded her with a look that at once bespoke patience and impatience, pity and an iron will. "It's time, Nicole," he said quietly, yet his deep voice somehow seemed to spread through the garden; the old woman imagined it was heard all the way down to the lakeshore, though she somehow knew that only she could hear him at all.

"Time?" she asked, "time for what?" But even as she spoke, she knew what it was he wanted, and knew that he knew that she knew.

"You've lived a very long time," the man said gently, "you are more than ready for the next step."

To her own surprise, the old woman found that she was laughing.

"I don't think so," she said. "Oh no, I don't think I am at all ready for any step except back into my house, to join those beautiful men still asleep in my bed!" She thought to call him a hallucination, but she was not willing to pretend denial.

"You won't come of your own free will?"

"I won't come at all! No sir, I won't come!" She grabbed the arms of her chair and began to push herself to her feet. The pale stranger stepped towards her, menacingly. "This is my porch!" she snapped. "Don't you come threatening me!"

The stranger backed away a step. "Will you at least listen to me?" he asked her.

Grudgingly, the old woman nodded. "I'll listen," Nicole said, "but mind your bloody manners!"

The red hints in the man's eyes brightened, as if her were laughing to himself, though his face remained as expressionless as that of a graven image.

"Say your piece," said the old woman.

"You have lived a long time, Nicole. Indeed, very few before you have lived longer. You have no children. You have never married, never made a life with someone. Your body is failing you, your memory has empty places that once were full. Are you not tired?"

The old woman thought of her back, which hurt most of the time; of her feet, which did likewise. She thought of the friends and lovers she had had over many, many years - most of those were long gone now, seduced by the syren-song of Death - or was it only that they had given up on Life?

It was true. She had many regrets, she mourned many friends, wished there had been victories instead of defeats. And it was true: she was tired.

But not as tired as all that, she realized in a moment.

"It's true," she said (and noticed that his eyes widened, as if with some inhuman excitement, or desire), "I never did marry and I had no children. And I never settled down, as they say, until I happened upon this house, less than a decade ago."

She paused, and the pale stranger leaned towards her. "And so ...?"

The old woman, Nicole, found herself smiling in his face.

"And so," she said, speaking slowly, as if to torture his eagerness for an answer, "and so, nothing."

"What have I done, you might wonder.

"I have travelled the world, have even visited the moon. I have written two novels that will stand the test of time, and several others that may not. I have written and directed several very good movies.

"I have eaten good food, listened to good music and inspired more than one brilliant poem.

"I have dug ditches, paddled canoes and scaled Mount Kilimanjaro.

"I have fucked indoors and outdoors, flirted outrageously and falled passionately in love; I have shared laughter and insights, broken hearts and had my own broken - many times. I have made friends and lost them; some of the latter I have made again."

"Last night, I came home with two lovely young men - and yes, I know there were people at the party who laughed to see them with me (and know too that there were some who wished they could have been one of them!) and the three of us made love until the sun came up. More: I think we shall become friends!

"Last night was a celebration, the first showing of my newest film. But already, I am half-way through a new novel - possibly it will be my best yet - and I have started thinking of a play, a medium I have yet to tackle with much success.

"I have taken up the guitar - yes sir: againd, and never mind that my fingers are not as nimble as once they were.

"As for my 'failing memory', perhaps I have lost pieces here and there, because there is so much new to remember!"

The old woman shook her head. "This world is a beautiful place, and I have yet to experience a tithe of it!"

And suddenly she stood, straight and strong, and she felt her heart beating strongly beneath her breast while above, the greeny clouds began to break up, blue showing behind the dull facade.

"I am not ready! Now bugger off! I'm not coming with you, of my own free will or otherwise!" And, laughing, she stepped towards the stranger, and raised her open palm, pushed it against his chest.

Her hand met no flesh but instead pushed against only air, and she was alone on her back porch, her garden green and alive beneath a blue sky.

She laughed, filling her lungs with air. Desire pulsed between her legs and she turned back to the house and pushed open the door. "Let's see what those boys are made of," she whispered as the made her way back to her room.

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