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Monday, May 1, 2023

"Visions", a short story

 An Iraqi girl slinked through the grotesque shadows of the narrow alley. Clutched in her right hand, concealed beneath her black cloak, was the ice blue crystal. An eerie light seeped through the spaces between her fingers and cast a ghostly glow on her face.

How much longer could she conceal the secret? Where was the American reporter who promised to release her from this burden she carried with her now? He swore that he would never reveal her identity, but could she trust him?

A strange light in the night sky erupted over the ravaged city buildings and seconds later the earth shook with explosions from the rockets. She faltered for a moment, shaken off balance by the motion of the earth as it lurched from the fresh wound. Grabbing her cloak, she started trotting toward the end of the alley and a small white light twinkling uncertainly at the entrance.

She felt her foot catch on something and awkwardly caught herself before she fell. Horrified, she knelt down to inspect the still form of a man. She grimaced as she reached into his pants pocket for the cold solid object jammed there. Staring at the pistol, holding it as if she expected it to strike at any moment, she gingerly slipped it beneath her cloak.

She reached her destination then, the end of the alley, the twinkling light, a torch held in the shaking hands of a nervous young man with a camera slung over one shoulder.

“Give me the crystal.” he demanded, extending his outstretched hand to receive her secret.

“Shut up, you fool!” she retorted, clutching her cloak tighter to her body, keenly aware of the cold metal weapon hidden within the folds.

Their eyes locked for a moment, unspoken messages passing between them. Then he grabbed her hand and started to run, dragging her behind him, across the dangerous space of open street flooded in brilliant moonlight.

They stopped, shaking and panting in the shadows once more, before the ruins of a building. Trembling, the young man grasped the door knob. It didn’t budge. They looked at each other, locked again in silent communication. The young woman’s deep green eyes spoke to the young man’s heart. And then they broke down the door together, butting their shoulders to it until the wood cracked in compliance.

They stumbled into a room that had been a merchant’s shop at one time, but was now abandoned, littered with broken bottles, dust and plaster that had been shaken from the walls, old dreams, and the haunting memories of normal life. The young man winced and grabbed his shoulder, muttering under his breath with an ironic smile.

The sound of distant artillery was thundering overhead as the young man turned to the girl and gently laid his lips upon hers.

“Now…please, let me see the crystal.” And his eyes stared deep into her soul with a pleading and longing she could no longer resist.

She slowly extended her hand and opened it in slow motion.  The room began to fill with an unearthly glow that illuminated their faces and caught at their breath. The reporter fainted, dropping to the floor amidst his shattered camera.

Shortly before sunrise the young man began to stir, roused by the smell of something he didn’t expect, food. Raising himself onto his elbow, he squinted up at the girl. She was standing above him with a battered skillet in her hands.

“What is it?” he mumbles in disbelief.

She bends to show him and he looks upon nine broken eggs still simmering and crackling in the hot pan.

The explosion struck then, blinding white light and sound that was both excruciatingly loud and perfectly silent. The dust rolled in a cloud, more plaster fell from the walls, and then everything began to settle, sifting slowly back into place as though it had never been disturbed.

Their bloodied young bodies lay in a huddle, still and silent, as though they had already been dead for a thousand years.

The American soldiers stepped gingerly through the doorway, peering into the ravaged shop. They motioned silently for the men behind them to step forward, and the Iraqi police confirmed that the woman was the one they had been pursuing through the alley the night before. All of the windows in the shop were broken, and morning sunlight began to pour in radiant shafts through the room, illuminating the couple.

Sunlight fell upon the blue crystal lying on the floor. One of the men picked it up, looked inquiringly into its endless blue depths and absentmindedly stuck it in his pocket.

The young man stared longingly at the face of the beautiful young woman. His love was evident and he smiled as she reached for the apple hanging from the great tree. She held the red orb in both hands and was about to bite into its white flesh.

“Stop!” the young man cried. “Do we really want to do this again?” he asked her, looking into the depths of her deep dark eyes. “We’ve seen what the future will be, Eve.”

She looked longingly at the perfect treasure in her hands and sighed deeply, her brow wrinkling from the disturbing visions that had plagued them the night before.

“No, Adam…you’re right.” she said as she let the large apple roll from her hands and bounce among the lush green foliage.

It came to rest at the base of the great tree, where a large black snake lay curled and still, watching the couple, it’s forked tongue flickering in the air.

A Short Story
by Amythyst Raine

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