He could feel it; the poison running through his veins with a burning ferocity that was consuming him from within. How ironic he thought, that the bottle was marked “Love Potion No. 4”.
He’d had no luck wooing the girl he’d been dreaming about for years, and so he had made his way to the French Quarter where in a dingy backstreet store he had explained his plight to perhaps the oldest woman he’d ever seen, and left a short time later with the small blue-grey bottle.
Trembling with excitement at the prospect of finally having his love he had donned his best outfit just in case she knocked on his door immediately afterwards, and settling down in his favorite chair he had consumed the elixir in one swallow.
The draught did exactly what the old woman had said it would do – it united him with his love, but how was he to know that her car had gone into the river just two hours earlier?
What he wanted most in life was to be happy. He’d told himself this so many times over the years that the words had long ago lost any real significance. It was more of a mantra than an objective nowadays.
The thought behind the oft-used phrase seemed innocuous enough and indeed it was a laudable goal that he sought, but he had never really done anything towards achieving it; he was a dreamer, a man seemingly unable to master his own destiny.
“Not this time” he thought to himself. This time it would be different. Yeah, sure it would be different, just like the other hundreds of times. Only this time he was right, he just didn’t know it yet.
He had known her for months. He’d noticed her some time ago but she seemed entirely out of his league and quite frankly unobtainable. He thought back, remembering their interactions; friendly, even warm but nothing that he could say would have constituted an advance, or even an affirmation of his unspoken affections.
She knocked on his door one day on some pretense, and he dutifully offered her a cup of tea. To his surprise and strange delight she accepted, and what followed was the start of the happiness he had been seeking. It was all so very innocent; tea and a chat. It wasn’t anything they did or even anything they said, it was the manner in which they said those things; the ease with which they opened themselves to each other, fearless and true. Their brief exchange left him breathless and desperate for more.
More did come, quickly and powerfully, feeding that deep need for happiness in new and unexpected ways. The happiness that he had been looking for for all those years paled in significance to the happiness that he found with her. He was finally complete.
The rocket ship blasted off on its pioneering voyage to Mars, 7 souls peering into the blackness, looking toward a future that would be recorded and transcribed countless times.
The inhabitants were aware that their gleaming silver carriage was a marvel of gargantuan proportions; the very latest technology was propelling them into the stratosphere faster and faster, their journey pre-calculated and preset – unchangeable for reasons of physics and finance.
The ship sped onward, machines humming as designed, everything working correctly – they had tested and retested, simulated and double-checked; redundant redundancy was the norm – this bird was the best and most reliable creation that mankind had to offer.
Inside the spaceship there was a relaxed calm as the crew went about their work, preparing everything and settling in for the 9 month voyage and the subsequent 2 year sojourn on the martian surface.
They had locked everything down and were preparing to sleep before anyone noticed that the ship was leaking air, by which time it was of course far too late.
He awoke, the alarm jangling in his ear. Calming the cacophony he sensed something else – a quiet peace. Thirty seconds into his day, the sun streamed in through the window but today it felt different, as though a filter had been applied and he was being shielded from the glaring harshness. Even the sheets felt a little lighter, softer.
Rising, he washed his face, the water softly caressing him. He looked into the mirror and saw himself looking back – his features relaxed and content. He dressed, cotton resting easily upon his skin.
Treading lightly he poured himself a coffee and sat by the open window feeling the gentle breeze fill the warm and inviting room with its morning freshness. He breathed deeply, allowing the fresh air to fill his lungs.
Closing his eyes for a moment he savored the calmness and let himself relax.
Now he was ready to start his day.
It hadn’t always been this way; there had been a time when his eyes hadn’t wandered from his wife to the pretty girls at the bar, but thinking back he really couldn’t remember when.
He’d never strayed – never taken the road that could not be undone, but this time for some reason it was different; it was as though he was drawn as a moth is to a flame, and he felt powerless to resist.
Perhaps it was because he was alone in a late night bar in the big city, or perhaps it was that he’d had just a little too much too drink – the result was the same, tonight was the time for something new; something different.
He steeled himself, checked himself up and down and made his move; the room vanishing around him as he struck up a conversation.
In that moment he realized that he would never want a woman again.
The caterpillar, tiny and vulnerable, emerged from its egg and found its way into the world without the aid of others; ingesting, growing, incessant in its quest for greater things.
All too soon it was engorged and shed its intricate skin for the last time to reveal the chrysalis, delicately suspended in a silken hammock.
The chrysalis hardened and time passed as a miracle took place within, then suddenly there was movement and the cocoon opened, a new life emerging into the bright sunshine.
Unconstrained by thoughts of failure or any concept of apathy the caterpillar had been transformed, metamorphosized from routine to refulgent.
Amazingly beautiful, the life that once was monotone had now been filled with vivid color and brilliance and soon joined its cohorts to play amongst the flowers; a veritable profusion of dancing butterflies.
He tended to the flowers with such devotion; with care he cut the stems to ideal lengths, pruning and carefully adjusting until the arrangement was perfect.
This had been his vocation for many years now, the one enduring thing that he had practiced, honed, mastered.
He was an artist at his craft, finessing incredible creations into existence using nature’s most radiant flowers, fronds and finery.
He stood back now, taking in the entirety of his work, arms folded, a thoughtful look on his face – he was finally satisfied with his creation.
He paused silently for a while, taking in the bigger picture, and then without a word he turned and left; he would visit her grave again next week.
He was sleeping soundly, spread-eagled across the big bed. Naked except for a cotton sheet, he was comfortable and content as he slumbered. The sounds of the night could be heard through the open window; crickets calling, a cicada in a nearby tree, sprinklers. The moonlight shone through the window, illuminating his form through the thin sheet.
He stirred slightly, his body moving in response to an unknown thought. The quietest of words ensued from his lips, their meaning known only to him and to his dream state co-conspirators. His hand clenched and then relaxed, more hidden words, and then he was peaceful again.
She came to him in the dead of night. Stockinged feet and heels in hand as she crept up the stairs to him. Looking through the open door she could make out the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed slowly but deeply. The sheet silhouetted his shape as he lay on his side. That shape excited her. She could feel her desire swell up inside her as she gazed upon the man she loved like no other.
Silently she slipped her now unzipped dress from her shoulders and onto the floor. Without a sound she slid her hands down long, slender legs to remove her stockings. Soon she too was naked, save for a silver necklace. The moonlight played on her body as she walked gently towards him.
She climbed carefully into the bed, slipping easily under the sheet that she now shared with him. Mere inches from her lover she reached out and touched his lips, the lightest, gentlest touch. He stirred once again, head turning instinctively towards her. She responded, lifting her head to meet his lips with hers. The slightest caress as the kiss brought them finally together. She moved her body in closer to him, soon they touched for their entire length.
He became aware of her. Eyes opened and they connected. He wrapped his arms around her. “Hello wife”, he said.