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Khayyam's Fall by Euclid K.

She looked up.
Up there, beneath a canopy of low, grey clouds, the wind plucked
scarlet leaves from the outermost twigs on the trees, and touseled her
hair as it descended to the ground with its catch.  Up there, half obscured
by the muted roar of the trees, she heard the voice she hadn't heard for
nearly seven years.  Deliberately, she drew a long, deep breath, and dropped
it in a sigh as her eyes dropped down again to the carved stone nestled in
faded grass and low cropped weeds near her feet.  Seasons change and all
things die; this she knew, and the promise of new life in the spring has
hitherto never been broken.  But that mattered little now.  She could not
break the final tie she felt.  That is why both she and the stone stood there.
Was memory so much more precious than the present moment?  Perhaps it was
time to leave.  The wind was getting colder and the the sun was now painting
the undersides of the clouds pale pink and purple from the only place it
could pierce them--the horizon.
She turned to descend the hill.

 As she descended the hill the wind picked up speed, and by the time she
reached the foot of the hill it was practically pushing her across the old
field toward her car.  With difficulty she opened the door of the old, blue
Ford, and clambered in as the wind slammed it shut behind her.  It was time
to go home.
 But the car would not start.  She turned the ignition key again, but the
car remained motionless and silent, save for the gentle rocking and whistling
caused by the gale outside.  She turned the key again.
 "Dead battery?", she mused, and frowned.  She would have to spend the night
there, then.  It was twighlight, a storm was approaching, and it would take
at least five hours to reach the main road on foot.  She shrugged, then climbed
into the backseat and unfolded a wool blanket she kept there for such occasions.
 Eyes closed, she listened to the storm bluster without for hours.  She was
about to fumble for her watch to check the time when there was a horrific
crack of thunder.  Her whole body tautened and her eyes snapped open.  Where
was the blanket?  She scrambled to upright herself and nearly fell back into
the front seat, as the car had tilted so far forward it felt as if it were
balanced on its front wheels and fender.  Nausea slapped her across the stomach.
The stench filling her nose was much too familiar.  Another flash of lightening
revealed that the car was at rest on a very steep incline, the front end
crumpled against the trunk of a huge, old tree, and slumped against the steering
wheel was...
 "Jeremy!", she cried.
 She fell into the front seat and excitedly grabbed his right arm.
 "Jeremy!  We have to get out!  The tank split and we have to get out!  Can
you smell it?!  Wake up! Wake up!!"
 She shook him.
 "Come on! We have to leave!"
 She shook him harder.
 "Come ON!"  She jerked him away from the wheel.  And the corpse stared back
at her with cold, glazed eyes.
 She screamed.
 And lightening struck the tree.

    She woke up crying.  Sweat trickling down her face, she kicked the
blanket away and sat up.  Heavy rain continued to drum on the roof and stream
down the windows, while lightening continued to crack the black sky.  That
dream had returned.  For months it repeated itself, and then for the past few
months she had been free of it, but now it had returned.  She would never
sleep in peace again.  She was sure of it.
    It surprised her, then, to open her eyes to a clear, pale blue sky.
Not so much as a whisp of cloud could be seen.  The field was a sodden mass of
scarlet and orange leaves tangled in pale weeds, and a couple of small, broken
branches rested on the hood, but otherwise the field was unchanged.  And
suddenly she noticed the air in the car was unbearably dead and musty.
    So she climbed out and stretched, and felt as though a hundred bugs
were gnawing her away from the inside.  More than anything she wanted eggs
for breakfast, but she knew it would be afternoon before she reached the
main road and even then the nearest place she could breakfast would be four
miles away.  Every moment of delay would keep breakfast that much farther
away.  So she turned to where the field melted into a beaten, dirt path and

    She tried to not think of anything as she passed along the path through
the woods.  She looked up to the sky and bare branches, but her mind slipped
back.  She concentrated on the air's tang and a faint, persistent, murmuring
breeze.  But her mind slipped back.  She shifted her attention to the
fallen leaves, piled so deep on the path that the hem of her trenchcoat grazed
them.  And she stopped short.  Something was wrong.  Straining to hear, she
looked around, but nothing seemed amiss.  Cautiously she stepped forward, and
the leaves crackled beneath her foot.  But had it not rained last night?
Had it not rained *hard*?  Wide-eyed she looked up and down the path and
realized that she had been wading through bone dry leaves.  These were leaves
that would burn easily.  She pushed forward again, walking faster.
    A mile down the path the surrounding trees gave way to another clearing,
whose far side boardered a steep valley lined with scarlet topped oaks and
verdant evergreens.  Facing the valley, a lone figure stood on the precipice.
She approached it, and as she came near she saw the clothes were half burnt,
the person's blond hair matted and badly singed, and already she could smell
the odor of burnt skin.
    "Excuse me, but are you alright?  What are you doing here?"
The figure remained silent.
    "Can you hear me?"
There was no response.  Gently she reached out and turned him by the shoulder
to face her.  The sight of his face made her stomach crawl up into her throat.
Then panic cracked its whip.  And Khayyam ran.

    She ran wildly back through the clearing, but half way across her boot
snagged on a root hidden beneath the leaves and she fell face first into them.
Struggling to rise, she thrashed through the leaves but could not find the
ground to push off of it.  A pair of arms swiftly thrust through the leaves and
grabbed her just under the shoulders, and quickly pulled her up to her feet.
Sputtering and shaking she looked up the arms to the neck and to the face.
And she fainted.
    When she awoke she was lying on a mound of leaves with her head resting
in Jeremy's lap as he looked down into her face.  He brushed a few leaves from
her chest and smiled.
    "Ready to chat, now?"
She shot upright and sat staring at him.  The voice was his, as was the face
and the pale, sun colored hair.  But he was dead.  This was another dream.
    "I guess not."  Jeremy sighed.
Except those eyes. She saw that his eyes had life in them as they watched her.
With a hint of impatience he sighed again.
    "But you're dead!!", she shouted.  He laughed.  Angrily she reached out
and pushed him backward into the leaves, and he laid there, still laughing.

    She glared as his laughter decayed to a giggle and then stopped when he
turned to look at what she was doing.
    "That won't work, you know."
    She was pinching and clawing the back of her left hand.  This had to end!
She clawed harder.  Her nails sunk into her skin and tore it as she raked the
hand, but the sensation was more akin to an itch than pain.  She stared at her
hand.  The grooves she tore were deep, but only the faintest itch could be
felt.  And no blood flowed.  When she noticed this, a pale, watery fluid started
to ooze from her hand.  Her eyes widened.
    "Khayyam, please stop."
    She looked up.  Jeremy was at her side, and he clasped her right hand and
gently kissed it.
    "Please...just stop."
    She jerked her hand away and jumped to her feet.  Tears welled in his eyes
as he looked up at her, and she turned on her heels to leave.
    "How long can you keep this up?!  How long are you going to deny what
really happened?  Why can't you accept...?"
    She started to walk away.  His voice rose to nearly a scream.
    "Do you think I *like* this??  Can't you at least release _me_?!  Why
can't you let me go!?  If you *must* carry on like this, can't you at least
let *ME* go??"
    She turned to face him and froze.

    Jeremy, however, continued to rant.
    "You don't get it, do you!?  We don't belong here, we belong there."
    He pointed to the valley.
    "I don't have any problem with that. But you!  No, you have to knock
around in this world of yours because you can't face up to what really
happened, and on top of that you won't even let me explain even though you
keep summoning me!  You can spend the rest of eternity here if that's what
you want, but I want to move on."  Here he stopped.
    A sound, half gasp and half sob, rose up from her.  They gazed at each
other for a moment, and then rushed together and embraced.  She wailed and
sobbed while he gently rocked her, and a faint breeze picked up and stirred
the leaves in the clearing.  He whispered to her.
    "Would you like to go home, now?"
    She drew back slightly to look at his face.  Could she finally go home?
For a year after the wreck she had tried to find it, but it had vanished and
nobody she met could help her find it again.  She thought back; home vanished
that day she woke up next to the marker stone on the hill, but could not
remember how she had reached it. Since then she had wandered and stayed at
hotels and the homes of strangers.  She shuddered. How could he now be standing
here, years later, nuzzling her hair?  It made no sense.  Yet if anyone could
get her home, to where she really belonged, it was Jeremy.  They had shared
the same house for nearly a decade.  And this was Jeremy.  She was sure of it
now.  She nodded.
    He beamed and hugged her tightly.
    "You'll be happy to be home, believe me. It's nicer than here."
    With his arm across her back he turned and they slowly walked to the
precipice.  He shifted his arm off her back and held her hand.
    She looked at him quizzically.
    Rolling his eyes he heaved a deep sigh and pointed down.  She looked down
into the valley where he pointed and saw an isolated, tall, dead tree that had
been shattered and gutted by fire long ago.  It rose out of a steep incline
and a blackened shell of a car was wedged on the lee side of the trunk.  She
nearly fainted.  But Jeremy held her until her vision cleared and she could
stand again.  Dazed, she looked at him and then the tree again.
    "Do you understand, now?"
    She pursed her lips and shook her head.
    He squeezed her hand and smiled.
    "I know about the troubles you've had, the nightmares that come when you
try to sleep..."
    She shot him a glance.
    "...But the conflict inside you is never going to go away until you come
home.  You don't understand because you don't want to.  But we can take care
of the whole problem on the way home, and by the time you get there you'll
forget the whole thing."
    Khayyam started to look very uneasy.  He hugged her again.
    "I've never lied to you before, and I won't start now.  First we jump
off here..."
    In a panic she pulled away.  To jump was unthinkable; she could see it
was a very long way down.  Nobody could survive a jump like that.
    Jeremy was about to shout something when he suddenly brightened.
   "Look at the bottom more closely.  See all those leaves?  I've been down
there before, and I know that pile is deep enough to break the fall.  And
I'm going to prove it to you."
   And he jumped.  Horrified, she watched him plummet down into the valley
until he was no larger than a matchbox, and then he disappeared in the leaves.
About half a minute later he broke the surface of the pile and looked up to
her, waving both arms and shouting something that was lost in the wind that
was gaining strength and picking up the leaves around her. She wanted to
join him but she did not want to jump. She paced a moment, and then flung
herself into the chasm.  Down she went, and the autumn wind whistled in her
ears while she hurtled, arms outstretched, to the valley floor.
    Carried by the wind, a lone, crimson leaf fell from the top of the valley
and finally came to rest on a pile of leaves on the valley's floor.

                                   euclid k. 30 November 1994
Euclid K.   (euclid@mrcnext.cso.uiuc.edu)      standard disclaimers apply
If there's something you want me to respond to, e-mail at the above address.
These days the reader eats posts faster than i read them.....

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