Aphelion Issue 242, Volume 23
August 2019
 
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Laurel

by Bridget Kay Specht




1


When I first met Laurel, we were both in the last, awkward phase of adolescence.

I was still living on Earth, then, and I spent my lazy summers at the public pool. Laurel would sit at the pool's edge every day, lying on a faded, blue terrycloth towel and sunning her freckled skin. She would turn her face to the sky, her lank, yellow hair slicked back, until her cheeks became pink. Then she would stand, adjust her swimsuit with a snap, and dive into the water, kicking her oversized feet and pulling herself through the water with long, lean strokes.

Her brown eyes were my Achilles heel. I would do anything to make her laugh, because when I did, her eyes would sparkle like the sun on water. I was her jester, performing spectacular flips off of the diving board, and splashing her with cold water when her guard was down. In my young eyes, she was Venus, gracing my earthly life with her divine presence.

I could hardly believe my ears the first time I heard her say, "ugh, I'm so ugly." Of course, even at that age, I knew why girls would usually say such a thing- smiling coquettishly and looking up with an expectant gaze- but Laurel didn't seem to expect a compliment. She only pinched a small bit of flesh on her stomach and frowned, ignoring my presence.

"Come on, Laurel, you know you're pretty. Let's go get some ice-cream."

"I can't have any; I'm on a diet," she said. Then she looked up and smiled. "I'd like a diet coke, though." She took my hand and dragged me toward the snack bar, and I was in heaven.


At the end of the summer, Laurel and I rode our bicycles to the edge of town, out of the bright, concrete jungle and into the rusty desert. We stopped on the summit of a small hill and jumped off of our bikes, laying them in the rocky soil. In the distance, we could see a group of black cranes surrounding a golden thread that stretched into the sky, past the heavy clouds.

"The space elevator will be finished soon, won't it?" Laurel asked me as we sat on a flat rock.

"It won't be finished until next summer- just in time for me to join the Space Corps," I said.

She looked up, her warm eyes wide with surprise. "You aren't going to college?"

"The Space Corps will put me through school," I said. "I want to go to the Phoenix station, or even the Mars colony. I want to pilot shuttles."

Laurel looked down, her sun-bleached hair falling over her eyes, and sighed. "I'm going to school here, on Earth. My mom wants me to study medicine."

"Hey- you'll make a brilliant doctor," I said cheerfully, ignoring the lead weight which had settled in the pit of my stomach. "I'll call you every day, and tell you what it's like out there."

"I don't want to be a doctor," she said, "but I do want you to call me every day, if you can."

I promised her that I would, and we kissed as the sun set behind the golden thread. The next day, we returned to school, and at the year's end, I signed up to join the Space Corps.

2


I didn't forget the promise I'd made to Laurel. In fact, I called her twice during the first year I was in the Space Corps. As I'd hoped, I was assigned to train on the Phoenix space station. My days there were rigidly structured, filled with exercises, drills, and studying until 2300 hours, when I was finally able to stumble into my bunk and fall into a dreamless sleep. I only had time to call Laurel once after midterms, and after finals I called to invite her to graduation.

I didn't expect her to come. She was busy with her own studies, and seats on the space elevator were difficult to get. The morning of the graduation, though, I saw her standing by the wide, sweeping window in the docking bay.

Even after a year's absence, I knew her immediately. She'd grown a little bit, and her hair had grown long and thick, but she smiled with the same wide, toothy grin, and her eyes still sparkled like the sun on water.

I wanted to be cool, and stroll casually over to her, but my feet seemed to run toward her of their own volition, and my arms flung themselves wide.

"I can't believe you came," I said, pulling her into an embrace. She smelled of pineapple and sea salt- the smells of summer.

"Of course I came. I had to see you." Her voice was muffled by my shirt. "Besides, I may never have another chance to see the space station."

"Well, that's not really true. The Phoenix station is going to become a spaceport. New colonies are being built…"

"I won't let you take away my excuse," she interrupted. She pulled away from my embrace, and straightened my collar. "You look sharp. I don't think I've ever seen you so neat and tidy."

"I look like a dork," I mumbled, my face growing warm.

"No- it suits you. You've grown up so much since we last met. You look amazing."

"You look amazing." I countered.

She leaned close and whispered, her breath hot in my ear. "I had a little work done. It was a graduation present from my aunt." She stepped back and spun around, showing off each angle of her blossoming figure as her short, blue skirt fluttered over her thighs.

"You look the same as always--beautiful," I said.

She stopped and pulled her glossy lips into a frown. "I don't know whether to be pleased or insulted."

"Just take the compliment, and be happy," I said. "Listen, I have to get ready for the ceremony--"

"Don't worry. I'll find my own room and unpack. I'll see you at the party, tonight."

She brushed my cheek with a quick kiss, and then slipped away through the crowd.

As soon as she disappeared, I wondered if she'd really been there at all, or if my brain had conjured her in all of my stress and loneliness. She'd seemed so perfect, so like the idol my brain had created from my memories, that she couldn't have been real.

I scanned the audience during the ceremony, but I didn't see her. I doubted myself as I walked down the hallway to the observation deck, where the graduation party was to take place. Surely, Laurel had been offended by what I'd said in the docking bay, and she'd gone straight home. Or, maybe I never saw her at all, and stress had caused my mind to break. My heart pounded with anticipation, thumping in time with the music, which leaked out of the observation deck and into the hallway.

I stopped beside the door, took a deep breath, and went inside.

The room was noisy, but I couldn't see the crowd. All of the lights on deck were out, and the only light was the light of the stars and the soft glow of the Milky Way, which shone through the great, glass dome overhead.

"I knew I'd find you," Laurel's voice spoke, sending a thrill up my spine. A soft hand grasped mine, and pressed a cool glass into it. "Your eyes adjust pretty quickly. But the stars are beautiful, aren't they? They're brighter and clearer than I've ever seen them."

"The atmosphere isn't here to interfere," I said, taking a sip from the glass she'd given me. It was champagne.

I took a long drink, letting the light and fizzy liquid slide down my throat, sighed deeply as the knots in my stomach relented, and then looked back down at Laurel. I could now see Laurel's blonde hair shining dully in the pale starlight, and I could just make out the outline of her face.

She leaned over and whispered in my ear. "Do you trust me?"

"Yes."

"Then stay close, and follow me." She took the champagne glass from my hand and slipped a lean arm around my waist, steering me through the crowd with surprising strength. She was confident and steady as we walked. Even though I could feel the crowd, hot and close around me, I didn't stumble once. Suddenly, my back was against the wall, and her slender hands touched my face.

"Can I kiss you?" she whispered.

I leaned down, closing the gap between us. Her lips, slick with gloss, quickly found mine. Her mouth opened, and I could taste champagne on her tongue. I wrapped my arms around her, pressing my hands against her back as I pulled her body against mine.

She moaned and wrapped her arms around my neck, tangling her fingers in my short curls. She kissed me more and more forcefully until my shoulder blades ground against the cold, metallic wall.

Then, all at once, a white light flooded against my eyelids. I opened my eyes and looked up to see the pale, gibbous moon peeking over the edge of the clear dome and illuminating the room. Laurel pulled away from me and looked around her guiltily, though the crowd seemed uninterested in our antics.

I cleared my throat and managed to whisper, "do you want to go back to my room?"

She shook her head. "I want to watch the moonrise." She led me to a nearby table and sat down, grabbing another glass of champagne on the way.

I sat down next to her and gazed into her face, studying the familiar features that were now enhanced by the ghostly glow of the moon--the high, broad forehead, the button nose, the soft cheeks…

"Hey, your freckles faded," I said thoughtlessly.

She smiled. "I'm glad you noticed. It's one of my little improvements; I bleached my freckles."

"That's a shame. I thought your freckles were cute."

The smile melted away. "Most people think it looks a lot better. After all, I'm not a little kid anymore, and I don't want to look like one."

She looked down at the table and toyed with her champagne glass, running the sharply filed tips of her fuchsia nails--which made her elegant fingers look like alien things--along the glass's stem. She frowned, and my brain almost short-circuited as it attempted to generate a change in topic.

"So, how is school?" I asked, and immediately cringed.

Lauren continued to stare down at her glass, but the corners of her mouth turned up slightly.

"School is great, actually. I like pre-med more than I thought I would. I miss my old friends, though."

She took my hand and looked up.

The music stopped, then, and without the pleasant, throbbing bass, all I could hear was the noisy chatter all around me.

"Let's go back to your room," Laurel said.

3


"Listen, you can't fight progress," Commander Vronsky said for the hundredth time that day, and smiling sadistically at my grimace.

"I know, but I can put it off as long as I can," I answered. "Listen, what are my chances of getting the Mars assignment if I don't have an interface implant?"

Commander Vronsky frowned and took a sip of coffee, furrowing his weathered brow. He drained the cup, and then set it down with a thump.

"Commander?"

"You won't like what I have to say, Lieutenant. Listen, you're a great kid--top of your class, a talented pilot, yada yada. Ordinarily, your name would be at the top of my list. But the Mars colony is getting all of the new X-force shuttles. We don't have any use for a pilot who can't interface with them."

"Commander, with all due respect, I didn't join Space Corps so I could interface with shuttles. I joined to I could pilot them. I don't want some machine hooked up to my brain."

"I understand how you feel, but human reaction times are slow. If you want to pilot the shuttle safely at high speeds, you need an implant."

"It was already perfectly safe."

Commander Vronsky lifted his eyebrows. "Listen, using the machine interface is simple. You will need two weeks of training, tops. The computer doesn't invade your mind--you're the one who's in control. If the Mars assignment is so important to you, I'd advise you to try the implants, and if you don't like them, just don't use them, and fly the older shuttles here on Phoenix."

He leaned back in his chair. "I have to say, though, that it'd be a damn waste of talent if you did stay. Why don't you think about it a while? You have a couple days of leave, don't you? I hear your girlfriend is coming to stay here a while."

"Yeah, Laurel is coming to the Phoenix station on her way to Mars, and she's going to spend the weekend with me."

"She's going to Mars, huh?" Commander Vronsky's eyes glittered. He knew he'd won.

As I left the office, my stomach sank. I looked down at the firm, pink flesh on my left hand, and my mind superimposed the silver and black connector I'd seen on so many pilots' hands--the shuttle interface implants. My skin began to tingle unpleasantly.

I plunged my hand into my pocket, where I could feel the soft velvet box I carried there. I clutched it as a talisman as I walked to the docking bay.

Four years had passed since I'd graduated from basic training. I'd suffered through four years of satellite calls and e-mails, patiently counting down the days until the end of Laurel's semester, or the days until my next leave, so I could spend a weekend with her, face to face. The space elevator was constantly moving, now. The Phoenix station, which had started as a scientific research facility, was now a bustling spaceport with daily shuttle flights connecting to the moon base and the two new Mars colonies.

I eagerly searched for her face in the sea of travelers who poured from the elevator. I clutched the little ring box tighter, and my heart fluttered every time I caught a wisp of blond hair, or a freckled cheek. The crowd thinned as the final travelers disembarked, and my heart sped up.

"I'm finally here," Laurel's voice called from behind me.

I spun around, and my eyes struggled for a moment to reconcile Laurel's face with the image of her I'd been carrying. Her cheeks had lost some of their roundness, but the lips on her wide mouth were fuller. Her nose was just a tad pointier, and her hair reached her curvaceous hips. I focused on her eyes, which were the same, soulful brown, and the image clicked. It was her--my own Laurel.

I took my hand from my pocked and leaned down to hug her. "It's so good to see you."

"It's good to see you, too." she whispered.

We stood perfectly still in our tight embrace, barely breathing for at least ten minutes, and then I straightened up to look at her again. "How was your ride. Are you tired?"

"No, I'm fine. I'm excited to see you. You'll give me the grand tour this time, won't you?"

"Of course," I said, taking her hand and leading her to the baggage claim. "You'll hardly recognize the place. It's like a motel and a mall all rolled into one. We have a new atrium, which is really more like a botanical garden, with artificial sun lamps. We also have a shopping center, and I've made us reservations for the revolving restaurant at 1900 hours."

"Is the observatory still here?" she asked, squeezing my hand.

I smiled. "Yes, it is."

I settled Laurel into her room, and then we spent the day together. I tried to appear relaxed as I showed her through the station, but my nerves sung discordantly in the background. She smiled and admired the shuttles, the labs, and the architecture. She laughed breezily at all my jokes. She pulled my nerves tighter with each carefree gesture.

The day seemed to drag by. We finished shopping an hour before our reservations, so we sat in the atrium to talk while we waited. She smiled at me, a faint blush painting her pale cheeks while the stale scent of hothouse flowers blew in the artificial wind. My hand twitched toward my jacket pocket, but I stopped it.

"I finally stood up to my mother," Laurel said, sitting a little taller on the bench. "She wanted me to specialize in oncology, like her, but I told her that I was going to specialize in neurology and neurocybernetics. I didn't think she would mind, because I already had a recommendation from Dr. Barnard and a place at the Mars research station, but she said that all my education had been a waste of money. She doesn't think that neurocybernetics are going anywhere."

"She's wrong," I said quickly. "You're brilliant, and you're going to prove her wrong. Neurocybernetics are already indispensable, out here. I'm getting an implant, myself, so I can fly the new Space X shuttles."

"Are you really?" her eyes glittered with excitement. "Human-machine interface is so fascinating. Tell me what flying with the interface is like, one you've had the chance."

"I promise I will," I said.

After dinner I took her to the observatory. The dome was still and silent--we were the only people there, watching the moon rise. I took the ring from my pocket.

Laurel cried as she nodded yes, and held her hand out so I could slip the ring on her slender finger. Her tears, or mine, fell on the back of her hand.

She pulled me into an embrace, and whispered into my ears, "I love you."

I kissed her cheek, and then pulled her hair back to reply. I brought my lips close to her ear, but then drew back in surprise. In the center of the soft shell of her ear was a hard metal plate with a small, blue light that flashed in the darkness. Her own, healthy, perfect ears had been replaced with electronic ones.

I drew back in surprise.

"What is it?" she looked up at me with innocent eyes.

"It's just--your ear…"

"Oh! I should have warned you. I got an upgrade. It was a graduation present from my dad. They can hear frequencies that human ears can't, and my hearing will never go bad. Do you like them?"

An image flashed into my mind of Laurel's moonlit eyes staring down at a champagne glass as she frowned on that night four years ago. I took her hand.

"I love you, Laurel," I said.

Nothing else mattered.

The following weeks passed in a blur. I got my implant and took the training to pilot the Space X shuttles, which was as easy as Commander Vronsky had predicted. Laurel settled into our new apartment in Mars colony A and began her work at the Mars research station. During all of the chaos, somehow we managed to arrange the small wedding, which would take place in the Mars colony.

Before I could blink, I was standing underneath a white canopy in the fields of the Mars bio-research station, which happened to be covered in white blossoms. I couldn't see the small crowd of people that surrounded me, and I couldn't hear the voice of the officiator. All I could see was Laurel, as she gracefully made her way toward me. A long, white satin gown covered her feet and brushed the rusty carpet as she walked, giving the vague impression that she was gliding over the ground. Her hands clutched a delicate nosegay, but her statuesque body was impossibly still as she glided toward me. She stopped at the altar, facing me, and I lifted her veil.

Her skin was flawless, like polished marble, and her lips painted like sparkling rubies. She slowly arranged her flawless face into a serene smile. I reached out to take her hand, but hesitated. For a moment, I imagined that her hands would be cold and rigid, like a doll's hands. I looked into her eyes, though, and saw that they were rimmed red, and brimming with tears.

I took her hand.

4


I weaved through the crowd at the phoenix station, dodging a little girl who suddenly darted out to my right, and stepping over a duffle bag a young man dropped in front of me while dragging my own suitcase behind me. I made my way toward my gate with excruciating slowness, even though I could see the sign flashing just ahead, Gate 11--Phoenix Station to Mars Colony B.

"Hey, wait up," I could hear my co-pilot, Roger Sora, calling behind me. I sighed and turned to see him elbowing his way through the crowd, his boyish face red from the exertion.

"Sora, the shuttle leaves in an hour. We need to move," I snapped.

Roger fell in step beside me and grabbed by arm, gulping audibly. "I need to tell you something important. It's your wife."

I stopped abruptly to stare at him, and I could feel someone collide with my back. The crowd continued to buzz around me, but my ears suddenly felt as though they were stuffed with cotton. I couldn't hear Roger's next words, as he mumbled into my ear.

"Let's--let's get to the gate," I said, pulling him along. Eventually I got to the gate, where passengers were sitting, quietly and patiently. Roger pulled me aside, and managed to utter the next, few, fateful words.

"There's been an accident."

"Laurel--is she okay? Is the baby okay? What happened?"

"She was riding the train to work and it derailed. She's alive, but she's in serious condition. We need to get you home as quickly as we can."

"Of course," I said, turning to board the shuttle.

"Listen," Roger said as he followed, "The captain thinks that maybe you shouldn't fly."

I ignored him as I proceeded to the cockpit. Of course I would fly. Why would I trust anyone else to get me home? But somehow, I ended up sitting next to the flight attendant, tapping my foot impatiently as Roger and a pilot I didn't know went through the initial flight check. An eternity later, we took off. I stared out of the window as we made our maddeningly slow approach to Mars.

The flight landed, and I rushed to the hospital, Roger rushing alongside of me the whole time, babbling incoherently about doctors and intensive care units and surgeries and failing to say anything of use. He couldn't tell me if Laurel would live, and he couldn't tell me if the baby she carried would live.

I arrived at the hospital, and a plump, white-haired nurse directed us to the ICU, smiling at us with such kind pity that I wanted to scream. I rushed into the ICU, ignoring the doctors and nurses who attempted to say kind or helpful things to me. I didn't stop until I was in her room, by her side, holding her fragile hand.

She was breathing, and the machines next to her bed beeped steadily and almost serenely. Her heavily scratched face showed beneath layers of heavy gauze, which completely obscured her eyes. She bit her dry lips, and struggled to sit up.

"I knew you'd come soon," she said. "I'm sorry. I lost the baby. Damn it, I lost the baby and I can't even cry. The doctors had to do surgery on my eyes. I'm so sorry--I'm so sorry."

"No, stop it," I squeezed her hand. "You're alive, and that's what matters."

Just then, we were interrupted by a tall, rather thin woman, who peeked her head through the doorway. "Are you Laurel's husband?" she asked.

"Yes."

"I'm Dr. Maddox. I'm glad to finally meet you, though I truly wish it were under different circumstances," she said earnestly, stepping into the room and shaking my hand. "Laurel, you should rest for a while. We'll talk outside for a bit, if that's ok."

"I'll be just outside the door," I assured her. "I'll be back soon. You won't wake up here, alone. I promise."

Laurel managed a weak smile. I squeezed her hand, and then hurried outside to speak to the doctor.

"We were a bit worried at first, but Laurel's strong. She lost the baby, but her body is recovering. She should be fine with rest."

"Why is her face covered with bandages?" I demanded.

Dr. Maddox sighed, and gestured for me to sit down. "Laurel's eyes were filled with broken glass from the train window, and we were unable to save them. Don't worry, she's not blind--we were able to perform surgery, and replace her eyes."

"You mean--you got a donor this quickly?"

"No, she has opted for electronic implants. They're very realistic, but I should warn you, she will look different."

I nodded and listened numbly as she described the procedure, and the benefits and limitations of Laurel's new eyes. I was exhausted; the adrenaline I'd been running on ever since I'd heard of the accident was leaving my body. I thanked the doctor and made my way back to Laurel's bedside with heavy limbs and drooping eyelids.

I don't know how long I slept, but when I woke up, Laurel was already awake, and Dr. Maddox was peeling back the gauze from Laurel's eyes. Dr. Maddox caught my eye and gestured for me to come over as she worked.

I stood up and watched as the bandages fell away, leaving Laurel's face red, raw, and exposed. Laurel opened her eyelids slowly, as if they were heavy, and fixed her new eyes on me.

They were large and brown, like before, but they caught the light with a glassy sheen. They darted about in an unnatural, jerky fashion, whirring and whining as the pupils opened and closed.

Laurel's face broke out into a grin. "I can see you, darling," she said. "I can see you like I've never seen anything before. Everything is so clear and bright."

Dr. Maddox took a small flashlight from her pocket and shone them into Laurel's eyes. "They're reacting to the light very well." She held up a finger and passed it in front of Laurel's eyes, and the eyes tracked it from side to side.

"They seem to be working perfectly," Dr. Maddox said triumphantly.

Laurel fixed her new eyes on me--not the warm, living eyes that cried at our wedding, but doll's eyes. "What do you think?"

"I think you're beautiful," I said.

5


Laurel and I tried to have another baby for several years, but ever since the accident, Laurel's body seemed to reject the process. We were happy together, living as we had before. We threw ourselves into our work. Laurel got several PhDs, and made several important discoveries. I became the director of the Mars shuttle station. We lived, we loved, and we aged.

My face became brown and wrinkled, my hairline receded, and I slipped comfortably into middle age, but Laurel didn't take the passing of time so gracefully. She had young lips and young eyes embedded in wrinkled skin, which was lifted and smoothed until it fell again. Her figure stayed young but her hands grew worn, the swollen joints alone showing her years of hard work. She would sometimes look into the mirror for minutes at a time, tracing the contours of her face and staring as though she were trying to put together pieces of a puzzle.

I began to take more time off from work, and eventually handed the reins of the department over to a younger pilot, but Laurel continued to work. She stayed in her lab for hours, her mechanical eyes focusing on a computer screen all night without tiring. One week she shut herself in the lab and didn't come out, even for meals. Only her assistant was allowed in and out.

One Saturday evening, I was on the point of breaking down the door when she emerged, smiling triumphantly. She walked quickly to me and pressed my hand.

"You have to see what I've been working on."

She led me into the lab and over to the computer, where a screen showed a picture of a pleasant park with trees, grass, and rustic benches. Underneath the screen was a small text window.

"Is it a sort of game?" I asked.

"No, it's a whole world," she said. "It's an alternate reality, within the computer. You can download your mind--your whole consciousness--into the computer, and live there. The world is perfect--all the sights and sounds are totally real."

"It's not really reality, though," I said.

"Who's to say what's real," she retorted. "I haven't completely downloaded myself yet, but the VR helmet can show you what it's like…"

"You can't download a person," I said. "You're more than just brainwave activity. Computers and people are different."

"How can you say that? I'm three-fourths machine now, anyway," Laurel said. "Did I stop being human when I got my ears or eyes replaced, or when I had my interface implant put in?"

"No--but there's still something left of you."

"My mind--my consciousness is what's left of me, and I can put that here."she said, gesturing to the computer. "I want you to come with me. We'll be young there. We'll be perfect, like we always wanted to be."

"You were the one who always wanted to be perfect," I retorted. "I only ever wanted you to be you."

Laurel frowned and looked away, wringing her hands.

"Look, Laurel, let's not fight over this. This is a big deal, and I'm sure you still need to run tests before you make a decision. Let's go to bed, now, and talk this over in the morning."

She looked up again and smiled. "Okay, you win. I'll sleep on it, and maybe in the morning, you'll have changed your mind," she laughed.

6

I woke up in a cold sweat in an empty bed. The room was silent, but I could see the hall light leaking under the crack in the bedroom door. I got out of bed and felt around for my robe, and then made my way to the door.

The light in the hallway burned my eyes, and I wiped tears and sleep from my eyes as I my feet padded along the linoleum floor. As I neared the lab, I heard a hurried whispering, and the whir of a machine.

I opened the laboratory door and saw Laurel lying on a cot while her young assistant bustled around, checking the computer monitor, and hooking Laurel up to a device that looked like it belonged in a hospital.

Her assistant stopped and looked up in shock when I entered the room, but I said nothing. I went to Laurel's side and took her hand.

"You didn't have to do it in secret, like this," I said.

"I can't live in this body anymore," Laurel whispered. "I feel like I'm being torn in half."

"It's okay," I said, stroking her limp, brittle hair.

"Start the upload," Laurel said, shutting her eyes.

The assistant went to the computer and pressed a few buttons, and then stood back. Laurel tightened her grip on my hand and gasped--her eyes flew open, the electric pupils opened up until the brown was swallowed by black. Then she fell back, her mouth slack and her chest rising and falling steadily. She looked like she was asleep.

"The life-support equipment is keeping her body alive, now," the assistant whispered. "Her mind is here." I turned to the computer monitor and my breath caught as I saw the words appear in the text box.

I'm here, and I'm fine. It's beautiful.

I turned to the assistant and grabbed her shoulders. "Hook me up," I said. I stepped back and held up my left hand.

The assistant nodded and gestured to the chair beside me. I sat, and the assistant attached two cords to my left hand, one running to the computer, and one to the machine that was pumping away, keeping my wife's body alive. She pressed a few keys on the computer, and I saw a dazzling flash of light. My body seized and my jaw clenched shut as though I'd been hit by lightning.

Then I was standing in a ray of sunlight as hot as a summer day on earth. I could see colors--gold, blue, and green. At first the colors were in vague splotches all around me, but then they grew clearer. Shapes coalesced--a round sun, white clouds, and green trees.

Directly ahead, I could see the blue rectangle of a pool, and I was almost overwhelmed by a strong scent of chlorine and sunblock. I took a deep breath and raised my hands to my face. My skin was fresh, firm, and unmarked.

I looked up and saw, sitting by the pool, a girl with sunburned, freckled skin, lying on a faded blue towel. She stood up, holding hand out to me as her eyes sparkled like the sun on water.

THE END


2013 Bridget Kay Specht

Bio: Bridget Specht is a lover of music and dance in the San Angelo area. She published several short stories and poems through her blog, The Cosmic Shores and four of her poems in the Angelo State University literary magazine, the Oasis, in 1999.  Her self-published novel, Mephisto Waltz, is available on kindle through Amazon.com.


E-mail: Bridget Specht

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