Anya Returns

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She stares at me with eyes of purple fire, a blazing phantom in the dark. My breath catches in my throat, and when I finally speak, it comes out a hoarse whisper.

“What happened, Anya?”

The woman I had known so many years ago grins.

“My eyes were opened.”

I wait for her to say more, but that’s all she offers in reply.

We grew up together, Anya and I. We were best friends, inseparable from the start. Our relationship turned intimate, and by the time we neared our college graduation we were already contemplating marriage.

That was when she disappeared.

Now, she rolls onto her side, pressing her body against mine, and I instantly grow hard with years of pent up longing. I have never felt an urge so strong. It overloads my synapses, drives me to the brink of madness.

This is a dream, I think. Any minute I’ll wake up. This close, I can see myself reflected in her spectral eyes.

Her family and I spent years looking for her. The police gave up in a matter of weeks for lack of evidence, but we kept searching, scouring her apartment, interviewing her friends, calling the numbers in the phone she left beside her bed.

Now, here she is again, lying in my bed as if the intervening years were nothing.

“You loved me once,” she whispers. Her breath tickles my ear. I detect the familiar smell of lavender and lilac. Her favorite scent, at odds with the feral untamed fire in her eyes.

Those flaming pupils bore into my own, extract my deepest secrets.

“I don’t understand,” I say, because there’s nothing else to say.

“Then let me help you understand.”

Her mouth opens, joins with my own. Another fire kindles, erupting to life inside my body. She leaps on top of me, hot to the touch, and I have no choice but to offer up my heart as an immolation.

“Love me now,” she says, and as our bodies become one, as the embers of an old love ignite once more, I glimpse the possessing spirit within and welcome it into myself.

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Alone

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Philosophers have pondered it. Theologians have pontificated about it. Scientists have been skeptical of it. Life after death. The great beyond. Sarah had been afraid of it, then had slipped silently into it during the night.

She had no idea how she’d met death. She could only remember waking in a dark place, unable to move her limbs because she had no limbs to move. Her nature, her mode of being, had been turned on its head in an instant. It took her ages to come to terms with the loss, to begin exploring the depths of her insubstantial self.

When at last acceptance came, she drifted through the cosmos, ready to begin whatever journey lay ahead. Moving was not so much an act of the body as it was an act of the will, a projection of thought and mind.

She called out, hoping to find others like herself, but no one answered.

Was that what death was? To be alone? The thought terrified her. If her eternal vocation was to exist in such a state, she’d rather the darkness had consumed her.

She continued to skid through the universe, crying out in increasingly panicked outbursts.

Hello? Is anyone there?

She felt her soundless voice reverberate, ripple out through space and time. But again, there was no reply. If she kept this up, she was certain she’d go mad.

Had she gone to Hell? As she streaked through a thousand worlds in silence, she pondered this terrible prospect.

Hell. Was that the reward I earned in life?

She tried to remember but could not. Her old life had faded until it left only the vaguest of impressions, a formless shadow in the dark.

Is anyone there? Please, answer me.

She projected herself further. Further. Like a heat-seeking missile, she launched herself as far as she could go in search of companionship.

Sarah.

A silent whisper, echoing across the void in reply. Her name. Someone had used her name. At last, an answer to her call. If she had a body, tears would have poured from her eyes.

I’m here!

Sarah, follow my voice.

And Sarah did. On and on she went, zeroing in, while every so often that voice would say something new so she could pick up its trail and continue following after it.

Sarah, over here. That’s it, Sarah. You’ve almost made it.

There was light in the distance, not the kind she had once witnessed with her eyes but something different, a radiant, all-consuming fire that warmed her essence.

Just a little further.

The voice was close now, still separated from her by some unfathomable chasm, but close all the same.

Suddenly, the light was a searing fire that burned just to look at it.

Sarah, you’ll have to jump.

I’m scared.

But she ached to pass through it, to see what was in store for her on the other side. Most of all, she longed for communion with the voice that had reached out to her at the height of her terrible loneliness.

Just let go and jump.

Sarah felt power mounding in her. Fear and desire warred with each other in greater and greater intensity, until the fire in her own soul was a greater agony than the fire she contemplated crossing.

That’s it, Sarah. Jump!

She did as the voice commanded. There was a timeless instant in which agony reached an excruciating peak, in which she could feel all the impurities of her former existence smelted away. Then she was pure, pristine, and the fire could no longer harm her.

She was a part of the light now, and inside of it she could at last behold the one who’d spoken to her with a kind of awe she’d been incapable of in life.

Welcome home, Sarah.

Love filled her to capacity. The chasm had been bridged, and Sarah would never be alone again.

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Love Between the Lines

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He begins to wake.

The dream warps, fades, falls away to the space between. On the periphery of his subconscious, just before the threshold of reality, is where he meets Diane.

He can feel himself slipping, feel the world around him breaking apart like dandelion puff in a breeze, and it’s in this moment that she caresses him against her breast. He cannot see her, and he dares not open his eyes for fear of shattering the fragile state in which he enjoys her divine company.

He wills the encounter to last, wills the future to melt like the wax of a brightly burning candle to reveal a single ever-present moment. But sooner or later the bubble will pop, and he knows that when it does he’ll be left alone in the dark, awake, heartbroken, aching for the next time their worlds intersect.

There is no lasting peace for him, no enduring joy. There is only Diane and their love between the lines.

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Shattered Reality

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Déjà vu. Everything is the same as it was before.

Jordan sees her by the register, standing in line with a gallon of milk and a plastic bag of carrots. She looks so much like the woman he’s been searching for, the woman he loved for many years, his wife and the mother of his child. He wants to run to her, to embrace her, to tell her they can be a family again. But before he can move he knows it isn’t her.

She looks the same. She has the same dark brown hair, the same olive skin, the same heart-shaped face. He knows that if he approaches her, she’ll grab her ear and smile in the same self-conscious way that won him over so early on in their relationship. It’s Karen, but it isn’t his Karen.

He was foolish to toy with something as brittle as space and time. He breached the barrier between the worlds, and the universe shattered, torn into a billion partial reflections of his own reality. He was flung clear of the blast, soared headlong into a cosmos that was not his own, and now he must find his way home.

For a moment, just like every other moment since the accident, he considers that this world is good enough. He reaches for her. Puts his arm down. Reaches for her again. Finally, he hangs his head. This is not his home, not his Karen. She’ll have chosen another Jordan, and they’ll have had another baby Angelina. Not his home. Not his wife. Jordan turns away.

He opens the palm of his hand, raises it toward the ceiling, and a gateway appears, a hole in space that only he can see. He marches forward, resigned, and is consumed by gray.

Maybe the next world will be his own.

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One Life Ends and Another Begins

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“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

On August 14, 2015, one chapter of my life will close in Los Angeles, CA, and another will open halfway across the world in Manila. I’ll step off my plane after fifteen and a half hours of non-stop flying with nothing but my passport, some cash and the few remnants of my former life from the States that will fit into two Samsonite Spinners on wheels, and I won’t be coming home.

How did this happen?

The short explanation is that I fell in love. Love is a curious thing. It makes us do things we would never do on our own. It makes us bold. For love, we’ll conquer the world. We’ll go anywhere, do anything, give up everything we have, whatever it takes to be with our beloved. For this woman, uprooting my thirty-one-year-old life in the States came as naturally as breathing.

I’m excited.

I’m about to undertake an extraordinary journey, shared by someone special. The Philippines is a beautiful country, filled with natural wonders and unique cultural marvels that can be found nowhere else. My girlfriend and I both enjoy traveling, so the adventure won’t stop there; together, we’ll take on the world.

I’m scared.

Just because I’ve decided to plunge head-first into the deep end doesn’t mean I’m not afraid. I’ve never done anything like this before. What if I lose my job? There are very few Stateside employers who are willing to hire remote web developers. What if something happens to me in the city? What if I’m robbed? What if I get lost? What if I’m trapped in a serious natural disaster, like a major earthquake or typhoon?

As a sufferer of anxiety, I always used to play it safe. Until recently, the very notion of being suspended in the air above the ocean for fifteen or more hours at a time would, for example, have been enough to drive me under the bed, cowering in fear.

But I’m tired of playing it safe. After dating my girlfriend for a while, with all the frustrations that long distance relationships inevitably bring, I knew I would have to do something extreme if our relationship was to have any hope of surviving. So I took a deep breath and I jumped. Life’s too short to play it safe. Sooner or later, we’re all going to die; it’s just a matter of when. We should make the best of the time we have and live our lives to the fullest, for not a single man or woman knows when Death will come knocking on their doorstep.

Life is an adventure.

Over time, reading and writing about everyday adventures changed my attitude. It turned the boring and the ordinary into something exciting and extraordinary. Once my outlook on life changed, so too did my desire to undertake adventures of the more exotic variety.

I have no idea what will happen when I arrive. But for good or for ill, I know that it will be an adventure.

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All You Need is Love

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At the end of all things, when at last you gaze down from the precipice at what was once the vista of your life, you will come to understand that the value of your time here on Earth had nothing to do with material wealth or power, that it had nothing to do with good health, that it had nothing to do with whether or not you accomplished everything you wished to do when you were alive. Instead, you will find that the measure of your worthiness hinges solely on whether or not you loved. The pinnacle of existence, the highest pleasure, is to live a life in communion with others, to love and to be loved. Love is the fulfillment of the human experience.

There are different kinds of love. There’s the love we’re born into, that between a father and a son, a mother and a daughter, a brother and a sister. There’s the love between friends. There’s eros, the uniquely intimate love between two people that culminates in an even greater love, the conception of new life. There are so many ways to love, so many ways to express our need to be close to others.

All the money and health and power in the world can’t buy the simplest kind of happiness that can be purchased for as a little as a smile, a hug or a kiss. With enough money and power, you can move mountains. But what of that? With enough love, you can move souls.

Love can be experienced by the poor as well as the rich, by the sick as well as the healthy, by the foolish as well as the wise. It knows no boundaries. It’s an all-consuming fire that razes the world, burning down the material and ideological divides that separate us, reducing us to our purest essence.

Love has the power to shine into the darkest depths. It provides aid and comfort before the most fearsome powers of Hell, even as death and despair surround you from every side. As long as there’s love, there’s hope. Nothing is more precious.

To love is to be a part of something greater than yourself, to be one with a collective whole that feeds and nourishes the soul even as it sustains and uplifts the body. To be indifferent, to shut yourself away from this life-giving force, is to be cut off from this higher existence, to slowly wither and die, cold and alone, huddling in some obscure corner of the world even as those around you burn with the blinding radiance of a star, with the brilliance of hearts set ablaze by the most powerful force in the universe.

Reading fiction can teach you how to love. It affords you access to the hearts and minds of a variety of characters, and in so doing, helps you to understand others, since well-written characters always reflect real people.

In fact, Research has shown that reading fosters empathy. And it’s precisely this emotional understanding that bursts through the walls that separate us, that bridges hearts so that all who know might come to love, and in so doing save themselves from the only kind of death that man should ever fear.

Has yours been a life worth living? For the answer, you must only ask yourself one question: “have I loved?”

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