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Timeater's Desert

BY: Admiral Coeyman

Dedicated to a lost friend born on groundhog day, 1972.

I popped into reality, kind of like a champagne cork, dropping a long way to land gently on the grassy side of a hill. During this time, I had only a simple, meaningless thought either on or in my mind:
Is there a rythem and flow to time or is it just the lazy mind of desperate Man which sees as it must that one moment, any moment, must follow any other?

I do not remember standing up, yet, that is the position I had when I saw her across the field. She had shoulder length blond hair dancing about the top of her black blouse. About her waist dangled a grey-white skirt lapping at her knees. I felt the cold mesh of dew-bathed grass between my own toes in the same moment as I noticed that she also was barefoot.

She crossed the field in a gentle, flower scented wind tickling my nose. I cannot recall the color of her eyes, as if the color rings of eyes opening into a soul that deep and meaningful could be of any value. There I realized that I once had and would again love her.

The strangest part of the whole affair, to that point, was that she knew me. Timeaters are no more real than shadows on a sunny day, and just as quickly dismissed by most people. That was the cost of my power and immortality. If time had endured me enough for my life to be measured in it, then I would have lived nearly a millennium at random moments before coming to Beth.

"Welcome home, Lee," she called in a breathlessly faint voice.

Interaction with the moment shattered its stained-glass beauty. "I find it good to have a home to come to, Beth."

"Let's eat before the morning chores today, shall we?"

"Your wish is my will."

Taking my hand, we walked together to a large, run down wooden farmhouse on top of a small hill in the center of the grassy field. The greying wood siding needed to be painted and yet it was still as I had imagined it. Five creaky old steps up to a fenced porch in the front, with a comfortable swing lashed and bolted to the overhang. It had a heavy, ornately carved front door with neither windows nor need for a lock of any kind.

I opened the door for her, half expecting the hinges to scream at the disturbance, however, they released the door to swing with a welcoming ease. Pulling back on the heavy barricade, I bowed at Beth's side playing the butler for a moment. "My lady," I commented.

She smiled the kind of smile which makes it hard to tell if she was happy or embarrassed by my antics. It didn't matter to me and there was nobody other than us two between the walls of the horizon. I smiled back while she entered our home.

Home was a word which I knew yet had never had occasion to use in reference to myself.

The table was already set with my seat at the head and her's at the foot. It was a hardy farm breakfast with eggs and Canadian bacon which I had missed in the centuries of synthetic foods from which I had just come. I considered it my duty to push in her chair before going to my own.

I said grace with remarkable skill considering that it was the first time I had ever lead a prayer. Maybe it was just the first sincere thanks in my long disused heart. A timeater can heal or kill as is the entropy within him, but he neither knows nor is known enough to really care. Even as such is true most of us are drawn to the betterment of Man.

After the meal, I set about mending the fences around our crop. The only signs of animals I saw were made by our animals, but it didn't seem odd. Beth fed the chickens and hogs while I moved on to the cattle in the barn. Days must have been longer than I recall since we had time for all the work it took to keep our farm going with just the two of us. And neither of us cared.

I finished up my chores when the sun just crested the hills on its way down. Beth had already gone inside to prepare the light evening meal which somehow was timed to perfection to coincide with my return. She set the table up with candles and an old, lacy tablecloth which hung nearly a foot over each end of our table.

Before entering the room by way of the heavy door, I lifted the cellar door to select a wine for the meal. It was vintage 1968 which I could not say was a long or short time before we drank it except to doubt that it was from a period after we used the bottle. That in itself was an odd feeling. Time having a definite direction of flow occupied me so much that I don't recall getting back to and into the main house.

We ate in near silence. Neither of us had the manner of breeding to use more than a single knife or fork, however, Beth's gentle nature was royal if anything in the real world was. She said please, a word I had forgotten the meaning of in the centuries, with every request for a dish within my reach and I was embarrassed to be such a clod in her presence.

My manners returned in a clumsy fashion, which she took with unearthly grace. I wanted to be a gentleman, her gentleman, worthy of the honor she bestowed on me. I once went so far as to address her in the unfitting tone of 'madam,' to which she reacted with respectable distaste. Another man would not even have seen it in her eyes, but I changed my address to the more fitting, 'my lady.'

There was not much to do in the old house. Being a consummate outsider, I did not notice the dull peace of the evening. We retired, after I washed up the dishes, to a large hall with its walls lined entirely in books. It had been better than a century since I had seen my last book, and half that since I had actually read a printed word, so I took the nearest volume to examine without intending to read it.

"That's one of my favorites," Beth explained with a smile.

I couldn't even remember which way to open a book, so I offered it to her in a mishandled misdirection. "Would my lady care to read aloud this evening?"

She blushed and I felt her think about hitting me with the book. I'd had it both backwards and upside down although she pretended not to notice. "It is a tale of a cold winter in the city, brightening into spring."

"Have you been to many cities?"

"No, Lee. I should very much like to go there to live someday."

"Having been to many cities, I don't feel comfortable there."

"Just listen, Lee. Children playing in the park, old ladies telling stories on porch steps and the cool breeze chasing the hot day from the back streets. Just hear how Mr. Weber put it in his book."

At it's roughest, her voice mirrored the musical prowess of the nightingale and I felt her sense of wonder at the verbal portrait she painted for me within the author's words. Her tone gave texture to the dry ink on the pages. Inflections of her voice perfumed the air with color only she saw in the old pages. It pained me that I could not share this moment with her.

Having been a prisoner of populations I could not see, I did not want to live in another city. These unseen minds, watching my every moment to keep me at their mercy for their planned use robbed me again. Beloved Beth and I were not getting along because of them. I was again planning my departure for another time.

She stopped when the clock struck nine. I walked to the stairs while she wrapped her left arm around my right arm at the elbow, then we climbed the dark wooden tower in sync. Kissing her at the door to her room, I failed to watch out for her and the lighter interior door swung under its weight until it hit her in the side. My mind willed it to be a kiss goodbye. My hand wanted to smash a door.

After she was safely in her room, I turned to enter the room across from hers. There was no reason why I should know, however, I did know that it was to be my room. I cursed my slow reflexes for allowing the door to hit her while my own door drifted shut. Then I told myself that slipping into my bed would also slip me out of this time and space.

Deliberately, I slipped into bed readily accepting that it was time to move on through time-space. Beth's dreams, which I could not deny her, were incompatible with my comfort and I wished her luck in getting her way even though I would be unable to share her happiness. And yet I was wrong.

The next morning, I awoke in my own bed.

Without respect for the supposed omnipotence of natural law which had never been inclined to even embrace, much less hold me, I could not hold a grudge. One look into the mystic depths of Beth's eyes and all was forgotten as well as forgiven. God had not given me the heart of a vengeful man.

We met at the top of the stairs. She had been there a short time, I do not know how long, however she had waited to descend from our surreal palace into the mundane world together. I approached on the left side of her and she slipped her arm gently around mine without resistence from me. In her presence I could feel the world around me without having to see it.

I was her knight in dull cotton and she was my lady in flowing, glowing, yellow.

After the chores we ate a meal not much changed from that of the previous day. I washed up the dishes and table, being only fair to the ethereal spirit which had graced me with her warm presence. Then I tried to tell her that I had to leave for another time and place. Her world was the best place to which I had ever been and yet, as much as I wanted to stay there with her forever, duty drew me away.

Then I looked into her sincere eyes and forgot my words with a kiss I was ashamed of. How dare I have embraced her heavenly form to contaminate her purity with my meaningless affections. It was not as though I could have stopped myself or that she would have wanted me to. She was complacent of her own will.

Although I felt more drawn to her in the way she had accepted me without reservation, I buried myself in the day's labor out of guilt. I was not good enough for her in any way. She had to leave me to find a man worthy of her. It was my unspoken duty to part from her so that she could fulfill her destiny.

Days and nights passed while we played out our lucid fairy tale and I grew more comfortable in her presence. All the time, I knew that I must move on. The day was fast approaching when a mere fairy tale, bereft of the tribulations common to everyday life, would not be enough. I was becoming addicted to companionship.

The more I saw her the more I knew that she was a part of the world I despised. Pure as white sunlight, she was part of a world which rejected me as the largest part of its bitter nature. It believed itself beyond reproach. My journeys had shown that Man's simplistic embrace of unreal perfection as a lazy escape for the constant maintenance of his world.

As much as it is better to prevent tribulation than to endure it, Man always took the same, predictably errant, course. When he tired of solving problems he threw wealth at them in an attempt to bribe death to take them. He would go so far as to deny that there had been a better time as his world grew sicker from his abandonment. Instant results eventually replaced real results.

Even my surreal beauty, Beth, was sure to belong in that mad rush to destruction which I had labored a thousand and more years to halt. Would it even occur to her to overlook the most obvious path and look to him without her troubles to see what workable talisman kept them from his doorstep? Was she woman enough that I would not have to be more than a man to be with her? Would God allow it?

Over the time, I had grown so disgusted with Man's obsession with 'what if' baiting to escape solutions for better excuses that I could not surrender my distaste even for the faultless Beth. It was her world and I could not go back to living in it. She was destined to cast aside responsibility to evade visions of a blighted future of her own making. Then she would bring her worst fears down upon herself with a vengeance.

These were things I could not live with. I would not watch Beth die a slow and arduous death sufferring from little more than a corporal bad idea. My heart, new to me and unused in all the centuries of time, could not take it. God had given me eyes which I had learned to use. Because of that, I realized that my destiny had called me to leave when the crop came in. These few months with Beth were the total length of my life.

I was restless in contemplation of what course my life was to take with Beth. I left my room, which was lit by moonlight through the window, to sit in the darkened hall beyond. Timeaters, if that is what I still was, cannot see in the dark, however, Man's predatory nature still dwells within him and can let him move without sight.

It's not like I truly understood why there was a chair in the hall, yet, it was something I often noticed in old homes of this design. I found it a comforting place to sit and wonder when I would next leap through time. After so long being unwelcome in any moment of time-space I found it odd that I had remained unwatched this long in our home. How was Beth holding me corporeal?

My mission was one of loneliness in which I would never feel alone. It had chosen me and I had embraced it without hesitation. I was a timeater, unnoticed through all the moments of time and able to make minor changes like sowing seeds which could effect the destiny of worlds. Could I even afford this responsibility and the luxury of being a man?

Would God even allow it?

The door across from mine opened, cutting deeply into the darkness. Beth flipped the switch upon exiting the room and the hall slowly climbed from darkness into the light. I was not blinded by the brightness of the light, save by the glow of fare Beth.

She stood there in a slow yawn. The hem of her nightgown was up on the left side, her eyes were half closed with sleep and her hair stood at odd angles like the stiff brush near a prairie pond. Her fleshtone was washed out until the flow of blood returned to its waking state. She was almost as much of a mess as I was. And, she was real.

I smiled at her long enough for her eyes to adjust and see it. She was more real than I had ever been and I was honored above mortal men to behold her in her unfalsified beauty. Smiling back, she pulled the hem of her gown down and walked to the bathroom beside me.

Once was more than enough for me to realize what I had never thought before. I would not be there for her return trip having returned to my room to dream my final dreams. Ideas formed in my head and I buried them there. Truth came, yet I ran into sleep to hide from it. Even I knew that I could not hide forever.

We sat out on the old, creaky, comfortable porch swing one cool evening with her head gently nestled into my right shoulder. My arm was wrapped around her waist, but not in such a way as to compromise her virtue or to seem impetuous of me. Her arm slipped through the curve of my back into my left hand, resting against my left hip. I felt under dressed so close to her flowing white gown.

Her gown was a decorative white mist around the two of us. It was ornate in the lace, yet, it was not so superficial as to be uncomfortable to her. She was a lady, my princess, and still not above the labor of her station. To me she was an ethereal beauty grounded just enough in the material world for me to hold.

I feared to speak the words I knew must come next as I knew they would be the end not just of this one moment but of all moments which would otherwise have been. They formed as a gas in my mind, coalesced to a fluid in my mouth and hardened to a stone in my throat. Pressure built in my lungs to force these cursed words spoken before my better judgement willed forever their death.

"I just realized something, Beth."

She opened her eyes and I felt her head move into a more comfortable position against my arm before she spoke. "What would that be, Lee?"

"I'm dead, Beth."

"We don't die, Lee," she answered, grasping me tighter about the waist.

I turned to her, kissing her with great care in mourning of the future moments now lost. "You're playing with words now. You've known all along."

"You jumped beyond the last moment of time, Lee. But, it's not your time."

Lowering my head to rest in her hair, I continued with a longing for the will to become eternally silent. "Which still leaves me dead."

Perhaps for the last time, she kissed me. "Timeaters are beyond the flow of time and the corrosive nature of age."

I looked into her soft-focused eyes. "Where does that leave us, beloved Beth?"

She drifted the gaze of her eyes to our final sunrise together without moving the warmth of her face away from my view. "Firstly, what have you learned?"

"I have learned the value of the little things in life."

"Our Lord has given you a gift, Lee. All of time has bathed you in its current flowing from the first to the last moment."

"But I have known love only once. Only with you."

"Your son, Avrel, stood up for you. You reared him well."

Breaking the tension of the moment, I kissed her forehead. "What, then, is the lesson I am to learn?"

"Life has no single lesson, Lee. Everything in life is a lesson."

"Beth--I'm afraid I'm about to lose you. I'm sorry."

She pushed me back into the swing to share our final moments in the last sunset we would share in that place. "Where we go now, we go together. But, in shedding your loneliness, you also shed your being as a timeater."

I refrained answering for a few moments just to prolong our togetherness. "I accept you even at such a price."

We stood in an embrace by the last dying light of the sun, kissing deeply and becoming one. Then we faded into the bounded infinity of time to be born. As we entered our chosen birth date a pair, I traded my life as a shadow for life as a man destined for a single lifetime together with Beth. One day we would meet again in life and then both of us would be truly alive.

Votes for: Timeater's Desert.

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