I sat upon a simple stone bench in the garden of change, watching as Death stepped in to close the distance; wrapping his arms about Life’s waist and gazing down into her eyes.
They were considered a precarious couple by some, but it was abundantly clear to me, that anyone worth their salt would see it otherwise.
She reached up to kiss him, and as true lovers lips met in ecstasy I was besotted by the scene that unfolded behind them.
A warm wind had blown its’ way in from the Nor’west, enticing the trees into a mesmerising sway. A flurry of leaves were dislodged from the loftiest of branches, they glistened in the light with flaming brilliance as they rained down from the autumnal pillars; landing amidst the children that played beneath their eaves.
I felt tears begin to well as I turned back to the task of glaring into the ether. I felt so much that it all just amounted to a kind of numb tension.
Serendipity wandered over to me.
She took my hands in hers and smiled as best she could.
‘It breaks my heart to see you like this.’ she soothed.
‘I’ll never forsake you.’
‘Please don’t think anything less of us for..’
I cut her off in a firm and even tone.
‘It had to be done.’
She cast a brief glance at Love, who had joined us in kind.
Beaming smugly, she smoothed things over:
‘I wouldn’t worry. He was taught fairly well; he’s not that petty. At least not often.’
I let a smile tug at the corner of my lips, then went back to work on the cast iron frown.
‘Is she okay?’ I asked quietly.
“Aw, sweetheart..’ Serendipity began to caution.
I rose to my feet in spite of my resignation.
‘I know, I know.’ I admitted, making a small dismissive gesture.
I was distracted by a glimpse caught of Time over their slender shoulders.
He thew me a look that perplexed me to no end, then grinned and winked – disappearing amidst the press of guardians that passed between us – singing haunting chorus in ethereal voices as they marched stately to their posts in the palace proper.
Fucking show ponies.
Brow heavy I edged up to the threshold of The Collider, staring ahead as if in trance; trying to discern something coherent, tangible in the obscurity clouding the path before me.
I smiled wryly, addressing the others without turning:
‘I guess there’s nothin’ else for it.’
I turned to say goodbye.
The garden was empty of everything but the light of the waning sun.
Facing The Collider once more, I marvelled at how the veil shimmered in crystalline hues. I realised unconsciously that years must have passed.
I looked up to bear witness, as a shooting star tore a blinding arc across the heavens and into eternity. My heart overflowed.
I was snapped out of reverie by a strange sensation between my eyebrows, a vague memory from another place in light, of familiar lips planted upon my forehead in a kiss.
Realising where I was, I struggled to keep myself from being overwhelmed.
Rifle gripped loosely in right hand, I looked down past combat armour to the greaves that wreathed my feet, I shut my eyes tightly and released the tension through gritted teeth in a hiss.
I snapped my gaze back to level, glaring into the ether as I slapped the rifle onto it’s mount on my chest plate, and stalked forward across The Line.
Those fateful words resounded in my head as I sallied forth:
’Your soul to be riven asunder, rehabilitated through mortality until such time as it is proven that you are no longer a liability; your love, will share your fate.
Once redeemed you shall lead our forces into the fray amongst a dedicated unit of like kind; when and wherever the need is most dire. You will stem the onset of darkness, and restore flagging hope and faith in our stewardship. Ultimately you will seek out and establish a lasting resolution to this conflict. You will serve unconditionally for an indefinite term, until such time as consensus sees fit to release you.
The honourable officers Love and Serendipity have voted in favour of your punishment, resolving the deadlock and sealing your fate.
It may ease your dismay to know that they did so on the condition that your love would be granted contented and fulfilling existences throughout her sentenced mortality; despite the fact that she was an accessory to your treason, and accountable in full.
We are not entirely without mercy and so we have granted this request in respect for her character, conduct at large, and what she once meant to this assembly. However, as should be obvious she will not recognise you as you are, nor remember your lives here prior to this day. Should by some vast improbability you encounter each other, you would do well to leave her be; frankly you’ve put her through enough.
It is in her best interests that you serve this sentence to the letter, in as peaceable a fashion as you can manage.’
That was my punishment.
The details of my crime, so visceral until now, were suddenly unclear. I had once stood amongst this assembly as an equal; my title had been Chivalry.
Now even my name was irrelevant. At least for the time being. I owed everything to Love, for it was her sister that I had damned with my actions. Had I not been deemed of such use to these ‘people’, and had she and Serendipity not sued for peace, my fate would have been significantly more abrupt; an end she would have been resigned to in tandem.
I had known with a certainty that even these lingering details would soon be washed from my beleaguered mind.
A method of control. ‘A precaution for my own good’.
It didn’t matter.
For lack of a better option, I serve this penitent tangent.
What they had not anticipated, was that by some anomaly, over aeons the pieces would slowly come back to us both.
Next time I’ll be sure not to fail.