She was far off in the distance, but I could see her clearly. I had seen her before, but this time she was smiling and waving her left hand high in the air. There was a man with her, old and leaning on a cane. His long beard and grey hair whipped lightly in the light breeze around him. She was wearing purple. A dress. He was wearing an old suit, the jacket draped over his right arm. I don’t remember how I got there. I was just there, and she was there and the old man was there. Her chocolate brown hair fell lightly around her face, framing her green eyes and heart shaped mouth. Even at a distance, I could see the light freckles over her cheeks.
The old man joined in beckoning me across the chasm. I can’t describe the place. It was dark, removed from reality. Above, there was machinery. Gears and turbines. A giant conveyor belt that looped in on itself. It churned and clicked along in steady rhythm, with a song like a charging locomotive. The old man and the girl were at the center of everything and I ran from where I had been. I ran until I was at the center. They were there and I was with them and the girl extended both arms toward me, taking my right hand in both of hers while the old man began to speak. Her smile widened and she bowed her head.
“The song,” he said to me. “When you hear the song, know it can only speak truth.”
I said nothing. The girl was silent but she released my hand and turned, standing beside me and facing the old man. I remember not being able to see the ground. I could feel it, and I could see my feet, but there was nothing below. Until I heard the song. It was then I realized I had bowed my head as well.
The old man hummed a simple, haunting melody. Four, sometimes five notes. Alternating and repeating. The ground came alive. “What do you see?” asked the old man.
“Nothing,” I quickly replied.
“Keep looking,” he urged patiently, the song still humming behind his words.
I kept looking. Down. Colors of all the rainbow became shapes, and shapes become objects, and those objects grew in complex form and figure. “I see machines. Roads. Sky below and above. There aren’t people, but I can feel that life is everywhere.”
Above the roads and sky there were cities. “People are in cities above the sky,” I said, and felt something brush the small of my back.
I looked again at the machines. “The machines share a signature, and they’re all working together.”
The girl had wrapped an arm around me and pulled me toward her. And then she fell. Back, down, and through the floor, and she pulled me with her but we parted as we fell.
My body shook, quickly and violently, and my eyes opened. I was alone, standing in the old subway tunnel in New York City. I was leaning against the wall, waiting for the train. I had almost fallen over when I woke, but managed to stay on my feet. Dark, blue and grey. A few of the people around me glanced in my direction when I shook, but no one said a word. There was a train accelerating from the station. Had I missed it?
I took a step toward the track and saw through a dirty, scratched window of one of the cars, the visage of a woman with green eyes and freckles framed by rich, straight, soft brown hair peering back at me and when my eyes met hers, she lifted her chin and raised a hand. A finger pointed skyward and her eyes slowly shut, and when they did my vision turned black and I felt I was falling again, down through what had been holding me on my feet.
Again, my eyes opened and I shook. I was in the subway, back where I awoke before and I knew it was the same. The girl was there as before, and as before I fell away from her.
Again. Again. Again, and again. I would never catch her. I could never catch her. In vain attempts, I tried to communicate with the others. With anyone else at the station. They would shrug or roll their eyes, and I would lose my will. I pushed them and they would fall. All of my strength to push and they would fall and I would fall back and away and start it all again.
I was lucid now.
I had given up.
When my eyelids parted next, I surrendered and raised my sight to the sky. I couldn’t see it, and I didn’t need to. My head tilted back on my shoulders and my eyes resumed their resting state as my hands came together at my chest and I let it all go. I didn’t fall and I didn’t shake.
Awake. Open eyes.
The realization came quickly that I was home. My right arm extended and the warmth of another was felt. I turned on my side and exhaled. She was there. The chocolate hair and freckles and the green eyes, though the eyes were concealed by their sleepy lids. She was there, wearing a pendant with an emblem matching a signature I had seen in the other world. I blinked slowly and shifted my weight, sliding one arm back under my body and the other over hers. And then I pulled her close.
She breathed deep and settled in to my embrace.
“I love you,” she said.