Steven Robert Morrison
This is a very short story that may well, "morph" into a longer short story and then further hopefully become the seed for a collection of stories of Jonathan and Eve, being who I am, I wrote the last thought on this first.
THE LAST SONG
Eve’s hand felt familiar but uncommonly warm in his, he knew that this was just his imagination. Her hand had never been warm, not at any time over the many long years he had known her. Not at any time during the unbelievably long time he had known her. It had been soft, or firm, or it had been strong, but it had never been warm and now it seemed that it was also both brittle and frail.
Reaching down with her head on his lap, he stroked her hair. He did not look down at her but looked out over the waveless sea. He did not want to look at her now, because he wanted to remember her as she had been.
Looking out at the distant horizon he became lost in his thoughts, and in his mind’s eye, he was trying to recall the long-lost days of their past. He tried to remember the first time that he had met Eve, but through the fog of time and the mist of a fading memory, he could not simply remember. Focusing on a distant point out to sea, he would need to think and to dream until his mind hurt. There had been so many years, so many lives and so many changes to the world. He could not tell what had been the real events of his life and what were manifestations of stories, lore and legend told by others. Had he been alive in the time that man had called “the antiquity”? Had he shared the discovery of the new world, or had he danced with Queens in the gilded age of royalty? Had he lurked in the shadows and fog in the back streets and alleys of gas-lit cities? All that he knew was that perhaps that he was there for the start of the ascent of mankind, and he knew for certain that he was here at the finish, at the final descent of man.
Were his memories and mind now clouded and confused by some great still living spiritual mass of human consciousness, like the sum total of mans' collective race memory? In this silent moment,
were all of mankind’s memories, and actions, and recollections somehow screaming at him and filling his mind with the full scope of human experience, it not wanting to be forgotten?
His kind was empathic, they could sense the intent of others, but only the stronger emotions: fear, rage, love and lust. Was that innate ability of his character somehow channelling the essence of everyone who had ever been and was he hearing all of them cry out in unison “REMEMBER US”?
He turned his mind to the task of focusing on Eve and his love over the ages for her. He began to shut out the noise and the madness and tried to listen only to his voice and to look only at what had been his path.
The true origins of his kind were long lost in fables and stories of the wild fantasies of those who believed in gods. The history of his people had been falsely created and formed by those who feared the unknown to the point that even the characteristics of what other those it meant to be, like he and Eve. All of those traits were shaped by the parents and the cultures meaning to scare their children with stories of morality and by kings and regents to elicit control and normalcy from the masses.
The first of his kind was perhaps as old as man, perhaps even older. That knowledge was lost and now it no longer mattered. If the first one of his kind was the progeny of a mad queen and a demon in the valleys of Mesopotamia or that of the Nile or the Yangtze, it was now of no consequence. If the first had been a fallen god, that was of no comfort now. But now he thought, as of now all gods would have fallen. If his race was born as a fluke or a flaw in the unrelenting march of the natural order of the world, it did not matter. Was it 2,000 or four thousand, or six or an unnumbered span of tens of thousands of years ago, he did not know, and neither did the world, the notion of time had lost its meaning. None of it mattered, nothing mattered, they were here, and he was here, and he was with Eve.
He cradled her head, and thought of another creation myth, by a people who in their ignorance had shaped most of the world’s concepts and misconceptions of his people. They had said his kind were evil and that they were unnatural. That they lacked souls and that they were the scourge of God. That they shunned the light of the sun and that they were easily cast back by silver holy relics and blessed water, or that they could be killed with a simple shard of wood. Those same people had driven his kind almost to extinction, but now in a cruel or a karmic twist of fate only he and Eve remained. He and Eve had survived all of those people, and they had survived all of his people. He thought of those people and their own creation myth, and how it spoke of a woman named Eve. Eve was the first woman, and now the last woman, his woman shared that name. He would have laughed, but he had not done so for so long he had forgotten how. It even pained him to mock a small and wry smile at that irony.
For his name, it too was irony, as he had taken the name of that holy relic which humans though would sear his flesh and from which he would be forced to recoil, He took that name in part to hide from those who hunted his kind. And in part, as it was a noble name and that allowed him to travel and blend in without controversy. Thirdly in part, he chose it as a simple bit of irony.
Eve, she had always seemed to be by his side, for so much of his long memory she had been there standing by his side. She had been his companion, lover, confidant, foil, partner and co-conspirator. He longed to remember all of their life together, so he started to recall his life from this moment and play all the events in their reverse order. Starting from this time and place, from this time on this hill to the long treks, back through the hunger, and the conflicts, and the fires, and the wars. Then to the purges, and the frenzies, and to the point that marked the start of the descent of man. His mind ached was he looked further back, back to the times of life and love and laughter. He began to unravel time and look back to earlier instances in his life. He continued playing back every moment, and then finding the cause of that moment and then the one before that. Back to the time when every corner of every land on the Earth teemed with people, and buzzed with activity, and moved and thrived and writhed with vigour and lust. All of those people, everywhere living in the moment, both his people and the others, all living and looking at the “now”, not wondering and certainly not worrying about tomorrow.
Slowly in his mind’s eye a face appeared, it was the face of Eve. It was young without pain, without longing and without the sorrows and burden of living forever. It was a time long lost, a time when she was still a frail, weak, short-lived human. It was before they were lovers and before he pledged himself to her for all time and before he shared with her, the dual gift of the blessing and curse of immortality.
The morning was damp as most of those mornings were with the thick fog across the great city and thicker over the bridge which spanned the great river Thames. The river that gave the city both its life and birth. The river that was the seed for its existence. That chill must have cut through Eve to her heart and bone, even for him, he recalled back then that yet being much stronger than her kind, he had felt the chill and damp. She was so unlike anyone that he had ever seen, and that was what struck him at that time, such a soft and delicate being on a such a morning. Although she was wrapped in a large and heavy fur coat, her face was flushed and her cheeks were as red and round as summer’s apples.
Suddenly a large and brutish man walked out from behind him brushing him as he passed and then with much more force knocked the young woman to the pavement. With his great bulk and compounded by the size and thickness of his coat with the heavy collar turned up and his large fur hat, this man had either not noticed or felt his collision with the young woman or perhaps he simply did not care.
St Croix hoped for the man that it was the former and not the latter, as St Croix had noticed the unique scent of the man and if need be, he may need to use it later if needed to address this unwarranted actions on the bridge.
”May I help you, Miss? Jonathan St Croix is my name, and unlike some in this city I am still a gentleman and allow me to help you.” Even with St Croix’s help, Eve had difficulty regaining her footing because of her large fur.
”Damn I have broken a heel and I have to be at the barrister's within the hour.” Suddenly turning redder for a moment, she recovered her dignity and took and shook St Croix’s hand. “I beg your pardon, Sir, for such uncouth language, I do apologize. My name is Evelyn Harwood, my father is a member of the House, and I do thank you for your good graces and manner.” Then talking out loud to herself, “But how can I get to Sir Percy’s office with a broken heel and although it is only a short walk I fear I will be late.”
"Madame Harwood, if it is the office of the Barristers Baxter, Narrows and Tyrol. I do know Sir Percy and allow me to hail a Hanson and I shall accompany you there and while you are in his services I shall get your heel repaired.”
He lowered his head and gently kissed Eve’s forehead, his lips remaining on her, he felt her slightly sigh and his lips on her head felt her almost imperceptibly move. This small motion returned him to the real world, where he could now feel her dry flaking and peeling skin through his own hardened, split and calloused lips.
They had lived together, in love for what would have been five or six human generations. Using both his title and wealth to move from place to place or country to country always changing but remaining that same. He could not remember the exact year that they met, and towards the end of times and the end of man, the practice of counting years was much less important than living to the end of the day and to tomorrow. So he reckoned that from the encounter on the bridge to the first day of the truly great generational war that perhaps they had one hundred years together. Since the day of the start of that war and subsequent wars, strife and turmoil, another one hundred and fifty years. Then with the cycles of purges and the frenzies, time began to lose its meaning and there was no purpose for any measure of days or years. Tens of thousands of day had passed, maybe 100,000 days, maybe more. One stark red sunrise in a fractured sky over a shattered landscape looked just like the thousands before.
Raising his head he looked at the silent sea, covered by large floating mats of a deep dried blood red coloured growth. This endless dull flatness had its hue broken only by spots of an inky black, the blackness of death. Even the mats of algae that had killed all life in the sea were now succumbing to death.
To his left, massive mounds of rubble broke the darken plain, but they were lacking the sharp edges of fracture and collapse. Long ago the vines and lichens reclaimed the cities and covered all the works of man. Then trees and larger plants worked against the concrete and stone. The weather, the snow, the rain, the wind and season all worked without ceasing over time to further remove the vestiges of man from the world. Man, had conquered nature and man then fell, with time nature retook what it had lost, and with time nature too had fallen.
But before all was lost, countless war erupted, but these were limited in size and scope. The death tolls were only in the thousands. The wars raged for decades across national borders and internally though out countries. St Croix knew that humanity was not fully to blame, his people and his kind had hidden and assimilated into the world, and without doubt, some of his people had led the fight and fought, and like the human, many had died.
Bleeding themselves dry of manpower and resources nations no longer fought limited wars, so the long litany of great wars began. The first of the great wars took untold millions of lives. In an instant, great cities were lost, nations ceased to exist and all that was either good or noble within humanity died. Following that first great war, was a second, and a third and more. He reasoned that people stopped keeping count, as you could not call a war, a great war if it was fought with spears, clubs and rocks. The remnants of nations and states or of tribe and clans fought for the scraps of humanity.
Even after these wars ceased to rage, people still purged and killed anyone that they deemed a threat. The exact nature of what these threats were rarely or never made clear. The threat was simply defined by the rationale of the individual leaders of a tribe until they too were purged. Then, what was threatening was something newly defined as a different skin colour, accent, hair colour, eye colour or any other margin of difference. The frenzies were the opposite of purges, they were times when differing tribes would come together to defeat a common enemy, only to continued the bloodlust against one another after their common foe was vanquished.
Without weapons, wars were fought with fire. Again, St Croix thought of the madness of that. The tool that separated the biped, bicameral-minded humanoid from all other creatures of the Earth was fire, and that fire was for the descendants of those same early humanoids the last weapon of choice. He recalled times of trekking with Eve across the great burnt lands, many of these massive scorches took twenty days to cross, a few took more than fifty sunrises.
To his right was an endless plain of blackened earth, scorched and turned to glass and then fragmented by time and in the light of the setting sun, it glistened like a thousand, thousand stars. His mind was flooded with visions and images of their life. The great waves of the ocean in which they played. The towers of glass and steel of the cities where they wined and dined and walked among the teeming hordes of people. Trips that they had taken to see the wonders and marvels of the world. The seas, the forests, the plains and deserts. In each vision, he saw Eve as she was for all that time, youthful, fresh and alive with a vitality that more than rivalled his own.
All of that, all of those images now only lived in his memory, and in his memory only. The first time that they had seen the pyramids, the timeless monuments to long-dead kings were bathed in the light of a silver moon. Now during their ceaseless treks, the last time they saw those tombs, they had been reduced by half by the force of windblown sands and what remained of the mountains of stone were more than half buried in that sand.
St Croix had studied science and knew the cycles of life, death and rebirth, but the world around him was in the last throes of it “final death”. This was no great sixth or seventh extinction event, it was the last, so again numbers did not matter. Humans and his kind killed the animals off for food, and that was completed as a task much more quickly than anyone who cared had thought. Without civilization, one presumed animals would flourish, but the lingering effects of war, the poisons of the industrial age and nature rebelling against itself, all of the animal kingdom passed into oblivion. As did those of birds, and fish and all the creatures which crawled upon the Earth.
Plants did last much longer than the animals. But again with the effects of the outcome of the technologies of war, and as the growing harmful effects of the radiation of the sun became more pronounced, the plants did wither and die. Many smaller plants did adapt over dozens of generations, but for larger and more complex plants, adaptation was harder and slower. So the trees that reclaimed cities died, and then all manner of life sprang forth in what was the biodiversity of the rot of those trees. But as no trees grew to replace the fallen, the new ecosystems with time vanished as well.
The effects of the sun on all living creatures was the same, it kills. In some instances slowly and in others instances over generations. Radiation creates mutations and almost all mutation as sterile. Aeons ago, with trillions of simple one-celled organisms in the sea, a few mutations thrived in the proto-ocean evolution began.
Evolution of all life and the progress and existence of that life depended on one thing, food, Food, like with the single-celled creatures, the borrowing microbes and grubs, to the lost dinosaurs and later mammals, all life needs food to survive and to thrive, even his kind, their kind. He and Eve even needed their lifeblood of food. There had always been ways to feed and ways not to be noticed and ways to live forever.
Forever, only meant forever as long as one did not meet with misfortune, be not all things were meant to be forever. Without food, without nourishment, all bodies will grow tired or old or sore. He felt his hand and it was cold and grey, and dry and covered in sores that did not heal, nor did these sores bleed. Forever was only forever as long as one fed and could renew.
He once more stroked Eve’s hair and dreamt of its softness.
Eve stirred slightly and whispered out “Jonathan”.
”Yes, my love I am here with you as I had promised.”
”I love you.” she cracked out through her dry and parched mouth and throat.
”I love you too.” He said as he closed his eyes and kissed her forehead again.
The sun was lowering itself into the western sea. Its fading light allowed the stars to begin to show. One by one they popped into brilliance. Jonathan looked up at the bright band of the Milky Way blazing across the heavens. A host of uncountable millions of points of light filled the sky.
Jonathan knew that Eve would not see the sunrise tomorrow and he earnestly hoped that over the night beneath a greatest celestial canopy of stars he had ever seen, that he too would pass on this night as well. The stars he thought could be all the souls who had ever walked the Earth, and they had all come to welcome both he and Eve to wherever they now dwelled and to become whatever they now were.
He held her tightly as the last glow of fading sun vanished. He began humming a gentle song that had up to this time had been lost to him, and he continued to softly hum until he too was touched by silence.
S.R. Morrison (c) 2018