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   Chapter 1 When Christmas Darkens

The Future Is Heaven By Rian Torr Characters: 12602

Updated: 2018-11-04 12:02


I. When Christmas Darkens

Astara's earthly human angel Dranna always prayed for her soul, ever since she was a little girl. The girl was an orphan—and had seen the rigors of reality all too closely for such a young age. Dranna was one of the nuns at the orphanage, who would come in to pray Astara to sleep—and cast blessings against the Devil.

Dranna was a tiny old lady, more bone than body—born with a degenerative heart that kept ticking away feverishly toward a supposedly soon-to-be early end. Despite doctors prognostications, however, since she was very young, that she would die within the decade—she had proven them all wrong—going on to live decade after decade into her golden years. Whenever interrogated about her secret she always said it was simply the case that she prayed a lot—and believed most vehemently in God.

Good girls go to Heaven, she would tell Astara every night—but to no avail, for the darkness did not leave the girl's eyes, as she saw little fit in the world for favoring in memory or looking back upon from some golden pond up in the sky.

She would rather die and just be gone, she often thought. She had no interest in living on—in more than her share of this Hell called Earth. She wanted to be scattered across the cosmos with no shred of consciousness left to call her own. Her Heaven—her true trophy for this terran adventure—was simply to enjoy what she could while she could—not to take even one hour for granted—and then finally to let it all go down where only stardust mingled.

Whenever Dranna would hear her speak of such things, however, the nun would go into a panic of rituals trying to exorcise the orphan. But it was never any use, for Astara was not possessed—but rather dispossessed of her very own spirit. Disconnected from her higher form—she could not truly enjoy a creative minute in the minutia—and she could not truly imagine a pleasant heaven of the mind.

Her mind was madness too far in—and her heaven was the desert of thought—the absence of being—and the magic of non-existence. So she grew up to be a lawyer—and sailed the Barrier Reef on vacation—balancing the best of living and working—with no thought to tomorrow—no thought to yesterday—no thought to anything but breath.

This was all until she met Rockwell who broke in.

He busted up her heart and made her want to feel again. The way his eyes gleamed when he smiled at her—the way she felt faint when they embraced—nothing could compare—and the innocent girl in her was reawakened. The one who thought about weddings and shining knights started to surface, if only for brief flashes—but he saw it and melted.

He was a sucker for her callous heart—her hard upbringings—but also her stalwart work ethic that had led to such a vertical ascent into the court world—and her willingness to explore new lands.

He himself rarely traveled—and never enjoyed a single job in his life except his art. In many ways she was the magnetic opposite of him—but together they shared a bond: the kind that united two gazes meeting in unspoken trust. They made pledges and promises—uttered gushes and suffered fawnings—always pushing and pulling into love.

Then one day they were having a drink at the very place they first met—when he had put on a show down the streets—and she had come to see him. Afterward, pints at the Lost Souls Pub had oiled their awkwardness into motion—and then emotion—finally allowing romance to bloom.

But this day an argument erupted over the bill.

She was tired of him always being broke for art.

He was sick of her always putting money first.

She wanted him to try more life—experiment.

He wanted her to settle down—have a family.

She told him over and over how she hated kids.

He told her he did not care but in truth he did.

He thought perhaps one day she would cave.

She knew he thought this but let him think it.

They would not speak for the rest of the night.

By morning they would be back to inseparable.

Their days went on this way from hot to cold.

One thing that was for sure was hearts of old.

They knew each other like the lines of time.

All that was left was to live out life unsold.

They had not given in—not given up on love.

She had been on the brink—and he out of luck.

But together their spark reignited from inside.

They could look forward to forever going by.

Nothing was impossible for couples together.

But it was becoming rarer and rarer those days.

It was the year 2050 and things were different. People were different. Love was considered the territory of insane people and common fools. Sex was satisfied by robots and it had become all the rage to erase your spirit from body.

People who underwent this transformation—via oral vaccinations that were free at all pharma dispensaries—amounted to no more than mindless zombies. Meds were self-prescribed now. People interacted with computers to learn what drugs might cure what personality disorders they had picked up as a result of 'Experience'.

Experience was a sin in the new pop culture—and so those who were one day close friends—the next did not remember you—or themselves—going through what came to be known as 'Starting Over'. It became nearly pandemic for awhile, as folk went overboard hitting their reset buttons all too often—for fewer and fewer truly good reasons—in some cases even going on Restart Benders.

Basically they treated their lives like computers—and treated their souls as the unwanted refuse accumulated from too much exposure to a marred world.

Other technological atrocities or marvels, depending on the perspective, abounded in these times—but none was more tantalizing to consider than the near-breaking discovery of time travel and the final everlasting key to the True First Aim: Iimmortality.

From separate science camps across the globe—these two discoveries were coming along in parallel—so that not only was the world wondering what to make of either one of them individually—but what it would mean to make use of both of them in tandem—to what net result?

"I don't like it one bit, " Astara said on Christmas Eve, feeling Rockwell's hands—looking into his eyes. "I don't want to live for

ever. God forbid I even live to old age."

"You don't really mean that babe, honestly?"

"Well you know for you I will stick around."

"Always a dark joker you were but seriously."

"Love it don't you? You'd love to live forever."

"I just think creativity and youth go together."

"And you love art, so you could always paint."

"We never stop changing. There's always art."

"Okay, so what about this time travel business."

"Now that I'm not so sure about. Sounds iffy."

"See now that is something I could get behind."

"You'd like to go back, do it all again maybe?"

"Just get as far away from myself as possible."

"You've never been comfortable in your skin."

"Skin is gross. Rather be bones decomposing."

"Just don't leave me behind, " he kissed her.

She kissed back harder, missing him already.

"Promise me you text second you get home."

"Promise babe. We will live together soon."

"I can't wait to cook us breakfast everyday."

"Dish duty is the least I can do for your eggs."

"As long as you leave my other eggs alone."

He smiled, hugged her goodbye—and left.

Then he burst back in a second later, grabbing her by the neck and crushing lips with her—as they fell back once more in to her bed and carried on for one last episode of passionate lovemaking. For a girl so obsessed with losing herself, she became incredibly connected in the heat of intimacy—and for a man so into creativity, he could never tire of doing the same things over and over with her forever.

This time, however, on a spur of whim, almost as an act of self-sabotage to her own happiness—just to see a smile on his face, and win him over ever, that little more—she let him leave the rubber aside that night—just to feel him so much closer.

Little did she know that once was enough.

Little did they know he would never make it home.

Little did Fate care, pitching in a twist just for show.

She would never forget, the following day, the news.

Detective Ryan Raymond arrived at her door sombre.

He had been friends with Rockwell. They went back.

A tear thread down one cheek as he lowered his head.

He could not look Astara in the eyes, so dark was he.

"What happened?"

"Star, it's Rocko."

"Look at me Ryan."

"He's … He's gone ..."

"What?" Star broke down. She seemed to age before his eyes. He held her close, stroking her hair, telling her it would be alright. They would get through this together.

He told her Rockwell had been in a fatal car accident on his way home last night. He had been driving along minding his business when an eighteen wheeler came careening through a red light colliding with his driver's side at 140 kmph dead on killing him instantly upon impact. They found his body nearly unrecognizable, caged in the crushed frame of the car, burned to a corpse of wax and ash.

She could not bear to hear anymore and turned inward.

He followed her into her bedroom where he deferred.

"Please leave now, Ryan. Thank you … for coming."

"Star, I can stay if you want, it's no problem at all."

"No, I think I need to be alone now. I'm very tired."

He could tell she was in shock and sat beside her.

He held her hand and rubbed the small of her back.

She turned into him and cried for a very long time.

He comforted her as best he could, praying for Rocko.

Christmas would never be the same again for either.

They spent many days together just talking.

She shared with him many stories of her Rock.

She told him how they had met at Lost Souls.

The pub was a common passion for them both.

They hit it off immediately, both slightly jaded.

But then her stories about him started to wane.

In place of the memories were new ones with Ryan.

She began to look at him in a different, warmer light.

But a month on she learned she was having a baby.

Ryan had mixed feelings but pretended to be cool.

Her memories of Rockwell were renewed for awhile.

But then she thought of Ryan again and turned back.

She liked Ryan—but she still loved Rockwell as well.

But she knew she had to put one behind to move on.

She knew for the good of Ryan and herself what to do.

She burned every thing of Rockwell's she had around.

She erased every last trace of him from surroundings.

All memory was subdued—all triggers given release.

Her baby would not know anything of a natural dad.

She would carve out a future for her own happiness.

It was not a cut and run but a last ditch effort at life.

Dranna would argue with her not to delete it all.

But Star grew addicted to Restart on a daily fix.

So slowly she began to slip into a fog of oblivion.

Bad memories were gone—but so were the good ones—leaving her an empty shell—sending Ryan to despair.

But every Christmas, she seemedto cheer up. She would treat little Ryan Junior to every trapping of the season—and make sure her child was protected from the harsh world.

Whenever Junior would ask who the stocking was for that said Rockwell on it, the room would grow quiet, as Ryan shrunk away—and Star stared ahead blankly.

Dranna would be over for a week helping with the cooking and cleaning—and one time she found a framed picture of Rockwell in one of Star's drawers.

She quietly put it away carefully.

She prayed one day Star woke up.

Until then, that was all she could do.

She never discussed it with Ryan ever.

Ryan began to lose hope in Star's love.

Her started seeing someone else in secret.

Dranna noticed signs but said nothing yet.

Star seemed oblivious to all of the tell-tales.

It was almost as if she knew but did not care.

Finally, one day, she called Ryan 'Rocko' by mistake—and he flipped out. He lost his temper and stormed off.

He left to see his mistress, and she began to think.

She went to her drawers and retrieved everything.

She sat in the dark with candles praying for him.

She prayed for him to come back to her one day.

She told no one she did this at first, but soon.

Soon, Ryan told her he was leaving for another.

So she prayed for Rockwell openly in deep pleas.

"Please, " she whispered. "Take me with you ..."

But Rockwell was dead and she was now insane.

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