A short story set among worlds without number.
The night sky over Deseret appeared to slice open in the shape of a carpenter square. Two meteors raced away from each other. Instantly the brightest objects in the sky, they shimmered for a second and disappeared above nearby mountain ridges. Even after the smoke trails dissipated, Fellow continued staring up at the starry dome. Before he could close his mouth and lower his head, he was already doubting what he had seen.
Had it been one meteor which split in two? Or had it been two meteors crossing paths just as they struck the atmosphere? Replaying the brief appearance of the gleaming spears in his mind, Fellow confessed he had seen something wonderful. Swiftly though, his mind shifted to the next day, when he could walk onto campus and boast to other students about what he had seen. He neglected to track backward along the meteors’ path through space and time.
Somewhere behind Deseret’s black sky, beyond a knowable distance, an ancient world had become celestial. Its armies, ever clattering in a quest for vindication, raised alloyed weapons over their heads for the final time. Below them a grassland of mothers, each one a blade, wavered over the bodies of soon-to-be exalted infants.
Everything shattered into
ceramic shards and powder.
A sudden brightness to blind
all unworthiness sent impurity
hastening into the deep of space—
dross expelled forever by white light
beaming out from a perfect glass sphere.
When he was a child, Fellow had enjoyed musing on the things of long ago and far away. Like his mother before him, Fellow wondered what the Millennium had been like. Like his father though, he fixated on the last moments of the Millennium, which were also the first moments of the little season. What had it been like when rumor returned? What had the man felt like—the one who witnessed the first bribe? What had he felt like later when he became the first victim of blackmail in over a thousand years? Did he know that he—his body being a temple—was the sight of the first battle in a final war?
The first great warrior after
the Millennium? A professor.
He stood on his porch before a mob.
He knew they would strike, so he dared
them. They shot him through, hip to hip.
He crumpled in a blood puddle.
The doctors came. They performed
surgery for the first time in a thousand
years. Only the man’s wife ever knew
the extent of the damage they caused.
“Those doctors deprived the spirit world of a new missionary,” Fellow’s grandfather used to say when he told the tale. “We all must be prepared. Some of us will live. And that is acceptable. But others of us will be goodly. And that is righteous.”
When he was a teenager, Fellow had courted the past as a hobby. The Millennium was three centuries or more in the dust. Some believed it had never even happened. To Fellow’s mind, it could have happened millennia ago; or it could have happened the day before he was born. Either way, he felt no direct connection to it. So he crumpled and rebuilt the past again and again like clay in his mind, for the sheer pleasure of organizing it according to his fancy. Such was history to a child of privilege.
Arriving at adulthood, Fellow’s life had become deluged with immediateness and impatience. He vacillated between things pressing and promising, regarding them all as givens—as inheritance. He had graduated high school without excelling and served a mission without disgrace. With every step forward, family and church leaders treated him as a prince on the cusp of greatness. So he had entered college ripe for anticlimax.
His love life, once
a dream of meadows
anointed with sunlight,
now bowed wearily—
a single wilting
daisy on a field
Recently, Fellow had been engaged to a beautiful young woman—a brief disaster caused by two friends’ acting on their best intentions. How had something he initially felt excited about come to feel so horrifically wrong? Resisting every sensible response to that question, he watched as one star after another plummeted through the autumn sky. In that moment, he could give a name to what had changed.
Already, Fellow had been home from his mission a year. Now the distance of time back to his mission could be measured in trips around the sun. A new aching in his hip joints and a stiffness in his right knee tugged at Fellow’s attention. These new pains seemed different than ones he’d felt as a teenager. They were trepidation justified by perspective. Off toward the north, another meteor slid down the dome toward the mountains of Deseret. Like all the others, it faded too soon to reach the ground.
Fellow said aloud,
not knowing why.
A night breeze washed over him. Fellow turned his head up to the pinnacle of the starry dome. He held this posture even as his taut neck began to burn. Deceived by terrestrial eyes, Fellow believed the air blew clean and clear onto his face. In this moment, the purged sins of a celestialized world completed their long journey. Having descended quietly through the night sky, the ashes of warriors and mothers came to rest on the young man’s forehead.
The above story, one of my “Fellow” pieces, alludes to Ash Wednesday. For Christians, the Lenten season began this week. I invite you to read Ash Wednesday: A Mormon Psalm. Reactions to these pieces are welcome in the comment sections. Thank you for reading.
Featured image licensed from iStock.