Lilith sucked in air, held her breath, squatted and jumped for all she was worth. A few feet later she landed – SPLASH! – two-footed in a small puddle. She giggled.
The rain had finally abated two hours earlier and stopped completely just an hour ago. The sun and the equatorial latitude of the island conspired to dry up the puddles along the walkway within minutes, the baking sun trying to claim back that which had fallen for the previous two days. The Gods who giveth also taketh away.
"You are a silly child," Peter grinned.
She grabbed his hand, sucked in air, jumped again. SPLASH!
"'course I am. I'm nine."
They walked down the hill towards the beach and pier. For days she had been telling him with certainty that she was leaving and that she couldn’t come back. He was baffled, shocked. They were a team, the old man and the young girl. She couldn’t just leave. Where would she go?
They had found each other a couple of years ago. She was wet and scraggily as if she had just crawled from the sea, an orphan. He was lonely and misplaced and counting days as if there were meaning in their number. He had taken her home with him, like a stray cat found along the roadside. They had struggled together for a while but eventually found balance. And he found something he had lost - purpose. How the world had changed.
There was no way to make him understand. So she was patient. In due time, she had said a couple of days ago, you will understand.
"If I were in charge of the world I would have it rain every morning."
"Why?" asked Peter.
"Puddles are whole worlds. They fall from the sky one drop at a time. Every drop that falls or trickles in adds a new dimension to that world. Morning rain means lots of new things and new worlds created."
"But, based on your actions today, you are a destroyer of worlds."
Lilith squeezed his hand and smiled.
Peter stopped and looked at her. The world is ending, he thought, and she giggles while jumping from one puddle to the next. In his anger and frustration at her announcement, he hated her - her nonchalance, her care-free attitude, her innocence. And he loved her for it, wished he could co-opt it, make it his own. But he couldn’t. He had responsibility now. He had duty. There were expectations. He was, in a manner of speaking, a parent. Good Lord! He felt the weight of all of it and it owned him.
"I destroy nothing. I just re-arrange things. They all get sucked back up to the sky eventually, anyway. Just so they can fall again and create more new worlds, new possibilities."
"The rain," she continued, with a smirk and haughty attitude, "only knows that it must fall. It has no intent. It seeks no path." She was mocking him and his teachings. "But on the ground, well, that is another matter. Raindrops form puddles, congregate together and await the jumps of little girls, and the chance to fall again. Play and discovery and experience is what they are about."
Peter stopped. He stared ahead, unblinking. They were at the end of the road. Others from town were standing along the beach and lining the pier, those brave enough and not in denial, anyway. Sadie the grocer was there, crying. "This is the end of the world," her voice loud and clear.
Others joined in – "It is!", "Hear dat", "Too true, Sadie" – trying to convince themselves of the truth before them, heads nodding, mumbling.
Hovering over the water in front of them was a ship. Just hovering, a whisper of a hum from its anti-gravity engines. It had a slick white surface, no visible windows. The side opened and a walkway extended to the pier.
"So, this is it," Peter shook his head, dismayed. "Stupid orphan."
"This is it, angry old man."
They laughed at their inside joke.
"You going to the stars in that?"
Lilith smiled. "That puddle-jumper? No. The big ship is up there. In space."
Peter scratched his head. "I think I understand."
They said their goodbyes. Peter ignored the questions of the crowd of people. On the walk home there were a couple of puddles still remaining from the previous days’ rains. He jumped towards one of them, landed two footed – SPLASH! He laughed. Another world, he thought, rearranged.
in category Fiction