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art by Agata Maciagowska

Seashells

1. Shell
Tel Aviv, six months later.
Shell remembers the first day. Alma Beach, with the view of Jaffa's mosque rising out of the Old City to the south. The beach quiet, a few families, young people--the expensive restaurant had only a few people sitting at its tables this time of day and the beach bar adjacent was doing better trade. They were playing chill-out music--Bob Marley, with the sound of the waves. Somewhere down the beach someone was smoking a joint. The smell wafted over. A few seagulls cried over the rocks, where a group of tawny cats lay, almost undistinguished from their surroundings.
Then it happened. Shell remembers it only in confused snatches of recall. Turbulence rising out of the sea. A man rising high in the air, his face contorted in--what? Agony? Ecstasy?--he looked silly and pitiful hanging there in his Speedo, his hairy back still glistening with sea water. The man's head exploding, like a ripe watermelon like they sold, here, by the side of the road. Red rain falling down.
Her mind recoils from the recall. The fancy sky-scraping hotels along the promenade--a rain of glass falling down from thousands of windows, the screams--the buildings twisted and turned impossibly, revealed trapped secrets frozen within their aching-belly rooms.
Later: the gunships and the helicopters, tanks driving down Herbert Samuel Road, all along the beach.
And then the whirlwinds came....
It wasn't so bad. Even the language issue wasn't that bad--most everyone in Tel Aviv spoke English.
They got along. They had to.
There wasn't much left of the old Tel Aviv. From the beach it always looked the same. A desert vista, the brownish-white buildings collapsed at weird angles, a hush over a once-too-loud city. There were people there, in the city--not many, but they were there. Three times now city factions had tried to muscle in on their beach area. Twice they lost people. Good people. And even if they weren't good people, still, they just couldn't afford to lose them.
The Republic of Alma Beach.
It started as a joke, back when everyone still thought it was all somehow going to end and rescue teams would show up, and CNN and UN jeeps, and it would all be all right.
But it wasn't.
Now they had a flag and everything, and a court, and a constitution. And if anyone broke one of the rules... she hugged herself, rocking on her heels in the hard, yellow sand. It was very fine sand.
You couldn't break the rules. They were there for a reason.
To start with, it wasn't so bad. You still had to watch out for the whirlwinds, and for city folks. Slavers, looking for people to mine the city for tinned foods and other hidden treasure, biker gangs, unaffiliated hunters and all the rest. And all the while your eyes would be drawn, again and again, to that strange mountain that had risen, on that first day, out of the thin and sandy ground of Tel Aviv. Impossibly-tall, it bent dimensions, skewered perspective. It hinted at things beyond, at other mountains, at rivers, lakes, savannahs, hills--a world beyond this world.
Or perhaps they belonged to that world, now, since their own was gone.
From time to time one could see a creature flying high up, which must have been the size of a freighter, with large leathery wings... and get the sense of eyes, cold, slow, giant eyes watching, from the mountaintop. Watching and waiting.
For what?
No one knew. Though there were always rumors, theories, ideas... from black holes to temporal storms, from nuclear weapons to mass hallucination. And there were stories about a messiah, a crazy man who went up the mountain, the only human to have done so, a fireman, and that one day he would return, and bring the fire back to them.
Other stories, too. She didn't pay them too much attention. Stories were dangerous. They never came true. The hero never saved the girl, or the plane, or the planet. People died. Innocent, not-innocent--those things meant nothing to the beings on the mountain, and to the silent, deadly whirlwinds.
No hero ever came for her, after all.
There was plenty to do, that day, every day. But this day was different. It was special. She did her chores.
The citizens of the Republic of Alma Beach had found fishing to be their main source of nourishment. The luxury restaurant had been pilfered and cleaned out mere days after the event. The alcohol from the bar had been rationed for a while, but it too was gone. Now, they traded for home-brewed alcohol from some of the city folk. As for the fishing...
It had not taken long, for Shell and the others, to find that the sea just beyond the shore was no longer the same sea. At the same time as the city's dark barrier had risen, engulfing the whole of Tel Aviv from north to south in what appeared, sometimes, to be a dark and impenetrable bubble, a viscous membrane of no material anyone could understand, and at the same time that the mountain had risen in the heart of the city, so too the sea had changed.
The mountain had risen at the very heart--geographical as well as spiritual--of the city, tearing through the Dizengoff shopping centre and casting away with it almost two decades of knickknacks, bric-a-bracs, books, computer parts, food, tables, diners, cinema chairs, movie reels, rock band posters, plants, and juice stands. The sea, on the other hand, metamorphosed almost unnoticed, remaining--by looks, if nothing else--the same: a gentle trap for the unwary.
For the sea was different.
Doing her chores. Waiting for later. Anticipation welled inside her. Later, later, the wind whispered. It was hot on the beach. It was always hot on the beach. She donned her fishing gloves and the rest of the protective armor and stared grimly at the horizon.
Though there wasn't one, not really. The same thick membrane surrounding the city in a dark fog, like dream stuff gone bad, terminated some distance from the coast. This far, and no farther, can you go, it seemed to say. The republic had a couple of small boats. The warships that had appeared that first day, crewed with navy sailors, armed with missiles and machine guns and God knew what else, well... their remains had floated, some had sunk, and most simply... disappeared.
Gone into that other ocean, perhaps.
Bodies had washed up on the beach for a month after the event.
Pulling them out, moving them away from republican turf had taken its toll, not just on Shell. The others, too--everyone was different after the event. Everyone who survived.
But to live was to change. Shell always took comfort in that sentiment.
Particularly the to live part.
It was great being alive.
It was so much better than being dead.
They went fishing in two-person teams. Shell had been assigned to fishing the whole of that week. She was buddied up with Mikey G., who despite the name was an Israeli, not a Yank: he was a skinny Yemenite Jew who had grown skinnier and darker as the months passed, growing his hair into dreads and still practicing his human beat-box routine, a remnant of the days that had gone forever. He was great with the gun, and the spear, so she was glad to have him.
She was the catcher.
He was the shooter.
They both waded into the sea. It was a warmer sea than the Mediterranean had been. Things... lived in it.
They weren't quite fish.
In fact, they weren't fish at all.
She tensed, as she always did when she got into the water. Her eyes scanned the surface of the water, searching for movement. Her net was edging along the bottom, edging, waiting, hoping....
She tossed a handful of bait into the sea, dried ghost-fish caught the week before. Ghost-fish were not fish, nor were they ghosts, exactly. They were a sort of intelligent fungus, white, at times translucent, which moved about in the water and attached itself to the larger creatures who lived there. One had attached itself to Ben's leg, once, in the early days. Slowly the ghost-fish solidified, filled with a milky-white substance, and grew, as Ben lost his color and sank, gradually, into a stupor until he was enveloped by the expanding amorphous blob of the ghost-fish and subsumed entirely.
They had been horrified, had tried to pull the creature off Ben, but it was no use. When the ghost-fish had finished feeding it had floated onto the water, a large milky-white raft and then, quietly, burst. Tiny, thumbnail-sized pieces scattered over the surface of the water, each baby ghost-fish sluggishly moving, growing bolder, until they darted this way and that underwater, searching for a meal.
Of Ben there had been no sign. Not even bones--the ghost-fish sucked in calcium the way a diner sucked marrow from a stewed bone.
Now they used the fragments of dried ghost-fish for bait. There were bigger fish in the sea....
But it was not the same sea. Where before the sand had extended outwards, so that one, entering the water, could simply walk into the sea for quite a distance, now the sea floor curved down into a steep well. There was depth down there--an unseen, hostile world a hand-reach away.
Shell was scared. She had been scared for a long time. Fear didn't stop you functioning, though. She had thought she'd lost the fear that first week--with the event, with the whirlwinds, with the looters and the dying and the way fear piled upon fear until it was numbing--but she hadn't.
To be afraid was to be alive, and to be alive was all that mattered.
"Got one!"
The shape rose out of the water suddenly. It was the size of a dead baby. It was a dead-baby-fish. Of all the aquatic life forms of this unknown ocean these were the worst, haunting dreams, upsetting stomachs.
But they were food.
Had they always looked this way? Or was it a sort of learned camouflage, a way for the fish to avoid capture?
Two pale-white eyes stared at her from beneath the water. A pale, deadly-white shape, small fins where fat chubby fingers should have been. The dead-baby-fish gurgled and smiled.
"Fire!"
Mikey G. pressed the trigger on the Uzi and the dead-baby-fish became a dead dead-baby-fish. Chunks of white flesh flew. Shell bit down on a desire to throw up. It would do no good. Her puke would merely attract other creatures to the surface.
Some considerably bigger and more dangerous than a DBF.
She scooped up the still corpse of the fish with the net, making sure to trap the bits that Mikey G.'s enthusiastic shooting had thrown about. They needed food, not more bait. Mikey G. fired silently, face furrowed in concentration, sweat forming on his dark face. There had been plenty of firepower, at least that was easily available in this new Tel Aviv. They looted from the immobile tanks and the thousands of dead soldiers--AKs, Uzis, grenades, mortars--fuel was hard to come by, guns and bullets were cheap.
A moment of quietude. She stood in water up to her chest. She turned to look south. You could no longer see Jaffa. You could no longer see the Old City perched on top of its hill, nor the mosque rising from the embankment. There was Alma Beach, there was a part of the promenade still--a strip of grass and parking lots--and there was the border: that black, writhing mass of--what? A thin membrane separating this world from their own. Back there, on the other side, was home--London, and mum and dad, Sainsbury's, Boots, Indian take-aways and public libraries, pubs and Stella in pint glasses--her home so far away even the Israelis she was stuck here with did not understand it. One or two had visited London, before. But they had not lived there, did not understand it--no more than she understood their country, their language, their curious and frightening rituals and manners.
London was only there metaphorically, of course. London was far away, six hours by flight from Tel Aviv, back when Tel Aviv was in the other world, not this one. What had been on the other side was Jaffa, a city of rundown streets and Arabic street signs, a city that had once been the progenitor of Tel Aviv but had since been subsumed by it, most of its Arab citizens expelled in the first of many wars, the city since then growing more and more dilapidated. Houses were falling apart at the seams. Abandoned houses, their former owners trapped in refugee camps far away. They were not allowed to come back, and the city was an eyesore for the Tel Aviv population, an uncomfortable reminder that the absent landlords might still, one day, return.
Instead, the mountain had risen and the whirlwinds had come, and no one knew what was happening outside.
But Jaffa had not--as indeed it never had--been a part of the Tel Aviv bubble.
Was it happening? Was that a shimmer through the black, a thread of ruby shuddering in the membrane of the world?
Her heart beat faster.
Then a disturbance in the water. She pulled the net, screaming, letting it all out, a cry of rage or joy or fear. "Got one!"
From Mikey G.: "Fire!"
A giant shape rose out of the water, long white neck ending in a giant head with giant teeth. Shell screamed--her net broke--Mikey G. ululated as he fired, emptying a magazine into the Nessie.
Shell threw herself back. The Nessie grinned, a mouth full of teeth. The neck moved this way and that, gracefully, finding Mikey G. at last.
Shell paddled water, pushed herself away--
The neck descended. Mikey G.'s voice broke. The Uzi fell silent.
There were some things you simply couldn't kill.
Something Israelis never learned, Shell thought, half-running half-stumbling to the shore. You just couldn't shoot your way out of every situation.
Behind her Mikey G. was... no.
She didn't want to think about that.
When she got to dry sand she threw up. Beside her, the DBF stared at her with innocent, unseeing eyes.
They didn't bury Mikey G. There wasn't enough left of him for that. Goodbye, Mikey, Shell thought. She stood on the sand and watched the peaceful sea. You had a good body and you didn't talk much. Sometimes, that was all it took. All you needed.
Was it time yet?
Again she watched the dark membrane of the city. Was it pulsing, shifting, changing?
Was it time, yet?
She hoped it was. She looked for the sun. Was there a sun? Sometimes it felt as if there was. At other times... night and day did not follow rules here the way they did back beyond the barrier. But today daylight and nightlight converged, today the membrane pulsed and shifted, today was a twilight day, or would be, or should be...
Could she see the Jaffa mosque from here yet?
Maybe... a haze through the barrier. Was that the Old City?
She couldn't tell. She looked away.
Away, to Tel Aviv. The ruined city lay beyond the shore, electric cables naked, falling down. The buildings ruined, blind. Glass on the ground, shards of broken glass. Gunfire in the distance, then the mountain.
Cold, inhuman intelligences watching. Eyes the size of worlds. Cold, amused, lethargic eyes, watching her. She shivered.
Then, from down the beach--"They're coming! They're coming!"
And she was running, running as if her life depended on it, dead Mikey G. forgotten, the dead-baby-fish left behind for someone else to prepare for the cooking--all forgotten, the mountain, the whirlwinds, the mega-deaths--because it was twilight day, and they were coming, and he might be there with them.
Twilighters did not exist.
They were a fiction.
A fantasy.
A metaphor.
Only sometimes they came to Tel Aviv.
Were they figments of our collective imagination? Did they exist at all? They were our desires made flesh, our dreams as manifest. Twilighters.
Walkers between worlds.
It was market day. It was twilight day. And Shell was going to the market, she was heading to the barrier, she was thinking only--will he be there?
Tel Aviv, the dark bubble stretching and shimmering around it. The cut-off point--where old Jaffa met the new city, running down Salameh Road and kissing the shore just beyond Alma Beach.
Jaffa. That city of Egyptian overlords and Phoenician traders, Babylonian rulers and Ottoman sultans, of Arabs and Jews--a city of long-gone orange groves, a city of trade, a city snatched away from one people and taken by others, a symbol, a conflict in stone. Jaffa. It was beyond the barrier now, forever cut out of the younger city it had reluctantly given birth to only to be neglected by.
Did it flower, now? And what had happened in the rest of Israel, this renamed Palestine, with the absence of its largest urban body, the secular wound in the side of orthodoxy?
No one knew, and the twilighters weren't telling.
The market was being set up when she arrived. It was the only time the Republicans of Alma Beach met the city groups--roof-top kibbutzniks, miners, slavers, preachers, bikers, scavengers, and lost souls.
They all lost a life. They all lost lives they cared for. Lives they had loved. They were all changed--the way the city had changed.
But human life was always the same.
And the great rule of the universe was change.
You had to man up, as the Americans said. If there was still an America, somewhere beyond the barrier. Perhaps no one said that any more.
The stalls were being set up. Local produce: copper wires, seashells, tins, gold teeth, bullets, mortars, broken mirrors, bicycles, store-front dummies, fresh fruit and vegetables from the roof-top communes, junk--so much junk.
Across the barrier there had been a flea market in Jaffa, a maze of streets with every conceivable item for sale, as long as it was old, and discarded, and used. This was its mirror image, as if the entirety of Tel Aviv had become a vast junkyard, a place to hunt for useless bargains. There was already activity in the market. People were browsing, mingling, chatting. Fresh rats on a stick were cooking on a makeshift grill. Rats were one of the few sources of fresh meat left to the remaining people of the city. White meat.
A group of Firemen worshippers congregated near a stall of their own. They had a demented look in their eyes. A fire burned beside the stall in an upturned half-drum. There were no old religions left in the city. How could they, with the change? Instead the city had evolved factions, fractions, new ways of thinking about God. Some worshipped the whirlwinds. Some worshipped the great old ones on the mountain (if they existed at all). Some worshipped the mythical Fireman.
Some worshipped nothing at all.
She looked to the barrier. And then, just like that, they were there.
2. Saeed
He had two brothers and a sister and his mother. The Israelis had taken his father, once, and never brought him back. His cousins were fishermen, his uncle ran a carpentry shop. They were respectable people. They worked hard, and didn't complain. You learned not to, in this new Israel, this former Palestine, where you no longer belonged.
All this had changed with the event.
Things never change for the better, his father used to say. With Tel Aviv disappearing--with that black, mucus-like membrane wrapped around where the city had been, like a boil no one could lance--chaos erupted. The smell of gunpowder was once again common in the air. It made him sneeze. It made other people dead.
There was a war. Later, he could no longer recall who had fought whom. The secular Jews fought the Orthodox. And lost. The Palestinians fought the Israelis, but that had reached a stalemate after a while. Now there were two nations, or three, or five or ten: it was hard to tell. No one was in power any more, or everyone was.
The UN sent peacekeeping forces to ring the alien membrane, but they had nothing to do, so they drank too much and chased girls, and respectable people had to lock their doors at night, which they had done previously, anyway.
What lay beyond the barrier remained a mystery. The sea terminated at the black placenta. So did the streets. It ran through houses and trees and sand, engulfing the city of the Jews, sparing Jaffa, the source, the old city. Life went on pretty much as normal.
There had been riots.
There had been looters, and widespread panic, and deaths, and confusion, and then things went back to normal. Fish still had to be caught, beds still had to be made, and in the flea market they still sold junk in bulk quantities.
It was a strange thing, when you first went up to the membrane, the border. When you tried to put your hand to it, and the black oily skin slipped beneath your fingers, insubstantial as air. Nothing could get through. Nothing could come out.
At least until Abed came back one night into the house.
Abed had come back into the house and it was late. He should not have been out. They had been watching television, Al-Jazeera reporting on some power sharing deal reached in Jerusalem, an earthquake in Southeast Asia, Chinese ambitions for a moon rocket. There was a short segment on the Tel Aviv Bubble--scientists speculating uneasily about its nature. Nobody knew. They had tried firing rockets--digging underneath--sending a nuclear sub down into the harbor--none of it made a difference. The public was losing interest, to tell the truth. Tel Aviv was old news. Tourism had made a renewed start, though. Pilgrims used to come to Jerusalem, to see the holy sites, or they'd go to the Galilee, for same. Now more and more came to the bubble, to see for themselves, finding evidence of divine intervention in it. Shrines were set up at points all along the border. And tourists needed restaurants, and water sellers, and hotels, and the city of Jaffa had always been a place for pilgrims and passers-by. And so life went on.
And then Abed came into the house, past his bedtime, flushed with running and excitement, and said, "I've been there."
Their mother began to shout at him but Saeed pulled him aside and took him out of the house, and in the quiet street under the broken street light, asked him to explain.
It was a full moon night. The moon the Chinese wanted to go to glared down from the sky. It was pockmarked and old. It didn't belong to anyone. It looked like a bloodshot eye. "We went there," Abed said. "Malik and Naseem and me. Just to have a look, you understand."
"You went to smoke cigarettes?"
"No! Well, yes."
He watched his little brother cower and shook his head. "Go on," he said.
They had gone to smoke, be big men. Thirteen year olds, play-acting. "It made me cough," Abed admitted. Saeed said, "Tell me about the city."
Later, when Abed was in bed and the house was asleep, he went to see for himself.
He wasn't alone. Others joined him, on the way. Fishermen, traders, busboys. They'd heard the story and came quietly, not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be laughed at. Following a kids' story. Following with their hearts, not their minds.
Full moon.
The waves, breaking on the shore. Beyond the thick, black membrane a darkness and a silence, without breach.
They came individually. There were five of them, that first night. They did not look at each other.
What lay beyond?
It opened questions that the world was still worrying at, niggling at, picking at. God, and science, and the impossible. He reached to the dark border between their two cities, and pushed, and the membrane...
It did not open.
But it yielded.
He pushed farther, and it gave way, and he took one step, and then another. The membrane was wrapped around him, now. Like a viscous liquid it filled his nose and mouth, hugged his arms and chest and legs and knees. He pushed, and took another step, and another.
He could breathe.
And now, too, he could see.
He could not see clearly. He saw the way one sees when eyes are filled with tears. He saw the towers of the city rise in the distance, twisted and broken and ruined. They were very faint, a child's outline in crayons, yet the higher he looked the clearer his vision became, and he saw a mountain, an impossible mountain which had not been there before, rising high, high into an alien sky, and in the summit of that mountain he felt rather than saw cold, ancient eyes, as large as moons, looking down, the way one would look down on the ants infesting one's house in the summer.
But there was nothing of the summer about that gaze, those eyes, and he looked away, and to the sea.
The farther he walked the harder it became, and the membrane of the city pushed him back, fought him. He walked along the beach and the dark waters of that alien sea came to him and ran between his naked toes. He saw fires on the beach.
He saw people.
They were ghosts, and perhaps he, too, appeared as a ghost to them.
He did not get far enough that day to speak with them. A moon, full moon, a cloud passing over it. The membrane hardening, pushing him back, a catapult, a rubber band snapping.
There was a rush of air, a sense of objects flying all around him. He came to on the sand, the sand of Jaffa, beside a dark blue sea as familiar as his own face.
His head hurt. When he touched the back of it his fingers came back coated in an oily black liquid. Not blood, he thought.
But something of the border, touching him, changing him.
A piece of twilight, as they later called it.
They had never told. They had never felt they needed to.
And who would believe them?
And why should they tell, and who? CNN? Al-Jazeera? The UN?
The city was theirs. It had always been theirs. Since before the first orange groves, since before the British, or the Turks, or the Crusaders. Occupiers came and went and took Jaffa for their own but it was not their own. The city endured. And Tel Aviv, its offspring, had been cut from it, but not completely. It was theirs to walk in--for a time.
He came back, but the second night he could not enter, and the blackness bordering the city would not let him through.
But Saeed persisted. He came again, and again, at all hours, just as the others did. Trying to find the way back. Wanting to look. To see. To understand.
It was months later he understood the irony--for though he could enter the city, could watch it with his ghost's-eyes, he knew that he would never know, only the fear, the cold and empty fear one felt as one gazed upwards, at that mountain, and knew there were beings out there greater and crueler even than man.
That day, too, he prepared for the journey. It took days from your life; it was worse than smoking; it turned your hair grey and made your breathing harsh and hollow, made your heart beat fast, too fast, within its cage of bones. It made you aware of what you were, a frail biological machine, degrading fast, on a one-track way to death and nothing more.
But it was worth it.
The city was a drug, the crossing a sweet pain, a rush--they were the only ones who knew the secret. The only ones who could enter it, could go. With ghost-eyes they saw and with ghost-hands they felt, and in the ghostly language of the ghosts they spoke to them, in Hebrew.
The language of the real was Arabic, now. And the language of television was English, but that had always been so. And she was there, and spoke the language of the far-away places, the language of London and Miami and Die Hard and Lethal Weapon and CNN. He had met her....
He had met her that second time. Her name, in her language, was the name of the seashell, the name of a child of the sea. She was wounded, frightened--he could see the fires inside her, the fires of her life burning. He had reached out a ghost-hand and with a ghost-hand she reached for him. I'm Shell, she had told him, in the twilight. He read her lips. Easy to pick up. A bad joke.
He reached for her with ghostly limbs.
But the membrane was pulling him back, and her face closed. Come back, she seemed to say, in that half-moment. I will, he said, or thought he did, and that was all, and he woke up on the beach, the sun already high in an ordinary sky, alone.
3. Twilight
They came through the bubble, through the setting sun, with a full moon rising in both worlds, or one, or none. They came slowly, with effort, like underwater divers laboring to take one painful step after another in the depths of a dark primordial sea.
Her heart beat faster, here, in this other world.
A hushed expectant silence fell on the market.
Twilighters.
A fish was burning nearby. No one reached to turn it over. A jar of tentacles, pickled in brine, stood next to a jar of pickled lemons.
They still kept bees in Tel Aviv. There was honey for sale...
She began to run.
Shouts erupted. A cold wind came from the sea. It made you shiver, if you let it. High above she could feel the cold, indifferent amusement of beings the size of planets. But she didn't care.
What was real? What wasn't? Two worlds separated by a demarcation line, a boundary one could only cross in dreams. He belonged on the other side and she, through no fault of her own, belonged on this one.
Twilighters met survivors on the beach. Resolute explorers, the twilighters stood out against the darkening sky, wrapped in the oily-black membrane of the border. They were like dark angels, wingless, and she ran, everything forgotten, ran towards a promise, a reminder of another life, another world.
He searched for her. It was hard to see. A cold wind--he could feel it, even through the elasticity of the border. A wind from the other side.
And then he saw it.
She did not notice the whirlwind. She noticed nothing but the stranger who promised love was real, and it was strong, it could sustain you even when the world has fallen down and collapsed around you. The man who promised love was stronger than fear, and could ease pain.
Screams, and a jarful of tentacles and a jarful of lemons bursting open, glass shards flying everywhere, brine and lemon juice, tentacles and lemon slices. The whirlwind came from the sea and found purchase on land. One could never predict them. One couldn't stop them, or fight them. They were just there.
He felt it, a localized tornado towering above him. Pulling him. The pain was intense. The membrane tried to pull him back, the sucking vacuum tried to full him forward. He screamed, or tried to: there was no air in his lungs.
It came between them. She had seen it kill, so many times before. It, or others like it. She tried to reach out to him, her twilighter. He was just there, so close... his mouth opened, pushed against the thin membrane of her nightmare, but no words came. She had never heard his voice.
He was being pulled out of the border. He was being taken into her world--was that possible?
It would kill him. Shell knew it, as she always had. This city killed. This city did not tolerate dreams, or human nonsense about love.
She ran, into the eye: into the storm.
Stillness.
Within the storm, a calmness. He sucked in air.
Nothing to see. The wind howled in concentric rising circles, the eyewall of the storm.
Neither here nor there.
In twilight. A liminal space.
A calmness in the midst of chaos, an unlikely hiding place.
She opened her eyes. Nothing to see.
All quiet. So quiet... the calm within the storm.
Slowly, features coming into focus: an earlobe, a nostril, a sideburn, a neck.
Eyes. In the eye of the whirlwind his eyes opened and looked at hers.
He had brown eyes.
She whispered his name. She had read his lips, before.
In the eye, forgetting: the savage republic, the carnivore fish, the scavengers and human-mongers, the ruined city. They were all still there, but didn't matter.
An ear, pierced. An eye green like early morning sea. He said her name. Shell.
They were both shells, he thought, the way humanity were seashells, to be found, one day, discarded and empty on a lone and yet beautiful shore. He clung to her.
I'm Shell, she had told him, in the twilight. He had read her lips. Easy to pick up. A bad joke.
Is there still a world? She asked him.
I don't know, he said.
The storm picked them up and flung them, far away.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, December 7th, 2012

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