Between Heaven and Earth (1/1)
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Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.
- Henry Miller
The wind rushed past his face harsh and merciless. Indifferent to the pressure the air itself exerted on him, he propelled himself upward. It was as if nature herself were trying to prevent him from reaching his destination. But, it was a useless effort on her part for he was not part of her world, not a natural creature and therefore she could not hinder him. Higher and higher he rose, seemingly without effort.
The air was cold, chilled by the coming winter. As he flew still higher, the air became frigid. The wind thundered past his sensitive ears, biting into the exposed flesh of his face and hands. The bitterly cold gusts would have been tortuous to a mortal. Even to him, the sensation was not pleasant though not what he would have called painful. Invigorating, stimulating perhaps, but not painful. In fact, he delighted in the feeling as it made him feel almost alive. Positioning himself directly into the wind, he sliced through the darkness.
Once he’d risen to a lofty height, far out of the range of any mortal’s vision, he slowed his ascent and turned his head seeking out the ground below. Once focused on it, he accelerated again moving backwards through the sky watching as the earth receded at a rapid pace. He knew the city below him well. He could put a name to each building that jutted towards the sky as if were trying to escape the confines of the earth just as he was. Turning his body and face back upward, he continued propelling himself into the darkened skies with some unexplained preternatural ability.
Higher above the city the air quickly became thinner and heavy with frozen mist. Tiny crystalline shards pelted his face as he traveled higher. He closed his eyes focusing on their assault, losing himself in their stinging pinpricks. He continued upwards until as suddenly as it had come, the mist was gone leaving behind a brilliantly clear sky peppered with millions upon millions of shimmering lights.
At last, he slowed his flight and finally came to a halt. Relaxing, he simply allowed himself to float. Effortlessly, he maneuvered his body into a supine position so that the earth would be below him and the stars overhead. From the ground, it had appeared an overcast evening, but here, high above the hazy mist, it was brilliantly clear. The veil of clouds below him reflected the silvery light of the moon creating a celestial landscape.
Overhead the view was nothing less than breathtaking. Millions of tiny pinpoints of light pierced the inky blackness. He sighed, allowing himself to drift along with the air currents. Time seemed to come to a standstill as he studied the blanket of stars. He thought back at how subtly they had changed over the centuries. A few tiny dim specks had simply vanished, fading into oblivion only to be replaced by others. The changes were so subtle, almost imperceptible even to one who had studied the night skies for hundreds of years as he had. He had been awed to learn that the light had traveled across time and space from stars which had in many cases, burned out millions of years ago. It was odd to think that many of those stars had ceased to exist long ago, their existence marked only by the light he gazed upon this very night. It saddened him to know that some day even that light would fade away leaving behind nothing at all.
Slowly his view became obscured as higher clouds moved in engulfing him in their vapor. He continued to drift allowing the cool moisture to caress him. Like his body, his thoughts began to drift. He thought back to his childhood. Times had been much simpler then. The world had consisted of nothing more than his father’s house and his father’s lands. Oh, how he missed those simple times. But, those days had ended long before he’d become a vampire. The natural evolution of things had stripped those times away. All he had now were the memories. Memories of running through the green fields laughing simply for the sake of laughing with the sun shining down warm and golden on his tanned flesh. And when he’d grow tired of running, when his legs refused to carry him any further, he would fall to his knees amongst the sweet wildflowers. He would run his hands over their silky blooms and inhale their honey aroma. Then he would lie back on the warm ground. With the breeze rustling the tall grass surrounding him, he would stare up at the sky. How glorious the sky had been! He would lie there for hours watching the clouds. The ever changing billowing, milky-white clouds that in one moment resembled the head of a magnificent stallion then the next a broken wagon wheel had fascinated him. Often they’d appeared so solid he could imagine himself walking atop them just as an angel would. His mother had told him that he’d become an angel one day. The first thing he’d do, he remembered thinking, was take a walk among the clouds feeling their downy softness caressing his bare feet.
He couldn’t help but smile at the irony of it all. Here he was amongst the clouds yet he was no angel, far from it.
Turning his body so that he could see the ground below him through the breaks in the clouds he folded his arms, laid his head atop them, and took a deep breath. It wasn’t something he needed to do to survive yet he had found that the simple act of inhaling and exhaling helped him to cleanse his mind and relax his body. That, in fact, was the purpose of his journey high above the earth. It was his escape when the tension became unbearable. He came to this place, if it could be called a place at all, somewhere between Heaven and earth to collect himself. Here he could distance himself from things for a time. He could reflect on his chosen path, examine his place in the scheme of things and renew his weary spirit.
Slowly the clouds broke giving him an unobstructed view of the earth far below. At his lofty height, it seemed to mirror the sky above. Even with his enhanced vision, he could make out few details. Instead, he saw only the tiny pinpoints of light that pierced the darkness. Many were grouped in clusters, huddled together. Others were solitary dots sprinkled across the landscape. The sight never failed to amaze him. It had only been over the past century that the world had begun to glow in the dark hours. Before, there had been only darkness after the sun retreated save for the occasional flickering candle and later the gas lamps. But the tiny amounts of light sent forth by those captured flames disappeared not high above the ground. Now, the bright illumination provided by modern technology could not be escaped no matter the altitude. He had tried once when the idea of artificial light illuminating the night was still new. He had flown much higher even than he had this night. The air had become so thin that it had seemed to disappear altogether and he had become weary. But he had been determined and so he continued upwards until the bitter cold began to affect even him. He remembered thinking as he turned back at last, drained and defeated and still able to see tiny hints of light how things had changed, how they would never again be the same. Over time, he had come not to resent the change but to delight in the beauty it created. He had watched in awe from the sky as the lights began to creep out from the cities and invade the countryside. To him, it had seemed to happen overnight, time being as it is for a vampire. In truth, it had taken decades for the world to emerge from darkness into constant light. Even now, after all of those years of watching the lights multiply, the sight was magnificent. It was as if stardust had been sprinkled upon the ground or perhaps some wayward star had crashed down from the heavens above splintering into a million glowing pieces.
It was only one of the many miracles he’d witnessed over the centuries. He’d lived through the industrial revolution. He had watched in awe as horseless carriages as they’d been called in the beginning transformed the very fabric of society. He had seen medical advances cure diseases once fatal and eradicate others entirely. He had seen countries rise and fall. He had seen men walk on the moon, a feat that eluded even his kind. He’d witnessed what was once amazing become something taken for granted. He smiled as he thought how fortunate he had been to witness so much. Still he despised the very state of being that had enabled him to do so, didn’t he? Well, most of it anyway.
With barely a thought, he willed his body back downwards towards the earth, towards the city he called home. His life was there, waiting for his inevitable return. No, he was no angel among the clouds. He had committed some of the most heinous crimes imaginable, he had taken lives both innocent and guilty. The guilt he felt for his sins weighed heavy on him as it always would. But he had done good as well, he had saved lives and brought justice to innocent victims. The past could not be changed. If he had learned nothing in all of his years he had learned that much. It could only be accepted and lessons learned from it. Perhaps it was time for him to be grateful for the positive things he had gained from his long existence, the positive influences he had made, the miracles he had witnessed and had been fortunate enough to be part of. He could take the lessons he had learned and teach what he knew to others. He could show them the beauty and majesty of the world, the wonder and good that could be found there even amongst the evil and ugliness.
Though his life had taken twists and turns he never could have imagined as a small boy playing carefree among the wildflowers, though few things had turned out the way he had dreamed they would he felt a sense of acceptance of his life. Given the chance to do it all over again, there were many things he would have changed but he did not have that luxury. What he did have was the power to shape his own destiny, to make the best of what he had, to choose his own path, to make the best of the future.
As he flew downwards, he turned back and took another look at the clouds. They had thickened seeming to form from the very air itself. Still, occasionally there would be a break in them and the stars would look down upon the earth as they always had and as they always would.