Beyond Horizons

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The truth is always on the other side of the horizon.

3:16 AM. An all-night diner. Men’s restroom. Second stale. That’s what was written on the wall there. A strange place to have an epiphany of that nature, but it’s there. And those words haunt me. I find myself repeating them over and over in my head as I exit back into the main dining area.

Scanning the room, there are only two people. The late-night waitress, stationed idly on the end of the counter. Her head leaning down, reading a cheap grocery-store romance novel, waiting for her graveyard shift to end. Boredom pluming out of her like the smoke from the cigarette in the ashtray in front of her. Usually, you can’t smoke inside a restaurant in these parts, but it’s three in the morning. Who is going to complain?

And there is the girl. She sits there, third table from the door, her back to me. Head, tilted, facing the window. Looking beyond the smudged glass, looking beyond the carpet store across the street, looking beyond even the stars.

I situate myself across from her, drifting back into the spot I occupied not three minutes ago. She doesn’t even turn to acknowledge my return. Minutes pass with her gaze fixed on a point somewhere far beyond reality. It’s apparent she isn’t going to break her stare. I begin to fiddle with a sugar packet.

3:22 AM. As if blanketed by a gentle breeze, her features change slowly. Her eyelids embracing the sapphires resting just above her nose. The corners of her mouth slip upwards, only slightly. They rise with a breath, taken in for what seems like an eternity. Every muscle in her face tightens with the intake of air, and relaxes just as peacefully with the exhale. A warm gesture that signifies contentment, inner-turmoil non-existent at this moment. Complete freedom from the burden of a thought.

With a quick motion and tiny crackle, I force open the packet in my hand. I watch as the clear-white grains of sweetener drift down, settling on the table like a gentle flurry of snow. Setting the now-empty pouch aside, I push the sugar around the glossy wood surface. Using my finger to trace a shape. Starting at the top, arching upward and shifting down, slanting. Repeating from the point of origin, in the opposite direction, letting the second slant meet the first at a point. A heart.

Moving my line of sight back to her, she has returned to her gazing. The sapphires once again illuminate. What she’s looking at, what she’s looking for, I may never know. I don’t bother asking.

My hands meet each other in my lap. Fingers interlocking and tightening, releasing, drifting apart to where they finally rest, flat on either leg. I stare apathetically at the lines leading to each digit, tendons like tiny pipelines. Tensing, I make them pop out slightly. Relaxing, they burrow back into the depths. Just a little ways up, my watch reads 3:26 AM. It’s almost time.

It’s at that moment, the silence is broken. My mouth lingers open, before finally letting the words drop out.

“Are you ready?”

Her entire figure drops with the sapphires leading the way. She turns and peers at her reflection in the brown of a cold cup of coffee. A light, almost unnoticeable sigh escapes her delicately parted lips.

“As ready as I can be, I guess…” Her voice, lifting out of her, weightless and heavy at the same time.

In a steady, circular motion, my hand orbits my waist, the tendons once again tensing as I find my grip around a purpose.

“May I ask, why here?”

Without missing a beat, her response came swiftly, “As a little girl, my father used to take me here every weekend. We would split a piece of pie while he sipped his coffee. It’s the only fond memories I have. I just wanted to return to the one moment I was innocent. Free. Even happy.”

“That’s a better reason than most.”

I draw forth her destiny from behind me. She closes the doors on those sapphires for the last time, letting her head drop. I lift the muzzle up, pointing it. And with one loud bang, my job is done.

I rise almost immediately, turning one last time to toss down five dollars. The price of the pie, coffee, and a tip. The blood has already began to paint the tiny heart the appropriate red color. I walk slowly towards the door, the usually sounds of terror escaping from the weathered waitress. The screams of disbelief, bewilderment mixed with fear, I am used to them by now.

Pushing open the glass door, the last sound I hear before being washed over by the stillness of night, is the clanging of a tiny bell above the door. The air is cool and crisp. My eyes fall one last time to the sidewalk below, where I notice she had dropped my card before entering. I pick it up gently between two fingers, reading over my own words.

Mark Seigal
The Means to an End
Dignified And Compassionate Assisted Termination Team
213-555-3744

3:30 AM. An unsatisfied half-smile crosses my lips, followed by a deep breath. As my chest rises, so do my eyes. Glancing above the carpet store across the street, following the nothingness of the night sky, trying to find the place those sapphires found their final comfort. I see nothing. I guess it just isn’t for me to see.

The truth is always on the other side of the horizon.

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