Authors: Greg Ness
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Religion & Spirituality, #Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Religious & Inspirational Fiction, #Christian Fiction, #Post-Apocalyptic
Text copyright © Greg Ness
All rights Reserved
All that begins will end.
All that ends will begin.
Their suffering is eternal.
Stephen Pandora glared at his best friend Bruce.
Growing up, they had spent many of their days together. Sadly, it had
been a while since Stephen had seen him. This reunion was long
Bruce lay on his back with his eyes closed. It was easy to tell:
he was at peace.
Of course, dead people usually looked like that.
Hundreds of people filled the rooms of the funeral home.
They lingered about, struggling to squeeze through the crowds. The scene
reminded Stephen of a rock concert. A somber, silent rock concert.
Recently, perceptions of death had changed. While some ‘mourners’ were
filled with sadness, many were laid-back and even happy for the deceased.
Stephen knew better. He stood over Bruce’s casket and fell to his
knees, clunking onto a kneeler. This was Stephen’s time to say
goodbye. His face flushed. The room erupted with heat and the walls
crushed around him. All the people in the room, with their incessant
chatter, seemed to disappear, leaving only him and Bruce. He forced his
eyes to look downward. It was difficult to see. Every time Stephen
tried to absorb the image, his rich blue eyes rebelled with tears. As his
sleeves wiped them away, he saw Bruce wearing a suit. Stephen had rarely
seen him dressed so nicely. On any other occasion, he’d be impressed.
Stephen absorbed the pain of a lost friend too many times. All
his life, Stephen felt abandoned by those he loved the most. He was sick
of feeling this way. “
?” It was a question that tore
apart the soul of every man on the planet. He who lived with no regret
was a lucky man.
Bruce might still be here.
His infectious laughter and smartass remarks would still be ringing in his
, he was silent.
Stephen took one last look at his friend. “Goodbye
Bruce.” Behind him, people in line waited their turn to say their
Stephen finished with the only thing he knew with any
certainty, “I will see you again.” He gave his friend a half-smile of
reassurance and turned to squeeze his way through the crowd. In a flash
of carelessness, he bumped into a young black teenager who had been tormented
by Bruce’s death.
“Excuse me,” Stephen apologized. The boy looked at
him through a screen of tears and while gazing at Stephen’s blue eyes, the boy
saw an emptiness, a dimness. The two uncomfortably stared at each other
until finally, the boy responded, “It’s alright.”
Stephen patted him on the shoulder and hurried out of the
Bruce and Stephen were two pals at the ripe age of 21
College work was a concern, but only a minor one. The more pressing issue
was having fun and squeezing as much out of life before the inevitable ‘real
world’ crept up and bit them by surprise.
Bruce said to Stephen, “We’ve been here before…”
“Yeah I know, but I don’t remember it, do you?”
On this sunny spring day, thousands of people were battling the heat to
experience a day of excitement at the ultimate theme park full of 3D experiences
and cutting-edge roller coasters.
Stephen chugged a bottle of water as he and Bruce waited in line for
roller coaster. There was a lot of hype surrounding
the ride, which had just opened a month ago, so naturally, it had a whopping
line. Bruce didn’t mind. Not with the overload of hotties in short
skirts. “Check out that one, man.”
Bruce fixated in the direction of a leggy blonde. As she made eye
contact with him, Bruce treated her with a wink. She returned the favor
by turning her back on him.
Stephen nodded. “Nice.”
After waiting in line for a zigzagged hour, they approached the loading
dock and were next to board. The cars lined up and stopped in front of
them. Through the exits across the way entered a blonde sporting a
hot-pink tank top. Bruce took notice immediately. “My kind of
“What makes her so smart?” Stephen asked.
“She brought a friend on crutches. She gets to go to the front of
Sure enough, behind the blonde, a brunette hobbled on crutches.
They lined up across from Stephen and Bruce in the same row.
“Perfect. They’re going to sit with us. Watch me work my magic on
this fine piece.”
“Good luck picking up a girl on a roller coaster,” quipped Doubting
“It’s the perfect place. Adrenaline is pumping, man.”
The gates swung open and Bruce bolted onto the four-seat row.
Crutch-Girl, with the help of her friend, sat at the far end. The blonde,
conveniently for Bruce, sat next to him. He went to work right away,
“Hello,” she answered.
“Nice to meet you,” she said untruthfully.
“I like the little scheme you got goin’ on. It’s genius.”
She glared at him. “What scheme is that?”
“The crutches. Do you guys switch off after each ride or what?”
“No… her foot’s broken.”
The safety restraints lowered and squeezed their shoulders.
“Sure,” Bruce chuckled. “Your secret’s safe with me,
The restraints blocked Bruce’s view of her face. But
he could imagine her expression. Insulted, she responded, “Excuse me?”
Bruce playfully slapped her bare leg. “Don’t worry about it.”
Bruce heard her mumble something to her friend but could only guess
what it was. He whispered to Stephen, “I think she likes me. You
can take the handicapped one.”
The girl responded, “I can hear you, jackass.”
The ride screamed into action. Before they knew it,
they were soaring at intense speeds with their heads banging along the
restraints. Bruce loved roller coasters. Actually, he loved
anything that brought a bit of excitement to his life. Stephen and Bruce
had been on quite a few adventures in their day, mostly thanks to Bruce’s lust
for thrills. Bruce put his hands in the air as they blazed through the
hot wind rushing in their faces. After two minutes, the ride ended, much
to Stephen’s relief. Stephen was not as addicted to excitement as Bruce;
he could do without all the adrenaline. They arrived back at the loading
“Woooo!” shouted Bruce. The restraints were lifted.
A dazed Stephen stared ahead, trying to catch his breath.
Bruce laughed. “Meet me at the ride exit.” He
darted away, leaving Stephen with the two girls. Left to fend for his
own, he said, “Sorry about him, he gets easily excited. He might have ADD.
It’s a serious disorder and…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Bruce’s blonde interrupted.
As Crutch-Girl struggled to writher out of the seat,
Stephen asked, “Can I help you up?” He offered his hand, prompting her to
Crutch-Girl was a brunette, conservatively dressed, the
all-American girl type. Stephen gripped her hand and helped her up as her
friend retrieved her crutches.
“Thanks… you’re not like your friend.”
Stephen laughed as the three of them headed toward the exit
As they walked down a long path, inevitably leading to a
gift shop, Stephen found himself absorbed with Crutch-Girl. “So what’s
“I’m Lisa,” replied the no longer nameless crutch-girl.
Bruce’s target interrupted, “I’m Kristen,”
“Nice to meet you guys, I’m Stephen.” They continued
to follow the path, which seemed to take forever to get through.
As they passed underneath the steel frame of the coaster,
Lisa moved swiftly along on her crutches. She looked into Stephen’s eyes
to try and catch a glimpse of him. When he caught her looking, she darted
her eyes ahead. Her lips subconsciously pulled back and created tiny
dimples in her cheeks. She tried to avoid gawking at Stephen but the
temptation was too great. There was something about him she was intrigued
by. She stared into his gentle blue eyes looking back at her. They
brought an odd warmth that resonated within her.
That simple eye contact was a moment Stephen would never
forget. He had often heard the eyes were the windows to the soul, but he
never believed it until right then. At that moment, Stephen saw a person
he desperately wanted to get to know. She was an affectionate, selfless
person who cared more for others than herself. Of course he didn’t
that, but he could tell. Her eyes told him that much. It might’ve
been too early to know anything about her, but Stephen fell in love with Lisa
When they reached the gift shop, Stephen strolled through
the T-shirts and stuffed animals searching for his missing friend. Bruce
could be anywhere, and no doubt, he was up to something. Together,
Stephen and Bruce formed the perfect team of mischief-makers.
The three left the gift shop and found Bruce waiting
outside with a wide grin on his face. A shopping bag dangled from his
hand. Stephen thought to himself, ”Oh no. What did you do?”
Kristen squinted at Bruce like she was getting ready to
duel him. Strangely, she had a tinge of a smile. Was this really
going to work for him? He reached in the bag and pulled out a photo: a
roller coaster snapshot of the four of them as they were on the ride. So
that’s why he ran ahead, to buy a photo. “Wow, bold move,” Stephen
mumbled to himself, impressed with the effort. But no way would it work.
He glanced over at Kristen. Surprisingly, she was all-out smiling.
It worked. Kristen was no longer the stuck-up, closed-off girl she
appeared to be. This was among Bruce’s finest work in action.
Kristen grabbed the picture and looked at their goofy faces. She smiled
“My name’s Kristen.”
He couldn’t stay at the wake any longer.
Stephen had left, hoping to continue going unnoticed. He was in the
parking lot and was almost at his car, a sleek silver convertible. It was
gloomy outside, with daunting clouds forming strange shapes. Rain
battered from the sky, a fitting punishment from above. It didn’t fall
too hard, but just enough to need an umbrella. The ratting and tatting
pounded above his head like gunshots and he worried he might go deaf.
Stephen didn’t feel alone. The feeling of watching
eyes burned the flesh under his suit. He turned and saw Kristen, adorned
in all black. It was a tragic sight he hoped to avoid. Her eyes
were heavy and her face was pale red. Her dress blew in the wind, getting
drenched by the unforgiving rain. It was just the two of them for what
seemed like miles.
He stared at her, unsure what to say, if anything at
all. Kristen stared back. Her face was scrunched and it was obvious
she had been crying for days. It pained Stephen to see this beautiful
girl so torn down. It would take forever for her to move on.
Kristen struggled to say, “I’ve missed you…
This shot Stephen like a bullet and he might have stumbled
a bit from the impact. What he wanted to say was “I’ve missed you too,”
but all he could muster was a lowly, “I’m sorry.”
Kristen looked at the sky and the rain pounded her
face. Stephen wasn’t going to be able to escape from this. He
reluctantly walked over and covered her with his umbrella. With his free
arm, he hugged her and gave her a tender kiss on the forehead. He
whispered in her ear, “I’m so sorry.”
This prompted more tears from Kristen. She looked at
Stephen and attempted to smile. She didn’t succeed but it was honorable
for her to try. “Bruce wanted me to give this to you.” She opened
her purse and pulled out a small, rectangular, beat-up wooden box that was kept
closed by a metal clip. It was about the size of a shoebox but a bit
smaller. The word ELPIS was carved on the top of the lid. Stephen
had seen the box many times before and knew it well. It was hard for him
to appreciate, but he took it anyway.
“Thank you Kristen. I’m sorry for the loss of your
She lunged forward and hugged him. Stephen wore a cloak
of guilt that would likely never leave. It was overbearing, like a steel
backpack he couldn’t take off.
Kristen uttered, “She still loves you.”
Stephen backed away from her. He didn’t know what to
say. It was a comment he didn’t want to hear.
“Why isn’t she here?” Stephen snapped back.
Kristen opened her mouth to speak, but no words came
out. Stephen waited for an answer. He could’ve waited
forever. There was no answer coming. “I have to go. I’m sorry
about Bruce. He was a great friend.”
Stephen was sorrier than anyone could understand, but that
was it. He didn’t come here to talk about Lisa. He pulled his keys
out of his pocket and walked toward his convertible, leaving Kristen in the
Stephen opened the door of the car. He stopped, wondering
if he should say one last thing or leave it alone. He hesitantly looked
back at Kristen, who wasn’t going to budge. He considered offering some
final words of encouragement, but realized it was too late. Their goodbye
was over and it wouldn’t be a temporary one. Stephen would never see her
again. While this saddened him, he knew those days were long gone.
He turned away and started to lean into the driver’s seat.
Kristen yelled out, “We can change it!”
Stephen stopped. Her assertion was ridiculous and it
pissed him off. He turned his whole body and stared deep into her
eyes. He wanted to make sure she understood exactly what he was about to
“No one can change a thing. Get that in your god damn
head and forget about it.”