When I'm Gone

By FukubeSouhei All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Romance

Explorers

Eleven months after my sister did her first ever performance, Arthur came home. The ship he sailed in was still far away then and the early morning breeze blanketed our skins, but Beatrice insisted I’d stay and wait with her outside for she wanted to greet its arrival. I thought I’d wake my sister up, but she seemed to be having a very peaceful dream that I just let her off. So Beatrice and I sat on the grass. The sun wasn’t even fully awake yet. The slight rays it shone from the horizon gave the ship the vision of a promising silhouette. It moved slowly and steadily in the water. I stared at its for quite a long time. I didn’t know what to expect, but perhaps on the back of my mind I wondered what would happen if it flew high up in the air. That was an interesting thought, but it never happened. It stayed afloat in the water, and there was some kind of peace in the way it moved that I liked. The ships weren’t fast at all, unlike planes, but they still brought people to places.

The first few minutes, Beatrice would look up at the sky. She’d trace the stars with her hands and tell me the names of the constellations she’d recalled from a book she kept in their house. She said her favorite was Cassiopeia, and that she’d learned how to spell the name the first time she came across it. The sun slowly rose as we waited. I kept looking up because I imagined how wonderful it would be to be high up in the clouds when the transition of morning and the shift of all the colors start to happen. I would’ve been glad to talk about it, but then Beatrice had already rested her head on my shoulder. I smiled then, because it amused me how she woke up very early in the morning just to sleep again in the open. Her hair fluttered in the wind and she looked beautiful when she slept. The ship was a bit closer by then, but I didn’t wake her up.

I thought I’d be the one to greet Arthur first when he arrived. But I woke up in my bedroom with all the noise they’ve made in the kitchen. I went out of the room just as Beatrice did the same. I looked at her with jaded eyes for quite some time, and we laughed without ever knowing why. They told me later that dad had found us sleeping outside. He carried us to our beds. I would have loved it if I was awake when it happened. I didn’t know how he managed to lift us both. Perhaps he still had a lot of skill from all those times he carried firewood to keep us warm. We were still small, after all. Even when we say we’re thirteen and think that we’re big enough to handle ourselves, against the world, we were still just kids.

Beatrice ran instantly when she found her brother standing in the kitchen. She leaped off from the ground, reaching up for a warm embrace. My sister was so happy that day, I swear I could even see her eyes smile. The air was filled with the scent of breakfast – warm toast and fresh eggs. Arthur and Beatrice stayed until they’ve had their share, and then they both went off to see their aunt, who reserved that weekday to stay off from the city and stay home so she could welcome Arthur.

That afternoon, Arthur brought my sister to a place we’ve never seen before. We tagged along because they let us do just that. It was a field on the back side of our place. It was closer to Arthur and Beatrice’s house. I’ve never really tread that far on my own expeditions, and I felt a little disappointed with myself for not having seen it much sooner. It was quite dangerous, actually, for it was at the edge of a mountain and there was actually a cliff. Nevertheless, the view there was a masterpiece. It overlooked the sea and the sky at the same time. At that moment, I realized how big the world really is. Beatrice and I sat quietly, looking out the horizon. The view we’d seen that morning was astonishing, but standing on that spot was different entirely. Somehow, the sea was a little bit bluer there, and the sparkles the sun reflected on its waters were so majestic it was as if we were looking over a sea of sapphires. The clouds were so huge it felt like we could actually reach them if we jumped high enough, and the wind felt so soft against our skin, it felt like we were actually soaring with the birds. Beatrice and I laid flat on our stomachs as we peered over the edge to look down. I noticed there were weird objects protruding from the wall of the cliff. I asked Arthur what they were and he told me that there was actually a cave a few meters down. He’d seen it before when he’d sail. The hole of earth would eat the rays of the sun and drink the splashes of wave that would reach it whenever the seas get rough.

The objects were actually metal, strong enough to hold a person. What was strange was that they formed some kind of stairs that leads directly down to the entrance of the cave. I grabbed some rocks and reached down to the first step. I pounded the rock hard to see if it would budge. It didn’t. Beatrice and I asked the elders if it was okay if we went down. They took too long to answer, but alas, they agreed. For greater assurance though, Arthur brought a thick rope from their house and tied it to the end of a nearby tree. We descended down the metal staircase, one by one, with the rope tied securely on our waist. And we reached the cavern. It was like a secret place made solely for those who loved the earth, the sea, and the sky. There were writings on the wall too, probably made by the people who first discovered the place. The words had grown old with time so we couldn’t really get much out of it.

For days after that, we would return. My sister and Arthur would come with us. And even when my sister had gone out again to the city, and Arthur back to the sea, Beatrice and I still continued to go. It had become part of our lives, along with marking off the days in the calendar when my sister or Arthur would return.

One fateful day, Beatrice told me she wanted to draw the view of the world inside that cave. I joined her and we went to the cliff, tied the rope to our waists and led ourselves down the cave. The weather was unexpectedly cold that day that we wore jackets even in the afternoon. The sun was about to set. By then, we have gone to the cave many times already that the hour we’d explore didn’t matter much anymore. Beatrice did great on her sketch. She had a great talent for drawing. I just stayed with her there, watching her hands move on the sketchpad she’d rested on her legs. When she’d finished her work, the moon had already appeared. There was little orange light left for the sun to shine through. As we were about to exit, Beatrice slipped on her toes. The mouth of the cave had gone wet with the waves. She fell to the water, and the next thing I knew, I was down in the deep too. I didn’t know why I jumped off. I just leaped high from the mouth of the cave, thankful to know that the water was deep and it was clear from sharp rocks.

I’ve never swam before, and I was probably on a suicide mission myself. But it didn’t matter. When I plunged in, the water was cold, but there was something in it that made me feel alive. More alive than usual, that is. I can see clearly down there. I could even wade as if I’ve done it a thousand times before. At that point of the hour, I couldn’t have seen a lot underwater. Night was already starting to take over, but it didn’t take long for me to find Beatrice. When I saw her, her eyes were closed and she stayed afloat in a fixed position. It was as if some kind of force was keeping her there, oblivious of the tide that would otherwise pull her under. I grabbed her, but it felt like it wasn’t me at all. She’d open her eyes then, and she held onto me with all of the strength she had left. I didn’t know how long we were underwater. It felt like we stayed there forever. We saw many things. Multi-colored fish swam around us in a kaleidoscopic image. We could see the ocean floor and all kinds of life that lived within the waters. It felt like we spent the night there. It really did feel like forever. There was this huge object that loomed over us. The figure was familiar, for I had seen its silhouette in front of the sunrise before. It was a ship, and it slowly descended down unto us. I was afraid it would crush us. But it never did. I saw a man swimming out of it instead. He held onto me and Beatrice, and he led us up into the world. Before we could reach the top, I heard him whisper into my ear, but I couldn’t recall what the words were. Perhaps they were drowned out by the current.

We longed for air when we ascended into the surface. I looked around me and saw the pale moon beaming at us. Arthur was there, too. He was holding both on Beatrice and I until we reached the shore. My sister was waiting for us there, her tears ready to fall on the corners of her eye. She gasped in relief when we were finally safe. She hugged us all, three of us. Arthur was breathing hard. He was trying to get up. I held Beatrice’s hand and she looked at me. I looked at her too. We both shared a look of awe and fear. I didn’t know if she’d seen the things I have, but I was so out of breath I couldn’t ask her yet. For a moment I could’ve lost her. We could have lost her, or they could have lost both of us. But I was certain something strange happened down there – something that stretched time and created wonders. I then held my sister and I thanked Arthur for a thousand times. I looked out at the sea, but there was no sign of a ship anywhere.

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