4pm, 5th August (later that day). Secret Flame
The twenty kilo kettle bell sailed through the air to hit the turf twenty metres away from where Max had hurled it. The steel ball thudded deep into the luxuriant green grass to join the growing pile of other twenty kilo kettle bells Max had thrown. Before the steel ball hit the ground, Max had another one in his left hand and was winding up to throw it too.
From his stationary stance, Max had twin stock piles of kettle bells on each side of him and with alternating underarm swings like dual windmills, he was tossing the kettle bells one at a time as far as he could out across the northern lawn of the estate. Speed was his primary concern, picking up and throwing the bells as quickly as he could, but as he found his rhythm, Max increased his power, stretching the growing pile further and further away.
Hurling the final bell out into space and a good twenty-five metres distant, Max straightened up and paused. He didn’t know what to do next, at least not right away. So, he launched forward into a three quarter sprint across the grass and away towards the far tree line to fill the pause with something. As he ran, Max wondered what he could do when he reached the trees. Max also hoped that the set of eyes watching from behind him would soon be able to get back down on the grass to help.
Back up on the balcony behind him, Kris watched Max go through his paces, jealous that he had his orange sneakers on and was active while she was house-bound in her dressing gown. Still, it was good to see that the daily routine went on unhindered by her absence. The world still needed saving, regardless of her state of health.
Closing her eyes, Kris let the soft sounds of the sea wash over her, the sensation now calming and not in the least disturbing. Abdullah was right. Her fears had left her and now reality was firmly in perspective. She understood what she needed to do and also acknowledged that despite her’s, Max’s and everyone else’s best efforts, the world was still probably doomed. If that was the case, she would die. Her family would die and everything good and beautiful in the world would be lost. So be it. Fate is fate, but Kris would not let fate come easily. She would fight it and she would fight it till she fell in front of it.
‘Hey, you,’ sounded a voice behind her.
Kris turned and opened her eyes. Elsa had snuck up behind her on the balcony.
‘Hey, you too,’ Kris replied, smiling.
The two women gently hugged and then stepped back to look at each other.
‘You look good,’ Elsa said.
‘I feel good. I really do.’
Elsa turned and stepped up to the glass balustrade to see her husband running back towards the house from the distant trees.
‘You know he’s been lost without you?’ Elsa said.
‘I get that a lot with men,’ Kris replied.
‘Yeah, you’re a real heart breaker,’ Kris said in return, smiling, ‘but really, you should have seen him yesterday. He had one of your boys go find a big enough ladder so he could climb up on top of the Pain Train and jump off it again and again as fast as he could. It was all he could think of.’
Kris raised her eyebrows. ‘That’s not bad.’
‘Yeah, maybe,’ Elsa drawled, ‘but only to a point. He couldn’t think of anything else after that, so he tried going up the ladder on his hands instead.’
‘And how’d that go?’
‘Poorly, but it was pretty funny.’
‘I’ll have to remember that next time I need a laugh.’
Elsa looked back at Kris and studied her face. ‘You really do look good. We were worried as hell about you. You went down real hard.’
‘Abdullah said you’d all been to sit with me and I...’ Kris started, ‘...I think it helped me. This might sound a little weird, but while I was down, it was like being lost at sea in a storm, a really, really bad storm and without a life jacket or anything. The waves just kept crashing down on me and it was dark. So dark, the whole time, but then, a light started to shine on the horizon. At first I lost sight of it as the waves kept coming down on me, but slowly the light lifted higher and got brighter and somehow it gave me the strength to start treading water. My head stayed up more and more and then I realised I was kicking my legs and paddling towards the light because where there’s light, there’s hope isn’t there? So, as the light grew brighter, I got stronger. The sky grew lighter and the waves died down and then finally, at last, my feet touched the bottom...and I woke up.’
‘And who did you see?’ Elsa asked.
Kris flicked her gaze sideways and almost whispered, ‘Abdullah.’
Elsa nodded. ‘That’s right because he hardly left your side the whole time. Sure, Max and I and Joseph came in and sat with you a fair bit, but Abdullah, he hardly left your room since he got to the estate the morning after you crashed.’
Kris dipped her head and turned to look out over the lawn to find Max doing standing military presses with a barbell. Elsa continued.
‘The moment he landed,’ Elsa added, ‘he came straight up and in the three nights and two days you were down, he left your side maybe a couple of times to freshen up and eat, although most of the time he ate out on the balcony.’
‘Yeah, I think it was the smell of his pancakes that actually woke me up,’ Kris said smiling.
‘Maybe it was the pancakes at the end, but if that light you saw in the storm really was hope, that hope had a name. Abdullah. He sat here with his prayer beads day and night and at night, he didn’t sleep. He sat in that chair and he prayed and he prayed and he prayed. You hear stories about people doing things like that, but he actually did it. I swear he has not slept a wink in the three nights that have passed and then during the day, he did no work. He’s left everything up to Joe while he sat here with you. The man is a saint or whatever the equivalent is in Islam, so if you’re looking for someone to hug, it’s him. It’s absolutely Abdullah. He’s been lost without you too.’
Kris stayed silent, listening to Elsa’s deposition and feeling the depth of her words as they touched her deep inside. She could still see that light inside her mind, but now it had taken on a new dimension. The light now had a feeling associated with it, an emotion more powerful than any other, but Kris couldn’t bring herself to openly admit it. Instead she kept her feelings hidden despite the discomfort it gave her. The end of the world was not the time to get all soppy. She had a role to play here and her own personal desires had to come second.
Looking up, Kris found Max standing down on the grass looking directly up at her. Her mind was made up. She needed to focus. Sacrifices needed to be made and Kris would sacrifice her feelings for Abdullah because that was the right thing to do.