Without rising from our seated positions, the medieval English countryside began to fade, only to be replaced by the quickly approaching train depot. It rushes toward us, situating stone benches under our bums, before we even have the chance to appreciate the thrill of the ride.
“Well, that was something,” I breathe, reorienting myself with the now familiar scenery.
There’s an indisputable knowledge coursing through me, though, and the words feel like a weak attempt to stave off the inevitable. A resonating presence of my previous sorrow begins to creep in, fogging the hallowed halls of my bones. The Guardian is cast in shadows. Despite there being no time or space here, there are apparently still moments. Moments when decisions have to be made and souls must part ways. Because, it wasn’t just my In Between. It was my brother’s, as well, and he had his own destiny to consider. His own choice to make.
“Will I ever see you again?” I ask, rather than the ‘please don’t go!’ lodged in my throat.
“Always,” He smiles, his blue eyes glinting just in that way our father’s would whenever he was up to something mischievous or brilliant. Standing, he holds his hand out for me to take. “Walk me to my train?”
Saying nothing, I stand and take his offered hand, wishing that my legs felt more like concrete than the airy, weightlessness of eternal youth and divine health. The piazza is eerily empty. A ghost town platform, where all of the trains wait patiently for our decision. The windows are full of those already aboard. There’s no one left to choose, except us, and the faces that peer out are nondescript. More manifestations of my own doing, perhaps, rather than actual souls.
“Will you stay longer?” I ask.
Shaking his head, my brother’s smile remains intact, meant to comfort me. “I have been here for just as long as I needed to be,” He answers. “To see you again and answer the question I knew you had waiting for me. The one I heard you wondering about all the while. Now, I’m ready to return to the living.”
Though there’s a sadness coating my heart, the inside is filled with the joy I’d discovered being with him again, talking with him and finding the peace that finally allowed me to forgive his utter absence in my last life.
“Will you stay longer?” He mimics, with that teasing quirk to the corner of his mouth.
Taking in the scenery beyond and surrounding the depot again, the mysterious glow of the ‘yet to be discovered’ a steady backdrop for the acropolis, taunting my every nerve ending, I find myself smiling when I meet his gaze.
“I want to see them all again, before I make my final decision. I want to be here for my children, my grandchildren, the way you were here for me. I want to hug our grandmothers again, listen to dad play the guitar. I want to hear mom laugh, and try to make sense of our sister’s erratic ramblings when she first arrives, because she’ll be too anxiously excited to slow down for even a second and just breathe.”
Laughing fluidly, my brother wraps me up in a big bear hug. One that I’d had before, but had missed terribly in my last life. “Thank you for giving me a life of your own imaginings, sis,” He says. “Though I didn’t get to live it for real, at the time you wanted me to, it was one of those rare dream lives you mentioned. A truly great life.”
Crying with just as much happiness as sorrow, I return his embrace and just cling to him for a moment. I know in my heart of hearts that I will see him again. That I had already shared more than one lifetime with him. It just felt in this moment, as if the time in between those lives was an eternity.
“Come on, Indiana, you’ve got answers to uncover,” He teases, stepping back. Kissing me on the forehead, he salutes me and heads for the Opal train bound for New Life. “At the same time, okay?”
Tapping my chin with my finger, I study the elite trains. Opting for the platinum one, I grin over at my brother, while he chuckles and shakes his head.
“I should have known you would never settle for simple answers.”
Watching each other, we both board our respective trains as if we’d choreographed this last night on stage together. The audience participated as passengers, smiling at me with their insipid mouths, a warm welcoming feeling emanating from their presence. Was it merely the Place Beyond, dangling all it had to offer before my senses, pleased with my temporary choice? Attempting to lure me in deeper? I’m unsure and unwilling to waste another second pondering it. I rush passed them, down the aisle slicing the elegant seats into two rows, wanting only to get to the caboose where I can watch my brother’s train zip away. Bursting out of the last door, I find him already there, waving and laughing at me.
“I’ve known you for a long time!” He calls to me by cupping his hands around his mouth, for our trains have already begun to move away from one another, the physical consequence of making different decisions. “We will return home together one day!”
“Maybe, next time, I’ll be your guide!”
Grinning, he gives me a thumbs up and I merely wave frantically, while the crystalline tracks grow increasingly longer between us. As the star dust begins to float past my train like lazy clouds. I can hear the rush of a hidden waterfall from my left. It plummets through the Junipers from the acropolis and into the mirrored sea below. I’m heading toward the unknown of that Place Beyond, where all of the answers I’ve been longing to rediscover wait for me. I feel both settled and excited to see the rest of my family again some time soon… or later… or before any of this ever happens.
My brother is heading toward the unknown of a brand new life that may start right after the Babylonian’s built their city atop the ruins of Mesopotamia, or tomorrow, or even in the far, far future when humans are already inhabiting planets in the Alpha Centauri system. All I know is that we are. That we still exist; creations too strong to ever erase.
And we go on forever.
In dedication to my brother, Billy. See you in between…