What Lies Beyond: Chapter 43

“I'm sorry I hurt you, but you'll be better off without me. We had fun, and I'll always cherish the time we spent together. Be well, Lapse.”
She didn't turn around. He started to walk away, then he heard a quiet sniffling sound.
“Lapse...” he said, softly. “I'm sorry. But it's best this way.”
“Everyone's left me. I'm all alone. Again.”
Then he turned around to see her standing all alone, surrounded by empty darkness. “Please, no...” she pleaded, as she she gazed upwards, tears welling up in her big, mismatched eyes. “Don't take me back there!”
The darkness seemed to swallow up her up. “Someone! Anyone! Please help me!”
“Lapse!”, he shouted, running towards her, but he merely stumbled and fell in the dark, unable to get close to her. He reached out along the ground and tried to pull himself towards her, but as he got close she faded away, crying out in horrible agony.
“No! Please! Not again!” he shouted, but she was gone. “Not again...” he reached out towards where she had been, futilely.
“You fool”, said a pair of pale yellow eyes, shining at him from the darkness. “How long will you lie to yourself? Your heart still cries out for her. Would you have things end like this? Would that make you happy?”
“It was I who sent her into the darkness in the first place. She's better off without me.”
A terrible scowl of white teeth flashed across his field of vision and he felt himself falling, Lapse screaming out for his help as the water rushed over his face.


Lapse looked at the picture of the little bird flying over the ocean again. “She doesn't need anyone”, she thought to herself. Then her eyes came across the tear in the picture, and she felt terribly sad. “Why does this picture make me feel this way?” she wondered, lifting it by the edges to take it down. She almost dropped it as she got it off the wall and discovered there was a hidden compartment behind it. Setting the picture down, she reached into the little compartment, which was filled with various sheets of paper. She took one out to examine it and was so overcome that she had to sit down. Her eyes started to well up with tears as more painful memories came back to her. Suddenly, there was a noise from above her, and she just wanted to disappear...

“Please, go away” she urged, from some place Sister couldn't see. “I just want to be alone.”
“No you don't”, she replied, trying to find where the voice had come from. “I know that being alone doesn't make you happy.”
“No one wants me to be around. I'll... manage on my own... somehow.” Her voice was a bit muffled, like she was hiding under something.
“That's not true”, Sister said, lifting one of the couch cushions. “When you disappeared, we all tried to find you, and while the rest of us eventually lost hope, he never did. He never stopped trying to find you. He missed you so much.” She still couldn't figure out where the voice was coming from.
“Then why,” Lapse asked, hurt feelings bleeding through her words, “why wasn't he happy to see me again?”
“You didn't exactly jump into his arms, either.”
The voice grew weak. “I... I was afraid.”
Sister gave up and flopped down on the couch. She had hidden much better this time. “What exactly happened on the night you went away?”
There was silence for a moment, then a rustling sound. A piece of paper dropped into her paws. Drawn upon it was a picture of two strangers locked in a tight embrace. Lapse appeared from behind and flopped down on the couch beside her.

“When the sun rises, it takes us somewhere far away”, she began. “I see and hear lots of interesting and beautiful things out there, but when the sun goes down, they're gone forever, and that always made me sad. So I try to bring some of them back with me in my head, and then I put them down on these sheets. It's not the same, though. When I look at them, it just makes me wish I could see the real thing again.”
“So what's the story behind this one?”
“One day, I was walking through a gallery and I saw... that. Right away, I knew that... that was us.” She looked down at her paws, sheepishly. “When I saw that, I realized that the reason all those pretty things made me feel so sad was because I wanted to share them with him.”
“Did you tell him about it?”
Lapse gingerly took the picture back and looked at it. “I wanted to, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up. We were very close, but also very different. I just tried to be around him a lot, and we started cuddling each other more... he seemed to be happy, so I was planning to tell him how I felt soon, but I kept putting it off. Being with him, I just felt... safe... and I knew it would happen sooner or later.”
“But it didn't?”

She sighed. “Maybe it would have, but something else happened first. One day, I found myself in this enormous garden. I've been in gardens before, but this one was completely different – there were thousands upon thousands of flowers of hundreds of different types and colours. Some of them grew as tall as me, others were tiny little things that you had to lean in to see, but they were all beautiful. There were long, cozy paths lined with tall trees on either side, where you could sit and enjoy the shade. There were long sprawling fields where hundreds of types of flowers grew together and you could gaze out for miles across a sea of different colours. There were even beautiful ponds filled with pretty flowers where huge fountains shot into the air, creating rainbows as the water fell back to the ground. It was the most incredible thing I ever saw, and seeing it all I longed for him with an intensity I had never known. Then, just as I was taking it all in, I came across a gigantic square, lined by hedges and divided by hundreds of rose bushes, with a great structure at the end. And unlike the rest of the garden, here it was flooded with people. At the very front, a man and a woman dressed in black and white embraced just like in the picture, and I heard them say that they would stay together forever, and everyone started clapping and cheering... and I just couldn't take it anymore. Tonight, I'd find some way to tell him. Tomorrow, that would be us.”

“That sounds so wonderful,” Sister said dreamily, imaging herself there with Corsair by her side. “What happened when you told him?”
“I was waiting for him first thing that evening, but he always took forever to come out of his cabin...”


Lapse tiptoed back and forth across the railing above his cabin, listening carefully, her heart beating quickly in anticipation. It was quiet, which meant he either wasn't back yet or he was still messing with his fur. It was so silly, how he looked didn't matter to her. He had a very serious exterior but underneath it he was soft and kind and she adored him. Suddenly, she heard him moving about below, and she nimbly flipped over the ledge, holding herself up by her toes. The door opened inward, and she saw the face of the one who was the most precious to her. “Boo!”, she said. He merely smiled and looked at her. She dropped down and landed in front of him, and playfully messed up the fur he had meticulously arranged. He laughed, which made her so happy, and she threw her paws around him, embracing him tightly before leading him away.

She had spent a long time thinking about how to tell him about what she had come to realize. She couldn't just tell him directly, she had tried showing him her pictures before and singing that song for him and he seemed to enjoy them but he just didn't quite get it. So she tried to think of something he would understand and realized that the answer lay in the stars above. Compared to the day, there wasn't much to see at night, but they always made her happy, and she was never happier when they would sit and watch them together. He used to tell her that the stars could tell you where you were if you knew how to look at them, but to her they told a different story. Before she met him, the stars were all she had for company, she would talk to them when she was lonely and wonder what they would look like up close if you could fly up to them. But she wasn't alone anymore, he was the star in her sky now, and she knew that where she wanted to be was with him. She hoped he understood, and for a moment it seemed like he did. Overjoyed, she leapt into his arms, and he caught her and held her close to himself.

Her mind and heart raced as the euphoria of having her feelings returned set in. She could barely contain her excitement over what he would look like once the sun came up, she had waited so long to see his other side. She buried her face in his chest and wrapped her paws around his neck as he held and caressed her, and all of her fears and loneliness melted away. “I always knew”, she whispered into his chest, nuzzling the one she loved.

After what seemed like forever, someone from his crew came to collect him to do something or other. She followed along and teased him, still barely able to contain herself, but then he said something that deflated her mood instantly: “You have to go back”. At first, she couldn't believe it, but then she realized he must just not understand that she wanted to take him with her this morning, after all, they had never done it before.
Come with me!” she begged him, urgently. “There's so much I want to show you!” It would all be okay as soon as he saw it.
She took his paws in hers to bring him with her, but then he pulled them away and crushed her heart: “We can't, it's just not right. It's too dangerous to do strange things like that.”
She couldn't believe it. All she wanted was to share those things with him, and yet he had said that. “Is it strange for me to want to be with you?” she said, tears running down her face. It was all happening again.
He muttered something, but he kept his distance. It was true. He really was afraid to be with her. Her wish would never come true.
I thought you liked me.” She said, devastated. What had she done? Why did no one like her? Why? Why?

Then the sun called her away, not to some happy place, but to be cruelly mocked and abused by the strangers, proving that things could always get worse. As she ran from them, she knew there was nothing left for her. The one she loved was gone. The things she loved and wanted to share with others were gone. She was a failure whom no one would ever like, and all she wanted to do was hide away from it all and never, ever come back.


“And that's the end of it.” Lapse said, solemnly. “The next thing I knew I somehow found myself back here.”
“Oh Lapse, I'm so sorry,” Sister said, hugging her. She was crying. “After that, how could I ask you to go back?”
“Just tell me something...” Lapse returned the hug, then pulled away to look Sister in the eyes. “Do you know why he didn't come with me that morning?”
“Yes”, she replied, sniffling.
“Then I'll go back,” she said, standing up. “Because I still care for him.”

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