Sophie and Zella lay side-by-side on the hill, hands intertwined, the broken moon high above.
Across the valley, in the darkness, the lights of the château cut through the trees. Below them, a thin trail of bioluminescent fish swam along a line down the small river.
Sophie’s eyes were closed, but Zella was awake, watching the stars above.
Sophie squeezed her hand and mumbled, “You’re not relaxing.”
“Aren’t you tired from the walk?”
“I am… I was… Just awake, I guess.” She sat up and looked across the vista. “The man at the front desk said the river used to be much wider, and a lot larger marine life lived in it. So now there’s talk about even discontinuing the ferry we used and replacing it with a bridge.
“When was that?”
“No, not when did you talk to him. When was it wider?”
“When he was a kid. He said it was ten times as wide.”
“And they knew all those years ago it was happening but did nothing—”
Zella tsks. “Please don’t start.”
“I’m not. You’re the one who brought it up.”
“Okay, sorry.” Zella laid back down and closed her eyes, hoping she’d fall asleep.
“You know that’s why I’m leaving?” Sophie asked. “To help us find a way out of this mess?”
“This was who I was before we got together.”
“Then why do you get this way when I talk about it?”
“You never want to think about it anymore. We always used to.”
Zella opened her eyes, and Sophie was watching her.
“No, it was you who would talk, and I’d listen,” Zella replied.
“Wait. Why are you saying that? That was never the way—”
“It always was, but that’s okay. I loved your passion. I’ve always loved it.” As soon as it came out, she knew she’d messed up. She stood, pretending to stretch her legs, hoping Sophie wouldn’t notice.
But she didn’t let go of Zella’s hand. “Not anymore?”
“I do. It’s only… Well, we’ve talked a lot about it for such a long time—”
“And that’s why I’m going. It’s time to do more than just talk.”
“I know. And you should do it.”
Zella shrugged. “Nothing else.”
Sophie didn’t let go. “Z, you’ll be here when I get back, right?”
Zella pulled away. “It’s a long time….”
“Yes, but I’m doing it for a good cause. I’m trying to save all of us.”
“And you should.”
“But you’re not going to wait?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But you didn’t say it.”
“I just… You’re going up there,”—she pointed to the skies—” and a lot can happen.”
“Goddammit, you aren’t waiting,” Sophie said matter-of-factly. “How long have you known?”
“Goddammit.” She shook her head. “No matter how important it is, no matter how it helps us all, you couldn’t even wait.”
“It’s not that I couldn’t wait….” She trailed off.
“It’s that if you never returned, that I’d be alone when this world ends.”
At first, Sophie didn’t respond, then she nodded and let out a deep breath. Finally, she stood and pulled Zella close and held her for a long time.
And the broken moon shone down on them, its shattered fragments floating beside it like pieces of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle, never to be solved.
This one started out with Sophie and Zella’s names, but I didn’t know what they were up to. I thought they might be on the hill, and I looked at many images until one felt right. However, the moment I started writing it, that image disappeared, and it became more like the Qu’Appelle Valley in my province or a part of the Saskatchewan River.
I had played a bit with deep time sculpting the river, which led to me making the river dry up. Once that happened, Sophie started trying to solve things, and I knew that was the first hint of a significant problem: Zella didn’t want her to go. (This, of course, changed as the story progressed.)
More and more sci-fi elements were added. There was originally a version that the scene happened in the daytime, but since the river had dried up, I thought it might be too hot. So then I set it at night, and then the broken moon showed up, and things started falling into place more.
I didn’t have an ending (I still don’t, really). There was a version where Sophie left her and a version where Zella says her last lines once she’s alone. Now it feels like a tone piece about the unsolvable issue that stands between them. I don’t think there can be any actual resolution, at least not in the tiny amount of time I had to finish this piece.