Clouds veiled the sky with no beginning and no end. A grey blanket had been placed before the sun, shielding the inhabitants of the Earth from its warm embrace.
Icy air nipped the skin and burned the eyes, causing the people to seek the warmth of fire. It was merely the lust for warmth, the persistence of desire that sent them seeking the flames.
There was no more survival, no need for it, as no longer could they die. The cold could not take them, and neither could I.
The sun made its rotation and the world fell to the excessive darkness. I held my hands to my face, in front of my eyes, and I saw nothing.
I heard the wind howling through the mountains and felt the blistering cold of the ground beneath my bare feet.
The smell of smoke arose, casting away the scentless world. My nose latched on to the stimulation. I shuffled towards the aroma, towards the light.
I saw a figure, a man, bent and fetal with his hands pressed against his eyes. His skin hugged tight against his bones, tawny and streaked with the blue and purple of his protruding veins.
"Why do they escape me?" he said, "where have they gone?" I approached the flames, observing the man. His body racked, but he did not sob.
"What do you search for?" I asked. He showed no surprise over my sudden appearance.
"My daughter and my love. They were here with me once, but no longer. How long it has been..." he said, trailing off. The smell of leather filled the air between us as it exhaled from his lungs.
"How I've tried to find their sight, to remember their eyes, their smiles, their laughs. I find it sometimes, it hits me like a stone.
It's a solace I find in this unyielding cold, warming me from the inside and spreading to my fingers. So hard I've tried to burn this moment into the retina of my eyes...
" he pulled his hands away, cupping flame in his palms. His eyes were burnt and blackened to a crisp. "But the harder I try to see, the more my vision leaves me."
His family had passed before the world went still and time had lost its meaning. I sat beside the ageless man and touched his bare shoulder with my hands, the hands of a child.
I felt his weathered flesh beneath my fingers, and yet he did not react. He was no longer here in this moment, but far away to a place that once was, prying for the sense of being.
I empathized with him, as it was something we all felt now, even myself. The curse of the timeless was the fleeting memory of time.
"Should there be some way to find them once more? To feel their warmth in my sight and in my chest?" he said, bringing his hands to his eyes again.
"I know of a way, but rarely do I find one to share it with. Would you like to feel it?" I said.
"More than you know," he replied.
"Take me to where they once were."
The man stood, slowly, deliberately. He turned and began to shuffle away from the flame and into the dark.
I followed, noticing the ground he traveled had been grooved and weathered by millions of footprints.
Through the night we walked, my hands touching the small of his back to keep direction in the abyss that encased us.
The sun made its rotation, its light piercing through the grey shell that wrapped the earth, but its warmth unable to follow.
The ground under my feet became nettlesome as we began stepping over the fallen pines of the surrounding yews.
We reached the decrepit home at the end of the path, the grand yews bent over it like an archway.
I followed the man through the doorway with no door, and the fetid odor of the mold within the wooden home drew my nose.
Under other conditions, the mold would have overtaken the home, but no life was safe from the dispassion of an unchanging plane.
"They're here when I'm with them," said the man.
He shuffled to the far-side of the living room, near an ornate grandfather clock that did not tick.
He stood in the rim of a circle that was worn into the wooden floor spanning the entirety of the living room.
I traced the circle with my toes as I walked the circumference of it, gazing around the entirety of the room as I went. The paint on the walls was old and cracked, once white and now black.
In the center of the circle were bits of indistinguishable fabric, implying the floor was once carpeted. In the corner was a chair of browned cotton, its seat caved in.
I approached the chair and pushed down on the frame, causing its legs and the floor beneath it to creak loudly.
The man pulled his face away from the fire in his hands and looked over. "Yes... I remember that sound," he said with a whisper.
Slowly, he turned his head over his shoulder towards the clock behind him. I approached the clock, finding the glass that had once covered its face had long been shattered.
I moved the minute hand.
The man drew a shallow, ragged breath. His eyelids fluttered and the coals of his eyes widened, now in the moment that had found him.
He held out his hands and the fire turned to embers. He held one hand in the air as if gripping another, and put another hand around the waist of a person who was not there.
I stood in the space, reaching high to grip his raised hand.
We began to dance around the circle. Slowly at first, but gradually faster as he grew more invigorated. "Yes... this..." he began.
His strides grew larger, his pacing more energetic. I released his hand, and stood in the center of the circle as he danced around me.
His withered lips, pressed so tightly against his teeth it was as if I could see through them, began to curl upwards into a smile.
He looked over his shoulder at the decayed chair with a tenderness in his gaze. "Julia..." he said with a quivering breath.
His flesh began to puff over his bone, its tawny color flushing into a healthy red. He danced with vigor, his feet moving in lively trots and his spine curling into a rightful posture.
"How I've missed you..." he said as his vision bloomed once more.
I reached out my hand, the hand that had grown as small as its purpose, and placed it on his thigh. He toppled to the floor in a heap.
He took one more ragged breath and looked over at me with clear, blue eyes. His smile widened on his rosy red cheeks. "Thank you," he said before his soul departed and his body lay empty.
There was little purpose left for me in this immortal world, a world where purpose itself had faded away with the meaning of time.
I had become so negligible, a child, so small that I could only help one along at a time.
The immortals would fade away in warmth as their souls retook their hollowed bodies and I could send them off complete.
With each departed soul, my purpose grew thinner, and the chill grew stronger and deeper down into my core.
I stared at the vessel of the man who was no more. This flesh, its purpose renewed, its form regrown, its warmth returned.
It was my envy.