When I was alone

Harold and James are two individuals walking down Spirit Drive, a path that winds around the edge of the universe. To their right was a light show of nebulas and stars and everything in the universe – to the left is literally nothing. The path itself is an equally black strip about the width of a two-lane street, as the two had come to learn in their uncountable years treading it. Thus, since everything was black, it was impossible to see where they were going. This often perturbed Harold, who usually had to hold James’ shoulder to make sure that he didn’t slip off the edge and float away into oblivion, since while Spirit Drive’s gravity was impressive, the gravity just above that was nonexistent. James, even though he had been walking Spirit Drive just as long as Harold had, was rather clumsy and hadn’t the faintest idea how to know when he was nearing the edge, or how to identify that nagging feeling people get when they are facing their imminent doom.

“Harold?” James asks, looking up at his friend.

“What is it?” He responds, looking back.

“How is it that I haven’t floated away yet?”

Harold shrugged and sighed. “That, my friend, is far beyond my ability to comprehend.”

The two met in 200 B.C., after the fabric of space had ripped and warped suddenly and shifted the very geometry of Spirit Drive, in which opposite sides of the loop were suddenly right next to each other. Harold and James were somehow shoved together by the enormous coincidence of being in the right places, exactly opposite of each other at the exact time that the rip had occurred. They decided that it would be less lonely if they went together and had been walking with each other ever since.

“But,” Harold added, “I’m glad that you didn’t fall off, because then I would still be walking out here all on my lonesome on the edge of existence.”

“If I fell, you would be the only person on the edge of existence, and that is super lonely. If you fell, I would be super lonely.”

“Indeed.” Harold smiled.

“Don’t float away.”

“I won’t.”

When they’d first met, James and Harold came to realize that they had forgotten so much over their long walk. Foremost, they’d both forgotten how to talk in languages that they no longer understood. Over the years, they came up with their own language, made up of funny sounds and expressive body language. (In other words, what you read here as English dialogue is really just funny noises.) They also forgot what warmth was like, because at the edge of the universe, they were the only sources of warmth. They’d forgotten their names.

“How many years has it been, James?” Harold said, looking to the sky. “Since we met?”

There was a pause as James looked to his feet thoughtfully. After a bit, he admitted, “I don’t remember.”

“Lately, I keep trying to remember what it was like before I met you.” Harold said, sighing. “I think I almost lost my mind.”

“Right,” James said, nodding. “We were both just piles of mess, weren’t we?”

They laughed, each putting an arm over the other’s shoulders, their heads nodding together. They sat down together to look at the universe.

James piped up, “Harold?”

He looked at him inquisitively. “Yeah?”

“Why’d you give me such a sophisticated name when I’m so clumsy?”

“I like that name.” Harold shrugged, rolling his eyes. “Plus, you aren’t that clumsy.”

“Your sensibilities have rubbed off on me some,” He admitted, “But I’m still clumsy.”

“Well, your dorky personality has rubbed off on me,” Harold insisted.

“Oh, brother!” James rolled his eyes. “Just let us be ourselves!”

Harold grinned. “What if ourselves are each other?”

James shrugged. “Now you’re just trying to confuse me.”

“Think about it,” Harold looked to a pink and blue nebula a few light-years away. “We were walking alone for millions and millions of years, right?”

“I don’t remember,” James replied.

“And… What year is it, again?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Well, it’s been a really long time since we met. We’re the only people we’ve known for over a millennia!” Harold threw his free arm up into the air. “Think about it! It’s only natural that we start acting like each other, because we’re the only people we can learn from. Imitation is a side-effect of learning.”

“It would be weird if you were dorky,” James said.

“I think that it helps me connect with and understand you better.” Harold continued, looking to James wistfully. “Don’t you?”

James looked down into his lap, tilting his head to one side as he thought. After a bit, he said, “I think so, but we’re inseparable whether we understand each other or not so don’t worry about it.”

Harold grinned. “Don’t get too sappy on me.”

“I will be as sappy as I darn well please.”

James didn’t quite remember when he’d started taking on the role of relieving Harold of the metaphysical drabble that so often pervaded and dulled his thoughts as he tried to explain existence. Existence was already laid before them, anyway. All of it. Sure, their vision wasn’t sharp enough to see all the way to the center, but they’d met the inhabitants of one planet, who’d launched a space ship close enough to the edge that they could talk with the crew. They hadn’t seen the planet again, Spirit Drive being as incomprehensibly long as it was, but the two had their memories.

Harold lied down on the path. “James?”

“Yeah?”

“I think I was sad,” He started cryptically. “Before I met you. I thought that I was the only living thing that existed. There’s a big spot in my memory that’s just of me sitting on Spirit Drive, alone, because it seemed meaningless to continue walking. I think I was still sitting when space ripped and that’s when I met you.”

“Yeah,” James said, lying down next to him. “I only kept walking because I thought that maybe one day I would find something that made living worth it, and I was too scared to just jump off and float away.”

“I’m glad you didn’t.”

“I’m glad too.” James rolled over onto his side and closed his eyes. “I’m tired. Can you keep watch for me?”

“Sure.” Harold scooted closer and propped himself up on his elbows, putting an arm around his friend’s shoulders to share some of his warmth and to keep him from floating away if he started to toss in his sleep. Harold thought about that for a moment – James, drifting away while he slept – and sighed. “James?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t float away.”

“I won’t. Not while you’re here.”

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