I don’t often write sequels – but after I wrote this Friday Flash I have wondered from time to time what happened to the characters. I’m currently working on a collection of flash fiction and this story just appeared…
After the Rapture
The sun is beginning to set behind them. Orange beams radiate from the top of the copse streaking a fiery path across the blue-grey ocean. Sylvie’s back aches. Her knees ache. Her head aches. When she comes to think about it, everything aches, and has been aching all day. This is not the rapture he has promised her. They have been waiting for two hours for nothing to happen.
Jim, is as silent as he was this morning; this time he has not been able to find the words to help her keep the faith. This time she is beginning to doubt. She looks at him in side profile: long nose, blue eyes, fair hair, a face she has loved for over a year. Tonight for the first time the treacherous thought creeps in, why, exactly? What is it about him that has made her abandon her life, her mother, her friends? His smile? The attention he pays her? His passionate conviction that God has been speaking to him, and him alone? Perhaps it is all three, but now his certainties have been vanquished, he suddenly seems as full of human frailties as everyone else. Sylvie aches. She has had enough. She wants to go home.
She is about to stand up, and tell him enough is enough, when he leaps to his feet. “Do you hear it?” he says, his eyes shining. “Hear what?” All she can hear is the sound of the wind, the crash of the waves on the rocks below, the screeching of gulls in the air above them. “Listen,” he pulls her to her feet, “Close your eyes, and really listen.”
“The angels singing.”
Sylvie is torn between non-belief and belief. After all this time, she hates the idea of finding him wanting, fallible, human. But the truth is, “I can’t hear anything.”
“Sssh,” he says stroking her hair, bringing her close to him. She can hear his heart beating, he is breathing deep calm breaths. “Listen,” he says again, “Have faith. Listen.”
Sylvie wants to have faith. She wants to believe. She closes her eyes, resting her head on his chest, letting it rise and fall with every breath he takes. And then, she hears it. Above the noise of the gulls, the crashing waves, the sighing wind, she hears it: the song of angels, pure, high, so beautiful she could cry with joy. She opens her eyes and sees tears in his. “I hear them.”
” They are calling to us. A final test.”
“We are the only ones left. Can you hear the thunder?” She nods, hearing the rumble in the distance behind them. “It’s a sign. Everyone else is gone, the plagues and pestilence will be starting. Listen to the angels. We have to take this leap of faith.” He walks to the edge of the cliff, extending his arm to her.
“You mean jump?”
“The angels will carry us up to heaven. We just have to believe.”
She looks at his radiant face, the rapture glowing in his eyes. She doubts no more. She takes his hand and steps forward.
“I love you,” she says.
“I love you too.” As she steps forward, he lets his hand drop. It is too late for her to stop, and she is falling through the air. The gulls screech, the wind sighs, the waves crash. The sky above her glowers with black clouds… And the angels have disappeared. Her last sight is of Jim standing, arms outstretched on top of the cliff, as if he is blessing her flight.
Jim watches her descent, forming the account he will provide of the incident.She had more faith than me, he will say, She took a leap of faith. Her earthly body was dashed on the rocks. But I saw her lifted up to heaven. For the rapture is not for all of us, we sinners are left behind. She had more faith than me. And she leapt.
He will tell the police a different story.