The Romantic

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The Romantic

Reuben Wharerau

Before her illness there was joy and love in this world. After her sickness there was only purpose.

I remember when I first saw Elise. I was on a transport on its way to Tal V. She was sitting facing away from me near an observation window. She was enamoured with the magnificent view this spectacular universe provided us. As she turned towards me a reflected light from the planet’s atmosphere highlighted her with a stunning unique amber glow. I did a small misstep to this captivating image, which she noticed. I then smiled awkwardly as if someone caught observing something they hadn’t the right to.

I am not a confident person. I have never been one to approach a beautiful woman. So I certainly surprised myself as I sat down next to her.

What came next surprised me even further. That stunning smile with a hint of curiosity inspired something in me I had never ever felt before; a calm confidence. Then out came a sentence I can remember precisely. Not because I sounded charming, or witty, but simply the fact that I said it fluidly without a stutter. “Hello, my name is Devin, may I sit here?”

By rights that sentence should have taken me an agonising fifteen seconds to sputter out and would have normally sounded like this “Hello, my name is.... D-D-Devin, may I s-s-sit here?

Yet around her I found my voice.

We talked for the remainder of the journey. It was odd and yet blissful able to negotiate a conversation free of impediment. Being able to say the first thing that came to mind was foreign yet exciting. Without having to carefully play out each sentence in my head before I spat it out, hoping for the best was a euphoric sensation.

We laughed, we smiled, we flirted, and we even shared a quick kiss upon departure. From that meeting I was a different person. With her in this world and in my life I felt alive. Hell I could even enunciate clearly. Our relationship grew quickly and with ease.

We moved into a small apartment in uptown Rhiorr. Of course Elise called it “cosy” not small and the ever optimist within her would always remind me that as soon as I completed my internship, we would start looking for a more spacious apartment and begin our family. But for now it felt very cramped, especially with the uninvited orange glow that the neon billboard on the adjacent building was bathing our apartment in. The fact that it reminded me of that amber hue present during our first meeting made it only bearable. This week the billboard was advertising the Daymar Rally with large scrolling text declaring “Heed the challenge and change your life”.   

The normality of our life, the struggles that seem so small now was quickly interrupted one evening by a ringing phone. The phone call that part of me wished I had never answered. Perhaps if I had ignored the ringing she would still be with me. Perhaps I made it happen by answering. My physics professor would have called that the Observer effect. I call it messed up.

She had just gone down to the shop to pick up some of her favourite Xi’an tea. She collapsed on the way back to our apartment, dropping motionless on the sidewalk. As I was standing in our warm cosy home staring with contempt at the glowing billboard, her laboured breathing was causing light ripples across the surface of a dirty puddle.

That phone call was from the hospital. What the medical receptionist said to me next was a blur of phrases poking through a haze of my confusion: “she’s alive”, “in stasis”, “Disease of Tears”.

Next I recall standing with my hand on the stasis capsule and feeling the true sense of confusion and fear. “W-w-why?” I stammered.

The hospital acted quickly and saved her life. A cure is present and would get her home in a matter of hours, however treatment is expensive. The hospital immediately checked our finances and upon determining we could not afford this treatment she was immediately placed in stasis. I am thankful for them acting so quickly. Maintaining a human within a stasis field is remarkably cheaper than the treatment costs for this disease and will give me a chance to obtain the credits needed to press play on her life again.

Even in stasis her beauty still mesmerised me. The golden orange hue from our first meeting was now replaced with an unnatural but no less captivating amber glow from the electric field. Two tears were paused in place on her right cheek just above a dimple creating a further source of intrigue. Cascading electric waves created a reflection that bounced off each tear that seemed to enhance the other on an infinite loop.

Staring at Elise in that state was something that defies an adequate description. To describe it as upsetting is as an understatement such as describing love as an emotion.

Back in our apartment alone and with my forehead pressed against the window, I let the ever present warm glow from the billboard wash over me. I feel an overwhelming sense of purpose to save her. The warmth embraces my misery and I lift my head to see the answer.

 

*In-game image by Mr_Hasgaha

Reuben WharerauComment