A Final Formality

Tora dangled her legs over the ledge and swung them back and forth, watching as the final dying stars flickered far below. The light they gave off was little more than a feeble blue glow, struggling to light the small clump of earth that Tora sat on, a small floating chunk less than two metres across in any direction. Directly ahead, she could also see similar clumps that were slowly drifting past, remnants of a planet that had pulled itself apart over the last millennia. Small pieces of history that were slowly dissolving themselves from existence.

From what Tora could recollect, it was the final planet she had created. Her final piece removing itself from the board of play. She had sat here watching it drift for the past thirteen years, and still she had trouble deciding how she felt with it. Sad? Disappointed? Frustrated with the slow march of time stealing her creations, or content that she had been able to watch its final breaths puff out like smoke into a cloudless night.

Tora continued to dangle her legs, feeling them sway in the lack of gravity. She pondered how much longer this small clump she sat on now would last. Would it cling on for another century? A small fleck of rock and earth crumbling away from its outer edge answered her question. Not long at all.

The blue starlight below flickered weakly, and when Tora glanced down she saw one of the stars had passed its final breath. Now only two stars remained in the black expanse, and neither of them gave much light at all.

Tora struggled to remember when she had first created all of this. Much of it had been formed in a fit of passion, a burning desire that had forced her hands and erupted forth onto the empty canvas of black, the darkness she had often taken to calling the void. That void she had not seen in so long, but now that her creation was fading back into it, she remembered how she had felt before it all. A coolness, empty, and above anything, a deep loneliness. No, her creation had not fixed that at first. At the beginning, it had been little more than spiralling fury and bright burning flames. But, as she had watched and adjusted, she had seen droplets of inspiration form from it, like the branches of trees that had sprouted on planets much like the piece she now sat on had once been a part of.

Now, the life of that inspiration had now faded, like the colours on an old canvas fading under the light, the vibrant corners and splashes blurred together in a weak resemblance of what had once been. Tora found herself often staring at her hands. Hands that had once created this artwork. Hands that had grown complacent, to the point that she was uncertain whether she could recreate any of it. Of course, how could she? Each time she spotted a floating piece of earth trailing past, she caught herself wondering the same thoughts. How do I make that again? How did I do that in the first place? How do I do better than that?

Another clump of earth broke itself away from the floating surface, careening itself out into the growing void. Down below, only one star continued to give its feeble light, its cooling core clinging to the fuel it had remaining. A core that had one been bright with red passion, now dulled to a light as blue as ice. It wasn’t what Tora had originally designed, but she could not deny that it was still beautiful, even if its image had changed.

Perhaps that was what had made it so beautiful. The more she thought of it, the more she realised how her original designs had never prevailed into the final product. The way that they shifted and morphed over the years. The changes she had slowly introduced as new thoughts entered her mind, like drifting fancies that tugged her hands to change their pattern. Roughly hewn rocks of heat and fire then changed to sweeping pools of water, cool and life-filled, to then a green expanse painted with colour. Oh, how beautiful those colours had been. Vibrant and striking, both burning with passion and delicate with beauty. Tora wondered if any of that would have existed at all had that first rock not been carved, no matter how jagged or crude.

Far below, a flicker from the final start grew brighter for a single moment, shedding cool light enough for Tora to glimpse a nearby tuft of earth drifting past. The tuft was unremarkable, loose earth condensed into the size of a fist, no colour aside from its desaturated greys. But, as it tumbled slowly end over end, Tora could see on its underside a cluster of shrivelled roots. They were a tangle of pieces, weaving over one another in no ordered pattern, except the way in which they fought over the top of each other was akin to a winding dance, spinning out until they were outstretched into the void. They reached like grasping hands, waiting, waiting for something to clasp to.

With a flutter of icy blue, the final star dimmed before it eventually went out and Tora was left in total darkness. It was a final, gasping breath before the canvas retook the art that had once been splashed across its face. A final moment for Tora to reflect on the creation she had once woven. A single, final moment, before Tora’s canvas stood empty once more, and dancing colours now waited in her mind.

Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

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