Beyond Sunset

The streets were narrow and steep and the buildings continued to step in his way, but he walked the winding alleys, the sloping steps, and the tight tunnels as if some magical force was guiding him. At one point, he found himself close and personal with a small family’s house with nowhere to go, but they kindly showed him through their living room and out onto the main street with a smile and a laugh.

The tower disappeared for long periods of time, but he knew he was getting closer as the land sloped upward and the sun angled lower. And at last, his feet quickened as the road turned to rock and a set of stone steps climbed the cliffs to the gardens and the tower.

He took them two at a time, pausing halfway to gaze at the stunning view of the sprawled city of lights and music. And then he set his eyes to the slope, searching for clues of what lay above. He spotted ornamental trees, statues towering out of the gardens, benches, pathways, and of course, the tower.

And then, just as his form turned to a fiery silhouette in the setting sun, he came across a rough steel barrier. His heart sunk, his eyes dropped, and he frowned at the sign that barred his way. Sunrise to sunset, only. Damien gave the spiked fence a fiery glare, but he was not turned away yet. He stepped from the neat path, and followed the fence with an angry persistence. There were rocks beneath his feet and little flowers in the moss, but the other side of the fence was full of life and color. Why did they have to lock such a place up? It was even more stunning at night!

Damien soon found himself determined to get within the park. He was even deciding to sleep in the park once he got over the fence, when he spotted a motion. He froze, and looked up between the bars with a beating heart. He was already quite out of bounds, and any grounds keeper who saw him would know exactly what his intentions were.

He crouched down in the rocks and peered through the fence. Someone was up there. But they did not move like a park keeper. They slipped gracefully through the gardens, but Damien thought he could hear the soft sound of bare feet through the grass. But then the figure vanished. Damien took a few more careful steps alongside the fence, but then stopped. Had he imagined the figure?

His eyes peered carefully, almost with yearning. He willed to see the figure again. Something about their movement was familiar. Moments passed, and Damien began to feel rather silly.

He was standing alone on a crumbling slope as the sun vanished from sight. He was on one side of a spiked fence, and little more than a fantasy was on the other. What was more, he was in the middle of a foreign city without a place to stay the night. Why did he always let himself get lost in his dreams? Why did he always have to pursue something even after reality had told him to wake up? Even if the park had been open, he would not have found a place to stay! Why was he here?

And then he heard a voice. But what startled Damien was how close the voice appeared to be. He swung his head in both directions, peered through the fence, and then looked down the rocky slope. The voice had certainly spoken directly to him. But where was the speaker?

A gentle laugh fell over him from above, and he smiled into the dark. Someone was near. Very near.

“Where are you?” he asked.

A woman’s voice responded. “Find me. I’m in plain sight.”

Damien would have been mildly irritated if it had not been for the hint of amusement in the girl’s voice. He laughed, and peered as best he could through the fence. But he could not spot anyone within the glistening plants. Then the voice spoke again, and Damien realized his mistake.

“Look higher,” laughed the voice.

Damien looked up then and spotted the figure sitting on the crown of a statue. She was nearly directly overhead, and so her face was shadowed and her figure against the sky. Her hair hung in front of her face as she gazed down at him, and her feet hung over the side.

“Hey,” Damien said. “How’d you get up there?”

She smiled and pulled her bare feet up over the lip of the statue. She disappeared from view for a moment, and then her head poked down where the fence nearly touched the overhanging statue. “It’s easy,” she said. “This statue’s got a real strong arm, and it extends over the fence. Just climb here and grab onto that big ole bicep. You know you wanna.”

Damien laughed, and was delighted to hear her voice joining his. But he was unsure of scaling such a thing. “Just here?” he asked.

“Yep.” She was silent then, as if sitting still and taking in the view.

Damien was left on the ground, his eyes glowing, and his lips in a light smile. This would be quite the climb. He turned once to give the rocky slope a nervous look, placed his guitar against a rock, and then removed his long-sleeved shirt. The cool air surrounded him, but his body was warmer and more alive than it had been all day. It was a beautiful summer night, he’d found an adventure, and a mysterious girl was waiting for him on the shoulders of a noble statue.

The End

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