I'd travelled so far, done so many things, but somehow, everything else seemed inconsequential now. I gazed at the massive orb of pulsating light in front of me so bright it should be blinding me. Around it the black expanse stretched out for miles in every direction, making me feel incredibly small and frightened. I was awestruck by the spectacle before my eyes as my imagination stretched to accept it. I was floating, inches away from it. I felt its intense heat on my cheeks and was almost deafened by the roaring fire. I reached out with one trembling finger to touch it. I fell backwards onto...
...grass. The orb became bigger and brighter as it approached me. I was scared but excited. Something important was about to happen. The light kept coming until it was a part of me. I felt my body warm up until the heat was almost unbearable and was startled when I found all I could see was whiteness. Had I been blinded? I also couldn't hear anything.
Suddenly I was standing. I didn't know how I'd gotten on my feet and I hadn't felt myself move, but I was undeniably standing. I was in a white expanse now. I didn't know what was worse: being intimidated by cold, unfriendly blackness or being surrounded by blazing, hot white light.
A figure, silhouetted against the white before me, was walking up towards me. He was taller than me and lean, and that's all I could notice for a while. He gradually became more visible. I could see he was wearing trousers and a T-shirt, very casual clothing for such a strange situation. I could see ash-coloured hair now and pale blue eyes. I thought I should recognise him: this guy who looked roundabout my age. He wore a serious expression on his face and his facial features were sharp and defined against the light.
When he was about a foot away from me, he stopped. I was suddenly worried about his solemn expression. Had I done something wrong? Why was I suddenly terrified? My exhilaration had disappeared and taken all positive thoughts with it.
"You touched the next star."
His words rang a bell but I was more concerned about here and now. His voice was nice. No, nice was the wrong word. Low and pleasant to the ear, it was attractive. Just like the rest of him, really. Wait; was it okay to find celestial beings attractive?
"Was ... was it wrong?" I asked, scared.
"If you weren't ready for it, then yes. There'll be no greater change in your life than the one resulting from your actions tonight."
"Wh-what have I done?"
"I told you. You touched the next star."
"I ... I don't understand."
"You don't comprehend your own dream?"
"No, not exactly... Should I?"
"It depends on what you were expecting to find."
I frowned. "I don't understand."
"You were striving for something. Out of your reach. What was it?"
"I ... I don't know."
"You strove for the unknown. That's quite brave. Yup, I think you're ready."
The extremely cryptic guy started walking again. He stopped an inch away from my face. I gulped and my heart pounded furiously as he stared into my eyes, his expression unfathomable.
"Ready for what?" I asked nervously. "I don't get anything that's happened."
"Well, you just took a test. A certain reaction was the key to the answer to all your questions. Seeing as you passed, I'm going to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
"What you've been searching for all your life." Again the words rang a bell, but I was too preoccupied with trying to figure out this puzzle to give it a second thought.
"And... what is that?"
"The story behind the fairytale. The reality behind the fantasy. The open space beyond the sky."
"I don't follow..."
I was incredibly confused. The more questions I asked the more mystical the answers became.
"I'm the one."
"Who? Who's ‘the one'? Oh gosh, are you ... Death?"
The guy stopped, throwing back his head to laugh.
"Death? No, I'm not Death."
He walked forwards again, his expression and tone regaining their seriousness.
"You touched the next star. You left your world to find what you've been looking for. You've found it."
"I have?" I asked dubiously. "Shouldn't I have had a moment of sudden clarity or something? Felt enlightened?"
"That's yet to come."
"What is it?"
The guy stopped, closer than he had been before. I was terrified as I gazed into those serious blue eyes but couldn't look away. His expression had changed. There was now a startling intensity to his stare. My already pounding heart beat faster, making me feel slightly ill from the adrenaline rush. As he gazed into my eyes, I was certain that he was looking at my soul.
"The biggest discovery of your life is here, at this moment, about to change everything. You want to know what it is?"
I nodded, unable to talk.
"It's me," he said.
"I don't..." I trailed off as he put a finger to my lips. Then he withdrew it and kissed me and it came. The sudden clarity as the whole world exploded into focus. I was in a park under a moonlit sky. The guy was kissing me and chasing away my fears and I felt an unnatural sense of calm as everything became apparent. The guy was, to put it simply, my destiny.
He wrapped his arms around me and every dream I'd had of finding the perfect guy, of finding the missing puzzle piece in the jigsaw of my life and of completing myself (for the soul is incomplete without a partner) came true in that moment.
The guy stopped and I was terribly saddened by the absence of his lips on mine even though he was still holding me.
He smiled and leant down to whisper in my ear, "You've been branded by the star. You're the special person who will live with your literal other half ... and you tell me the rest."
The words came to me. A foreign knowledge from a distant reality.
"I know in my heart of hearts that you were the one I was waiting for all my life." As I said it, I recognised it as the truth. Right from the moment I'd first seen this being in my dream, I'd known he was something special and who had meaning for me and no one else.
My destiny murmured, so quietly I could barely hear him, "You've found me."
And his lips were on mine again and I was crying as his heart slid into the space in my chest and slotted in perfectly next to my own. I felt gloriously whole as he held me there and conveyed his love to me in my mind as well as through his kisses.
I woke up with wet cheeks. I was lying in a meadow. It was a warm and peaceful summer night.
I sat up and gazed to my left. Ross was smiling faintly.
"Hey," I murmured.
"You saw it?"
"Your dream? Yeah."
"Is ... something the matter? You're not usually so quiet, or if you are, you're usually kissing me."
"I'm a bit awestruck, to be honest. You have such a brilliant imagination. It was seven months ago that I told you all that stuff about you finding the answer to all your questions."
"Maybe I needed reminding of how perfect my boyfriend is."
I rolled my eyes. "That was a cue for you to start kissing me and telling my how much you love me too."
"Not right now, darling. I think I'm still recovering from you conveying your love for me directly to my soul."
"That was hours ago."
"It just shows the effect you have on me, doesn't it?"
I smiled. "I'm glad we still amaze each other."
"I doubt we'll ever stop doing that, though I might start surprising you by ceasing to be this phenomenal person I've fooled you into thinking I am."
I chuckled. "I've not been deceived: the way I perceive you is the way you are."
Ross smiled. "I'm flattered you think so."
I sighed contentedly. "Are you still incapacitated?"
He pulled me closer to him. "A little," he murmured "but I'll be okay in a minute. And then you'll be the one who's incapacitated."
I giggled. When I stopped, I asked "Did I ever tell you that I love you?"
"When do you ever not?"
I could feel Ross's thoughts through our mind link. He was thinking about me, about his love for me, about my love for him and about how lucky he was. Underlying it all, I could feel his affection and gladness, mirroring my own - though stronger in their intensity, in my opinion.
It was times like these - when we lapsed into silence - that I saw the beauty of our relationship more clearly, felt stronger, deeper love for my cherished kingfisher and wanted time to stand still so I could bask in his company for ever. Which meant that I got pretty overwhelmed.
I felt tears spring to the corner of my eyes.
"I'm so blessed to have you," I choked.
Ross let go of me and propped himself onto his side. He gazed down into my eyes. In the deepening twilight, his hair was growing paler, his eyes were becoming a lighter shade of blue and his features were slowly sharpening. He was changing into the more beautiful Ross of the night who was no more enamoured or charming but a little more mesmerising.
"Now, Rosa," he said, in a voice that was almost stern. "I do hope you're not crying."
"Could you blame me if I was, oh light of my life?" I whispered.
His features softened. "No - I love the way you're moved so easily. I just worry slightly that you're crying for a bad reason."
"I forgot the meaning of the word ‘bad' when we gave each other our souls."
"I've stopped being incapacitated," Ross said, smiling.
I sat up and he did too.
"I'm glad. So glad."
We leant in and kissed each other. I let myself be lost in the moment as love - like it had so many times before - took over.