A Gentle Sound

Grace woke up, rolled over, and stretched her arm to pull Izzy closer. Her hand felt empty mattress, so she patted along for a few seconds before finally opening her eyes and seeing that Izzy wasn’t there. Even with the blinds pulled, she could tell it was deep in the night, as no light peaked out from the corners of the window. 

Grace yawned, “Izzy, honey, where are you?” She sat up and stared at the empty half of the bed.

Grace felt a tickle of breath across her ear – Izzy’s voice. “I’m on the roof. I want to show you something.” Grace, startled, looked around the room. She rubbed her eyes and blinked them open again, but still Izzy was not near. Shaking her head clear, she mentally prepared for leaving the warmth of the blankets and threw her legs over the side of the bed. It took her a second, and a great amount of energy to take that single small step to the cold hard wood floor, and then into her slippers.

Across the hall from her room was the guest room, the door and window open to the small veranda roof at the front of the house, pointing toward the street and the city below. As Grace forced herself through the thick unrelenting sludge of being half awake, she whispered to herself, “Thank God Mom’s not visiting.”

Grace dragged her feet forward and pushed aside the lightly fluttering curtain so she could poke her head through. Izzy was standing at the edge of the roof, the tips of her toes just past the gutter. The side of Izzy’s face was illuminated by the drag of her cigarette. Grace started to crawl out, hoping not to be too loud and startle Izzy. 

Izzy continued to look down the valley, away from the window and said, “Come here, hold my hand. I want to show you something. I think you really need to see it.”

Grace said, “Okay, but could you maybe take a step back. You’re a little close…”

“Trust me. I’ll keep you safe.” Grace noticed that Izzy was standing taller than usual, more confident, with none of her usual sway or slouch that Grace was used to. She was already tall before, but now, now she seemed almost a head taller.

Grace finished crawling through the window and walked up to Izzy. Izzy shifted the cigarette to her left hand and outstretched her right without breaking her sight from the city lights. Grace wove her fingers in between Izzy’s and gave her a squeeze. For the first time in the night, Izzy turned to Grace and smiled.

They stood there for a second, looking into each other’s eyes, a little lost in the moment, before Grace broke the silence. “Where am I looking? What’s going on here tonight?”

“Anywhere honestly, but I think…” Izzy traced the view in front of her and pointed towards the graveyard just opposite their house. “I would suggest there.”

Grace looked closely at the graveyard, trying to squint to see if she could see anything, maybe movement, or just anything different. But it looked the same as it always does. Just lines and lines of gray stone. 

Grace felt a pull on her hand as Izzy lifted her hand to look at her watch. “Shhhh. Okay, listen closely.”

It was faint at first sounding like rain, but Grace didn’t feel any drops. And then it got louder, sounding like thunder, but the skies were clear. 

Grace said, “W-what is that?”

“Shhhhh, just wait a second longer.”

Grace turned back to face the graveyard, and squinted harder. A flash of light broke the sky, revealing that the ground had been ripped open, and standing in the graves were people of alabaster, sandstone, basalt, reaching out to the sky.

The flash came again, creating another permanent streak through the air. In a moment, the whole valley view changed before their eyes. Every inch of ground before them was wreathed in flames. 

Izzy took another drag of her cigarette. Grace wanted to fall to her knees but instead she turned towards Izzy as she blew out a puff of smoke. 

She turned to face Grace, when a third eye opened on Izzy’s cheek. Her mouth moved as if she was talking, but it felt like the voice was coming from inside Grace’s head. “Don’t be scared. Just trust me. You’re going to be fine. I swear I’ll keep you safe.” Izzy cradled Grace’s face with a left hand. “Just listen to the gentle sounds. It’s almost over. It’s almost done.”

Grace kept staring forward, not wanting to break eye contact from Izzy, and yet Izzy seemed to be growing taller, more slender. From her left cheek grew the face of a bleating lamb, and on her right, a lion roared.

Grace began to cry, looking as her partner changed.

Izzy held both of Grace’s hands, took a drag with a third, and wiped away a tear with a fourth. “Just a little longer love. Just a little longer.”

And then the tears began to change. First from fear, but then to tears of awful beauty. Grace smiled again.

“There we go.” Izzy turned away from Grace, still holding her hands, and took a step forward. Grace followed.

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