There is a city that drifts in a vast ocean. Its walls are burnished red as sunset with quiet ochres and deep umbers. Waves brush against the shore, lapping in gentle rhythm. The water is warm and welcoming and creates a pleasant sensation between the toes. An ornate archway beckons you enter the city itself.
The sky is forever filled with stars and a few of them drift close enough for you to reach out and touch. One star catches your eye. It dips a toe into the water and slowly comes to rest upon the sand. As it offers its hand, you hesitate. It smiles warmly, coaxing you forward, and tentatively, you take its hand into yours. Its illuminated fingers are smooth to the touch. You echo its smile with one of your own.
It draws you forward into the city.
The outskirts of the city are made up of small alcoves. Each alcove holds a candle that emanates a soft light, lifting the interior into a mixture of vermillion and violet. Each one has its own, individual scent. The star leads you into one of the alcoves and as you inhale the familiar aroma, the whisper of a memory floats through your head. It’s the feeling of a pillow beneath your cheek as you close your eyes and the first vestiges of sleep tickle your mind. You can hear the breathing of someone next to you in bed. Without opening your eyes, you know it’s the one you’ve slept beside for years upon years. You relax into the feeling.
There is a soft tug on your arm. You open your eyes and see the star before you. It winks and leads you away from the alcove and further into the city. The alcoves are bigger and so are the candles. Still holding hands, the two of you walk forward into a new alcove and another memory washes over you. It’s a fresh spring breeze. You can hear people around you; they’re laughing. You’re part of the merriment. You can feel it inside of you. It burbles up from deep within you and you start to chuckle. The chuckle turns into a chortle. It overwhelms you, the joy of the memory, and you squeeze your eyes tight, tears leaking from the corners. You hear a strange whine and you open your eyes to find that the sound is coming from your companion. The star is laughing with you, sharing in your joy. Still giggling, the two of you leave the alcove and tread deeper into the city.
The next alcove you wander into is larger still. The memory hits you almost before you step inside. Your heart immediately begins to beat faster. Happy screams fill your ears as you stare down the track of an enormous roller coaster. You gleefully lift your hands as the car slides forward. Your heart leaps into your throat. The wind rushes past your face. Together, you and the other riders shout your happiness into the void. You look next to you and there’s the star, silently enjoying the ride. As you hit the bottom of the arc, the memory bursts into pieces and fades away. The star drapes an arm around your shoulders and brings you into the center of town.
There’s a tower there, stretching to the sky. The star leads you to its base where you see a door. Just a door. The star gestures towards it and gives you a little push. You step forward and place your hand on the knob. The door opens to your touch and you take a step inside. You look back, but the star indicates to go on alone. The inside of the tower is your favorite color and there’s a staircase leading upwards. You hesitate for just a moment, then start up the stairs. With each step, you are brought flashes of memories. They’re brief, but more intense and sensory than any other.
The feeling of a loved one’s arms around you.
The smell of your mother’s perfume.
The rough stubble of your father’s cheek as he kisses you goodnight.
The first cry of your child.
The taste of a peach.
It all floods over you, weaving together an intricate pattern that forms into one entity and, as you reach the top and look out over the city, you know what it is.
Everything in this city was made from you. The smells, the sights, the feelings…it’s all you. Suddenly, the star is there, next to you once more, and it nods and smiles a bittersweet smile. Everything you are exists here, but even as the thought crosses your mind, you know that part of it isn’t true.
These memories are shared. There are others in each of those alcoves and they are part of you just as you are part of them. You aren’t just your own city. Pieces of you are there, in their cities, in their memories. And you know, deep down, beyond thought, that no one ever truly goes away. No one ever could.
You live on, safe in your city of stars and memories.
Just as you live on in mine.