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Fiction Issue - The Big Bounce: A Love Story

Second Place

The phone rings even as he stands right next to it. The black and white tube is holding Isaac's attention from across the small house, and after three or five rings he finally answers, "Hello?"

"Hello yourself, Isaac."

"Rega?"

"Who else would call you this time of night?" Rega asks teasingly as she stands in a cramped phone booth overlooking the sunlit grass of the park.

Isaac thinks "unfortunately no one" and says, "Of course it's you. What's up?"

"I'm in the neighborhood. At the park festival thing with some friends."

"Oh yeah, that thing. Sure, I was thinking about dropping by there. You staying a while?" Isaac didn't have the slightest this thing was going on right across the street.

"Actually, I wanted to come over."

"Just you?"

"Ha um yea. I mean, I bought the new Beatles record over here at the festival. I heard it's really groovy you know. You still have that record player right?"

Isaac and Rega had pushed all the furniture to the sides of the living room. They lie face up on the floor, watching the smoke drift and listening as the record player fills the room with a psychedelic groove.

"What do you think about Liz?" asks Rega through a gentle cough as she extends her hand toward Isaac's.

"I think she's a ditz."

"Shut up! I'm serious." Rega smiles and thinks "yea she kinda is."

Isaac knows why she is asking about Liz. Clearly this is a ploy. He counters, "I'm not the kinda person who needs a relationship all the time. By the way, are you still dating what's-his-name?"

"Oh my god, Isaac! Steven. Who you've met like five times."

"Ah yes, of course. Well I hope you two are very happy together." He doesn't even have to say it and they both hear, "Not."

Rega rolls over to her stomach and looks down on Isaac's upside-down face. "We are," she says with a plastic smile.

Rega glances up at Isaac's long face. He sits across from her, Indian style, with knees lightly touching. He unblinkingly stares into his hands, and Rega gently breaks into his silent reverie, "Well, I gotta get going. It was good catching up with you, Isaac."

They slowly walk to the door and Isaac softly touches her lower back as she walks out. Rega turns on the doorstep to face Isaac and says, "Bye." She gives a rapid wave just above her waist.

"Bye," says Isaac repeating the gesture which has been a secret handshake of sorts between the two since childhood. Rega turns to leave, but Isaac suddenly grabs her hands with intent. The unexpected touch leads to a deep eye contact, and Isaac's face contorts as he prepares to say something. Something. The moment passes, and Isaac swallows the words heavily.

"Take care, Rega," he says weakly.

"You too, Isaac," she replies with an honest smile.

"And give Liz my regards."

"Ha. Oh, sure."

Isaac hobbles to one of the front porch chairs and takes a heavy seat. He sits long after she's left and broods over his failure to communicate his feelings. After a while, Isaac resolves to profess his love at the next moment he sees Rega.

Isaac turns on the side table lamp and sits up in bed. His mind has ceaselessly turned to Rega. He cannot sleep as her scent lingers in his nostrils and her laugh rings in his ears. He picks up a book and begins to read. An hour or three passes until he finally falls asleep with the book resting on his chest and the light on.

The phone rings loudly from the bedside table, and Isaac opens his eyes slowly. He picks up the phone, and before it has touched the side of his head he knows it is bad. The voice comes out of the speaker a blur. A fog rushes in on Isaac. His senses dull to nothing and he hears only the last few words before silently hanging up. "I can't believe she's gone. I'm so sorry, Isaac. I know how you loved her."

No recovery awaits Isaac. A slew of beautifully tragic artwork and poetry come forth over the next several years until finally an unmovable iciness sets in on his poor soul. Mechanically, Isaac lives out the remainder of his life without ever knowing love for any other than a ghost. Some years later, Isaac dies painlessly in regretful reclusion.

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Having left behind no family, Isaac's life passes quietly into history. Several decades after his death, some pieces of art found in the attic of an old house are sold at auction. Later, the pieces gain critical acclaim from connoisseurs of tragic expression, and for a brief time Isaac's pain is reborn. A century hence, the building displaying his art is destroyed by fire, and the remnants of Isaac's withered soul are scattered to dust.

The ages pass without regard to Isaac's soul or any other. Civilizations rise and fall. Homo sapiens give way to the next link in their evolutionary chain, and that link gives way to the next. The time of the sun comes to pass, and it expands to engulf its planetary children. The Milky Way drifts lazily into a neighborly galactic collision and is caught up in the dance for many ages. The dust settles, and the remnants of the Milky Way drift as part of a new, lonely galaxy. This new galaxy fulfills the fate of its embryonic forbearers. It drifts away from all other galaxies, and all other galaxies drift away from all others. Faster and faster. Then slower and slower until each comes to rest as an infinitely small point isolated in the cold eternity of space.

After many eons, miraculously, the icy repose gives way to new motion. A dark force pulls at the lonely galaxies, calling them back to a new fate. Each of the galaxies moves toward all the others. Faster and faster. Closer and closer. They collide and cluster and accrete and aggregate as they combine into black holes accelerating toward some unspecified center of a future universe. Finally, they are each and every one joined in the irrational density of a fiery sphere of chance which encompasses all that exists and has ever existed in this and every other universe. The blazing intensity within the sphere grows otherworldly as the sphere shrinks and shrinks until it becomes an infinitely small point of infinite intensity in a time beyond time within a space beyond space.

With an explosion, the violent birth of a universe is beckoned. It begins and ends much like its predecessor, but in this universe there exists no Earth and no homo sapiens. The tragedies of life unfold elsewhere unto unknowable beings, and once more the universe expands and contracts through an iteration of existence.

Billions of iterations occur until once more the Earth accretes from the star dust of the Milky Way and settles into orbit around the yellow sun. But in this universe, the moon does not come into existence, and life never takes root on the blue-green world.

Trillions of cycles hence, the Earth forms once more. This time in tandem with the moon and its life-bringing tides. The planet teems, but alas, the forebears of human beings do not survive the treacherous climb to the top of the food chain.

Quadrillions of universal deaths and rebirths recur until once more there exists an inhabitable Earth under the dominion of human beings. Their civilization grows prosperously, but the two individuals of a long forgotten universe do not come to pass.

Quintillions of cosmoses come into being and perish before the Earth is once more made home to a soul named Isaac and a soul named Rega, but they do not live near and thus know not of each other's existence.

Sextillions of universes come and go until Isaac and Rega are once more neighbors and friends. This time Rega goes to university abroad. Slowly his loving admiration for her cedes to the currents of life, and their souls are untangled.

A zillion universes pass into the depths of time. Seemingly all of the infinite variations of universes come to pass before the echo of a longing soul resonates through the frequencies of time.

The phone rings as he listens to it vibrate on the coffee table in the living room of the old house. The flat-screen TV is holding Isaac's attention, and after three or five rings he finally leans over and sees a familiar name. "Hello, Rega"

"Hello yourself, Isaac."

"What are you doing calling me this time of night?" asks Isaac playfully as he looks at blue sky outside of the window.

"What are you doing awake?" Rega asks teasingly as she stands in the sunlit grass of the park.

Isaac thinks "unfortunately nothing" and says, "Waiting for your call, of course. What's up?"

"I'm in the neighborhood. At the park festival thing with some friends."

"Oh yeah, that thing. You know, I was thinking about dropping by there. You staying a while?" Isaac didn't have the slightest this thing was going on across the street.

"Actually, I wanted to come over."

"Just you?"

"Ha um yea. I mean, I bought a vinyl over here at the festival. It's one of your favorites. You still have that old record player right?"

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Isaac and Rega had pushed all the furniture to the sides of the living room. They lie face up on the floor, watching the smoke drift and listening as the record player fills the room with the familiar tunes.

"What do you think about Tes?" asks Rega through a gentle cough as she extends her hand toward Isaac's.

"I think she's a ditz."

"Shut up! I'm serious." Rega smiles and thinks "yea she kinda is."

Isaac knows why she is asking about Tes. Clearly this is a ploy. He counters, "I'm not the kinda person who needs a relationship. That reminds me, are you still dating what's-his-name?"

"Oh my god, Isaac! Devon. Who you've met like five times."

"Oh sure. Well I hope you two are very happy together." He doesn't even have to say it and they both hear, "Not."

Rega rolls over to her stomach and looks down on Isaac's upside-down face. "We are," she says with a plastic smile.

Rega glances up at Isaac's long face. He sits across from her, Indian style, with knees lightly touching. He unblinkingly stares at his phone, and Rega gently breaks into his silent thoughts, "Well, I gotta get going. It was good catching up with you, Isaac."

They slowly walk to the door and Isaac softly touches her lower back as she walks out. Rega turns on the doorstep to face Isaac and says, "Bye." She gives a rapid wave just above her waist.

"Bye," says Isaac repeating the gesture which has been a secret handshake of sorts between the two since childhood. Rega turns to leave, but Isaac suddenly grabs her hands with intent. The unexpected touch leads to a deep eye contact, and a powerful nostalgia surges within the two. The voice is his, but the words are those of an unknown force within him—stretching through the expanses of time and space to deliver a message. Now or never.

"I love you, Rega. Have always loved you. Will always love you."

The words have an unexpected effect on Rega. She has seen them coming for years and deals with them just as she had planned. She lets him down easy and is happy Isaac is so easy to talk to, even with something this awkward. He even agreed to hang out with her and Tes next Tuesday. As Rega walks back to the park, a smile swells from within her, and later that night she lies awake in bed looking at old Facebook pictures of her and Isaac as his scent lingers in her nostrils and his laugh rings in her ears.


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Thomas B. Trotter is an Atlanta native residing in Grant Park. His writing is inspired by his loved ones and the great authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

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