Staring out at the impossible expanse, as we sat against the railing, the sun began to dip beneath the horizon as we watched the light fade. Beams of radiance bounced off the reflective gold of the skyscrapers, rays of refracted luminescence entangling the infinite array of spires like an impossible lattice. Within the heavens, rays of colour slipped between one another, contorting in an impossible movement as they joined and split from one another like a moving artwork: a light-show meant for two. Derrick stared up at the sky, with a look of wonder on his face, his eyes lost within the dreamy display.
"Getting to see a sky like this," Derrick said. "It makes all of life feel worth it, you know?"
"It is beautiful," I replied. I also knew it was also an illusion, designed to lull unsuspecting souls into a false sense of security so they would suffer more when the rug was pulled from under them, but I decided it was probably best not to share that part.
"Do you think, somewhere out there, there's a world with skies like this?" He asked.
"Probably. Among the billions and trillions of worlds, there's bound to be at least one, if not more, that look just like this," I began. "However, each world has its own beauty: its own failings, and its own charms, that make it truly individual."
I paused for a moment, staring up at the vastness of the firmament as light shuffled through the world above us. Up there, colour frolicked through the heavens. It was a halcyon world, hypnotic and bewitching in its motions. The kind of view that, though beautiful in its perfection, was probably dime-a-dozen across the various infinite universes if you searched hard enough.
"Each universe has something just as beautiful inside of it, if you're prepared to search for it," I concluded. "There is beauty in all worlds, same as there are flaws. It's just a matter of finding it."
Leaning the palms of my hands against the marble, the surface had a strange warmth to it - same as everything else about this place seemed to have. It was warm in heaven. It made you feel comfortable here, at home amid the rising spires and the setting sun. As Derrick stared up too, I felt the same warmth emanate from him, the warmth of his soul.
"I guess you're right," he replied. "There certainly was beauty in the place I came from, in my wife's smile, to that little house we lived in. Getting caught up in those worldly troubles I was so preoccupied with, I might've missed the forest for the trees."
"It's only natural to get caught up in life," I stated. "That's why there's always second chances."
Derrick remained silent for a moment, before turning his gaze back to me, his deep brown eyes locking with mine. In them, despite his aged appearance - his eyes looked vigorous and exuberant, demonstrating the life that still lingered within his soul.
"I'm sorry if this might be a little bit personal, Malarie," he asked. "But if you were in my place, offered a chance at new life, how would you choose to live it?"
I was kind of taken aback by the question. I'd never really been asked my opinions on how I'd live a reincarnation, and since any reincarnation I'd probably end up getting would be miserable anyway, I hadn't considered what I might want to see if I were to live another life. It was a question that was impossible for me to answer in full, but I answered it to the best of my abilities.
"Peace," I said. "I'd like to live in peace, without worrying about hurting others. I don't know what I might live as, but I do know that if I were reincarnated, that's how I'd like to be able to live."
"Not hurting others, huh?" Derrick queried. "If that's your wish, it sounds like your past life wasn't pretty then."
"No, no it was not," I answered.
Staring, focused upon the skyline, I let my mind wander for a moment - as flashes of my past flitted before my eyes. I ignored them, casting them from my mind. I'd rather not think about the world I'd left behind.
"Did you find the beauty in your world?" Derrick asked.
"Sorry?" I said.
"You said there's beauty in every world," Derrick replied with a smile. "I was wondering if you could tell me about the beauty in your old world."
I thought back to the smiling face of my son, to the grateful faces of the people I'd saved, to the times we would sit around the crisp light of the campfire - laughing at some story told over stew and comradery. I guess, for a moment, I was able to cast the violence of it all from my mind as I recalled some of the good moments I'd had in that old life. Between the horrors and the suffering, there was always hope - hope for ourselves, hope for our loved ones, hope for a better life - a better world.
"It's hard to describe its beauty," I answered.
"As long as you can picture it, then that's good enough for me," Derrick smiled.
As we stared up, watching the flow of the light overhead, we sat in silence for a moment - considering our own lives, the places we'd come from. The listless flits of the twilit sky enchanted us. Sitting beneath that idyllic heaven, staring up at the perfectly immaculate sky, Derrick spoke softly.
"If your wish is for peace, I think mine would be for freedom," Derrick said. "I'd like to soar through the skies, above the world and its problems. I think I'd like to see the sky up close - to touch it, to pass through the clouds: to fly above the ordeals of man, beyond their reach."
He turned his eyes from the dancing lights, gazing back toward me, a composed serenity within his demeanour. With that warm smile still on his face, the patterns of his irises told the story of a man of life and spirit, who still felt he had more of a life to live - a life beyond the confines of his humanity.
"I'd like to fly above it all," he concluded. "To be beyond it all."