A rooftop restaurant that overlooks the rhythm of a halcyon sea, with the strung light markings of platitude, as servers preserve table-top candles that blink in that way that make people feel as though they ought to be entranced, Isla sees the form of herself as her form sits in a pair of red heels that present her as adventurous, a backless dress to reveal her female confidence, that silken hair in just-off-the-beach waves. Isla waits for the arrival of the guest she so vividly remembers, but alas, he never shows. The form of her gestures for the check as a server delivers it. Where is he? Isla wonders. Feeling anxious, as the form of her continues to sit and sip the last glass of the wine bottle, Isla walks purposefully to the edge of the balcony to see if she can catch a glimpse of the streets below. She can, and so, Isla takes a lap around the entire rooftop terrace looking for him. A miracle, she spots a man staring right back at her. He waves. She looks to see if someone near her is perhaps the person at whom the man waves. He points. She waves. He waves. He motions for her to come down. Desperate, she runs.
“Did you find what you’re looking for?” the man asks as she recalls the question he first asked her upon the roof decades ago. “But what was I looking for?” Isla responds. “You tell me,” the man shakes his head. “I was trying to find purpose.” “And to find your purpose is purpose enough?” “Yes,” Isla sighs. “No.” “I was trying to find myself.” “At what point do you decide that you are who you are?” the man urges. “I guess, I don’t know. I guess … I just thought I would know,” Isla answers. The man chuckles to himself. “Just tell me then if you know such high and mighty things,” Isla shouts a bit impatient with gestures of sarcasm. “Start from the beginning,” the man instructs.
“There’s no need. I relived every moment of my twenties as if the lies I told others and myself were the truth,” Isla begins. “And did you learn the truth?” the man asks. “Why are you here? Who are you?” “Those are questions of such irrelevance that if you cannot get past this, there’s no point.” “No point for what?” “For you.” “For me, how?” “But you know. At least, I think that is what you learned.” “What did I learn?” “You tell me.” “What if I don’t want to tell you!” “Then you will tell no one.” “Fine! Then no one knows.” “But to speak your knowledge aloud, if only into a void, is to know that knowledge.” Isla crumples into a heap upon the ground. “Get up. Let’s walk,” the man suggests, “There’s a nice boardwalk just beyond these buildings.” “Yes, I know,” Isla whines as she peels herself from the sidewalk and joins him along the beach.
They walk together along the boardwalk, close enough so that they may easily hear each other, but far enough apart, he assures, so as not to cause any emotional confusion. He hums. “Who are you,” Isla asks once again. “It doesn’t matter,” he responds. “But how do you know things about me?” “I’ve been following you and watching you for quite a while.” Isla begins to feel something but discomfort is not it, and then she begins to wonder why that piece of information does not make her feel uneasy. “I told you,” he begins as he looks up into the starry, night sky, “It’s like I said; it doesn’t matter.” “Why are you here?” “That, I will honestly tell you, I do not know.” “How long have you followed me?” “A few years.” “Why?” “I thought you were someone you are not.” “Who did you think I was?” “I doesn’t matter.” Beginning to understand the program, and especially since she can no longer determine whether or not any of this is even real, she moves on, “How long did you follow me?” “I can’t be sure, but it’s probably been a few years now.” A little pinge pinches her deep in the stomach. Isla stops walking; he continues to meander whilst peering deep into the night sky.
From a distance far enough to require shouting, Isla shouts, “How did you know I was going to die?” The man stops and turns to face her, “You didn’t die.” “What do you mean? I died the day after this day, and then I lived my own personal hell of revisiting every horrible aspect of myself.” “No,” the man tritely offers. “No, what? I’m not dead, or this is not hell?” “I don’t know. I’m just the messenger. I cannot divine any meaning or purpose for you,” he explains. Isla’s face turns to utter shock and frustration. She begins to pace back and forth across the width of the boardwalk. For an unknowable amount of time, she vigorously paces. At some point, he finally states a few words of solace, “But you learned what you needed to, Isla. All you have to do is speak your knowledge.” Isla immediately comes to a stop, turns to face him, and with a pointed finger points directly into his face, “You! You’re the lie! You’re the fraud whose purpose it is to just fuck with me endlessly for some godforsaken reason!” Arms flailing now, Isla screams, “You’re the devil! You brought all of this hell upon me! I’ve done nothing wrong! I lived a good life! I searched and searched the goddamn fucking universe for a purpose! I wanted to know what I should do! All I ever wanted was to … And then, you all holier than thou, you fucking cocksucker! You’re just the asshole messenger who woke up one day after, what can essentially be considered, stalking me for god knows how long! You fucking pervert! Where the hell do you get off? Isla!,” she screams up to the skies in futility. “Isla! Wake up! WAKE UP! WAKE UP, GODDAMMIT!” Isla crumples again into a heap upon the boardwalk and begins to cry. The man, unmoved, stands emotionless as Isla cries in a pathetic heap of a mess for hours.
Somehow, no one will ever truly know how, he manages to convince Isla to, at the very least, sit up and answer him a few more questions. “Fuck you!” she spits. Crouched down to meet her eyes more easily now, he asks, “What was it, Isla? All you wanted to do was what?” Still sniffling, as she wipes her face with her hands, Isla looks into his face and says, “All I ever wanted was to be remembered.” “Yes,” he states flatly. “I … I … just,” Isla stammers, “I just want to be remembered.” “Why?” “Because if someone, anyone remembers me, then that means that I … I had meaning, or I was someone great, or I did something no one else had done or could do. I just want to matter. I just want my life to have, I don’t know, been something special.” “But what do you know now?” the man interjects. “That a life of meaning is a life of learning.” “I see,” the man says as he drops his head, seemingly disappointed. “And that somehow, a person must learn how to learn, and if that person fails or is failed by the people around her in how to learn, that person can never live.”
The man, still crouched as Isla sniffles, stands, “So where will you go now?” “Home,” Isla states as she makes her way onto her feet, “I want to go home.” “What will you find there?” “I guess I will find what I’m looking for.” “Will you?” “Fuck you! We’re done!” “Very well,” the man states as he begins to walk away from her. “But wait!” Isla shouts at the back of his head. The man stops and turns. “Who are you?” “It doesn’t matter,” the man states for the last time. “It matters to me!” Isla demands. “Yes, but you don’t matter to me,” the man shrugs as he continues to walk down the boardwalk. Stunned, Isla screams, “I fucking hate you! Leave me alone! If I ever … ” “Don’t worry about that, Iss. You’re not worth remembering,” the man flatly states over his shoulder as he disappears into the night.
Bright sunlight blinds her for a moment as Isla steps into the uncharacteristically sunny orbital of her youth. The orbital is an old-gen system where the subtleties of climate and weather were unpredictable at best, torrential at worst. Dressed for the typically cold, dark atmosphere, Isla feels warm, way too warm. She begins to sweat. Off in the distance, she can barely make out the familiar shapes of her family. Being the oldest of four during a time of familial modesty, only one other sibling remains within the same orbital as their parents. Isla offhandedly waves as they all make their way to each other. “Hi, Dear,” her mother states with a loving embrace. “It’s so good to have you home,” her father reiterates in line with her mother’s affection. A hug from her youngest female sibling, “Hey, Iss. It’s so good to see you.” “You too,” Isla generously offers despite her feelings. “It was such a nice surprise to receive your message with such short notice,” her mother continues. “I’m sorry if the timing is less than desirable,” Isla apologies. “Oh, no, Honey. It’s no problem at all. You’re welcome here anytime! You could’ve just shown up on our doorstep!” her father genuinely exclaims as they all make their way to their designated monorail. “How is it that we’ve been so lucky to be granted this visit?” her mother finally asks once they are all aboard the transportation vehicle and comfortable. “I … I just … I’ve been looking for some meaning, I guess,” Isla honestly, to her parents’ surprise, confesses. “Oh, Honey,” her mother and father simultaneously console. Her mother continues, “As our daughter, Sweetie, you mean the world to us!” Isla sighs as she shakes her head in disbelief. “What is it?” her father asks after seeing the distraught look on Isla’s face. “Fuck!” Isla shouts as she keels over in her seat, hits the floor of the train in an unconscious slump, and dies.