There was a disaster, the geologists say, a very long time ago. Before this land was frozen, it was a desert, far removed from the cities, though surveys in the area have revealed evidence of a small settlement nearby. That the cabin in the desert's center within existed at all is surprising, that its structure has survived so well is astounding, and that it was discovered at all is unbelievable. The part that they really have trouble explaining, though, is that the so-called 'lovers' were found near the cabin, not within.
“It was most likely the cold,” the lead psychologist suggests when the team asks her for a hypothesis. “The human body acclimatized in the centuries following the crisis, but those living through the earliest years would have certainly been at a severe disadvantage. Out here in isolation, losing a heat source would have been deadly, and as their body temperatures dropped, they may have become disoriented, leading them to risk exposure to the elements.”
Her explanation goes unheeded by the journalists, who come up with increasingly unlikely theories involving strange cryptid creatures prowling the desert; the poets, too, let their imaginations run wild, writing furiously about a romantic, tragic soul braving the world's end to spend their last few hours on earth with an old flame, only to arrive too late. The theories are increasingly unlikely, but prove to be as persistent as they are difficult to outright disprove. Some of the science team even hold rather romantic views themselves, though they keep them to themselves, private thoughts to smile at as they leave work for the day, shaking their heads at their own fanciful thoughts.
The archaeologists examine the site with painstaking care, and as the excavation slowly continues, they uncover artifacts that lead to more answers, and more mysteries along with them. Melted wax lies in puddles all over the floor, suggesting that candles were placed almost haphazardly, with little regard for safety. “I suppose at that point they felt it didn't matter,” the psychologist says, and this time no one disagrees; the simplest answer, after all, is often the correct one.
A musical instrument in the corner seemed to have suffered more damage from the cold than the lovers themselves, fragile and unplayable, much to the disappointment of those who would study it. Discs line the shelves that still hang on the wall, marked with unfamiliar names in alphabets that have only recently been deciphered; the anthropologists suggest that they might be important tomes of knowledge, secret libraries hidden away for safety in an isolated location, attended to by devotees. (In the not-too-distant future, technologists will quickly uncover the trick to unlocking the contents of the discs, and the anthropologists will be slightly red in the face when they learn that, by and large, the library is simply a music collection. Still, it was important to the cabin's occupants, enough that some discs were used to the point of disrepair, and some of the lyrics were important enough for one of the lovers to scrawl in the margins of a notebook, capitalized and underlined, barely readable even with the linguists' books and charts; some of the anthropologists, red-faced though they may have been, will still argue that perhaps their initial guesses weren't too far off.)
Aside from their level of preservation, there is nothing particularly unusual about the garments worn by the lovers, or the once brightly-coloured blankets found piled around them, or the bare mattress that was shoved to a corner of the cabin. The fibre analysis is consistent with textiles found at other sites from the era. What does seem unusual is that the pair were so carefully bundled up against the cold, which seems to go against the psychologist's ideas of confusion - a mind clouded by hypothermia tends to remove clothing, not add it. So it would seem they had left seeking help - and yet the bed frame had been disassembled, left by the fireplace, but most of it had not yet been burned. Why, then, if there was still fuel for their fire, had they left the cabin?
Throughout the ensuing years, many theories are suggested.
No one gets it quite right.
A long time ago (immeasurably long, one might say – after all, science has only given an estimate this far) there were two lovers. That much is known. What even the poets, too quick to dress up the simplest things, have yet to theorize: the lovers lay together on the mattress that had once been supported by a wooden frame, listening to the final notes of an old song on the radio. When the music ended abruptly and was replaced by a low, steady buzz of static, they listened to that too, until the batteries gave out and only their own silence was left. There was little need for words at that point; everything they had needed to say had already been said over the years through glances and promises, murmurs and startled laughter, and most recently through lips pressed together, bodies entwined, familiar touches set to a background of radio static.
It was not disorientation that led them outside; rather, it was a peculiar type of pragmatism, along with the feeling of invincibility that comes part and parcel with some relationships. They knew that survival was unlikely whether they stayed or left, and that rescue was next to impossible. But no one flying overhead would see them if they stayed hidden away inside, and if they perished - well, they were together, at least, and even death itself couldn't take that away.
The light of the sun on the ice struck them momentarily blind as they finally stepped out. But sight had never been necessary to find each other, and between the warmth of the sun on their faces and the heat of chapped lips meeting again and again, they hardly noticed the cold.
A desert once stood where the ice plains now lay. Before that, the geologists say, it was part of the ocean; long, long before that, the astrophysicists say, it was stars, in one way or another. One metamorphosis after another, but some things – as unexplainable as they may be – remain unchanging.
Right now, the psychologist is battling her nerves; she has an interview tomorrow, and she is frantically reviewing all of her case notes, worried they'll ask a question she won't have an answer for. But when she sits tomorrow, fists clenched nervously, they'll open with, “So why do you think these two were found the way they were?” she will smile, and her hands will relax, and she will say exactly what she's thinking: isn't it obvious?