Ten years from now . . .
I plant the flowers. I plant the flowers over the graves of old loves and enemies, of loved ones and homeless, soulless children. I plant the seeds, and tend the shoots, and plants. Flowers bloom in the light of the sun, bask and wither. I've seen life come and go, I've seen the endless cycle. Life becomes life becomes death become life.
The Center: Once it was born, once it lived, and died. Once, I even believed that it would stay dead, dead and gone, rested and forgotten. But it was reborn, as are all things, in some form or another.
I am Devora. Once was Debbie. Once Deborah Broots. My father died, like all of the others. Went down with the Center. Into the ground, into the past. But the past burns bright. Bright in the fallen leaves, bright in the raindrops, bright in my daughter's eyes. Like my father's. Not like her father's, not like mine.
My father, her father, all of the fathers, mothers, children, sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews, all of them fallen, lost, but loved and missed, forgotten or remembered.
On our doorstep stands this man, this child of this curse, three times young, and 26 to our eyes. This child, this old man, is the bearer of the phoenix. From the earth, from the ashes, he says, this place, this place that took so much from so many, that took so much from us, has risen again, risen anew.
He can, he tells us, help. He can help us get out. Simply. Once, many years ago, many lifetimes ago, he was built, trained as a war machine, as an instrument of victory and pain and aggression. He was built to win.
I think that it is him and I. We are the survivors. We plant the flowers. But he plants the trees. He plants the future, and I plant the past, the condolences. This is what I see. My daughter is strong, and good, and wholesome. She is that tree. She is that future. And I know that he will protect her, but I am the flower girl.
So I will stay. I will plant my flowers for friends, and for enemies. I will collect new flowers and take them to old graves, old burial sites, and I will store flowers for burials that have yet to pass.
I am the flower girl and I am the adorner of last appearances, and last walks. I am the end, I am the prophet of endings, of death, and I will be there at the end.
I will be there at the end of the Center.
I pack up my only child, I kiss her brow, and send her away with the elder, a strange to us both, a deserter. I do not expect to see her again. I cry, rivers carve themselves into my soul. I sit in the empty house, no longer a home, and prepare for war, for the silent, creeping end.
Because the end will come again.
For the Center.
And for all things.
All things are born anew, but never again.
Never again, I make this promise to my love lost, never again the Center.