Inescapable

"And what have you got at the end of the day?
What have you got to take away?
A bottle of whisky and a new set of lies,
Blinds on the window and a pain behind the eyes"
Dire Straits

He never once returned to the vast deserts of his younger days, the deserts where he had seen so many things through the words of one miniature friend; the days when anything had seemed possible (except, on occasion, the repair of his plane) and he had learnt so much, without quite realising it. Those were the days that he missed and regretted more than any other in the world, and though he knew that he still had not matured in that terrible way that all the other adults seemed to have done, he would give anything to go back to them, to the time when there was no part of him that he might hesitantly have called 'grown up'.

He still looked at the stars and laughed sometimes, and felt extraordinarily saddened on other occasions, wondering about the sheep and its box and whether the Prince's dormant volcano had come back to life and whether or not that lonely, singular rose that stared across the vastness of the chasm of space had withered away into nothing. Had the Prince's planet been destroyed in the time that he was away, pulled apart by thick and merciless roots? Maybe another traveller had come across it, and entranced by its miniature mountains and its beautiful flower, and had decided to stay, turning it into his own home?

He kept his window open at night, and his garden free of common roses, just in case that Prince ever came back to visit him again. He knew it was foolish, knew that even in the African sands of the desert that they were unlikely to meet again, but there was something coiled tight in his chest that made him hope; that thing was the last vestiges of his childhood, still waiting, still dreaming, not quite ready to fade away just yet.

There was still so much of the world that he wanted to see: and even the places that he had seen seemed constantly to be changing, introducing new things, so it felt that he must keep travelling constantly to see everything: never stopping, just circling the globe, for surely once he had made a full circuit everything would have changed.

He had spoken to flowers in the farthest of climes, but he had always had to strain to hear their response, and now even the common petunias in his garden gave him no reply when he greeted them good morning.

He had seen a fox in his garden the day before, and had put out a bowl of food for it. He thought that if he might tame it, then that fox might become something more than it was, and by that, he too might be a better person. But then, perhaps not, for how could he tame something without talking to it, and though the flowers had once responded before he had forgotten to listen the knack to talk to animals he had never possessed, unlike the Prince.

The fox had paused, for just a moment, and had stared at the yellow tulips in the border. Perhaps it was thinking of the corn-yellow hair of the boy who he had once loved: but then, of all the thousands of foxes in the world, what was the likelihood that this was the same one?

Motes of pollen and dust hung in the air, illuminated by the dying light that filled his garden with a golden stillness. Everything felt as if it were frozen in this time, unmoving, and he was sure for a moment that the world, outside the walls of this refuge that he took from modern advancement, everything had stopped, and there was just him, in here, left in all of the planet. If he were to look over the wall, perhaps there would be nothing left- perhaps just the blackness of space, lit by the incredible glow of stars, as if this was his own planet in which he might find peace. The haphazard flowers that he had picked with childish intent for their bright colours and fanciful names he would keep under glass, to protect them from the coldness of the space-winds, and his small, copper-leaved Japanese acer tree would have to be pulled up, so that the roots would not rip his land apart.

He heard laughter from the children who lived in the house next door, and knew that it was not so: still, he held the thought in his head for a time, and smiled to himself.

It was the end of summer, the time when all the grass is yellowed with heat and waiting in silent expectation for the dank moistness of soil that would come with the changing season: a time when the heat was too heavy for movement except in the evenings, when everything took on a quiet reflectiveness as people took to their gardens and basked in the balmy heat. It was these sort of summers that reminded him in particular of the desert for their distinct differences in heat- this was not the painfully dry sun of a thirsty day, but a warmth in which one could enjoy the measure of it, in which one could bask.

He had often told the story of the Prince to his younger brother, who wished to be a landscape designer, crafting the world to his own idea of perfection. He had always found that a strange notion, being an explorer of sorts, as he saw the world as an already perfected image, that needed no change. He had tried to explain that to his brother, who had only laughed more and more as he had gotten older at the idea of a Prince from space who was so moved by our world.

Soon, he did not believe at all, and his bedtime story was relegated thus: to fantasy and delusion.

He leant back in his chair, and started at a noise.

The words came across the evening air like a silken whisper, warm and smiling and, in an instant, recognisable. It was his friend- the person who he had cradled in his arms and who, with that unique friendship, he had been made into a unique person in turn, better by far for it.

"Is that you, my friend?"

And though the Prince stood there in all his miniature glory, he could not see anything but the bright muffler, the one that he remembered from around the throat of the Prince, that had blown across the grass of his garden to land with an absolute perfection of timing in his hand.

The Prince, to him, was nothing more substantial than a shimmer of air, a fading voice, and a consuming melancholy like that of the dying summer.

He held that scrap of fabric against his mouth, and wept, for he had grown old.