Those Fairy Tales

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Across the Universe

Copyright: Beth Revis

"I know what you're thinking," Amy muttered, dropping her golden cross necklace down her tunic collar and avoiding Elder's eyes. "But there's no need to stare."

He had found her at the hatch, where she often went after a stressful day to absorb the quiet of the stars. What he hadn't expected was to see her holding the necklace in her hands, standing with her eyes closed, and moving her lips as if speaking to someone invisible.

"Sorry," he said, holding up his hands. "I, uh, didn't mean to embarrass you. It's just … were you praying?"

He couldn't help hearing Eldest's gravelly voice at the back of his mind during their Sol-Earth history lessons: Prayer, yes. That was what they called it when they begged their fictional characters for help, instead of fixing their own problems. Did you ever hear anything so ridiculous, boy? And they had laughed together, Elder imagining himself asking one of Victria's novel heroes to swoop in and deliver him from his lessons.

The memory almost made him smile, but he caught himself just in time. First, Eldest was gone and he had promised himself not to follow the old man's example; second, Amy would be angry; and third, the release hatch where Harley had died was no place for mockery.

"I was," Amy answered defiantly. "If you must know."

"Would you … like to explain?"

She cast him a suspicious look.

"You don't have to … I just like finding out the way you think. I really respect your opinions, Amy, you know that. So why does … this," gesturing to her necklace, "Mean so much to you?" Why would a smart girl like you believe in something that has never been proven to exist?

"If you laugh - "

"I won't."

"Okay … " She turned away from him to look through the transparent plastic of the hatch. "First off … what do you see?"

"The stars. Obviously."

"And how do you think they came to exist?"

Elder's mind went blank. "Evolution, I guess. After the Big Bang, things just … happened. I don't know."

"See? There are some things science can't explain. Like the universe itself, time and space … it's all so much bigger than us. And it all had to come from somewhere. Why not from God?"

"Can't argue about the uni," Elder agreed, letting that sense of wonder take hold of him for a moment as he stood next to her watching those millions of distant suns.

"But that still doesn't explain that thing you're wearing. I read the story in the Hall of Records – Jesus, right? The guy who got nailed to two sticks and left to die 'cause he said God was his father. Ow!" He grimaced and shook his head at the idea of such a brutal death.

He did not tell Amy – he had never told anyone – how much that story had haunted him at the time. How lonely it must be having a god for a father, or believing you did; the pressure must have been unbelievable. Worse than being raised by Eldest, even.

Glancing at Amy, he found that her cheeks were pink and her full lips pressed tight, as if the subject were making her uncomfortable.

"I know," she said. "It probably sounds ridiculous to you. But let me put it this way … Jesus was a leader. A good one. People listened to Him not because He intimidated them, but because they believed in what He was saying. He talked to them about compassion, forgiveness … he gave them hope for a better future. And He got such a following that the authorities, the Romans, had him executed out of fear that He'd lead a rebellion, even though spiritual leadership was all he was after. But his teachings survived anyway, for two thousand … wait," she frowned. "2450 years now."

"Which sounds brilly … but how d'you know he was real?"

She rolled her eyes. "How do we know anything is real from two millenia ago? Plenty of people wrote about him. I could just as well ask you how you know that Abraham Lincoln kicked all the blacks out of America?"

"Didn't he?"

"No! At least, I was taught that he abolished slavery so they could all live together."

"But neither of us can prove which one is true, so … what, we just keep on believing what fits into our worldview?"

"Basically, I guess." She shrugged.

"And you really believe this Jesus guy was the son of God and came back from the dead? To, to pay for our sins and stuff."

"Yes."

"Even though it's scientifically impossible."

"Yes."

"Frex, why?"

There was a long silence in which Amy placed her hand on the hatch window, contemplating her answer. Elder waited awkwardly with his hands in his pockets, wondering if he'd gone too far this time. Amy always put him off-balance; he loved that about her.

Finally she looked up at him with a steady serenity in her jade-green eyes he had rarely seen.

"Because I believe we're more than just our bodies," she said.

"How do you mean?"

She gestured toward the hatch. "When … when Harley flew out of there … when he died, that can't have been the end. His kindness, his sense of humor, his amazing talent … his soul must have survived. And I think he knew it would. He went to find Kayleigh. Why else would he have looked so happy in that painting? And my parents … it's the only way I'll ever see them again now … "

Her green eyes overflowed at that last sentence. Elder held out his arms without a word and she walked into them, her sunset hair falling over his shoulder. If this faith of hers was a delusion, it was obviously one that kept her sane.

"I still don't believe it, you know," he murmured into her hair. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not asking you to." She pulled away and looked up at him, tears still shining on her eyelashes. "Just don't call my beliefs a fairytale again."

"I promise. Never again." He held up his pinky finger, reminding her of other promises they'd made, but sealed his words with a gentle kiss instead.

"Whoa!" She blushed and smiled as they came up for air. "What was that for?"

"For our differences. They're beautiful."

She kissed him back, standing on tiptoe and winding her fingers through his wavy black hair.

"I'll take that as a compliment, Captain."