“I was looking for a rainbow,” the stranger said. “Don’t rainbows appear anymore, after it rains?”
“Not anymore,” Lonnie replied. “The sky’s been black as far as I remember it.”
“Ah well, that’s a shame.” The man shrugged. “They’re absolutely beautiful. All the colors in the world, condensed into one strip that arches across the sky.” He paused. “He doesn’t even give you rainbows anymore? What a bastard.”
“Who?” Lonnie asked, confused.
“Him.” The tall man pointed up at the sky. “Never mind. He’s not even there anymore, so why bother.”
“I don’t understand.”
“No one ever does.” The tall man shrugged again. “But it doesn’t matter. You’ll probably get to see rainbows pretty soon, if you’re good.”
“Really?” Lonnie turned to him. “Why’s that?”
“Because it’ll all be over soon. He’s finally getting to the end of the book. He’s given up, you see,” the stranger said as he ran a hand through his hair. “He doesn’t care anymore. The Day of Fulfillment is at hand. Any day now…any day now all of this will be over. There won’t be any more crops to infect. He’s reaping it all up this time, seeds and all.” The stranger held up the leather pouch tied to his belt. “And that’s why I’m here, to collect as many bad crops as I can before it’s all purged away for good.”
Lon was confused. “Are you saying that something bad’s gonna happen?”
The man looked down at him and smiled. “It depends. Maybe it isn’t all bad. Humanity has run its course. Its termination is only part of the Grand Cycle. And besides,” he sighed tiredly, “I’m exhausted. I’m ready to hand it all back. I didn’t want it, you know. I didn’t want any of this. He gave it to me after I was thrown out for asking a stupid question. I’m telling you…” the man shook his head. “That guy…”
Lon became even more confused, but he liked a story that he had to think about. “He threw you out for asking a stupid question?”
“Yeah,” the man answered. “What can I say. Things just didn’t make any sense at the time but…ah forget it. It’s all in the past. Ancient history.”
“History…” Lon suddenly said. “History is…stuff that’s happened in the past, right?”
“Right,” the stranger answered. “Everything that’s happened in the past.”
“I don’t…I don’t know much about the past.” Lon looked up. “Do you know anything about what happened in the past? What happened to us?”
“’Us’? As in, all you…people?” The stranger paused. “I…guess I do. I know enough, at least.” He paused again, then looked up at the sky. “But it doesn’t matter.”
The man reached out and placed a hand on Lonnie’s head, the large, soft hand working through the hardened clumps of hair. “You’ll find out, soon enough. You’ll get to see to see everything and how it all happened, how it all came to be. Everything from the beginning of all things to the end of all things.”
“Everything?” Lonnie asked, his voice a bit shaky.
“Everything. You get to see how everything happened. The only thing you won’t get to find out is why.”
“Because…because no one knows,” the stranger said softly. “No one knows why. He never told us anything.”
He removed his hand, then ran his other through his hair again. “Well, I suppose no point in wasting time waiting for something that’ll never appear. Plus there is always work to do.” He looked down at Lonnie. “I’ll probably never see you again, unless, of course, you want to come with me.”
“Where…where are you going?”
The tall man sighed. “I don’t know yet. There’s work to do everywhere now.”
“What’s beyond this?” Lonnie asked. “I’ve…I’ve never left this place. The Black Mountains are the farthest I’ve gone.”
“I’ll be going past that. Perhaps I’ll cross the ocean, see what’s left on that side, although it probably won’t be all that much different.” He looked down at Lonnie again. “Do you want to go with me? You have that choice”
“Will I see rainbows?” Lonnie asked.
“I doubt it. But I can try to make you one.” The tall man started flexing his right hand.
“I would like that. Make me a rainbow, then. After I see it I’ll go with you.”
“If you leave with me, you’re not coming back,” the tall man said gently.
He reached towards the stranger’s hand, but the tall man simply took a step back and opened the pouch in his hand. A green light spilled forth, bright but not blinding. Lonnie stared on in wonder.