Love In Liminality
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Midnight in Level 11 was truly a sight to behold. The atmosphere of the city's lit-up streets was enchanted, serene; untouched by the everyday noise which plagued most cities in The Frontrooms. Various shops displayed their wares in illuminated windows, and restaurants maintained by local facelings bustled with activity, unhindered by the lateness of the night. Wanderers laughed and conversed at the tables outside these establishments, as a small handful of children ran freely in the streets, playing innocent games between them like they would've in their previous home. Truly, human life always finds ways to sparkle, even in desolate lands as unmerciful as The Backrooms.

Clark walked through one of the streets — he recalled that it was dubbed "Bierre's avenue", after the late M.E.G. researcher Evanfi Bierre — to his apartment complex. As much as he usually enjoyed spending his nights with the other jolly residents of the endless city, tonight was a night reserved for something much, much, much more special than a simple night out with friends.

It had been eighteen days since he'd last been home. Being stationed at a semi-industrial zone by his higher-ups at the B.N.T.G was not a fun thing. He'd been assigned a week originally, where he had to mine up some raw metals for trading and supplying purposes. Then, they decided to prolong it even further, asking him to help in the transportation as well, which took another week on its own. Getting back home from the level itself also took another four days, as an accident in locating the exit to Level 11 left the group stranded in the cave they had to travel through to get there. He assumed that he looked much more like a shaggy dog in a uniform than a human at that point. He ate like one too when they were finally rescued from underground by the M.E.G's rescue squads.

During his work trip, his only solace was his girlfriend, Anja; the ray of light that darkened the grey reality he'd been in for so long. He was pretty certain that he'd have lost it by the end of the trip if she hadn't kept him company via calls wherever he went (including the caves, which surprisingly still had a stable connection in them).

His workload made him miss their fourth anniversary, which was now three days past. They'd been planning to go to the diner where they'd met three years ago, but the trip came at just the worst possible time to spoil their fun. He'd have to talk to his supervisor about being more considerate of his life next time.

He had to thank his lucky stars, however; the ever-so optimistic Anja had been sympathetic with him. Whilst they couldn't reserve another space at the diner, she'd managed to think of something else that they would do together to celebrate the occasion. She hadn't revealed her plans to him yet — All she had asked of him was to meet her at the top of their apartment complex's roof. She really did like to surprise him.

Clark truly appreciated her. She was everything to him, an effigy of all the qualities that made a person loveable. Joyous, clever, full of life, caring, and most importantly of all, dedicated. Her smiles sweet as chocolate, laughs as delicate as spring's first primrose, glimmers in her eyes as she looks into his, twinkling like zircon crystals. She made the lonesome days in The Backrooms feel as if they were dioramas of a better world whenever he was with her.

In his lovesick thoughts, he didn't realize that he was walking straight into someone. They bumped into each other, and the man, an old geezer with a whitening beard, stared at him with a scowl on his face.

"Watch where you're going, kid!"

"Sorry!" Clark replied as the man walked off, mumbling to himself.

He collected himself as he looked around for the street which he had to go through. Turning around, Clark found that he stood in front of a corner store. In the display windows, he saw that they had a mass array of vividly coloured flowers of each shape, make, and form. An idea suddenly popped into his head, and not long after, he was walking into the store with a clear goal in mind.

Minutes later, he was travelling down Level 11's main street with a bouquet of poppies in his hand — Anja's favourite. The giant skyscraper that was Base Beta loomed over the street, observable from all areas in the city. Clark quite enjoyed its presence, as the M.E.G. researchers who resided in it tried their best to have it be more than just a base of operations. On this particular night, they'd adorned it with a multitude of green and blue lights, which albeit odd, were a welcome boost to the morale of the people.

Clark diverted his attention from the base so he wouldn't get distracted like he had been earlier. He began making his way down the side street which he lived in, walking up to the door to the complex, which lay in between two rival clothes stores. He took out the key to the complex, put the key into the lo-

"Damnit!" He hissed to himself as he dropped the key. Clumsy as usual, he thought as he bent down to find it.

Clark picked it up from the ground with his free hand, and brought it back up to the lock, turning it open and emitting a muffled click. He pushed the door forward with his elbow, as he walked into the main lobby of the complex; a small room with a handful of post boxes on the wall and a desk near one of the corners. Occupying the seat next to the desk was an elderly woman with long, salt-and-pepper hair. She sat slumped over the chair, snoring particularly loudly as she dozed off into the realm of dreams.

Clark cautiously tiptoed across the room, careful not to wake up the sleeping dame from her slumber. As he made his way to the end of the room, however, he heard murmurs coming from behind him, and a meek, gravelly voice calling out his name.

"Clark, dear? Is that you?" She said, somewhat sleepily.

"Yes Miss Browne," he replied, his voice hushed. "Sorry for waking you up at this time, I-"

"No worries, dearie," she interrupted, picking up her rimless glasses from the desk, and clumsily putting them on her eyes. "If anything, it's a blessing that you woke me up; I've got quite a bit of work to attend to, which I'd hate to be late on. My sleeping habits ought to get to me some day, you see-"

"I hate to interrupt, Miss Browne," he began, "but I have something I need to do tonight which I am not to miss whatsoever."

Browne looked at him, nodding gently at his statement with a warm, sincere smile. "Yes, yes, I'm aware of it; Anja has told me about it already. Go now, I won't let me hold you back anymore. Enjoy the night, dear."

Clark felt his heart flutter at the mention of his lover's name. "Thanks Miss Browne, I will," he said as he made his way up the stairwell.

He hadn't gotten past the first five steps before he heard the drowsy landlady snore in her sleep once more.


Another turn of the lock could be heard in Clark's apartment as he turned a key in a keyhole for the second time tonight. He flicked a switch, turning on the lights of the apartment, and walked into the living room. Clark put the bouquet of flowers he'd been holding in his hands for so long onto the miniscule coffee table, which sat in front of the sofa.

Whilst unpacking his things and taking off some of his gear, Clark took a mental note to never take his home for granted ever again. He sat down for a moment and took a breather, exhausted from the events that had transpired during the past week. Clark thought of what one of his friends, Arthur, always said… no, hold on, it wasn't Arthur. Arthur always talked about pissing his pants. Was it Jamie? Fred? The memory was on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't quite remember. He couldn't quite recall what quote he was thinking of in the first place.

Fighting off the desire to just stay there for the rest of the night, Clark went to his bathroom and took a quick shower. He brushed his teeth, styled his shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair, and polished his glasses. Clark stared at the mirror a few more times to ensure that he looked presentable enough for the girl of his dreams, eyeing different parts of himself intently as to not miss a single imperfection. Once that was done, he exited the bathroom and headed over to his bedroom, where he was to dress himself up for the night.

Clark opened the door to his chamber and was hit by a faint, but fragrant. smell of perfume. Odd, to say the least, considering he didn't even own any perfume. Ignoring it, he threw open the doors of his wardrobe and began picking out his outfit for the night.

Clark picked out a mustard-coloured turtleneck first, as well as his favourite pair of acid-washed denim jeans. Choosing his silver hoop earrings out of his extensive collection, and putting them on his ears, he traded in the pair of glasses he was wearing currently with his trusty pair of contacts. Lastly, Clark took out the brown bomber jacket that Anja had gotten him for his birthday, which was both his and her favourite article of clothing that he owned. He put it on proudly, zipped it up, and prepared to leave the room.

Just as he was about to leave, he realized he'd forgotten to bring his shoes with him. Bending down on his knees, Clark rummaged under his bed for the old moccasins he'd brought with him from The Frontrooms — a testament to how little he'd grown since he was sixteen — when he saw something on his bed which he'd missed earlier; a pink, perfumed note from, signed at the bottom with a smooch laced with candy apple red lipstick.

He grabbed the note and came to the realization that the handwriting was undeniably Anja's. Hands trembling, he read it out loud to himself.


To my dear Clark,

Despite the fact that we are set to meet tonight, I can hardly contain the excitement I feel brimming within me, so I have decided to write it all on a note for you to read. Think of it as a means for me to tell you how much I love you without fumbling on my words.

Many years have passed since we have gotten to know each other, several days of pure bliss I wouldn't have traded for anything else in the world. Every moment I have spent with you is a testament to all the good in the world, which I've come to believe in solely thanks to your love.

In my darkest moments, you were there to support me. When I tried to tear myself to bits and pieces, you were there to piece me together anew and shower me with affection to heal the wounds I'd garnered over the years.

No man has ever spoken words to me softer and with as much care as you have, my love. When I am with you, I feel as if I am in a layer further beyond The Backrooms itself, a layer worthy of the title of the seventh heaven.

As cheesy as my expression of love may be (or rather, is. There's no denying it), know that every word I have jotted down on this paper has been written with nothing but adoration and love plastered all over it. Every character you see on this page was made with you on my mind, imbued with the essence of my dreams for our future together.

To put it simply and eloquently; I love you, and I will always love you: From the deepest pits of the subterranean caverns, to the furthest reaches of the Duchy of Morigont, to the most desolate and isolated islands of the Coconut Isles, and back, several times over.

I await you at the top of the complex, just like we had planned we would. I hope that this night will forevermore hold a special place in the deepest chambers of our hearts and that it will remain a fond memory we will look to in the future for solace in our hardening times.

Yours, for as long as fate permits me to be,
Anja.

He read over the letter, one, two, three more times in quick succession. He took in the flowery scents she had slathered the letter in, imagining her sitting next to him, looking at him with her ever-so mesmerizing face, which he could look at for hours on end without feeling compelled to look away in the slightest.

Clark held the note onto his chest, feeling his heart beat with the ferocity of a hummingbird's wings. It was funny how much of a sucker for her he'd become. Her voice could make the hair on his back stand on end with simple whispers, the mere mention of her name would make his heart do double flips. Truly, it was like magic.

More excited than ever, he put on a pair of socks — not exactly caring which pair; it was probably a mix and match at this point — and put on his shoes. He took one last detour to the bathroom and glanced into the mirror. Clark breathed in and out, calming himself down, and smiled at the mirror one last time before exiting the room.

Clark grabbed the bouquet of poppies, took one last glance at the apartment, and opened the door. Looking back on that day, he could not recall running as fast as he did on that night.


The door to the rooftop was thrown open, slamming into the nearby wall with a loud thud. The girl who stood looking down at the streets near the edge of the building top looked back at the noise, a startled expression on her pretty face at first glance. It immediately turned into a warm, ear-to-ear smile as soon as she saw her lover walk through the doorway.

Not a single word was uttered between them as they ran towards their respective soulmate, ending in each other's arms, locked in a warm, tender embrace. They separated after what felt like ages together, and they looked into each other's eyes, each one of them grinning at the other with lovesick glee.

Clark could not help but get lost in Anja's amber doe-eyes. Gold flecks dotted the rims of her irises like honey, painting her eyes with an ethereal, warm look that could melt him like butter with a mere glance. Her face, pale as snow and beautifully delicate, was entirely dotted with equally pale freckles. Her full lips quivered with excitement, covered in a bright red lipstick that gleamed in the moonlight with the same intensity of her silver labret piercing. Anja's heavy bangs covered her forehead entirely, and her knee-long raven black hair was done up in braids in the way Clark liked it. She wore the black, sleeveless dress that she had bought a few months back when the wanderers in 11 thought it was a bold fashion statement. Most of them had grown out of the fad, but she insisted on wearing the dress, and she wore it quite splendidly.

The only word he thought befitting of the girl in front of him was stunning. Completely and undeniably jaw-dropping in every way conceivable. In crowds of people of all shapes and sizes, of all creeds and origins, she was the one who stood out from the rest in a shining aura of metaphorical radiance.

She giggled at him, bringing her left hand up to his cheek.

"You need not stare at me like that Clark, it's not like you haven't seen me a couple hundred times already," she said, her voice as smooth as linen. "I'm quite flattered that you think I'm beautiful. I've put… well, 'some' would be an understatement. I've put quite a lot of thought into being as glamorous as I could, just for you."

Clark snapped out of his staring, laughing heartily with her. "It truly shows, dear. I couldn't think of anyone else in the world who makes the butterflies in my stomach lurch forth as much as you do."

"Then my purpose is complete. You know I live for you, right honey?" She said as she hugged him once more, looking straight up at him.

He nodded. "Of course I do. Every day I wake up with you as my purpose as well, a feeling which I hold no doubt is mutual."

She closed her eyes, squeezing him a bit tighter. "I love you, Clark," She said softly.

"I love you too, Anja," He said, returning the tone of his words in the same manner as she did.

They hugged for a few more minutes, feeling each other's heartbeats as they stood there as one unified body, surveying the skyline of their home. They detached from each other, still giddy from the affection they'd shown to each other and been shown.

Suddenly, her face lit up as if she had just remembered something. "Ah! I forgot; I told you I had a surprise for you!"

Anja dashed as best as she could to the opposite end of the roof, turning on a small cassette player which Clark had not noticed up until now. He immediately recognised the song that was playing as Anja grinned mischievously at him from far away.

"Virtual insanity…" he muttered as she beckoned him to sit down next to her on a pile of laden towels and pillows. "This was the song we danced to when we met for the first time."

"It's a wonder men can eat at all
When things are big that should be small"

"Hey hey, you remember!" She beamed. "I wouldn't have thought that a guy like you would've been able to actually do that."

He glanced quizzically at her. "What exactly are you insinuating?"

"That you're a clumsy dork. Dork,"

"Hey, credit where credit is due, I wouldn't forget something that had anything to do with you!" He said, jokingly dismayed.

"I suppose so," she concurred, chuckling.

"And now that things are changing for the worse
See, it's a crazy world we're living in"

"I've compiled a bit of an extensive record of songs we've shared memories to for us to enjoy tonight. We're going to dance the night away baby…"

She looked out at the other buildings before looking back at him once more, putting her hand into his. It was soft, a bit pudgy and smooth, quite akin to that of a younger child. "Oh, I meant to ask earlier; have you received my note?" She asked him.

"Of course, it's coloured a bright shade of pink, how could I miss it?"

"True, true; you are correct there dear."

He shifted his position to look at her more comfortably. "I have a question for you now, if you wouldn't mind," he said. "Why were you so nervous to tell me your feelings up close and personal? You were quite able to do so now, is that true?"

"You'd be surprised how hard it is to name positive things about you. Not cause you have no positive qualities, mind you, but because I know not where to begin with the positive ones you do." she replied, leaning slightly closer to him. "Truth be told; even I'm slightly dumbfounded at the fact that I was able to say most of what I did tonight without stuttering or faltering."

"So it's just you being the loveable girl that you always have been, is it not?" He replied, leaning in closer to her as well, as she rested her head on his shoulder.

"Undeniably so, I suppose…"

She looked away from him and back at the skyline, which Clark responded to with a small peck on her cheek. She visibly blushed at this sentiment.

"Cos I just, I just can't keep going on, it was virtual
Virtual insanity that we're livin' in, that we're livin' in
That virtual insanity is what it is"

The song began to come to a close, as another song came up. It was one which Clark had fond memories of, more specifically, the first song which was played on their very first date at the diner they'd eaten at. The same diner where they were supposed to celebrate their anniversary, actually.

"Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a-Jupiter and Mars"

"Hey, come on, let's dance to this!" He said, pulling at her forearm to get her up from her position.

"Gah, bad timing. This dress is not the most forgiving with its movements." she said nervously.

"Hey, you told me we'd dance the night away together. Don't back out on me now!"

She breathed in sharply. "A promise is a promise then. Please be gentle with me, I don't wanna have to throw this dress away. I quite like it!"

"Yes ma'am!" He said with a mocking salute. "Operation save the dress is a go!"

He grabbed her from her waist with one hand and put his other into her own hand. They waltzed across the rooftop in each other's arms, losing themselves in each other's eyes. Despite her warning, Clark still twirled and threw her every now and then, which made the girl yelp or squeal cutely each time he did it. Previously apprehensive of the thought, she continued to dance with him with newfound vigor, opting simply to be more wary of his tricks when he did them.

"In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you"

The lovers halted their dance as they looked out towards the skyline near the edge of the rooftop as they put their hands on the railing. Clark and Anja watched the lights of Base Beta, which were now coloured yellow and purple, with child-like bewilderment. They took each other's hands, as the instrumental to Sinatra's Fly Me to the Moon played.

"Have you ever thought about the circumstances that led to us meeting, Clark dear?"

Clark diverted his attention from the tower to her. "What do you mean?"

She looked aimlessly at a twig she was rolling around in her hands. "We got thrown into a world made of old memories and corrupted dreams by accident, fought our way through hell and back to get to the city and barely survived the journey — mostly speaking for myself there — and just so happened to bump into each other here, in a city that's presumably infinite and stretches out to the ends of reality." She brought her right hand up to his smooth hair and began to brush her fingertips through it. "Does it not seem highly implausible under normal circumstances?"

"In a way, does that not show you it was meant to be?" He replied, a wry smile on his mouth. "Fates have collided by a sliver of a chance, and we're now living together in an impossibility of our reality. We've met now, and we are having the time of our life together, despite what is offered to us. I don't see why we should ponder these questions in the first place, really. We're happy together, and we will be happy together for quite a while now if — as you so eloquently said it — fate permits us to be. Let's enjoy ourselves tonight."

She moved slowly up to him, and wrapped her arms around his neck in one big embrace. "Perhaps you're right," she said, another one of her dazzling smiles igniting on her face. "Let's just live in the moment, me and you. Together."

"Together." He replied firmly and enthusiastically.

"In other words, please be true
In other words
In other words"

And as the lyrics neared the end, the last melodies of the piano seconds away from being played, he looked into Anja's eyes once more, mere inches from her face, as he whispered to her the final lyrics of the song.

"I love you."

And the lovers kissed, filling the night with love that would truly last forevermore. No one there on that day could consider themselves as happy as they were, enjoying the simple things that The Backrooms had to offer to them.


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