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Once upon a time. No. Thousands of times upon a time? A woman walked the longest beach on earth. The wind was cool and breezy and she felt like she was taking a nice bath. Her hair blew from her face and she felt clear as her feet dug beneath the warm sand like socks.
She considered the grains of sand and remembered that expression about hell having more minutes than grains of sand on earth. It frightened her because the shear size of this beach would be hell a million times over. Still though, something about the seemingly infinite length comforted her overworked thoughts. Just a second, she is alone! She hadn't noticed before but she has now and became very aware of this. She hadn't been alone in so long! It felt so peaceful to be so far from the world.
Then there came a large, booming cry. It sounded like the universe expanding. She ran towards a rock on the cusp of the water and sand that felt large enough to eclipse the sun. Behind it she saw a monster that probably could have done the same. He had long strong arms covered in hair. His body was that of a monkey but with a head more like a ball than the oval shape she recognized in people. His size was like a tower that she had to strain to look up at.
Suddenly he took notice and at first he seemed afraid but he quickly grew sad and cried. She felt her heart break for him and walked closer.
"Why are you in so much pain?" She said gently but cautiously.
"Sickness" he whimpered, while clutching his stomach.
"Did you eat something bad?" Wondering what his diet even consisted of, let alone the amount to satiate him.
"No, born sick." he cried in deep anguish.
She approached him and touched the fur of his leg. He was so soft! He felt so clean too. She observed him more and realized he looked so gentle once you got closer. From afar he seemed so scary and like at any moment he could rip you from the ground and throw you into space forever. His vulnerability let her see that he wasn't much different than her. She understood because she had escaped to this beach for the same reasons. She felt very much in pain.
She hugged his leg and said she was sorry he hurt so much. The monster grew quiet and attentive while she soothed him.
"It's going to be ok. Sometimes you get used to it. Are you always in pain?"
He shook his head no.
"See? There will be a time when it ends. It could come back though! But that's ok because when it comes back, it will end again. And look at you! You are amazing! I only feel as big as you are! No pain in the world could stop something so amazing like you!"
The monster stopped crying. He felt warmed by this tiny woman and her tiny words.
"See! It ended! Now go do something great before it comes back! I don't know about you but we humans don't live very long. We have to do something great before our time is up!"
Thinking about that she realized she too had removed herself from the world, if only briefly, and should be getting back to it.
"I have to go now," she said warmly, "I also forgot that pain is temporary. Feel better! Don't forget what I said!"
She walked away having comforted herself. She meant what she had said and she knew she couldn't avoid pain anymore. She just had to live with it. Even if it meant going back to her under-stimulated job and untrustworthy friends. What she didn't know was what she had stirred in the monster.
The woman worked day and night cleaning the laundry of her village. It wasn't exciting but it was necessity. She felt important some days when she thought about all the children of the village playing in their fresh clothes, sleeping in their clean and soft pajamas, but most days she felt nothing.
One day there was a loud boom. Then another. And another. There were screams and shrieks coming from every direction. She dropped the pants she held and looked around at the mud huts and dirt that surrounded her. People running away. What was happening?
Then she saw him, he was happy. He came running full speed towards the village with a smile the size of a tree. He ran right for her and before she could fathom what was happening, he swept her up with his hand and clutched her tight to his chest.
"Love!" He yelled across the world.
"Love?" she screamed in confusion. What had she done? Love! How could she have confused him so much?
He skipped through the dirt and the grass towards the waters edge. There, he jumped into ocean and they both went further and deeper out. He broke down beneath the surface but still held her tight. She couldn't breathe and it felt like forever until she finally could.
They breached the surface and when she opened her eyes, which had been shut and locked with fear, she saw that they were in a cave now. She would have thought of it as beautiful if she weren't so cold and terrified.
The monster put her on a rock and began gathering wood for a fire. 'Is he going to eat me?' she thought. She knew he wasn't but she couldn't help it.
"Why do you have me here?" She asked after awhile of watching.
"Love." he said calmly.
She believed him, he had conviction.
"Love? How could you love me? Our meeting was so short and insignificant compared to our whole lives. What about me could you love?"
"Saved me. Sickness." he said with excitement.
"I saved you? I don't even know what was wrong with you! I saw you in pain and I guess my instincts told me I had to do something. You can't be in love with every person who wants to help you. Help yourself!"
The monster sunk down.
"Saved me. Happy." He said pleading.
"I am glad I made you happy, but I can't all the time." She stood up and approached the water in the cave where they had emerged from.
"Please, please let me go. Please take me home and back to the beach and back to my own pain. As much as I would like to be away with you forever, I can't. You can't either."
"Please," the monster whimpered, almost as if he had just learned it from her but somehow understood, "please."
"No. I'm sorry." she felt her heart breaking for him.
He stood slowly and shook his head in passive understanding. He grabbed her just as tight as before and clutched her to his chest. He released a soft cry of despair and jumped into the water. When they reached the surface he swam to the shore slowly, trying to savor the moment. He took her behind the rock where they first met.
"Alright," she said, suddenly realizing she had chosen her boring life. She regretted it. "I guess this is it."
She looked at him and he looked so soft and clean. He didn't look boring. He sunk down into the sand like a stain. Maybe she had made the wrong decision. She couldn't change her mind now though. So she turned and walked away to the sounds of his whimpers, and she heard him say quietly to himself, "Sickness".
Miles and miles away. Almost as if the beach never ended, there was another woman who heard loud booming cries of sickness. She approached another large crying monster.
"Why are you in so much pain?"