Lost in a lucid dream, she stirs, unaware of the sleep she sleeps. The darkness beyond the mirror swirls in anticipation.
Outside, trees rustle a surprise, raining dying leaves upon the frozen ground as if desperate to please. Never has a season died so beautiful a death. But this is always her season; life never moves on.
The girl imagines sitting by her window and watching the snow. She loves snowflakes, how they taste the ground. Yet, she knows it a mirror and not a window at all, and still, she sleeps.
The alarm clock makes a mess of the morning, drowning out the blackbirds and scaring away the crows. A fire engine charges off to douse angry flames. A police car wails its siren song; attentive thieves stop to listen, whilst I carry on dreaming by design.
I hold the cosseting darkness close, bathe in its obsidian cool, feel it course through my veins as liquid night. There are no stars, no moon, no higher angels here, just an ever-stretching moment sandwiched between last and next. I squeeze my eyes tight as a shrink-wrapped shroud, but the reason for this preservation slips away.
There are still brief moments of lucidity where golden dawns merge to cerulean days and the nights are nothing but places to lay one’s head. They are rare, flashes of a past once lived, and most days I turn my back to them. But not today. Today is special. It’s the day I wait for every week.
I dress in my Sunday best even though it’s a Thursday. The weightless white lilies lay across my outstretched arms like a tightrope walker’s pole, offering a balance I should otherwise lack. In this fashion, foot before foot, I make my way there.
The deserted cemetery mires in a morose nod to the forgotten. How I wish it would laugh and sing, awaken.
I follow the well-worn path through these winding monuments to other people’s memories in search of one of my own. It is the last stone of the last row of an extension abutting a hedge. Ready for a quick getaway, I tell myself.
A quick glance and I lay my flowers and leave, passing the same woman who tends her mother’s grave every Thursday. We often smile, nod even, but today she offers some words.
“Back again,” she says. It is not a question.
I nod, unwilling to risk more.
“A family member?”
She pauses as if to say more might offend me, but her desperation for contact wins over. “A parent?”
She looks aghast as I shake my head.
I repeat the gesture and make to move away, my cheeks reddening.
I am already weeping when I turn to say, “Me.”
My eyes rest most mornings, my heart too. I have never loved and never grieved. Some might claim me dead to the world, and the world dead to me. I lay flowers at a grave I have paid for in advance, near a woman who does not know my name. One day, I shall lay there as I have practiced here. One day, she shall do the same.
I pretend to sleep until the day takes over, testing myself against an overly loud alarm and a window open to the world. This is my ritual, my darkening of the mind. I block out all that would disturb me and ponder the woman in the cemetery, she who the flowers are truly for. It is a meditation of sorts. I dream by design in the hope I’ll be ready when we meet on equal terms. For ghosts may pass and smile and chat, but only in death be together forever.
I am absolutely delighted to be included in my favourite magazine once again. I’m a luck boy with how many places I’ve been published, but there’s something about Noctivagant that stirs the soul. Always beautifully presented, and full of top quality work, I cannot recommend reading it enough. Now available to view on Noctivagant Press’ website and soon to be released as a book, I hope you can take some time out of your busy schedules to enjoy some good old fantastical reads.
This season’s topic was dark romance, and my own story, ‘To Indigo Lost‘ is about as dark as they come. Please do enjoy.
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