They differ to us substantially. The most apparent of these is their appearance. We stand upon two legs, make our way through a tactile world with two hands and regard our universe through two eyes. In a more direct description, we are paired. This pairing navigates beyond the physical into the realms of belief. We believe we should live our lives in pairs, couples, if you will, so we do. We are a species who thrive in the plural. A species must thrive if it wishes to endure.
They exist in the singular, derived from a singular entity, one that split to spawn many. Wherever possible, they refrain from interaction and keep to themselves. They live alone, talk alone and enjoy doing so. Physically, we are comparable, but they do not see it this way. They look through two eyes, but act as though looking through none. They have two legs, but refuse to use them unless necessary. Their paired arms and hands have become so conjoined with technology, they have become indistinguishable from the greater whole.
Their name? They have many names and many subsets. They dislike being classified as many and prefer singular — as is their way — identification. My colleagues term them vermin, but the correct and almost forgotten genus is human. They are a strange lot, yet as a scientist, I find them intriguing. Though at their present rate, I suspect I shall not for much longer.
An evening routine, this is my way. Routine differentiates me from the billions of other night-dwellers who huddle beneath their covers like frightened rabbits, shuddering themselves to sleep, whilst praying for tomorrow. Only through sleep will they welcome the light. They crave it more than food or water. More than love. I need only my routine. This will never change. Until…
I prefer a stark December cold to the false warmth of early May, or the stifling nights of mid-July. You may think me picky, but a perfectionist would be nearer the truth. Optimal conditions help me find my peace, for only in peace will she find me. Or I, her? I forget which? My mind is not what it was.
My bedroom is tiny. There’s room enough for a bed and a small cupboard. This otherwise empty space serves as a reminder of the life I have left behind. Here, I interact, hoping beyond hope that all is right. Nothing more. Worrying achieves nothing in the hours before dawn.
I wonder what it’s like to dream the partial realities of a normal person. Dreaming is a prerequisite of being, and I am a being, even when not being. If you catch my drift? Does it make me a non-person if I hang in the shade like a panting shadow, loiter at the corners of dusk? I hope not, as it intimates insecurity, and I am far from insecure. Mine is an endless dream where this infusion called life is nothing but the pricking of a syringe. I am past this. I am past normality.
There’s a confused robin who sings all night. The streetlights fool the little creature into believing the sun never sets. He trills his little heart out anticipating finding a mate to constant disappointment. I know how he feels. I wonder if he pities me as I pity him. Still, he has his routine: eat; perch; trill. He’s relentless. When the hovering kestrel realises the robin there, this may change. Not until then, though, and neither will I.
I feel this evening, this section of dream I flourish in, will be the one. I feel it with every creaking bone and pulled muscle. Age will do this to a man. Time has a lot to answer for. Regardless, I sit on the end of my bed in this room for a cage, hands clasped together in prayer, and wait. I’m always waiting.
Am I sleeping, or awake? Does it matter? The curtains flutter, as does my heart. Reality changes. Her whispers brush my ears like December snowflakes. I hear her above the blood surging through my arteries. I hear her in all her undiluted loveliness. She is here, in this room, blooming like a rose through a glacier. Her eyes melt my soul. They always did. For the first time since forever, I smile.
When this dream called life is replaced by another, my darling is there to hold my hand. She says my little bird has come for me, as she’s wished to every evening before I dream. “Is this night?” I ask. Her lips say no.
Only in eternal beauty does one find release.
The first sign came in the form of migrating crows. Not in the least bit odd, apart from the fact they don’t. They poured from the fields like a great Black Plague, out over the basalt cliffs and away.
The second sign was subtle: A grasshopper dead in the snow.
The third sign was less so. An earthquake hit the city, shaking every brick from its neighbour and every bottle from the fridge. I lost my milk in the event, which annoyed me greatly.
The fourth sign was as easy as breathing. The wind changed colour from nothing to lots. Crimson particles filled the air.
Sign five was my personal favourite. A dove flew over and sat upon my shoulder. There, the creature cooed for all it was worth, until I stroked its head. This seemed to settle my avian friend. Perhaps the crows sensed this.
Sign six, the final one, was given a name: The Return. The crows streamed back over the ocean like a black fog. They coagulated, poured down like an open vein, ignoring everybody except one, me. They pecked and cawed, scratched with sharpened talons, refused to stop. It woke me from my slumber, that which all else had not.
I awoke from my dream to the dove at my feet and a snowing of black feathers. I looked from one to the other and wept, for I was no longer bound by disdain. The wind, having returned to clarity, only emphasised my own crimson nature. The steadiness of the earth only served to highlight my volatile self. Mephistopheles had returned from his sojourn, and thanks to the six signs sent by my father, Death, would make sure the world knew. Well, everyone has to have something to do.
The roses bloomed like cosmic supernovas in vermillion, emerald, and sapphire blue, bursting across the meadows in unadulterated expressions of joy. Insects roamed amongst these fountains of colour as if seeking rainbow drownings. The world exuded everything and more.
There were many such wonders in this scene, aquifers of liquid gold, silver raindrops falling from mercury clouds, birds to make a phoenix seem dim, ants so polite as to have just graduated from ant finishing school, but it was a falsehood. Why? This world had never seen the sun.
The moon blazed a molten silver, did its best to provide life with an excuse to live. But moonbeams don’t nurture and stars can’t shine in the day. I closed my eyes and wished.
I woke to a tungsten sky and brick walls. The city. My city. Home. Gone were the fabulous moments, lost were those most stunning views. The dream was over before it had even begun.
I had many such dreams over too few hours, as though God himself wished me to see all the possibilities I’d shunned. But the Devil desires what man has, and so this was my lot. Reality stunk, but it was my reality. Or was it theirs? I supposed only He truly knew.
Her ears were bigger than her head. She wasn’t ugly, though, far from it. Her enormous, round eyes, accentuated by whiplash lashes most women would’ve killed for, drew you to her and held your view.
There were years in those eyes, generations of wisdom. They deflected from her abnormal feet and rough skin. The latter was an eyesore, as if she’d never exfoliated or moisturised. As for her nose, well… better left unsaid.
I loved Nellie more than words. I looked forward to seeing her, even if it was an annual event. Every kid did. The circus was a treat.
The closest we came to forever was the moment in which we gave up. Our breaths held and never really returned. The moment drew out to seconds, to hours, to more. Your eyes dimmed like exhausted candles. Mine were already black.
The closest we came to forgiveness was that moment we met at the wake. Dressed in black from head to toe, I barely recognised you. I said Hello and you almost said it back.
The closest we came to something was that moment when we both said, I do. I remember how it felt, not how it sounded, as those three tiny letters sunk beneath my skin and slipped off your well-oiled own.
The closest we came was closer than most but never close enough for me.
I dream of a darkness I’ll never escape. I dream of a life where there’s light. This nothingness clings like an obsidian straightjacket. It stifles me. I can barely breathe.
She appears as a comet, all flashing, dashing silver. The night peels apart before her, whereas I stand my ground. I am no hero. There’s no other choice. It’s what I always do.
She strikes like a velvet glove. The softest sparks fly. Traces of her flutter before my eyes, instants in time, forgotten memories. I taste her like blood licked from a wound. Hear her heartbeat pounding in the void. We are together again, albeit briefly.
I die each evening when sleep comes a calling, such bittersweet departures as to drown arid hearts. And I wonder: Are we both dead, or just me?
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