I woke up against a tree. That’s the first thing I remember. Opening my eyes only greeted me with blurry brightness, and after a minute of blind searching did I find my glasses. The clarity they granted was only offset by the smeared crimson of dry blood on the lenses. However, I was useless without them, blood or no, so they remained. Standing was a chore requiring all my strength, taking care not to add to my pounding headache. Once I was steady, I was finally in a state to take in my surroundings. Luckily, I recognized them easily: I was in a grove I had often chosen as a place to read or study in the past. The grounds and the house belonged to Rietta, but I had been to them on many occasions during my time of knowing her. In fact, amongst our little group - Rietta, Cordelia, Anthony and I - Cordelia was the only one entirely new to it. I could see none of them from where I was.
After a bit of light stretching to ease my abused muscles from sleeping on the ground, I set off to find the others. Knowing the grounds well, I was free to let my mind wander to the events of the last night. It was intended as merely a wine-fueled celebration for the four of us, Cordelia in particular. A night of living in our own world, moving in circles only we could understand. We had all understood that about each other, our difference from the crowds of people who swarmed the university campus.
The blood on my glasses, clouding my vision with a haze of red, was the least of my worries at this moment, as I became uncomfortably aware of the dry roughness of my hands. Looking down, I could see blood caking my them, running up to my forearms. My clothing was similarly covered, likely ruining one of my better suits - the dull rust clashed with the dark blue of my waistcoat and jacket in a way that was undeniably evident in the morning light, and dark stain on my white shirt was impossible to ignore. I couldn’t muster up much ability to care.
The others had looked proud and imposing that night; Anthony wore a simple but nevertheless charming white shirt with a rounded Eton collar, Cordelia with a more formal blouse but still wearing her leather jacket and aviators, and Rietta with a practical dress that nevertheless suited her commanding air. I wondered if their clothes were as ruined as mine. In short time I had made my way across the glade and up to the back of the house. From the open expanse where I had been, the house was imposing, standing tall against the blue summer sky. I think I could have stood in that field for a hundred years and the view would not have changed.
I knew the inside decently well, and so after I entered the great room from the back entrance, I made my way along the walls of the house. The halls were numerous and I knew I could not walk through all of them, so I called out to the others as I moved from room to room. No response. Thinking about the most likely rooms for coming across the others, I walked to the dining room, passing countless paintings of likely dead relatives of Rietta and bucolic sights around the house’s grounds. The dining room was a fair-sized walk from where I had been, so I was free to try and come to a conclusion about the events of the night before.
My shoes made barely a sound on the long-worn floor as I was transported to the scene of early last night, with the four of us dancing our way into the ballroom - measured and controlled - me with Cordelia, Rietta with Anthony. Soon after, we switched, and then some time after, switched again. Cordelia was odd but nevertheless pleasant dancing partner, possessing an amount of skill and experience that even I could see, and her abrasive yet endearing nature had me chuckling quietly while I listened to wherever her train of thought led her. It was, predictably, filled with multiple instances of words I wouldn’t repeat in polite company, but if I was the type to be offended by such, I wouldn’t have been her friend in the first place.
Comparatively, Anthony was quiet, content to let me talk of my own accord and only speaking to ask questions about whatever I had been talking about. Occasionally, he would lead our dance off into some unexpected direction and I would be caught speechless for a moment as I tried to keep up. My dance with Rietta, however, was the most enjoyable of the three. She asked questions, but always seemingly with a specific angle, compared to Anthony’s wandering line of questioning that left me with countless thoughts in response. As she led me around the room, our movement seemed to mirror up with our conversation, creating an interwoven dance of bodies and words that I could recognize on some level as we spun around the room and interrogated each other.
The dining room held no-one inside, but it was visibly altered from how I remembered it. The chairs were scattered along the room, a few tipped over. The dining cloth lay askew on the table, a good portion of it dipped off to the right and touched the floor. The plates from the actual dinner were absent, thankfully, or I would have expected to see shards of porcelain on the worn floor. The rest of the house provided no sign of the others, either. Before searching through the area I’d already passed through, I decided to briefly look around the bit of grounds surrounding the front of the house. The old drive leading up to the front door was predictably vacant, and I quickly walked over to the trees to the right.
The front grounds of the house were undeniably small, with only clusters of trees leading to a small clearing, so I found no reason to call my friends’ names like I had inside. The path to the clearing was fairly sparse except for scattered stone tiles in the ground. I whistled as a walk, something I had not done since I was very little, when my parents had to leave for some small errand or another, and I was left to entertain myself. It’s amazing how minutes became hours during those hazy, halcyon days, with me looking on the floor of our admittedly modest home to see the light coming in from the window.
The clearing was empty when I arrived, but not more than a second passed before Cordelia hauled herself over a rock to my right and Rietta walked in from the path on my left. Rietta certainly looked worse off - blood staining her hair, crusting on her arms, sprayed on her face. Her dress was certainly ruined, covered in dirt and blood. Cordelia, meanwhile, had a fair amount of blood splatter on her aviators, with additional flecks of it on her jacket. Her hands were smudged with faint red, likely from trying to remove some from her glasses.
None of us made a move as we looked from each other to the empty clearing; we all stood there, silent except for the quiet rustle of the breeze. My eyes darted back and forth, from meeting Rietta’s dark gaze, to the illuminated grass seemingly cut in patterns from the shadows of the leaves above, before finally resting on Cordelia’s crimson stained glasses.
“Well,” Rietta said, “we ought to find Anthony.”
“Yeah, sure,” Cordelia echoed, weakly.
They looked over at me, and I nodded in response before Rietta walked back to the house with Cordelia following. It wasn’t difficult to catch up with the two of them, despite Rietta’s brisk pace - I had a bigger stride than any of the others, primarily provided by my height, though Rietta was not much shorter than me. When I caught up to them, Cordelia turned to me, affecting shock.
“Good lord, Julian, what happened to your suit? Took a merry little jaunt through one of those berry juice mills, tasted some of the lovely reds, got chased out to the farm’s slaughterhouse? Lay down there for a while to be at one with the damn chickens?”
I chuckled, lightly shoving her. Blood or no, she was still very much herself. Her blouse was surprisingly unmarred, with only a few stains of blood and dirt, while her jacket - with a colour of dun - had a moderate amount on it. Hopefully it wouldn’t stain. We made hushed conversation as we walked to the house, mostly discussing what was to be done about our clothes.
“It’s a shame about your suit, Julian - it was one of your nicest ones.”
“Oh, it’s not much of a bother. We’ve all got some ruined clothes on our hands.”
“I still think it’s from his secret lust to be drowned in crushed raspberries. Can you feel it, Julian, the way their soft red flesh melts as you make sweet, sweet, love in a mill vat? The cool warmth - I know that’s an oxymoron, Rietta - you know, I’ll stop right here before he’s thoroughly distracted.”
“Mh. I also was somewhat dismayed to see what had happened to your aviators, but now I’ve remembered that you probably enjoy it.”
“Aw, you do care. We should head to the nearest jeweler’s to get gold-furnished BFFsies bracelets at once – I call shotgun.”
Inside the house, Rietta decided it would be most effective to search the rooms I hadn’t already walked into, with the three of us splitting up. I set into the library at the far end of the house, figuring it’d be as good as any place to search. Anthony always seemed to have a book on his person, whether it be a piece of innocuous nonfiction or a literary classic. The library was a fairly typical one, albeit as grand as the rest of the house. There were few places in which he could have been, despite his relatively small stature. As I stepped out of the room, I heard Rietta call, “I’ve found him.” She was not far off, and after a minute, I found her to be in one of the many derelict bathrooms that the house contained.
As I walked in, I saw Anthony resting in the dusty bathtub. Blood similarly covered him, the dull maroon creating the starkest contrast against his light shirt. Unlike mine, his glasses - thin-framed half-moons and his only ostentation - were unscathed. Cordelia was kneeling down, speaking to him in a low mumble.
“He can’t hear.”
“Shit, really? How’d that happen? Did he get too close to some fireworks? I’ve seen it happen.”
“You’d have to ask him.”
“So forward, Rietta.”
Anthony reached behind him and handed Cordelia a battered but sleek black notebook, and with it, the pale sleeve covering his arm, the back coloured crimson. Cordelia took the notebook quickly, handed it to me, before grabbing his arm and holding it. I wrote, my copperplate-style handwriting reverting to its plain scrawl, before holding the notebook open while Cordelia unbuttoned his shirt-sleeve. Do you remember anything from last night? When he spoke, it was in a somewhat strained rasp.
“Only fleeting visions.”
His gaze then shifted to his arm, where Cordelia had carefully pinned back his shirtsleeve with her hand and was now looking very intently at an irregular shaped laceration in his arm. Blood dripped from it every so often. It looked like a bite mark, but I could not identify the mark of any particular animal. Is it painful?, I wrote.
“Somewhat.” He leaned in to look at the wound, Cordelia leaning back to accommodate while still holding his arm. “All I remember was the grass shifting behind me, and then - something moved.”
At this point, Rietta entered and took his arm, apparently having retrieved a medical kit from one of the many rooms outside. Cordelia let go, and Rietta wound gauze around his arm, Anthony speaking in low tones as she did. I put the book down and looked away, turning to Cordelia.
“What do you figure happened?”
“What, you mean the kind of deranged chimera that used his arm as a shish kebab?”
“If you want to call it that.”
She scrunched up her nose.
“Hell if I know. Once had a bigass dog around the neighborhood – can’t remember what breed, only that it wasn’t common. People loved to prance around the street, having casual conversations like, ‘Oh, he’s such a beaut, what is he?’, ‘Aren’t you charming! I doubt you’ll have heard of it, but he’s a Half-Sign-Half-Lamppost-Speckled-Unicorn-Hunting-Roberling.’ I really do think social status was determined by how long the name was. But even then I can’t think of any bite that would look like this.”
Rietta stood up, looking at the both of us.
“Shall we walk outside? I believe that fresh air will do us some good, now that we’ve all convened. The grounds outside the back of the house should do nicely, as we get our bearings. With luck, we should begin to remember what exactly transpired last night. I’ve already informed Anthony of my intentions.”
“I’ve no objections. I mean, this isn’t a courtroom, is it, your honor?”
To this, I nodded. Rietta turned away from us, striding through the halls with Anthony quickly following behind. Cordelia and I followed suit, being less familiar with the labyrinthe design of the house. While I could make it to any destination in the house, whether or not it would be in a timely fashion was another issue. Soon enough, we had reached the open field at the back of the house. Rietta turned back to us.
“Does anyone happen to be missing anything? I suspect that given our struggle with memory and the evidently chaotic events,” she motioned towards our ruined clothes, “it is very likely for someone to have dropped something.”
Cordelia fished around in her jacket pockets while I tried to remember what I had brought on my person last night, and furthermore, what I had left around the house and could have possibly taken with me. There was little outside of my wallet, which I still seemed to have, a small pocket notebook (missing, I noted), and things I had left in my luggage. I admit, the fact that I had left the lock on my luggage the night before relieved me, as I doubted I could have opened it in my inebriated state.
Interrupted from my musings, I looked up. Cordelia was calling from halfway across the field. Neither Rietta or Anthony was to be seen.
“There’s something that Rietta has found!” she yelled, and then walked across the rest of the field to a forest outcrop. It was where the grounds turned into legitimate woods, with thick trees. From what I could remember, that specific area soon descended into the site of a stream. I hurried to the destination.
When I got to the boundary between field and forest, I found the others staring silently at something on the ground near some plants. Kneeling down and looking closer, it revealed itself to be a human arm, seemingly torn off violently. The red mass at the end, and the pale, otherwise unmarred skin indicated that it was fresh. I fought off the urge to vomit. Rietta inhaled slowly.
“I was afraid that this is what I would find.”
“Rietta. Rietta, we’ve fucking killed someone.”
“I’m aware of that, Cordelia. I think you were likewise also aware of that as a possibility. You wouldn’t have paused in the clearing if you hadn’t.”
“Oh, because a complete stranger’s all that better than Anthony? Why the hell are you so calm?”
“I am merely trying to keep control of the situation.”
“I think you lost control when you killed someone.”
“We’re all covered in blood. And, I hope you’ll remember, since you mentioned it yourself, Julian seems to have the most of it.”
To this, Cordelia went silent. Anthony was staring at the arm, and had not moved since I saw the limb. Speckles of soft light filtered down through the leaves above, and the spots that casted on the arm made the red there shine. Rietta grasped Anthony’s good arm, and Anthony stood up. She took the sketchbook from his hands, and wrote, Back to the field. I’ll take care of this soon enough.
Cordelia pursed her lips but nevertheless followed her. I thought of how exactly she would ‘take care’ of it, but then questioned whether I truly wanted to know. Once at the fields, the atmosphere seemed to be brewing up for an argument. Cordelia paced as she talked, her gaze snapping between the scenery in the distance and Rietta herself.
“How exactly are you cleaning this up? It’s not as if we’re in some gothic academia novel where our absolute intellectual superiority allows us to just – get away with murder!”
“While we may not have that, we do have other... advantages. This is the country, and the forest is deep and expansive. People go missing. Furthermore, none of us remember anything; it isn’t as if we’ve guilty knowledge on our consciences to hide aside from a very likely conclusion. I’m rather certain you wouldn’t want to deal with the repercusions of something you can’t even recall doing. Repercusions that would be rather timely, and costly.”
Cordelia tensed, before letting out a shakey exhale.
“Then,” she replied, “what about the rest of the body. All we found was an arm like out of a horror flick, but people aren’t just floating arms! There’s got to be some goddamn torso out there, or hell, a head, and since you brought up that we don’t even remember what happened, we’ve got no idea where in these entire goddamn grounds – or god forbid outside of them, can’t rule that out – to fucking search! And if you ask me, maybe you could do so –”
At this, Rietta put her hand up, and said, near hesitantly, “Yes. The rest of the body. There’s another thing I must show you, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, I bet you’re –” Cordelia snapped, before stopping at the sight of Rietta lightly taking a smallish white object from behind her teeth and holding it up. On closer inspection, as the three of us walked forward, it was a small piece of what was unmistakably bone. The pale white tinged with yellow seemed ghostly in the sun. Cordelia sumbled back, seemingly both angry and horrified. Anthony blanched. He had drawn the same conclusion as the rest of us, even without Rietta’s earlier statement to guide him.
“Oh, god, Rietta, Rietta. We didn’t. We fucking didn’t. Oh, oh, god.”
“There is unfortunately no way around this. I regretfully must say that it is highly likely that the majority of the body is with us.”
“Oh, oh, god, fuck, fuck, fuck – what do we do? Rietta, we didn’t just kill someone, we fucking, oh god.”
Cordelia kept rambling on for a while, her words blending and blurring into background noise. I looked out to the landscape, the trees in the distance, across the field, anything to avoid the piece of bone, sharp and incriminating aginst Rietta’s fingers. I absentmindedly searched my own mouth for the same, tense that I would find something smilar, and I felt no relief when I turned up with nothing.
At some point I must have sunk to my knees, as my view held more field than sky, and my surroundings darkened, the sun’s light blocked. On some level I was aware that someone had moved in front of me, but they were nothing but a blurred shadow. I have no knowledge of how long I was in that position, just like I could not remember anything from last night; I only can recall the the slight breeze that occasionally washed over my skin, the dried maroon blood on my clothes, my skin, smeared along my glasses...and the wheat-coloured countryside in the early morning light.
I slowly came back to my surroundings, the detached haze in my mind fading. In the distance I could hear Anthony coughing, and I saw Cordelia sitting nearby. Rietta was noticeably absent – she must have gone off to clear her mind, after our reactions to the discovery. Perhaps she’d pick at her teeth again and find another piece of bone, nestled in her gums…
However, no less than a minute after, Rietta re-appeared, walking across the fields to us. She extended a hand to me, which I gratefully took as I stood up. Taking Anthony’s sketchbook once again, she wrote, Gather your belongings if you wish. I believe it will be helpful if we leave this place for now. As I mentioned, I intend to take care of this matter soon. If you wish to help, then I welcome it.
This time, Cordelia did not argue. I spent a few minutes locating my luggage before dragging it to Rietta’s car. The others seemed to have done the same, though Anthony was only had a few items – a couple of books. As we loaded our belongings into the trunk of the car, no-one said a word. I was struck by some horrible notion as we left, and turned to look upon the house, seemingly shrugging off the blood cast upon it.
The next week passed in a mix of a solemn silence and anxiety. When I returned to my flat, I found it small and cramped. Like a worn image of the same unchanging home town, seemingly comfortable but terribly, terribly banal. Two days later I received a call from Rietta, stating that she had taken care of the matters, and felt slightly relieved to not have been there to see it. My sleep throughout the week was fitful, with me often waking up in the middle of the night. Those times I did not dare to look at the clock, afraid to anchor myself to the cold reality of time and leave the surreal solitude of my dark room. At the end of the week, I found myself in the mirror, looking at my foreign reflection. Sobered by the discomfort my former home left me with, I made plans to seek familiarity in whatever way I could the next morning. That night, I slept soundly and did not dream at all.
Rietta opened the door casually, as if my (frankly a bit rude) intrusion was something she had penciled into her schedule weeks earlier. I greeted her with a somewhat apologetic grin.
“Before you say anything, it’s fine. I’ve no particular thing needing to be done, and I’d appreciate the company. Come on in.” With that, she turned and I followed her inside. I had been in her flat several times before, and each time it seems I’d see something new inside it. The decorations were elegantly ornate, often carrying a sense of antiquity to them, and placed along the shelves, tables, and walls were pieces of art. Rietta sat on the couch, in front of which laid a teacup rimmed with lustrous silver paint on a table. I followed suit and sat on a chair on the other side, cross-legged. We sat in silence for some time.
“I suppose you’d be familiar with Mnemosyne?” she asked, eventually.
I gave a small nod in return. I had studied Classics some, both at the school and outside. The stories of the ill-tempered gods and goddesses had always fascinated me – the melodrama of their base instincts and intensely human personalities despite their superhuman status that reflected the humans that crafted their stories.
“The personification of memory, and mother of the nine muses…” she continued. The way Rietta spoke had always captivated me, her voice a blend of soothing tones and a timbre that commanded authority. She looked away for a moment, and closed her eyes.
“I admit I was never one for muses in my artwork. It seems like an awfully easy way to avoid taking agency, to simply cloak one’s thought processes in mysticism.”
Her eyes snapped back open, meeting mine, and she continued to speak.
“But I certainly have felt the wrath of memory in the past week, given the circumstances. While my thoughts could very well change, I believe I can truthfully say that Mnemosyne is the cruelest god of all. I have been plagued by what few details I can grasp of that night. I do think it is a shame, what we did. What about you, Julian? Have you been similarly troubled? I figure you likely would be, given the amount of carnage.”
I felt somewhat pale and clammy all of a sudden. I could not find any reason why for the change, other than Rietta’s sharp gaze turned to receive my answer.
“I haven't remembered anything,” I confessed. She leaned back.
“Ah. I can’t quite decide whether to congratulate you, or console you. I suppose it would depend on what sort of person you are. Closure, or harmony? A common predicament, though not typically this extreme.”
“I’m not certain either,” I replied, though I figured she already knew.
“And isn’t that one of the most human things of all, Julian. Unfortunately, the past is immutable, regardless of guilt. You can feel bad over broken glassware, but that will not reverse time and allow it to come back and become whole again. With everything that happens, with everything that we are given, our only choice is to make what we can out of it. I make choices based on my personal whims, and then I use those choices to construct the type of person I wish to be; I can say little about myself other than what I have created myself to be. If we are to be given broken glassware, then, if anything, we must mend it with our own hands and sculpt it into a form useful to us.”
With that, she took the teacup delicately, and dropped it on the floor.
When I found her, Cordelia looked surprised to see me at her oft-deserted park near campus. She very rarely mentioned the park in conversation, though admittedly tales of her fights in the park were one of the first things I knew about her. She looked to be enjoying the park’s more atmospheric qualities than merely as a convenient location for exchanging blows, from a rather battered copy of Catch-22 in her hands.
“Jules! Are you here to soak up some vitamin D like meat in a broth? Or are you here for more active pleasures?” she asked, gesturing at my clothes – a plain button-up shirt and and trousers.
“The latter, you’ll find.”
“I truly was hoping you’d say that. I’ve gone and asked Rietta before, even appealed to her sense of aesthetic, laid upon my knees with a fucking animal to slaughter like you classicists are wont to do, and she spurned me, leaving me utterly disillusioned to the whims and loyalty of the Gods.”
“That sounds quite unfortunate.”
“I knew you’d understand. It’s not as if Rietta can’t fight, we’ve both seen her kill with words alone, it’s that she’s enjoying the ambrosia of Olympus too much. But you’ll do.”
She left her book on the park bench. No-one was around, as was typical of the park, dwarfed by larger, more grand ones, especially during the summer afternoons and evenings, where the heat was soon replaced by the night bustle.
“I assume you know the basics?”
“Good, then. Get ready to feel stupid – that happens a lot, around you sophisticates. And there’s no way to feel anything but when you’re trying to have a dumb fistfight with a friend. It’s about damn time you intellectuals learn what the rest of us feel every day.”
Though my choice of clothing rarely reveals it, I am decently fit. I wouldn’t consider myself anything astounding, but at the very least I had more muscle than most, particularly my friends. It started with the occasional job of lifting things for a family friend, and grew with a routine of exercise I worked into my schedule during my down time. While I was beat in the fight, it wasn’t cleanly, which I took pride in. Cordelia was quick and clever, and more than that, every movement of hers showed skill and experience that no book could impart.
After it was finished, we rested on the bench nearby. Our quick breaths were stood out against the silence, our arms on the top of the bench and practically over eachother’s shoulders. We stayed silent for a while. That was something surprising about Cordelia, I’d found out. For her love of the spoken language, always using some unique and colourful metaphor of her own devising, she understood silence like no-one else I’d ever met–more than Rietta, skilled in eloquent dictation, or Anthony, who at times seemed to live in the silence–she just seemed to flow in the rhythm of language, and knew exactly when everything needed to stop, to make the wild character of the sound that had come before before signal instead of noise.
After a while, she said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.”
I made no move to respond.
“I still don’t know what to make of it. It happened. That’s it. The end of a story I barely even remember. But I’m glad for this, for the bit of normalcy it brings to me. I guess it’s telling that this is what I call normal. But it’s true. You’re probably off worse, always liking to ponder about these things, fist-to-chin, hunched over. ‘Julian Polyde’, cast in bronze. Wonder what the museums’d think of that.”
With that, she fell silent again. We sat there on the park bench, bruises just starting to form, in the dying light of the sun.
I had been to Anthony’s flat several times before, and the general look inside had changed little since I had last visited. There were stacks of books and scattered papers on a great majority of flat surfaces, but they gave the surroundings an air of authenticity and life instead of one of clutter. The belongings were lit by the fixtures and occasional stand-lamps in the apartment, the sun having already set, shadows spilling over the walls.
Dinner was pleasant, the two of us eating salmon at the circular table under the warm light. For the most part, we talked of menial things, such as his art classes, and an incident with a pigeon on campus. After dinner, with the two of us pored over his drawings of me and my amateuristic attempts to return the favour, he looked at me, and asked, “Do you ever dream about it?”
“Occasionally. I have a hard time falling back asleep after that,” I admitted.
“I don’t dream – I thought that that might change after,” he replied. “I’m not sure which is worse.”
“Perhaps you do, and don’t remember.”
“Maybe. After all, memory is about the only proof you have of dreams,” he sighed. “That, and the hazy feeling you shake off when you wake up in the morning.”
“Everything feels a little less real then.”
“It does. Have you found some sort of peace regarding the event?”
I looked straight into his hazel eyes, the gaze holding me whole, and replied, “I’m not sure if I ever will, but I’m sure I won’t stop searching. I refuse to leave it to rot and gather dust in the hopes that it might haunt me less. My search may never bear fruit,” I hesitated, “but my acceptance of that is a peace in itself.”
“I think that must be why I like you,” he said after a while.
I turned to look at him and he kissed me, then, tasting of nothing but tea and honey. I instinctively kissed him back, and his hands came to rest in my hair. I hadn’t noticed, until then, how close we had been to each other. That if he had wanted, he could have rested his head against mine. Matters progressed, with him methodically removing my suit jacket and waistcoat before sliding a hand under my half-unbuttoned shirt. As his nature, he paused the proceedings for a moment to carefully place the jacket and waistcoat on the back of a chair, before leading me to his room.
After, the two of us lay together, my head on his chest, listening to the steady rhythm of his heart before drifitng to sleep.
I found myself awake in the dark of the night - I could see very little except what moonlight came through the window shutters. Falling back asleep proved difficult, so I sat up and looked around, my eyes becoming acclimated to the lack of light. Anthony’s bedroom matched the rest of his flat - stacks of books, sheets of paper with curled handwriting and occasional sketches. A watercolour illustration of various bird species hung on the wall near the window. Looking to my right, Anthony was asleep, his hair somewhat mussed compared to its normal style. Unlike me, he was wearing somewhat formal sleepwear - he’d offered me some of his clothes, but none fit, leaving me to sleep in my briefs. In the night with the moonlight hitting his form, he looked infinitely strange, with all traces of his supposed waifish appearance so thoroughly absent that I could not imagine how one could draw that conclusion in the first place. The shadows across his body looked deeper and darker than the others surrounding us. However, slumber was calling to me once more, and I lay down and closed my eyes.
I dreamt of floating on the calm surface of an endless plane of water, with nothing but silence to accompany me. Despite the water being still, I could still sense I was being softly transported across it. The quiet was intoxicating, and soon I let myself be lulled into the water, sinking into the depths below. There I did not find the calm above but an endless exchange of power, currents meeting together in a clashing dance. I could do little but feel myself be swept under, lost to the surface. The feeling of sinking to such a hidden storm never relented, but eventually my consciousness of the dream faded to black.
In the dull dusk of the purple morning, as I roused from sleep, I felt Anthony stir to my right. He shifted under the tangled sheets before he turned to face me, and I saw the blood that had covered his face - a light spray across the bridge of his nose from eyebrow to cheek - as his eyes locked onto mine.
“You know,” he said, “the awful thing about dying is that you’re all alone.”
I had nothing to say in reply to that.
We stayed there, in silence, for what seemed like a dreadfully long time. Enough time for the bright morning light to break through the dusk and for us to watch the shadows dance along the bedroom walls. Eventually, though, the moment broke, and he slowly sat up, the collar of his shirt slightly askew, exposing the hard line of his collarbone.
The breakfast we shared after was short, filled with quiet conversation about little more than grades and social plans, and soon enough I had to take my leave. As I stumbled out the door, struck by the near-afternoon sun, all I could think was, What a beautiful time to be alive.