"You're a day dreamer," she said, and her smile was like ice. "You live in worlds that don't exist. You see things that I could never hope to imagine."
He had trouble deciding if her words were critical or admiring. This woman shimmered with a light that condensed around her in small, barbed wires and braids, something that in all his worlds of make believe, he had never seen before. She was an odd... Specimen. Perfectly human and normal in every way, yet everything but.
How he hated her.
"I see you," the words spilled from him in a matter-of-fact answer. "I see a world with too many people in it, and oceans draining dry, and plastic images of sex and beauty."
Were bells chiming from inside of her throat? She jumped down from the edge of the lotus pond and cackled. "You're too kind." She let those graceful arms slope down his neck as she continued on, brown hair dripping down her back like paint, so mystifying in a predatory, terrifying way - "What do you really see?"
Lie awake, lie awake, lie awake. Still, nothing.
The dreams didn't come easy anymore. His canvases were empty. The world shone in a sickly black that he hadn't witnessed, pressing against the window panes, slipping between the fabric of the curtains, underneath the lines in her smile. He lied awake and there was only empty space. He swore that his face had changed. Grown older, somehow. She promised it would.
God I hate you. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you...
And repetition didn't make it less real.
"You're seeing things again?" She asked, looking up from the book in her fingers. Sepia pages worn thin with time. She was rereading another romance novel. "Do the shapes flow easier at this time of night?"
"No," he replied, turning his head to look up at her. "I see nothing." That amber gaze floated again to the ceiling, cracked and pale like the whites of his eyes, perfectly happy without the touch of one's fingers. "Absolutely nothing."
Winter flows like a blooming tendre; an intense, beautiful display of white. The lack of hue began to inspire something new in him, and it'd been so long since he'd felt that, so long since he found something worth seeing, or living, or experiencing. The physical manifestation of a years value of feeling. He found it at last.
There had to be no color. None.
He smiled as black ink splattered across his easel, a flow of colors flooding from the garbage on the curb... Paints, all of them, reds and yellows and green... Colors to stain the snow. Let them melt away. Jagged tree limbs stretched from his fingers and onto his paper as he expressed the days, furiously making brushstrokes, needing to make his insides real. Authentic as the rigadoons inside his head.
She smiled as she walked across the room, though there was an underlying blue like the paint he'd cast away. "It's snowing..." she began, gently wrapping a scarf around his neck. "Do you see the children making snow angels?... Do you see anything?"
"I see the snow, yes..." condensation spilled from his mouth and wrapped the air in a chilling encirclement.
"The world is frozen over and ready to sleep."
"Am I what?"
"Ready to sleep?"
"Almost," So now he understood, his hand picking up pace with his current composition. "... Just let me finish this painting."
Autumn reeked of blood and he wouldn't stand for it. The albums were empty. He traced his hands. The crunch of leaves was like the sound of a manic heart shattering against his ribs in the anticipation of the solstice again. Even the trees were weeping orange.
As this realm fell and crumbled around him in shades that he'd long since retired, he felt hands touch his body in smooth, calculated strokes. Outside, the sound of groaning branches filled his head and he imagined them covered in frozen water, their flames extinguished. "Wake up," she pushed him again. Such forceful prods. So far away. "Open your eyes, will you?"
She'd glued leaves all around his room.
"Why did you do that?" He asked, confused and partially sickened. Orange. God he hated that color.
"You don't see them anymore, do you?" There was a certain amount of tearage in her voice, a frequency slowly growing distant. "Your worlds were bright once, I know they were. You and me. A world of vibrance." A pause that was quickly lost to the season. "Where are they now?"
"Winter," he replied, turning his eyes inward as he closed them once again. "... In an endless winter."
Spring was the worst. Everything was coming to life again, and he was not. His skin had grown paler than anything she'd ever seen before, bones growing closer to his skin little by little, insects gnawing away at the inside of a tomb. Pink was everywhere. She once tried to staple flowers to the inside of his walls, laughing as she surrounded him with color, mocking the fact that he couldn't escape it now.
Funny how he merely looked away.
The ink was retired for scratches with a pencil. She'd have to refill his tin. Why was he always doing this? What was he searching for? Did he not understand that this endless obsession with portraying the void inside of him would be his end? Only one person tried to make him see color again, a strange dame with brown, pools for eyes and a stream of chestnut hair.
But as it was said, he merely looked away.
"Are we still an endless winter, then?" She sat atop an antique table, swinging her legs back and forth, the odor of carnations wafting through her lungs, bleeding down the walls.
"Yes," he responded, trailing a hand down the room. The sensation of petals and stems tickled his palms. "Endless, remember? Not just until tomorrow."
Her footsteps echoed behind him, stopping just as her presence was felt in his spine, trickling downwards and making him shiver. "Is that all we ever were, love?"
"An endless winter?"
"No, no that's not what I meant." His eyes refocused. Spring glistened brightly, sparkling around her in pinks, yellows, and red. Flowing around her in circuits. Flooding the sidewalks. Nothing became everything. "...I just wanted to know," He took a breath, slightly amazed that he remembered how. "What did you call me?"
Good night, the dusk is endless. And it is still a living, breathing thing.
His face had aged considerably in all of the solstices that had passed, proving that they weren't as endless as he'd love them to be, that the only entity with eternal youth was the loneliness he'd let fester before, and only now, after so long, she was finally beginning to understand.
"I had never known," he began, the slight wrinkles on his face curving with his smile. Road maps of experience. Charts of seasons. "Was it hatred or actual friendship?"
"I'd always assumed hatred," she said simply, with a small shrug. "You don't think of winter as the season for flings."
"But I'd never hated you." He swallowed suddenly, glancing over at her, his face like the linen he lied upon; white and creased, the pattern of snow. "I never did."
"Had you forgotten about me?" She asked, clutching his hand tighter, feeling how little heat was left inside his body from so many years wasted.
"You asked me once if we were still an endless winter, dear." He shook his head as a tear dripped from his eyes. Spring was coming. "We always were. Everyday I was convinced you'd go, physical interactions only last so long. I knew, eventually, you would go..." And don't we all? Blooming in the spring, flourishing in summer, withering in fall and dying in winter, who are we to brave eternity? "Yet you stayed with me, and watched this strange bout of annual wanderings overtake me as I sought to find an answer to this loneliness. I saw only you and me, in a world that time stood still for. The children didn't make snow angels. We were the snow angels. We didn't simply see the world anymore, love. We were the world and everything in it, and no one could change that."
Her existence suddenly seemed a shade more colorful as he reached toward the canvas, away from the black ink that he'd used for so long, towards the colors that lie splattered in the streets. "An endless winter does not mean that I was alone," he began, eyes suddenly flooding with light as he looked at her, having aged herself as the clock hands ticked forever onward. "Instead it meant that no one could take you from me."
She nearly cried as she whispered, "Not even time."
A/N: An image came to me one night. A man who cried whenever the autumn leaves touched him. I have no idea why that struck me so hard but I was convinced that I had to use something similar in a story, and so this tale was born. I had no idea where it was going. If you've read any of my other stories, you might be able to tell that I place a much stronger value on imagery and emotions than I do physical gestures. This is an example of one. Thank you for reading!