We were under the cherry blossom, him and me. It was about three thirty in the morning, and neither of us had slept. It was as if some distant screaming, like the suffering howls of Tartarus, had kept us wide eyed and awake.
We kicked at stones and reached for pink petal branches which seemed forever from our reach, feeling the cold wind press gently through the layers of our clothing, and feeling too, a rather strange, engulfing noiselessness.
The house before us was unmoving and silent. Through its windows sleeping shapes could be glimpsed. Some within the arms of others, some content to sleep alone. The Labrador lay asleep beneath the window, a silent black sentinel over that warm, welcoming room.
"How about a walk?" I asked, speaking softly as not to wake the sleeping dog.
He turned to look at me and nodded.
Ahead of us, the driveway was a gaping maw of darkness. Though our feet crunched the gravel beneath us as we trod through the shadows of Butoh-dancer trees, we seemed to glide as a slow boat ferried across a calm, lazy river. That was the way of darkness. It took with greed all but what the moon and its weak stars could defend into its death-like grip.
Conversation was scarce, and this alone seemed odd. It is well known that the youngest hours, that limbo in time when darkness blurs perception and it does not seem that yesterday has ended, are reserved for subjects seldom spoken aloud during daylight. This time was for secrets and confessions, yet they lay dormant within us. It seemed that Cerberus would not let our words pass tonight - we were trapped in this realm of silence.
We reached the road. Were it not for the yellow streetlight, like the glowing of ghostly eyes, it would only have been identifiable by a slight smoothening in the texture beneath our soles, like the calming of a river as a boat nears its shore.
The road spread out ahead of us and faded hazily into a blackish blur within the dreamlike-darkness of the countryside, and we followed it, knowing all to well of the emptiness that lay ahead, and of the black dog that hung behind, asleep at the window as a great hulking shadow.
"It's cold out here…" I noted quietly.
"Yeah" he nodded, and we listened to the sound of branches blown alongside one another creaking, bent over like old Charon as he punts his boat across the Styx. The noise made me uncomfortable, and I was urged on further into the night by it.
I should've worn a jacket…I reflected, the one with the silver coins in its pockets…
And then I seemed to remember my friend beside me. In the silence and the darkness I had all but forgotten about him.
"At least it's better than Akaroa," I prompted, watching him.
He gave me a sideways look, and placed his hands in his pockets, "But it's all flat…at least we have hills…"
"At least I have more than a thousand people in my town…" I grinned.
"This place is evil," he joked, "You wouldn't stay here if you had the choice, no one would"
I shrugged, and we retreated back into our own thoughts and into the silence that this night seemed to be increasingly demanding of us as we ventured further into it. The road came slowly into view and never changed, leading onward toward what only greater powers could know.
Onward into a hungry darkness that threatened to devour us unless we should defy Hades law and turn away.