We finally emerge from underground. "Why night?" He blinks on the flashlight. We're in the city, some place.
"Because that's when the energy comes," He holds the flashlight under his face, "And the dark side's light. And the vampires roam."
And the reapers. I laugh. "What are we looking for, anyway?"
"Us?" He grins. "We're looking for the stuff dreams are made of." He grabs my hand, and we go running off down the street. The circle of light dances in front of us, and the stars shimmer overhead. It's completely deserted, windows on both sides dark, as if everybody's been wiped off the earth. If only.
"Keep your eyes open." On both sides, old-style brownstones. And big, dead looking trees. It's strange. I don't think I've ever been here before. We suddenly break out of buildings onto a wide-open square.
"Stop." I tell him. Center, dimly lit by moonlight. Two monsters twined around each other, dancing or fighting. I carefully approach. They almost seem alive. And lay my hand on a scaly head. No, just stone. I look back at him.
"Dragons," he comments. "Like giant lizards, with wings." He's scribbling something furiously in his notebook. "Breathe fire."
"Huh." Come on, wake up you guys. I circle around them. Hatch out of your stony shells. I trace my finger around one's eye. Wake up, and carry us away. The scribbling abruptly stops.
"Done," he announces, suddenly right beside me. But what if I'm not? "Let's go."
"Wait." But he's already off. I scramble after him. "What is this place?" How did we even get here?
"Keep your eyes open." He just repeats. Buildings surround us again, looking ghostly with empty eyes. Where are all the people? It's after curfew, of course. But somehow, the silence seems deeper than that. Maybe I don't have to worry, then. About patrols. I keep telling myself they must have forgotten about me by now. But, still. I see them in my nightmares. For a moment the moon is obscured by clouds, and instinctively I grab his coat. He wouldn't leave behind, would he? I slam into him as he suddenly stops.
"What?" The ground feels weird under my feet. I look down. "What the hell is this?"
He looks up a moment from his writing. "Grass." He says, amused.
I crouch down. I guess it is. I run my hand through it. "I've never seen it grow – like this before."
"You should see this place during the day."
"Why not?" I stand up.
"Well, I don't know." He spins his pencil. "They might not like it. The rich people, and officials and such, I mean."
A cold wave passes through me. We're in Upper Echelon? And then the hilarity hits me. Two homeless kids, in Upper Echelon. I start laughing. Standing right in the General's backyard.
"Sh, keep it down." He bends close to me. "The security guards might hear." A know-it-all grin. "Of course, they're nothing compared to reapers." I stifle my laughter, as he walks away. The moon whispers out again, and I can see, all around us, strange plants. A faint memory stirs. Kind of like somebody used to grow.
"Here." He's come back. "Careful, it has thorns." I take it carefully between two fingers. He shines the flashlight on it. "The last rose of summer." Red, almost translucent pink where the edges meet the light. Unfolding slightly, as if to embrace the stars above.
What's this supposed to mean? I look up at him. But, he's just scribbling in his notebook again. Oblivious.
"Thanks," I say quietly.
"It's beautiful, right?" He finishes writing with a flourish. "Done." I know better than to ask. "Next stop." I put it carefully in my pocket. "Come on!"
Hours later, we emerge on the other side. We walk up an overpass, watching the horizon lighten. I stop. It suddenly hits me, and I burst out laughing.
"What is it?" He looks at me curiously.
"Won't you tell me?" I catch my breath. "Your name?"
He hesitates a moment; but in a flash it's gone, replaced by his usual confident look. "Sure, what not?"
He leans down and whispers it into my ear.