"Well, you two got real cozy." Z. wakes up to Ras standing there. In the grey dawn at the door.
"Tch." She stretches, "and the hell were you?"
"Same place." He grins deviously.
Z. yawns, glances at Andrei. Would you look at that. He's still asleep – and usually wakes at even a whisper.
"Never really saw you as the mothering type."
"Shut up;" she gently eases his head down from her shoulder.
"I bet if I tried that – "
"Shut up." Z. stands up. "He needs it." Must be really tired. She continues looking at him a moment though. He looks a lot younger. As he's sleeping. A little familiar too, it nudges at her mind.
Wonder what he's dreaming of.
She turns to Ras. "Same place as usual?"
She follows him outside.
"Spiral's really outdone himself this time."
It would be almost worth it.
The worse the world gets, the more vivid. Intense it gets. Impossible to describe.
It's sort of like looking up. It's sort of like flying.
If I could sleep forever
If I could make the world like
And when I wake up it's gone. Like there was nothing there, there was never anything there, there will never be anything else there at all.
Just the stars above.
(no, the ceiling.)
"Hey, come outside! Look!" That chirpy voice, it reminds me of someone?
I sit up slowly; Z.'s gone. So's everybody around me – it's morning. At least. I sunlight drifting through motes in the center of the church aisle, upon a group of gamers.
How long have I been out for?
"Hey! Lazybones, get up!" I wince. But – the name's on the tip of my mind. As she comes tearing down past me.
"No." A red-haired girl; she gives me a weird look. "December." She walks over to the cardplayers. "Hey!"
As I shake the last traces of sleep away
"But you can do that any time, Orel. I wanna go – "
it catches my eye first thing – that window. Wonder what it'd look like. Craning my head up, I know it'd be there. What scene. Stained glass, I've seen it in books. I mean read about it.
Maybe some of it's still left. Still. But now there's only those boards there, nailed over the spot. Too bad no one tried to fix it.
I get up.
But we had to do that, it'd be stupid to uncover it now. I turn my gaze downward. 'cause now it's winter.
When I step outside it hits me. It's different, isn't it? In summer it melts away, gone. But now
It seems familiar, so familiar somehow.
Of course the others take no notice. Playing, wrapped up in the snow, why does everyone focus on that? Only trample over it in mock battles. Making castles too, sculptures, a dragon. Laughter in the churchyard.
Don't they see it? I wander around in a wonder.
This ice, encasing the world. So sharp, so cold.
I stop by a tree, pull down its branches.
Hold it up to the sun, it seems alive. Glittering, perfect crystal clear, like a diamond.
After an eternity a snowball hits me in the back.
"God damn it, not this again."
I let the branch go; it bounces up, unleashing a cascade of snow.
"How long have you been out here?" Z. I ignore her. "Typical." She tells Ras as he comes up beside us, holding something in his arms. "Look, this is so typical."
"This kid, he's such a space cadet." Turns back to me. "I mean, how are you not dead yet?"
Not this again. "Thanks for watching out for me, Mom."
"Yeah. Yeah. But when ya lose an arm to frostbite or something don't ya come crying out to me."
Her words – can't really feel them now that I think of it.
" – understand how people can neglect themselves. Like that."
"I – " I cough. Damn it. "I'm fine."
They stand there looking at me. With a weird expression on. What?
At that moment another snowball whizzes by. "Get outta the way!" I duck.
"You're in our line of fire."
I tilt my head up; slightly behind the pair, I can see their fight. Raging, snow flying everywhere. Look at them. Building up elaborate forts to hide behind, walls. They're older than me, but still acting like kids.
"Fine." I turn to go back inside.
"No, wait. Kid." Ras stops me. "Here. I got something for ya."
He throws it at me.
Heavy cloth. Seriously? I look down at it.
"Put it on."
"This is – an officer's coat."
I look up at him but he just grins.
"Thought you'd look good in it."
Should've known better than to expect an answer.
Well. After a moment, I pull it on.
It's warm at least.
"See? Whaddya think?"
"It would almost be worth it."
Man, dreams make no sense. Standing there in a white field that stretches out for miles and miles. He's younger but I'm just my same old self.
"What would be worth it, Andrei?" I crouch down next to him.
He remains still looking down; poking a hole in the ground.
"You don't like it?" I'm never a kid in these things. It's like part of me knows; that's over with.
"Alex." Realizing that I'm, I can usually control these things. "It would be cool, right?" I've long given up though. Let things take their own direction now.
"'f everyday was like this."
Last night, I remember it was pouring; no, sleet. Looking around: now everything's covered in it. Our old backyard. That old tree in the middle. Clean. Untarnished snow. Where are our footsteps?
"No." I patiently explain to him. "Then everything would die."
It looks pretty but so what.
"Because – things aren't meant to live like that." Encased in ice.
"Because – it's too cold."
He looks up at me suddenly.
"You're wearing funny clothes." Like he sees right through me. "Alex."
It has a function like everything does; it looks cool, you wanna be one of them.
"It's my uniform."
He tilts his head. "Why?"
"I have to wear it."
"All the time?"
Him: wearing sandals in the snow and a smile that won't go away.
"It's all black."
"Yeah." A military color, martial, sobering. And all that. Mental: they just want to scare people.
"Alex." He tugs at my sleeve. "Whaddya do in summer?"
In a T-shirt to. Little kids don't feel the cold, don't feel it like we do.
"It's hot, right?"
God, he was always asking questions. Even at school the teachers told me. Why? Why? Why? What the hell am I supposed to do about it? And that way he looks at you, you want to answer him. In the silence. Even if you don't really know the answer yourself.
"Well I don't have that problem now."
God, what did they do with him? When they. When he. He was never good at answering them, questions. They probably. I was never a good interrogator but once they made me, us watch. He'd turn it against you though.
Because he needed it, that word. Andrei. That way he looked at you. It was like he'd die if he didn't have it.
"Because it's winter now."
All around them the buildings rise. Hard to tell if they're burnt or not at this point. For all he knows, they'd look that same. The main thing he feels now is – ignored. Like a great presence, and if they make even one slight little movement it'll
That sound. Lion shifts nervously.
(Do you hear it?)
A barely perceptible tremor underfoot.
May turns to him, "hear what?"
He leans close to her. "The voices."
In her hair she's clipped it. Almost seems to glow, a spot of light in the quickening darkness.
She looks up eagerly.
The sound of a dying motor cuts through the air, awakens me from my sleep. Why was I sleeping anyway? Could've frozen –
"Is everyone awake?" I call out.
"Aye." Someone sneezes.
I get up, pace around nervously. Get the feeling back.
(Can they hear it? Can they hear it too?)
We've stopped. In pure exhaustion I can tell they're all ready to collapse just like me. But we can't stay here for long. (for that reason) It's getting dark. Hard to see.
(Can't they hear it? Can't they hear it too?) I think it gets worse at night.
Back to them. All staring despondently at nothing or even worse – the sky above.
Or maybe the ground worse. That way it trembles, but just in that way so you don't know, never really know.
Nobody wants to bring it up, for fear that it's only them. Only them.
Or maybe only me.
(A growl? Under us.)
No, just an engine.
We all look toward it, not quite daring to believe.
Two figure emerge leading it – angels? No just two Couriers. Wait.
"Alex!" She runs toward him. "Alex! You're – " stops dead at his look. All of them.
They look tired, so tired. Like stone men. Like the buildings around them. Statues.
But a weak smile.
Venn moves first.
"Hey, look." he nudges Isaac. "Your girlfriend's back."
Almost complete darkness. And yet she walks unwaveringly.
What's his name again? He sticks beside her for some reason. Ian? May glances at him. He seems older somehow. Than she remembered. Maybe just tired. She doesn't even know what to say. The whole squad's silent, following them even without question.
"Where'd you get that?" His question catches her off-guard.
"This?" She touches it, in her hair. "It was a gift."
Blue. It's a relief, to see that color after all. These. Ashes.
He falls silent again. Like talking, even those few words is a great effort. And behind him, she can hear their voices come through. Alex – the Captain and Lion.
(You sure? You know where you're going?
No. But she does. )
All of them following that spot of light.
Lend me your wings. She reaches up to it again, almost unconsciously.
Show us the way home.