When he had first awoken that night and rolled onto his other side he hadn't realised anything uncomfortable about it. Then as his eyes rested and his mind slid to dreams he saw a small boy standing in his doorway. The boy, clad in armour with a sword shining by his side as if moonlight dripped onto it, smiled. He thought the boys hair looked dark but when he turned on the light by his bedside he saw it as a murky blonde. His face too held a murky texture and he wondered if the dark spot on his cheek sat like blood.
"Howdy," the boy said, and it didn't seem rather odd for a boy like that to use that word.
"Hello," he replied.
"Come on?" For the first time he sat up, feeling the cover slip off him. The night held its own warmth.
"Yeah don't you see?"
He didn't see anything but his room and the brash-voice boy.
"You will." The boy shook his head and he thought he saw a touch of dirt fall onto the floor. "Well just put on your shirt and come. You don't even need your shirt if you don't want it, it doesn't make no difference."
He groped around for a shirt on his floor and found one. In a normal time he'd at least give it a sniff before throwing it on but this time he just fumbled it over his head.
The boy just watched, fingering the hilt of his sword as if it when he stopped something would happen.
"You ready now? It don't matter though, we're going anyway."
He nodded, annoyed at the authority of the younger boy.
"Where are we going?" He thought about finding some shoes, or at least some socks but didn't want to delay anymore. He felt things needed to get done fast before they got lost.
"On." With that the boy turned and for the first time the back of his hair showed. It held a crisp black in the light.
He followed to the opened window. A rope hooked over the edge dangled through it into the night.
"You go," the boy said.
He knew he should keep cautiousness close by but somehow going out a window with a boy with black hair didn't seem frightening enough to wary him.
He grasped the rope and lowered himself over the edge and into the light. After a few feet he hit the grass of a hill and in a moment the boy stood next to him. He must have left the armour behind for he now wore just a plain clean shirt but he still fingered the sword. In the light it no longer shone but flecks showed upon its surface.
"Wait," he said and the boy looked at him with a questioning mouth.
But he had forgotten what had held importance a moment ago.
"Come on." He heard.
The boy smiled.
They moved off down the hill together. Despite likening to several years older than the boy the man only just topped his head.
When they reached the bottom the boy stopped.
Before them a castle stood, though perhaps it could hold the name of a palace or even a home. They entered the open gate. At once a rush of people appeared in every space, selling trinkets or leading cows. Some chatted, some idled, some waltzed.
They dodged through the throng and he found he didn't mind people nudging him at every turn. At one point, when he lost sight of the boy, he saw him emerge from the crowd up ahead with a snake around his neck. When he caught up there twined a golden chain.
They went through a side door, down a staircase, up a hall and with a final twist of a doorknob they came out into a room full of twirling ladies and noble lords.
A lady pranced by and her skirts brushed against his knees.
They weaved through the crowd and at one moment a young lady fell laughing against him before a jovial man tearing her away.
They reached the middle and the boy stopped.
"We're here," he said.
Lords and ladies danced between them as if they did not stand there.
"I thought we were at On."
"We were but not anymore." The boy stopped fingering the sword and drew it.
He didn't think about feeling afraid, he had no need to, though the boy held the sword his hand would control it.
"Can't we go back?" With a wistful glance he looked around him and saw what he wanted. "I want to stay."
The boy shook his head.
"But it's only just starting."
Around him the men and women continued to laugh as they flung themselves through the air. Somewhere the noise from outside drifted in, sounds of people buzzing through the streets. He wanted to fling himself around with them all, leading a cow with a dance in his step. For a moment he turned to find a way out but he could only force his attention back to the boy with the drawn sword.
The boy held it out to him, the rich-voiced boy with a gleaming sword.
He could almost feel the armour that had once rested on the boy on his body but he knew if he looked he wouldn't see it.
"Why does it have to be like this?"
The boy smiled, though it spread with sadness.
"So you don't think it's better and stay forever."
The man nodded, he knew, he had always wanted to hold a sword.
He reached out with firm hands. There left nothing more to say, or do, or understand. The people laughed, noise buzzed, his fingers brushed against the hilt.
He opened his eyes to see the empty doorway of his empty apartment. He had woken.