Have you ever woken in the night from nameless dread? A distant danger that you can’t even remember. You’re not even sure if it was dangerous. All you know is that it scares you and you pray you never have to experience it again. I would assume the answer is yes if you’re a normal person. But if you’re someone like me, if you’re a stupid fucking idiot like me, then you try to find the fear. You hunt it down. Fear is a weakness that needs to be stamped out. So there I was at 6AM, trying to dial the phone without shaking.
I had remembered Michael’s number from a prior RSVP call I made a few days ago. He was the first place to look. The first stone to be turned. Something has changed.
The phone rang thrice before he picked up. He sounded hungover and exhausted, hopefully he’d ask less questions.
“Uh, hi Michael it’s Fran. I’m so sorry to call you at this time.”
“No problem, what’s the problem man?” His kindness precedes him even when hungover.
“I’ll get straight to it. There was a girl at your party last night. Wore a lot of black, blondish hair? I was wondering if you could uh...point me in a direction..” I cringed to imagine his reaction. This was far beyond our normal conversations. Or at least a reversal of roles.
“Jesus, Dude. This girl has kept you up this late. Alright then. Yeah hold on, I’ve got a name but that’s it. She was a friend of a friend who came along.”
“That’s perfect! What’s the name?”
“Lilith Gracen.” Even with the tone of ethanol on his voice the syllables stuck in my ears. Once again revving something inside me I wasn’t used to. But now was not the time to dawdle.
“Thanks, Michael! I owe you one.!” I didn’t wait for a response. I hung up. A name was all I needed. I felt a small grin shift across my face. One not of cunning or slyness, but progression and intrigue. This was an impasse and I was determined to mount it whatever the cost. However, before all decision comes thought. So I retired to think, the one place I did it best.
With my mind buzzing I threw on my usual dress and hurried out the door. It was pitch black but I knew the way well enough to sprint through the blurry figures of my street. The park wasn’t far from my house. About a kilometre at the most. But running in the dark made every metre feel like a marathon. I was blind but ran full speed towards my goal. Not once did I consider that I might injure myself. In fact once the lights of the park entrance were in sight, I had only just stopped thinking about her name.
The air was much warmer in the park. Perhaps the New Year had brought about a change in winds. Or perhaps it was the alcohol still in my stomach, I’m not certain. It was nearly daylight and there were people. The odd hiker or squirrel. Nothing huge. This needed to be a time of quiet and solitude. These are the decisions that change lives. They can make or break people, this was no different. This girl, this anomaly had done something. A something that I can’t explain. I’m not sure how that makes me feel, but the matter is far from finished so there is more than enough time to decide. But if i seek her, what do I hope to achieve? A moral discussion? Her statement intrigued me, but it could’ve just been her gender that threw me off. Could I be searching for a guide? Someone to look to for advice. Then a third possibility. A thought I am incredibly hesitant to listen to. Love?
An aura of stillness fell upon the surrounding trees. The eyes were watching again. They were eager to see my answer to their test. Fate is a fool’s belief. But we are all tested in one way or another. The word itself sent a tinge of malice through me. A guttural burn that only a harsh conditioning could forge. I believe firmly in conditioning, in every sense of the term. A feeling to a place, a word to a feeling. A face to a fire. There was a malevolence to this morning. My instincts told me to dismiss it as apprehension. But my head told me to run. my choice was irrelevant. The third organ had hold of my legs and they would not budge. I stare at them with confusion. Never had I been in conflict with my own body. In fact conflict was no where to be seen. My control had been relinquished.
The treetops began to quiver and shake as storm clouds gathered above. In my haste I had abandoned to take any form of protection. Nought but a hoodie and jeans in the rain with no protection. I shrugged the approaching grey aside as nothing. It had already rained significantly very recently. It was unlikely to do so again so soon.
Then, as if struck by an immaculate light, I recalled the dream. The fantasies of the wet and wind. The approaching storm and the strength to stand in it. If this were a vision, then I knew what came next. I look beside me to see a girl. She wore a black hoodie and black jeans. Her hair was straightened and clean, as if newly styled. Her legs dangled like those of a school child. She did not speak to me, she sat looking up at the sky. As if fixated on something. I copied only to have a raindrop hit my nose. I wiped it from my face and stare at my hand, then at her. She stayed looking up as the rain began to pour.
“Who are you?” Even as I spoke, the wind battered my words. Leaving but a whisper in its wake. She became increasingly more drenched as drops became torrents. Her hair was now sodden and matted, her makeup ran down her cheek. I felt the urge to speak. Not from vanity but from fear. A thunderclap was my cue.
“You’ll catch your death in this you know.” I had never used that statement genuinely before.
“So will you.” She turned to look at me, her eyes looked not into mine, but through them. “Yet here we are. What do you think that means?”
“I think..” I felt her stare still on me, but I had no answer. “..I don’t know what that means.”
“Neither do I.”
We sat staring for what felt like a lifetime. Neither of us moved but to blink. The world could’ve burnt around us and we would not have stirred. There’s something about sharing a look with another person that is almost numinous. By no means truly religious of course. But..unexplainably..unexplainable. To look into another and think together as one. We did not communicate or converse. We didn’t delve into each other. We just touched the surface of whatever was to come. We simply sat and asked the same question. As if in memetic chorus of song.
“What are you?”
I don’t think either of us found an answer. But I found what I needed, her eyes. Although human, although pure and perfect, they were old. The colour in her eyes was resilient. It was a colour that all too many a time had been washed away and snuffed. But there it was. Blazing halcyon and the most beautiful thing I can remember. In her words I heard her mind. Her clever, clever mind. But in her eyes I saw her heart.
After an amaranthine hour of dumbfounded questions, she made a move. A move that as much as I like to pretend I predicted, did never even cross my mind. She blinked slowly before sliding towards me. The movement was too quick and smooth for me to react to. I gasped for something. Air, help, whatever. But what I got, was a kiss. She leant into me and kissed me. Her hand on my neck.
Every fire starts with kindling. This was the bracken to start a roaring furnace. We just didn’t know it yet.
I put my hand on her cheek, she was freezing. I had intended to usher her home before she caught something, but I couldn’t feel anything. Once again I was stuck. In one of those miniscule moments we all feel. I was stuck in the second a photograph is taken. The second before your eyes recover from the flash. The second before you are captured forever.
She broke after a minute or so. I opened my eyes in an attempt to make sense of the world I thought I knew. There was a glimmer in her eye. Along with a tear.
“We got it wrong I think.” Her voice was quivering and timid. A combination of cold and whatever else had filled the crevice between us.
“What do you mean? What did we get wrong?” I struggled but eventually asked.
She smiled at me and wiped her eye.
“What are we?” Before I could stop her she ran, into the storm and out of sight. I wanted to chase after her, but there was no more to be said. Not tonight. Now came the time to think. The time to feel. What were we? What will we be? Future tense. I felt a twinge again. A jagged surge down my throat. The future had a possibility. And that scared me half to death. But the other half was more alive than I can describe. There is no language to describe the conflict that resided inside me that night. No proverb, idiom or metaphor powerful enough. But the conflict had a compass. A title and a cause. In her words I saw her mind. Her brilliant mind. In her eyes I saw her heart. And it was broken.