Peering out through ash-smeared windows, into a garden of smoke and fire.
A time when I knew what that meant, where the fires began; a time when I touched them, and they invaded me, reducing me to an ember in her hand.
A dream of so long ago. The ember still burning inside, at the heart of me; still singing promises of what I might find, where I might trespass, what I might become.
Already so many things, so many faces.
This latest...not quite certain, yet; fingers leaving marks on the glass, splitting open, peeling away.
“When...will it be done?”
Voice slurred and breathless, that of a dead man, speaking through a throat choked by his own filth.
The fires raging forever, still not having licked the world below clean.
Feeling her, hearing her: feather light footsteps, frost and blazing sun against my naked back. Her touch drawing blood, but welcome. Ached for.
A sexless whisper at my ear:
“Soon. I promise. Then...we'll walk there, you and I.”
Almost laughing. Almost.
Withdrawing from me, her fingers momentarily scourging. Cold, blue fire in my veins.
“What do you mean?”
The room creaking, groaning around us, as though unsettled by her discomfort. Smiling, so rare I had the opportunity to distress her.
“There'll...be nothing left. Just...smoke and...ash...”
Feeling her smile, the sunshine radiance, melting frost.
“They said the same about Eden. It wasn't true then; it won't be true tomorrow.”
The same vagaries, always. Never telling me why; what the world did to offend her so, why she called me from it.
Nothing. Just a man; sadder and wearier than most.
Wrapping her arms around me from behind, her touch kind, amber sunshine washing my nerves, my entrails. Memories of the games we'd already played, in the worlds beyond other windows.
“You saw. None of the others did. You came, where the rest forgot.”
Kisses, lips that almost burned, but that settled me on the bone; solidity returning.
Raising unfamiliar fingers to unfamiliar features. Young. Younger perhaps than ever before, and beautiful.
“We have time yet, sweetheart; so much time...”
“Not yet, please. Not another game; I can't bear it.”
Floorboards and rafters creaking, the room subtly darkening, as though a cloud passed over the non-existent sun. Bitter chill, pricking my newly formed nerves; this nameless newborn's first true sensations, that would inform the stories that came after; the games he would inevitably play.
Withdrawing from me, dissipating, becoming a phantom of rustling feathers and cigarette smoke, fading as the murk deepened.
Somewhere, deep in the house, cracks and grindings; ancient machinery running down, old bones wearing to dust.
There are others...
Yes; other lovers, other playmates. And not just for her.
Laughing, rolling my tongue around my mouth, growing used to its unfamiliar grooves and recesses; the arrangement and structure of its teeth.
“Who will you go to? Kirchner?”
The name forbidden, enough to cause convulsions in the surrounding house, the floorboards beneath my feet wavering like water, splintering, cracks coruscating the walls, a rain of plaster dust falling.
...Brave. Brave, sweetheart...
If only she knew. If only...
Feed yourself to the fire, then, if you're so weary of it all. Here!
The front door audibly unlocking, for the first time in as long as I could recall. A strange, hollow ache in my belly; an urge to call her bluff, to throw open the door, step outside, into the blaze. Would she let me, out of sheer bloody-mindedness?; Let me go the same way as the world she plucked me from, before allowing her own embers to kindle in it?
No...of course not!
A new game begun, whether I wanted it or not.
Legs uncertain, trembling beneath me, threatening to pitch me face first onto the splintered floorboards (hurts that would heal, in time; perhaps in seconds, perhaps in years, but in time). Using the wall as support, inching my way along, laughing at my stumbling, awkward idiocy; what a sight it most certainly made for the others, watching from their shadows and seclusion.
To the door.
No word from her, no sudden warning. Too proud, too proud, by far, to admit that she silently begged me not to, that she'd weep and weep until she was desert dust, if I fed myself to the fire.
Reaching out, the handle scalding hot, but not recoiling, letting my new flesh blister and bubble.
The faintest whisper, the slightest breath of cold.
Doing as commanded, peeling myself away from the door, soothing frost licking my palm.
“I think I'm ready to play, now.”
A cool hand taking mine, turning me away from the door, the burning world beyond. Leading me back, away from windows and memory, to places neither of us had walked before, and games neither of us knew.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.