There was once a boy made of coal who lived across the street. I met him when I was asleep. As I roamed on the road. I opened my eyes and the cemetery gate. The sky above me was dark. Heavy. The sky of the end of the world. I was waiting for the storm. Waiting to be struck by the lightning and feel the electricity in my veins and my bones. I wanted to feel myself bursting in the clouds like rain bursts and falls from the sky. I waited and the tears on my face refused to dry. Awake, I would never cry. Not like that. Not while facing the sky. I would cry like a coward with my face against the dirt. But you are not yourself when you are asleep. A frozen hand rested on my shoulder. I turned around to see a boy looking at me. He had holes for eyes. “You’re crying,” he said. His lips didn’t move. His voice resonated deep in my head and the sky roared.
I wiped my cheeks as if to wipe off his memory. “I’m not.”
“I have eyes to see. Crying is good,” he replied. Our faces were close as rain began. The thunder in the distance rumbled and every now and then the lightning would flood the sky and turn it white. Shadows danced on his face.
“I don’t remember how to cry.” His voice was clear as altar bells; mine would die in the wind. We chose silence for a moment. The earth growled and shook and died and inside I was screaming with Her. I can only scream because there are no words for the pain that makes no noise and floats inside me like smoke. We stood there, waiting for lightning. I hoped it would not strike on this boy. I wanted to be the one destroyed. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“I don’t remember,” I said and looked at the sky. Maybe it was written somewhere in the clouds, but you can’t read when you dream.
“Me neither.” His voice sounded like whispers late at night when you don’t want to wake the dead. It was heavy, but careful. The lightning came to break the graves in two and for a second, I felt his fingers brush mine. The boy spoke again when everything exploded around us, and I had not realized I was still crying until my tears ran towards my mouth like a refuge. “This is the perfect weather for tea, don’t you think? We have a seat for you. My monsters are waiting, we should go before the tea gets cold,” he says between my ears.
I wanted to stay with the thunder. I wanted to explode. I did not have time for tea and his monsters would turn my dream into a nightmare. “Don’t be scared,” he whispered in my thoughts like he’d read them. “The difference between angels and demons is judgement.”
We walked between the graves. I saw the columbarium and a round table covered with a white burial shroud. Every seat was occupied except for two side by side. One monster was tall and covered in black feathers. His breathing made the teacups shake. Embers surrounded him like a circle of salt. Another one was made of bloody wounds. Horns adorned his head and the boy sat close to him. The last monster was a black cloud with sharp teeth. The boy was looking at me in silence. He was calm, like death usually is, as if nothing around us was terrifying, as if the sky wasn’t collapsing a few metres above us, as if the rain wasn’t grazing our skins, as if demons were not around us waiting to come in. I sat down and took the boy’s hand to tighten it until his knuckles turned pale. Quickly, words tore my mouth out: “I’m waiting for the lighting to hug me.” I looked down to the spiders painted on my teacup.
The boy poured whiskey in it and the monster made of smoke spoke like a tornado: “No one hugs the dead.”
“Am I dead?” I ask the boy. He pulled out his jawbone and displayed it gently on my head. He took my cup and brought it up to my lips. I tasted nothing. The monsters laughed.
“Am I dead?” I said louder and let the thunder repeat after me. Without his jaw, I could see inside the boy’s head. His brain was decomposing. I tugged on his hand once again and my fingers deepened in his cold skin. I felt his bones under it and pressed harder. There was no answer, so I let go. If I truly were dead, how could I know what death feels like? Probably like a thousand knives under your skin and suddenly, nothing. Nothing but the wind. I pushed the boy’s shoulder slightly and he turned around. I couldn’t see anything anymore. Maybe it was my tears, maybe it was the rain. There was simply, the gracious and dark body of the boy, like a bruise—black and blue—standing in front of me.
“It’s a pretty crown you’ve got there,” he echoed in my head as he stood up. “Dance with your king.” I started to run. Too bad for the dance. I fell. My mouth was full of blood. Dirt was stuck between my teeth and under my tongue. The sound of my breathing covered everything. I cried louder, as we cry when we know it’s over, but suddenly, the storm calmed down. There wasn’t so much noise anymore, just the thunder which still rolled above. I slowly got up and saw the boy’s silhouette coming to me with his wet hair sticking to his face. “Where are you going?” he shouted.
“Crazy,” I murmured. “I’m going crazy. Would you dance with me?”
I followed his rhythm without really knowing how. It was dead quiet, but here we were, amongst the asleep, hand in hand, moving with the wind’s music. He stopped. “What do you want to do now?” If the boy had a jaw, I know he would have smiled. Even covered with burns after the storm. The question was strange because what does one do when they’re asleep? Apart from waiting to be struck by lightning just
to wake up and be wrapped up in a thousand layers of empty skin keeping warm blurry memories. The rain died after we did. After the raven boy wrapped me up in his frozen arms. After I whispered:
“Anything, but please, don’t wake me.”