“I want you to teach me how to paint,” Leodoras muttered, rehearsing the words as he strolled down the street that was assigned to his evening patrol.
He gazed up at the monochromatic gray veil of the sky, trying to imagine painting directly onto it, shaking his head at the thought. There were rumors that said it was possible. He’d never seen it nor known anyone who’d seen it. But their realm was vast. Who was to say there wasn’t a patch of gray that had been painted with swirls of indigo and black, and sprayed with blue-white stars, or brushed with a wide swathe of blue patched with soft diaphanous clouds?
Better to paint than to pierce, he thought. Better to live than to die.
I’d seen pictures of his desk, several of them. They were slightly different, but there was one thing in common with every single one. It was cluttered. Piles of files, pencils lying in constant danger of rolling off the edge, a half-empty cup of coffee or tea or maybe flat soda, a wadded up piece of paper, a stack of books, no two of them aligned at the edges. It seemed like the desk of someone who would start working on every idea that popped into his head, so he wouldn’t forgot. A person who didn’t use sticky notes or devices to help him remember. But in the most recent picture I saw of Professor West’s desk, all of that was gone. There was just one thing left on the desk, a letter addressed to someone he’d never met before in his life, and who’d never met him.
13 September “I’ve been summoned to your side,” I said, taking a seat in the chair beside her bed. “In the hopes that I can help guide you back to the world of the living.”
She coughed, cleared her throat, smiled at me, and said, “I have been waiting for you.”
The waking dreamer was lucid on the day that I met her. Though she was lying propped in her bed, she didn’t even appear weak or pale. I was quite surprised. But then I looked into her dark eyes and perceived in their depths a hidden truth, a weary soul, and a cautious calm. She was indeed haunted by the journeys that her mind and even her body had made in the weeks prior.
“Raccoons or orphans, whatever is back there, chase them away. Or chase this away. It’s your choice.”
I didn’t want to look at the glinting silver coin that he held up, but I couldn’t help it. This was not the coin I needed today, or ten days from now, or even ten years from now. I was prudent with my coin. No, this was the coin I would need when I was an old woman, assuming I wanted to be the type of old woman who spent her days sitting by a sunlit window, sipping on fruit nectar, listening to a happy dog bark as I read a book of my choosing for as long as I so pleased.
On the eve of the winter solstice, ever since I can remember, my brothers and I have played a game that only we can play.
It’s because we made it up. We made it up together. I would have let my brothers decide everything. I was the littlest. I didn’t know as much as they knew. I didn’t know anything. But they told me that was the point. No one knew anything in the beginning of their journeys. They only started knowing things by going on the journey. By making decisions before they even knew what the right decision was.
Something terrible had come into the world. Something evil. Invisible, intangible. Some corruption that could not be perceived. And therefore could not be fought. By the time it had a grip on someone, it was too late. The corruption seeped into every part of that person, defiling their heart, twisting their thoughts, draining the very life out of their body.
No land was spared. No person was spared, no matter how pure, how honorable, how fit of body, how courageous of heart. No place was hidden from this corruption.