In the midst of a deep, unnatural sleep he may yet find the answers that he seeks.

“This time though, we lay together afterwards, Shirow on his back with me holding myself tightly into him. Katie and I had a fight that day. It was something inconsequential, but it had put me in a horrible mood, so I sat and told him everything, just let all the frustration boil over and spill out of me. I called her every name under the sun, she made me so angry. It was in the middle of this pointless rant that I started to think about everything; about Katie; about Shirow; about leading a double life and hiding everything all day, every day. Without even comprehending it I’d hidden how much the whole situation had all affected me. I was unhappy, with Katie, with Shirow, with my life: and I was craving that euphoric feeling like an addict, using the pleasure to blow everything else out. It’s a cliché, I know, but that’s when the penny finally dropped, and while this maelstrom was roaring through my head I couldn’t help it flowing from my mouth. Shirow just lay there, not saying anything, barely moving. There’s a skylight above his bed which he stared out of as I spoke, serenely scanning the stars as if he could divine some meaning from them that no one else could. Not once did he interrupt, not once did he even comment. I talked and talked for over an hour, and he barely even flinched. When I came to the end he simply rolled to the side and kissed me.”

The boy lets out one long, relieved sigh. His entire body rises, as if a physical weight has suddenly taken flight from his being. Standing from the bed, massaging his presumably stiff legs, he paces for a few minutes. Once the feeling has apparently returned to them he walks to the window, his hands placed firmly on the threshold, staring out.

“Mum brought a psychic into the apartment. Can you believe that? She said that when the doctors couldn’t discover what was wrong with you she had a complete breakdown, panicked and didn’t know what to do. So out came all of those shoddily put together free leaflets we get every two days it so, and one week later the guy was here. I could tell he was a total quack from the second he stepped through the door: faded leather, dirty white shirt, creased and over-worn jeans. He gave an over-dramatic flourish as he entered, held his fingers to his forehead and proclaimed there was a “particularly troubled soul” in the flat. No shit Sherlock.”

“So he takes a stroll around our home, as comfortable and nonchalant as you like. Opening drawers and cupboards to peer inside, presumably to “divine” some meaning from our smalls; lighting scented candles, to relax the spirit or soul or whatever; spraying cheap perfume everywhere. Mum just went into the kitchen and stayed there whilst he was around: breath stank of alcohol after he left. I wasn’t about to let him out of my sight though. I know a rat when I see one, and I was not about to let him take advantage of mum and our home.”

“I had to take a piss though. He was outside in the hall, between the loo and your room, so I could hear everything he did. I was gone two minutes, only two, and there was a crash! I ran out so quickly I barely did up my zipper. The door to this room was ajar, so I burst in ready for trouble. I’d already decided if anything happened I could probably take the guy.”

“Except there was no trouble: at least, not of the physical kind. He looked like he’d already been punched in the stomach. Doubled over, holding his hands to his chest, his face was gaunt and sweaty. Your goldfish bowl was shattered on the ground, water was everywhere, and the poor little thing was flailing around for oxygen. It was such an odd sight that in the while it took me to react it had stopped moving: it just lay there, motionless in the puddle, devoid of life. The fish looked more like a toy than what had moments before been a living, breathing organism.”

“I moved to get something to clean up the mess with, but the psychic squealed and begged me not to leave him, so I propped him up against the bed. He was a lot heavier than I anticipated, so lifting him on to it was out of the question. He motioned me down beside him, and as I sat I could hear his breath, long thing rasps, as if he was drowning on air.”

“It took a long time for him to come to his senses and say anything. Eventually he calmed down, and he… he told me you moved. The psychic told me you sat bolt upright as he was looking into the goldfish bowl. Without saying a word, you looked from him, to the bowl and back again. Instantly, he had the sensation of something powerful taking hold of his stomach and gripping. There was an immense sensation of pain, his vision clouded over and he fell. He was vaguely aware of the bowl smashing and the room around him, but instead of seeing these he saw images that came to him: like someone had imprinted them onto his mind. He saw a cage, and inside the cage was a goldfish, and outside the cage were you. The fish was floating in the air, and you were standing, although on what he didn’t know- everything else was a swirling grey mass of matter. The images jumped to a girl in a long, faded pink dress for less than a second, then back to the cage, except this time you were inside it and the fish was outside. It was flailing on its side as if dying and you were doing the same, mimicking its motions perfectly. While all this was taking place he was swept over by an overwhelming sense of doubt and confusion: he was so terribly afraid, but he had no idea why.”

“Of course, I didn’t believe him. I was so angry at his story I could have beat him there and then: but he started asking questions. How close we were as a family, how often we talked about things. I was so enraged I almost screamed at him, what the fvck did that matter? I made to stand, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me down beside him, holding me in place firmly. Stronger than I’d imagined. He spoke very quietly, barely above a whisper, his face with a sheer expression of sternness, and I sat and listened, rapt at this man’s sudden power.”

“’Your brother’ he said, ‘your brother is trapped inside himself. His consciousness has become submerged in his unconscious somehow and he doesn’t have the power to wake himself. He’s tired, so very tired, and he doesn’t have the strength to go on, so he’s shut down. Don’t ask me how I know, or why. I’m not sure of that myself.’”

Turning, the boy moves from the window and within a few paces stands at the bottom of the bed.

“I mean, he can’t be a psychic. That’s not possible. I never told mum, it would drive her insane. But if it isn’t true, then…”

He trails off. His hands on the wooden bed frame, his grip hard. Trembling, hunched over the bed he shouts:

“Why won’t you wake up!”

The silence that follows, the moment of complete nothingness, is deafening.

“I’m tired as well.” The boy says, moving slowly toward the door. He leans against it, hands clasped on the handle. “Tired of hiding. Tired of mum, of my relationship, of Shirow. Of this. I came to talk to you- talk at you- because I wanted to hear what it sounded like. Just to see if the world would come crashing down if I said it out loud. I guess it was easier than I thought: although it always will be when you can’t answer me. I think it’s time I told. They deserve to know.”

With that, the door clicks open and the boy slips out. The room is still again. Our point of view slowly rotates. Everything is as it was before we entered, discounting the now ruffled duvet on the bed. Or perhaps not. The duvet continues to rustle and squirm. His hand darts out from below to rub his nose and the boy in the bed rolls over on to his side. His facial expression loosens and a long needed breath escapes his lips.

We leave the room like a camera zooming out. Outside his window we rush up into the sky, the tower being swallowed by the city, the city being swallowed by the country. Soon we leave Earth behind, our planet itself consumed by space as we continue onwards. Planets and bodies dart past travelling through nothing, into nothing, the stars roar around us lighting the path, close enough to be acknowledged, too far off to be touched.


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