So cold. Numb. Numb for the skin that never made it.
Then the pain settled.
But nothing maimed myself more than having to watch.
Here in the dark woods, the trees looked like ink – dripping with unsatisfactory that winter delight was leaving them. They were so curmudgeon over this whole ordeal of going forwards, that they felt like no light should ever leave them in return in their own twisted way of punishment, I suppose. For a while, I lay, and I couldn’t tell the difference between a snowflake and a star.
They fell just the same, and I thought that every little snow drop that fell was just another star who lost its way. So many of them reached a point of unfamiliar tides that they proposed to rekindle together and make a bright, burning, passionate fire of their own – a little lighthouse.
Unbeknownst to them the two sleeping creatures with the same ink on their hands, with little paw prints littered all over their bodies and in their heads; they breathed into each other with content and easy tenderness.
A shock, no less, to the dark woods when it was deprived of its winter all together, replaced with a star it never asked for, and two creatures who begged for the cold again.
Neither was given indulgence.
Ink black, dead stars into live ones, live ones into dead ones, gone, tip over, one push, it’d be all over, thinking, a lifetime of cursed thoughts, write, close your eyes, gift a nightmare, wake, write, dark, tip over, Why leave?, live in worlds better than this one, deprived, cold again, Why didn’t you take me with you?, can’t forget, always think, dead skin, blackened corpse, nothing left, write.
Just tip over.
I find my fate in golden fires,
and my truths in deathly embers.
No winter in sight.
“Eira, do step away from the window. Look any farther and you’ll fall right out.”
Eira heeded little attention to the voice of her friend behind her. She was too captivated by the cat wandering the street below, the sounds of distant and melodious hummings of the cars that drove by blocks away, and the touch and the pull of the wind on her hair.
“You listening? Come back inside,” gestured Chloe.
“Yeah, I’m listening. But why would I ever want to go back inside?” retorted Eira, “there’s nothing but a bunch of drunks in there in case you haven’t noticed. Don’t even know why I even came in the first place.”
“Uh, because you love your dearest friends so much that you couldn’t possibly rob them of your absence?”
Eira backs out of the window just barely and turns to face Chloe. Hair still streaming along the side of her face. “Those ‘dearest friends’ haven’t done me a lot of wonders yet. You know I hate parties. And you know what’s even more ridiculous? It’s the fact that I did show up to Grace’s party, and I expect to see Grace, but instead I see a piss-drunk idiot, completely gone, way before we even showed up!” ranted Eira.
“Take a few sips then. You’d be enjoying yourself just like everyone else in there,” Chloe tempted.
“Ugh, go to hell.” Eira brushed past Chloe and took her leave.
She could hear Chloe calling out from where she stood, “Sucks to be an oddball, doesn’t it? Over twenty damn years old and you didn’t even learn how to be an adult.” She stumbled.
Eira ignored her.
The air was sweet. She walked in the middle of the streets. It was empty. In a city of thousands, and it looked like no one was home. My, how marvellous that would be, she thought.
She looked up at the brick buildings that seem like they’re willing let go of their burdens any day now. Lightless windows, all of them. The trees waved at her as she passed, and she playfully waved back. Nothing lit up the sky tonight. The clouds were having their fun for once, playing hide and seek with the stars and the people below. The road was illumed by the sullen streetlights that hung so depressingly before her – a dismal fulvous kind of colour. Poor things.
The wind started blowing in a different direction and caught Eira’s hair off guard blowing in front of her eyes. She smiled, slightly annoyed, but slightly invigorated by the cold air. It’s been getting colder, and she’s been looking forward to the snowfall that should happen any day now. Any night. She looked up again at the sky intoxed of clouds. Though nothing fell. The wind began to blow again and she was taken aback, but at the top corner of her eye, something orange pierced her vision. She held her hair in place and peered closer. Curious.
For a moment, there was nothing. She waited. And there it was again! A spark atop a building.
She walked closer to see what it was. She stood at the center of another streetlight that was just across the building from where she saw the spark and waited. Her patience gifted her with a sight of a tiny flame that grew and dissolved a piece of paper it was sitting on. The paper was left to its own demise as it fluttered down the side of the building. She looked back up to the top of the building, and her eyes at last saw the figure. It grabbed more paper and started lighting it as well. For a second, the slender-like figure held up the paper it was destroying and examined it while it ceased to exist before its fingers. Larger fragments broke off and began to fall like demonic snowflakes – the face of the figure was dimly lit. She couldn’t make it out though, but Eira did observe the long black hair that flew just as elegantly as hers. But did it belong to a boy or a girl? She tried to look closer, as the figure took more unfortunate papers and burned them, though she didn’t expect the figure look back at her. For another moment, they stared. She grew unsettled and she felt her blood rush to her head and her feet. Those black eyes looked as though they could see right through her bones. Those eyes…
The fire snuffed out. It dropped and vanished under the wind. Surprised, Eira blinked, and the figure was there one second and gone the next. She lingered a bit longer. Her veins started to turn to ice and she breathed carefully. Eyes widened, she tried to look at everything all at once, and half a minute passed before she realised that maybe nothing was going to happen… because the burner was headed down the building to see her. Eira’s thoughts started run wild and she slowly began to back away from the streetlight. She ran.
How strange it was. Burning paper in the crisp of night. Suppose they’ve never heard of a paper-shredder…
Eira came back the next morning to the rugged apartment building which likely homed the burner. She stood again and scanned the windows for any sign of someone looking back at her. Possibly awaiting her return. There was no one. She thought of the papers that fell. Perhaps some of them survived their dreadful tumbles if the burns didn’t eat them entirely. She began to scour the scene looking for any bits of those fiery snowflakes. She circled the building, keeping her eyes to the trash-ridden cement. She didn’t find much. The papers that she did find were beyond legible. Eira expanded her horizons and started looking through streets in the surrounding area. But before she began to lose hope of ever finding any clues of who the mystery burner was, she saw a struggling page of black paper pinned against a wall and the joint of a dumpster, desperately trying to fly away. It looked like a black dove flapping its wings in a hopeless attempt to free itself from a cage. Eira helped it free and uncrumpled it. She felt like a detective.
She examined its contents, but to her dismay most of the page was burned and a sickly yellow pursued all the white that was left. Though there was a corner of that remained slightly untouched and only lightly loved.
She read: — the dark woods when it was deprived of its winter all together, replaced with a star it never asked for, and two creatures who begged for the cold ag—
She pocketed the little poem and started searching again.
Her bounty turned up short but she did come to one conclusion: all these papers were poems or stories. Why would anyone burn them? It was awful. All that was left were orphaned words or outcasted sentences.
Who did they belong to?
She went back to the streetlight she stood by last night, remembering exactly what she saw. The slender arsonist with long black hair. Everything else about them was a mystery. This was a dangerous game, however, and there’s no telling who or what she might find. Those words intrigued her so much though that it didn’t matter. Without a morsel of fear expressed on her white face or her guiltless blue eyes, she entered the building.
But her spine started to run cold.
Eira started her search. She would ask someone for help if she needed to, but as for now, she felt like she needed to tackle this on her own. Besides, she was much to nervous to ask anyone to look if they’ve seen a person who likes to moonlight as an arsonist and burn poetry – one with long hair that is. Anyone’s hair shorter than 8 inches simply won’t do.
She did a quick sweep through each of the floors, making the effort to listen in on anything suspicious or unusual. It wasn’t until Eira reached the final floor that she heard a faint tapping coming out of a singular door to one of the larger apartments. She approached hesitantly, but as she did the tapping stopped. She came closer to the door and put her ear up against it. She waited a few seconds. She began to wonder if the sound had come somewhere else perhaps, and as she turned to check the rest of the floor the tapping started again. It sounded familiar. The tapping grew louder and more passionate and she recognised it as a type writer! The keys that were being punched steadily became louder and faster. She wanted to knock, but felt herself unable to. For one, the person writing was clearly onto something and had wondrous ideas in mind. It would be rude to interrupt them mid-creation. Oh, how cross they would be if I disrupted their thoughts, she noted. Secondly, Eira’s never heard a type writer before. The rhythmic sounds entranced her, and she wished to take in the sounds of it. She sat down beside the door and listened. She even closed her eyes and began to imagine typing on one on her own. She let her fingers beat on her jeans and imagined herself writing herself an extraordinary little story of her own.
This carried out for another thirty minutes before the typing stopped and Eira woke with a daze. She waited for another minute.
Not a peep. Not another stroke.
She hoped that there would be. So that she can keep listening, and close her eyes again, and not have to face the person behind that door.
Not a peep.
She stood, took a steady hand, and knocked twice. Her hand was shaking when she pulled back. She could hear her breathing again.
The door creaked open. It was only a smidge, but it was open. Eira’s imagination began to attack her again with horrid machinations of who was behind it. She braced herself pulled itself away from her, and she saw the figure she saw from last night.
He stared back at her. But he wasn’t at all what he expected. He stepped into the light and his face made a slight squirm to the light. He was rather young. The man did have long hair but it fell behind his shoulders just so. His eyes weren’t dark at all, but they were quite pretty. They were tired though. He was unshaven, and looked as though he hasn’t seen another person in ages.
He looked as though he never had the intention to.
He didn’t say anything.
Eira took it upon herself.
“Why did you stop typing?”
He tilted his head slightly. A bit stunned by such a question.
She noticed the room in which he came from. It was like a void. It completely juxtaposed the room that they both stood in now. However, little yellow things fluttered within this scattered emulation of space. They looked like lightning bugs.
She repeated, “Why did you stop typing?”
The man gave out a slight breath, like an old tired lecturer, exhausted of giving the same answer to the same question he’s heard a thousand times before.
“There’s more to writing than just typing away,” he sighed. “Of course, most would argue that in order to write, you just have to do it. It’s true, yes, but there comes a time when you have to write stories in your head in order for them to make any sense – to have any sense of worth… like you stood here before me. Why are you here?”
He speaks! “I was just curious, that’s all. I heard you typing and I just wanted to listen.”
He was bemused by the innocence of the woman with blue eyes. Those eyes. They looked familiar….
“Well, it would be beyond me to deny someone their curiosity then. My door is open to a listener, but it’s up to you if you’d trust a stranger. Do some thinking of your own.”
He turned and headed back into his abyss without closing the door.
The man’s apartment smelled quite pleasant. And it took a moment for Eira’s eyes to adjust to the darkness of this space. Those little lightning bugs looked like stars, and she smiled. But when her eyes did adjust, she noticed that they weren’t fireflies, but rather candles. Candles.
Candles everywhere. Some of them on shelves, some littered on the floor, on the sills of boarded up windows; but most of them teetered on stacks of a wavering books.
“Aren’t you worried that these things are going to fall over?”
“Pay no attention to them. I never did.”
She did as he asked. But it didn’t satisfy her worriment.
She took further note of the apartment and studied its walls. She was astonished by the number of books that were practically spilling out of their shelves. There were so many that entire tables were dedicated to keeping them in a bunched-up family. And many more were neatly stacked on the floor with those candles sitting on them like royalty. She heard the rhythmic typing start up again and she smiled.
“This is amazing. Have you read all of these?”
“A good number of them. I’ve made the effort to collect them. Not for pride’s sake or anything, but I like to think of books as the children of tortured heads that they nurtured for how long. It’s only right to take give them homes. Don’t you think?”
“Doesn’t mean the author’s any good though.”
She walked up to one of the barred-up windows. They weren’t barred up completely, she noticed. Light still tried to dig its way through – an adamant attempt surely. She leaned in and let her eyes peep through the open seems. It was grey out.
“So what’s up with all these windows?” she asked.
“Oh, so you’ve noticed?”
She made an exaggerated, bewildered expression on her face. One that the man with long hair couldn’t help but look up at.
“It just helps me… think. The dark. It takes your mind to the most interesting places. Besides, I’m quite frustrated with the real world. I wouldn’t mind if I took myself out of the picture. Or it out of mine.”
Eira sat down by a chair adjacent to him.
“You don’t get a lot of visitors, do you?”
He stopped typing and looked up at her.
“What do you think?” His tone was less of sarcasm, but rather of that scholar in him again, asking a legitimate question.
She remained silent and looked at the floor.
He went back to typing.
“You’re not much of people person are you?” she inquired.
“I’m afraid not. Never really was. Didn’t want to be.”
“That’s okay. I’m not either. Everyone I know is stuck-up, and I just never know what to do anymore if there’s no one that I can look to and call a friend. Sometimes I think I’m just supposed to be doomed to be alone. But I’m okay with that. I never liked people to begin with. Though, that guilty factor hasn’t gotten me very far in life. I don’t know. I’m just so confused.”
The man smiled and looked up again at the woman.
“Some of the most interesting people are. Don’t you worry. People aren’t that great anyway,” he consoled. There was some silence, and he stared at his paper. “But you wait long enough, and things just fall into place, and you’ll have that someone whom you’d do anything to live for. It happens to the best of us… and to the worst of us. It’s just a big mad game of searching for someone whose demons play well with yours. Don’t fret.”
Eira felt lightened by his response. “Can I ask about you? How did you end up here? Why do you keep all these candles? Why do you keep the windows all boarded up? Do you live alone? Does anyone take care of you? Do you have any loved ones?”
“I think you should leave,” he interjected.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. Honestly! I’ve just never met anyone like you. Please don’t be mad, I’m sorry.”
“You’re not to blame,” he contained, “but you need to go. Now. I only – I’m not used to having company. I need time to think. Please, I need to be alone now. Come back tomorrow if you’re eager. But I need to focus.”
She stood up apologetically. “If that’s what you wish. Again, I’m so sorry if I said something I shouldn’t have. I only want to know more about you.” She made for the door and glanced back, “I’m glad to have met you. Bye now.”
She closed the door behind her, and the man was perplexed by the woman. Puzzled, but angry. Who did she think she was to come here? She had no right to be here. None.
But… it was nice to have someone to talk to. Perhaps he was hasty in shooing her away.
Besides, she was just like her – in her younger years at least. Yes. Quite familiar indeed.
Eira thought about the man with long hair that night. She lay in her bed absolutely puzzled by him. How could someone live in the dark for so long like he has? No people to meet, no things to exploits or escapades to be had. He won’t let himself. But why? Why deprive himself of what it’s like to be alive? I mean he seems human enough. It was only then that Eira realised she never asked him for his name! How rude. I should bring it up tomorrow, she decided.
She still found it exceptionally curious of why a recluse would even let her inside his realm in the first place. Quite curious indeed.
The next afternoon, Eira went to visit her strange acquaintance. She knocks.
“It’s open!” a disembodied voice replied.
She opened the green door and was immediately greeted to the alluring scent of coffee that mingled among the candle fragrance. It was heavenly.
Some of the furniture had been rearranged for now there was an empty table and a chair set up against a window. The candles remained atop their books however. And what was most odd was that the typewriter now sat placed in the middle of the floor.
From the corner of her high emerged the man with the black hair, accompanying him were two cups of coffee. One of those cups were outstretched to her.
“Why, thank you.”
Eira noticed the unsteadiness and slight shake in his left hand. He had scars all over it, but kept his arm concealed with his sleeves.
“My sincerest apologies for asking you to leave yesterday. I was just… overwhelmed I suppose. You must understand that I haven’t talked to someone like you in ages.”
“That’s a long time,” she remarked.
“So it is,” he agreed with a faint smile.
He took a sip and went to typewriter, sat cross legged, and typed.
“What do you write about?” Eira took her seat at the table and kept staring at the man.
“Whatever comes to mind. I just translate them,” he looked exhausted as he breathed those words. “I’m not particularly fond of writing, however. Not fond at all. I always find I’m in an awe of disappointment when I had the intention of creating something liberating and thoughtful and end up with words below standard. It’s all just disillusionment. I’m not sure why I keep writing.”
Eira took in the silence of his voice, and tuned into the typewriter again. “Is that why you burn the pieces you don’t like?”
He didn’t respond.
She took a sip of her coffee.
He made pretty good coffee.
“My name’s Eira, by the way.”
He smirked. “What kind of name is Eira?”
“Hm… interesting. Oh, those Welsh folk.” He still didn’t pick up on her hint.
She looked around the room again. “So these books. Do any of them belong to you?”
“Some of them, yes. I turn in some of my more decent works to local publishers and to writing contests and what have you.”
“Really!? So, you’re published then? Do you think I would have heard of you?”
“I submit anonymously.”
“Oh. Then what do I call you?”
“That doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it matters! You must have a name.”
“I’d like to think that I didn’t.”
“Goodness, you’re so strange.”
The typing abruptly stopped. Eira started to fear if she said something to upset him again. He rose from his spot and walked into another room and disappeared. How odd.
He returned with an cumbersome object in hand. He gently places it in front of her on the table. It’s another typewriter! It’s a soft, light blue – but some of the characters seemed to be singed. A portion of its ride side was black and brown.
“Write something,” he said. He returned to his own instrument and began punching his keys again.
Eira was baffled by the little blue machine in front of her. She looked over at her benefactor who went back to his work. With a sleight of hand, he exchanged one paper for another and continued typing. She raised her fingers and placed them on the characters – they were smooth and polished. She didn’t know what to make. She had the opportunity in front of her, but she didn’t know what to make.
She closed her eyes and thought. The rhythmic, mechanical beats felt like they were right inside her head. Steady then quickened again, a space, a dance, a twirl, a pirouette, a jig, a leap, a sway of the hips, so seducing.
“Write,” he repeated.
She hesitated. And with that, she forgot who she was.
She wrote a story, poetical in its verses, elegant in her phrasing. She surprised herself.
She wrote about a dancer. A ballerina, made of ink and her face and stickily arms were of a motion of constant doodles and paint. It was literature to art as she wrote about how the letters of the alphabet as her stage and every day and night her dainty little feet would press upon the keys and with it a satisfactory ‘clack’ that followed. Addicting as it was, other dancers thought the same. Especially that of a mischievous tap-dancing boy. Arrogant and head-strong as he was, he would often steal the spotlight of the scribbled, inky ballet girl, and tapped the strangest sentences that only infuriated her. It wasn’t until the tap dancer insisted on a duet that they started to share their ink and they breathed into one another as their bodies laid so close.
Together they would dance wonderful, sensual things.
She thought it was a cute little story.
She turned to face her friend, proud of her creation. He was watching her.
“Elijah. My name’s Elijah.”
“Elijah,” she echoed, “it’s lovely to meet you.”
With that, Elijah and Eira started a tradition of meeting regularly in the abode of many candles.
They’d spend long hours drinking coffee, sharing stories, Elijah would teach, and Eira played the part of the passionately absorbed student, because she’d hang on every breath of her dear friend. Elijah even started to shave. He’s grown a lot more comfortable having a partner in crime with him. They spent those same hours typing their miseries away in sync on their typewriters. Each narrative or poem being more invigorating than the last. They’d read over their works and give suggestions or remarks of encouragement. Elijah didn’t feel the need to burn his works with Eira around. And even if he was completely dissatisfied with a piece, Eira would insist on keeping it for herself. Because surely even his worst was equivalent to her best.
Things just made sense with her around. And Eira found someone whom she trusted. Remarkable to what their friendship bloomed into. Two lost ink drops spelling out what it means to be loved.
Over the next few weeks, Eira began to learn much more about the man with long hair. Like how he used to live in a cabin, or how his favourite season was winter, his favourite colour was blue, and how he liked watching classic black and white movies, or that he likes moving his typewriter and writing in different places in his apartment to keep each piece fresh and originating from original originations (as he put it), or that the scars on his hand was due to an accident. He wouldn’t show her the rest of his arm though. Because as much as he did open up, his former life remained in the cabin that he left behind. He firmly wanted to keep it that way.
“You’re late. Where have you been?” Elijah questioned harmlessly while sitting on his favourite chair reading She Walks in Beauty. Eira knew he’s been trying to get through it for a while now, but he always seemed to get distracted when he attempted to make progress in it.
“Sorry. I had to pick up another shift this morning. One of the girls called in sick. How are you feeling?”
He didn’t answer. He kept staring at his book, but his eyes didn’t flicker from left to right. He was thinking again.
“Is something wrong?” she asked concerningly.
“I never liked November,” he stated coldly.
“I never liked it much either. Why don’t you like it?”
“It’s an awful month. Nothing good ever happens in November.”
Eira was confused. “Well, I agree. But what’s wrong?”
“You know, it hasn’t snowed in weeks now. Why hasn’t it snowed?” he looked to her with a stern look in his eyes. She hadn’t seen that look in a while.
“I’m not sure,” she responded.
“I hate this. This god damn month, with a sky that’s always cloudy but never snows.”
“Why are you so upset!?”
“You’ve always wondered why my hand is like this.”
He stood up so suddenly and removed his shirt. What was underneath was not at all the smooth skin that Eira imagined he’d have, but she was startled when she finally saw the truth of the side he wanted to leave behind. The entirety of the left side of his body had been burned. So horribly burned.
He became furious and stridden up to a window and jammed his hands into one of the wooden planks and tore it out – the room was flared up with a shock of light that it never knew existed. He threw the plank behind him, nearly knocking down a stack of books with a candle atop.
“Elijah! Calm down, you’ll knock down the candles!”
He repeated his action with another plank tossed it to a shelf that housed the spilling books. Covers fluttered open and pages started to fold under the weight of their brethren collapsing on to each other and they fell with horrid clumps. Elijah breathed heavily, his eyes quivered, and he slumped to his knees.
Eira slowly approached her distraught friend. “You’re mad…”
“You haven’t even begun to know the meaning of the word.” He glared at her with the worst pain imaginable. He put his hands to the ground and slowly rocked back and forth. She could hear him sniffling silently. Eira put a hand to his hair and another on his back and Elijah thrust himself forwards to her, hugging her tightly, his broken face weeping into her. She could feel the dispirited tears dripping off his cheeks.
Several moments passed with Elijah still clung to her. It wasn’t until he mustered his breath again that he broke the hum of the candles that surrounded them. “Everyday I pray that one of these will just tip over. Just one. So I can sleep soundly at last. I just want this to end….”
Eira felt her heart ebbing away. It pained for the mad typist in her arms.
He broke away from her.
“You need to leave.”
“Elijah, don’t do this.”
“I can’t do that, Eli, you know I care about you.”
“You remind me too much of her.”
“I won’t let you do this to yourself! You need me.”
There was a moment where he breathed in her, and she breathed in him.
“I do. I need you very much. But I can’t have you. We can’t go back to the way things were.”
He turned away from her. “It’s just too much now.”
Eira didn’t know what to say.
“I need you to leave me,” he whispered.
Eira slowly rose. She did as she was asked as much as it destroyed her to see him like this.
He closed the door behind her and sat down. Listening inside for the boy who lost his skin.
Elijah paced slowly within his abyss. He stared at a candle. And the gentle flame taunted him back. He stops and puts his hand up against, feeling the edge of its warmth. His hand started to tremble. He wanted to end things so desperately. The voice repeated his instructions. Three simple words that would make his never-ending madness release him at last. Just do it.
He would keep his hand on the flame for what felt like another eternity in a tundra of laments.
He would let his hand fall and he would continue to stare at the candle.
He didn’t do it.
A week would pass, and Elijah only barely started to recover again from a cycle of memories that only have the purpose of repeating themselves over and over and over. How could he possibly forget? He looked down his arm and the burns that he was branded. How on earth could he possibly forget?
He missed her. He ardently missed her; dearly. But he knew there was no hope for him left. He was haunted, and he’d never let his burdens grasp the hold of another – especially of one whom he cared so much about. Was he doomed to be deprived of happiness?
There came a knock on the door that disrupted his unpleasant thoughts.
He was lightened. Eira! Has she returned?
He made for the door, but when it was opened, he was surprised for the absence of someone on the other side. He looked down and instead found a small, green box. Attached to it was a letter. He brought the two inside. He opened the letter first. It was from Eira. A poem.
Loss leave wounds that never heal, like the burns of a thousand candles that never cease. It leaves the body to an inky charcoal, lest it ever feel the charm of the sun ever again.
But much like a tree after a forest of unfortunate smoldering tides, it drops its seeds.
Forever acknowledging its branding, yet all the more hopeful of the growth that will avenge its burned roots.
You’ll find your truths in flames and asunder,
but your fate to that which follows the bloom of your ruins.
Winter is upon you.
Elijah stared at the poem. Re-read it twice over, touched by her words. She looked over the package and unwrapped it. He smiled to see its contents are that of a sprouting, baby tree.
He held the tree with both hands. He felt his eyes water. He looked to his window to find himself pleasantly surprised again.
It was snowing.