The Little Death
The sound of the wind blowing over towards the school from the direction of the lake and scratching at the cool window pane was imperceptible except as a lull within the silence - a paradoxical state of being and missing, of the presence of a void. Noticeable when unsought, at the edge of one's mind, just enough to disallow the realization of a perfect quiet.
If he'd had anything to drink – which he shouldn't – Erik couldn't remember it. It was one of God's little ways of mocking the drunk, it'd seemed to him the last time he could confirm it in retrospect. Nevertheless, his head had beat like a drum from the moment he'd woken up, opening his eyes to the pitch darkness of midnight and, not having even bothered with his glasses yet, unsure at first as for whether he'd even opened them at all.
There was the sensation of the blanket against his skin, and against his pajamas pressing against his skin, and the distinct lack of the sensation of the wind blowing through the open window and over those parts of his face that were exposed.
The window was closed. He made sure of it before he'd even left his room earlier, and locked it again just in case. His room was on the side of the dorm where the windows could be opened, assuming certain precautions were taken and the right arranges were made – but that didn't justify taking stupid chances.
He hated to think that way. It was the kind of thought that only occurred to him in those moments of mental vulnerability between waking and sleep, and yet, there it was. A little voice from within his subconscious prodding at the outer walls of his mind, questioning his motivations for actions taken in the heat of the moment and the reasoning for decisions he wasn't even aware of making in the first place.
Like falling in love. Like everything that entailed.
He turned in bed, feeling the pillow rub against his cheek and his hair, and then the silky threads of something that for a faint moment a shade of his mind had almost recognized as that shouldn't have been there, before memory kicked in.
Even in the darkness, even with the little he could make out a short distance from his face being a blur of flat colors, he could make out the glow of starlight emerging through the window, twinkling softly against a long tress of strawberry blonde hair.
There was the sound of breathing, gentle and slow. At first he'd only recognized it as his own.
Katja's chest rose slowly beneath the sheets, the pace of its movement quickening for the bit in reaction to Erik's own, then sunk again, with a nigh inaudible sigh of what he'd thought was sleeping breath.
"You've woken up yourself," she whispered, with the deep tone of someone exhaling their words out absentmindedly more so than speaking them with intent. "Good. I felt like we could chat."
"It's the middle of the night", he said back.
"Not unless we've slept for far longer than we should've. It was midnight over twenty minutes before we've even entered your room."
She snickered to herself a few centimeters away, and he could feel the vibrations traveling through the blanket when her throat shuddered. She had a way of sounding amused without sounding happy. That, by itself, was nothing unusual: many people did.
But Katja, as with so many other petty, everyday things, had raised this form of implied nonchalance into an art. The tiniest nonverbal gesture, perhaps without her having even intended it, seemed infinitely refined and full of intricacy.
He could feel the warmth of her skin beneath the blanket, radiating next to his own. She moved so slowly he'd barely noticed it before – crawling closer to him and pressing her arm against his until touch had become entanglement and her fingers wrapped around his open hand away from sight. Moving so that the distance between them had become blurry, a question of philosophy rather than physics.
Her breath tingled his cheek where there wasn't any wind. His heart skipped a beat in the emptiness of his chest.
"Erik," she whispered again, and pulled him closer to herself with another hand, as close as she'd come to hug him that night. "I wish this moment could stretch on for a while longer."
He wanted to say something to that. Something that'd sound cool and sophisticated and romantic, and not out of place with the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen lying next to him in bed and climbing half over him with short breath.
"If you want to come here some other time, I'm not going to be the one to stop you."
She laughed quietly. "I'd have to give it some thought before any next one. Your room reeks."
"We could always go to yours."
"And let you into my bed? I don't have access to anything nearly strong enough to wash the smell out of my pillow. Really, boys…"
She moved her face closer. For a moment, he'd thought she was about to offer him a kiss, but instead she just buried herself in the space between his neck and his chest, wrapping the rest of the blanket around herself in a way that would seem infantile on any other girl.
"But every once in a while, I think I could deal with this smell," she sighed.
"I wish this moment would stretch. That I could leave my eyes open right now and stay like this, with time freezing still all outside my mind. Just me and you and this bed, listening to your heart beating and feeling your fingertips squeezing my own. I wish I could lie down like this and simply exist, without sleep, for – for at least a few hours more. For as many as it'd take me to feel that it's nearly enough. And then close my eyes, and find out later that no time's passed at all. I wish there was a magic like that."
"I… I don't really know what to say to this."
"Don't. You don't always have to," she answered. "I like it when you do, but – there's not always a need for you to say anything. To do anything. I don't mind it right now. I don't mind it if – if you don't hold me, or kiss me, or speak or do anything but lie there beside me. I just want to know you're here and –"
For all of how silently she'd spoken, she sounded to have nearly ran herself out of breath. He waited for her inhale and continue, but nothing happened. Whether she'd decided that there was nothing more to say or didn't want to, or didn't feel she could, Katja remained silent for a long enough while after that she'd almost seemed to have fallen asleep.
When she next opened her mouth, it was to ask a question that, when he'd ran the scene over again back to himself in the morning, had tortured him with its seeming lack of relation to her previous outburst, in the manner Katja's words sometimes did.
"Did they light candles for All Hallows' Eve in the place you came from?"
"You mean my family?" he whispered back to her.
She nodded, which in the darkness of the room would've been senseless if her chin hadn't been resting on his shoulder.
"Not really, no. It's not all that big a deal in Switzerland. Why?"
She thought for a moment. "Do you know why people light candles?" she asked.
"For the atmosphere? For warmth? It usually happens in autumn, so maybe it's –"
"It's for guidance", she answered flatly. "For any lost souls that might be around."
"And there I was, thinking this was the holiday of dressing up and eating candy."
Another little laugher, another vibration. Another little gesture charged with hidden intent. "You didn't, really. I'm half asleep, and I can still tell when you're being dishonest. You're far too smart for that, and not enough."
Her cheek rubbed against his skin when she smiled. "All Hallows' Eve is a night for the remembrance of the dead. For saints, and for all the other holies, but also for precious things. For people you've lost. For things that…", she quieted for a bit, as if grasping for a word that'd express her meaning before giving it up and repeating herself. "…for things you might also have. Don't you think those could also be said to be dead, after a fashion?"
The next breath felt like it'd stuck in his throat. His thoughts still lumbered sluggishly within his skull, muted beneath the warm buzz of sleep, and for once in their conversation he'd wished he could hurry them into clarity.
It was too dark to see Katja's face. He wasn't sure how much good it'd do to him to, or whether he'd be able to even make a close attempt at gauging what might be going through her mind, but even that would've been better than simply hearing her say that out of the blue and feeling so suddenly so hopelessly lost.
He tightened his arms around her. Whether for his own feeling of comfort or for hers, he couldn't say.
"Do you really want to talk about this right now?" he asked.
"Would it change anything if I did? It's so rarely that I what I want has bearing on what thoughts pass through my mind. You don't have to answer to me. You don't have to do anything. I just want to share them with you, so I won't have to hear them myself."
"Sometimes," she went on, the hesitation in her voice quickly giving way for a frightening, hollow intensity, "sometimes I'm all by myself late at night, lying down in my bed, and –"
"Don't say anything you don't want to. You don't –"
"I have to. It has to come out. It – I don't know what needs to happen. It's not something I've asked for. It's confusing me, and I'm scared."
A deep, weary breath. "Not just at night. That's when it's worst, but – but when I'm by myself, and there's no – there's no one I want to or can, or no one there to talk to, and there's nowhere for my thoughts go but in," she spilt. "It's as if they pool inside of me. Rising like water in a well when it's raining hard. Something dark and – and something that I don't want to but can't stop from coming in. From rushing through inside me and filling me until everything else is pushed out."
He half expected her to shiver. Maybe a part of him wanted her to. If she did, he could try – could try to hug her even tighter maybe, or say something simple and meaningless to make her forget, or kiss her and remind her that he was here with her in hope it'd go away.
But Katja didn't shiver. Her skin didn't go cold. She just kept speaking with as near perfect enunciation as she could manage, in a voice that was steadier now than many others' ever is.
"Can you imagine being filled with water? That is how it feels, in my mind. Like there was a fountain inside my chest, overflowing, and the water from inside bubble against the skin because there's still – still just enough inside for them to move.
To swirl, like a whirlpool, like in a glass vessel that's tittering on the brink of a fall that would break it. Even after all of my limbs are heavy and senseless, even after I've stopped breathing, even after I can't see anything for water behind my eyelids, even after I can't open my mouth because nothing but mire would come out, there's still enough of me inside for motion.
Enough for the water to spiral within my brain, again and again, so much that I can almost hear it."
"I want it to feel cold. There's a sense of dramatic propriety that says it should be, but it's not. The water has no texture, no temperature, no state other than being. Other than enough mass and fluidity to stir within this glass, on the edge, to push against the sides enough that – that you can see it all toppling over, and for tension almost want it to. And then it's gone."
She exhaled again, and by the dreadful finality of her sigh had marked a momentary end for her tirade.
"With you, if this moment could last just a little bit longer, at least for the time being, it's gone. There's a silence. My mind is empty, and it feels so wonderful."
He couldn't swallow. A knot of his muscles wouldn't let him.
Katja's skin was still warm beneath his fingers. Her chest still rose and feel quietly, in rhythm.
He imagined a faint, distant gurgle in her breath, a colorless moisture when it hit his face.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked with a broken voice. "I… I can't reach that far. What do – what am I supposed to do? I don't understand. You say that you feel like this, but the most I can make of that metaphor is that there's nothing I could do to help. I can't drain that water from your mind. I can't drink it. I can't –", the blood rushed hard against his temples. "I won't let you make an opening for them out."
"You don't," she said. "You can't. And I wouldn't want you to."
"I want to help you."
"And you do. Holding me like this, you –"
Her expression changed again. "You touch the vessel, and that's enough for the water to stop. They won't drain out, but if you just push it a little bit away from the edge, if you hold it hard enough that it won't shake, then there's no motion. There can be quiet."
A silence descended back upon the dark room. A void of sensation deep enough to make the sound of the wind against the glass stand out again, and the glow of starlight, however blurry.
"You're not a lost soul," he spoke back quietly. "If that's anything like what you were trying to imply by making that connection, then forget about it. It has nothing to do with you."
"I feel like it, in times."
"It doesn't change that. You shouldn't. I – listen, I'm here for you, alright? If it's to hold up your glass, or, or just lie down next to you without saying anything stupid, I'm here. I'm not going to leave you. Whatever you need so you don't have to feel like that, I'll be that. If that's all it'd take, then I'm willing to."
He brought his fingers up to her face, to lift her chin up just enough that if it wasn't so late at night, and not so dark, he could look into her eye. It looked like a glitter in the night, a darker pool on a background that didn't seem black around it.
He tried to burn that image into his mind.
"I don't want anything to happen to you. I'll do whatever I have to make sure that it doesn't. You don't have to worry about anything."
She did something with her face; something he couldn't see. A ripple moved within the pool, like in water, then she moved her head, and it was gone. Her fingers' hold on his own grew weaker. Her arms loosened.
"I wish I could light a candle," she yawned.
"Don't. It's clear enough. You'll just ruin it if you said it out loud."
The shadows deepened around her in his mind, like the blanket. Like his arms.
"You said it yourself," he said in a hush.
"There's no need to. I'm here."
No longer an active MS developer; I'm just here for the memes
I did make a yuri game called Highway Blossoms