I have a confession to make: I’m on the Tumblr. It might seem like a conflict of interest since this is a WordPress site, but that’s a post for another day. One of the people that I follow on the Tumblr is Mr. Gaiman.
No surprise, I am sure.
One day, Mr. Gaiman linked to a video created by Michael McQuilken. The video was for a song called ‘Young & Lovely’ from the album “Composed” by Jherek (I don’t know how to pronounce his fucking name either) Bischoff.
Mr. Gaiman commented that this was the type of art that begged for a story.
What follows is the story that I have written for this video. It’s not the greatest story in the world. In fact, it’s the first short story that I have written in over a decade. After the story is the actual video.
Thanks for reading this,
Springtime: that part of the year when the cold fingers and desolation of winter have been shaken off in favor of the warmth and hope that spring brings with it. That hope is a gift to the youth. It is with hope that people start new chapters of their lives. Hope gives power to the creators whose ideas are nearly realized. Hope is what bonds two lovers together. What the youth doesn’t realize is that this gift won’t last forever. Lives end as easily as they have begun, ideas fall apart, and love doesn’t feel lovely enough.
It was one of the first warm days of spring. The Young Man sat on the steps of the promenade in the park. With his long, dark mane of hair gently flowing in the spring breeze and his haute couture, he was the picture of youth and virility. Nearby, a Willow tree beckoned, offering comfort and shade.
Days like these were made exactly for what he was doing: enjoying nature, listening to the birds and letting his thoughts wander while absorbing the sight before him.
Something moved a few feet behind him. A smile bloomed on the Young Man’s face.
She was attempting to sneak up on him.
She was all blonde hair, blue eyes and her Sunday best clothes. He knew at first glance that this was a girl who’s been fought over more than once.
After that first glance, he unequivocally knew that there was something strange about her. Her presence was like when you’ve misplaced something very important and you have the inkling that what you are looking for is right in front of you. Whatever it was, the Young Man knew it had something to do with her eyes. He knew that there was something there, something that was swimming just below the surface of those cold blue pools.
He was a fly in those Venus flytrap eyelashes.
In those few moments that they had observed each other, a dull haze had started to seep in through the Young Man’s mind. Time seemed to hold its breath, waiting for one of these two people to make their move. Before he realized what his legs were doing, he was following her.
Laughing and talking like they were meant to love each other, and only each other since the day that they were born, they held each other in the waning sunshine. The Young Man had never done that with just anyone before. For some reason, things felt “different” with her.
“You know, my mother never told me not to get into strange cars, with strange women”, he said from behind a blindfold.
She said she wanted to show him something back at her apartment but she wouldn’t tell him what it was and that secrecy was crucial. The Young Man was no fool. If it had been any other woman, he would have sat back down on those stone steps and resumed his enjoyment of nature and all of its offerings. But with her, he all ready knew it was love.
“Well, fortunate for you I’m not that strange”, she said smiling with her mouth, only. Her eyes, her eyes were saying something else. A small kernel of worry began to germinate in the Young Man’s mind.
“Said the young lady who was trying to sneak up on me”, he volleyed back at her in hopes of getting just a little bit more out of her.
He didn’t understand until they had arrived at her apartment why secrecy was an issue at all.
As they had gotten out of the cab, the young lady had taken off the blindfold in favor of covering his eyes with her hands. Dropping them away from his eyes, she stood before him, just as lovely as when she first crept up on him, gesturing like a showroom model at the silent behemoth of a building behind her.
“You… live here?”
She nodded enthusiastically, eyes dripping with cold fire while her mouth did all the smiling.
The Young Man knew something wasn’t right.
That small kernel of fear was starting to take root. He knew that he should have been more pragmatic about the entire situation. The only thing that he could do was to look up at this building and wonder where the top ended.
Tired of his lollygagging, she led him by the hand to the front door. Once he took one look into the frigid depths of her eyes, that fear was ripped out by the root.
Like turning off a switch.
It was the biggest apartment that the Young Man had ever seen.
So much space. For some reason, he found elation in all of this.
It wasn’t long before she started undressing him.
“I know that this may comes as a surprise, but I haven’t been entirely forthcoming”, she said.
For a brief instant, there was a flicker of fear across his face.
“It’s ok, you can tell me”, he said.
“Would you believe that we’ve met before?” she said as she continued to undress him.
“Wait, what’s the rush?” he faltered, trying to put some physical distance between the two of them.
Crestfallen, she finally spoke.
“I’ve said too much. You just seemed so… ready.”
For some reason it made him love her. It. just… didn’t… matter. Clothing proceeded to be shed.
He awoke the next day feeling hollow but fulfilled at the same time. The young lady was nowhere to be found.
After exploring the cavernous and nearly soundless apartment, he stopped to take stock of himself in a mirror.
“I always knew that one day my looks would get me in trouble”, he thought.
Even with the elation of the other day and with the overwhelming sense of unease, he still liked what he saw reflected back at him: rugged features, slim build, full mane of hair, what more could be asked for?
A small noise drained the self-absorption that the Young Man was drowning in. As he followed the sound, the noise grew to a full mutter.
That sense of dread was back.
Standing in the shadows of the hallway, he took in the strangeness of the site that he had found in the warmly lit room.
Sitting on one of the longer couches, the young lady was with four people he had never seen before. She sat in the middle of them. Everyone sat comfortably with their eyes closed and their arms outstretched before them.
On one end of the couch sat a man who appeared to be entirely composed of knees and elbows and seemed entirely too thin to exist. On the far end of the couch sat a woman who seemed to be having trouble immersing herself as the others have. She was doing her best though.
On either side of the young lady sat a man and woman who were like no people he had ever seen before. The man was dressed well in bright colors and had an iridescent quality to his face. It was like the sun was being kept in the container of a human. The woman was a pale beauty, dressed in deep blues and black greens. These people who flanked his love were as opposite as night and day.
What completely unsettled the Young Man was that they were all talking in unison but it was unlike any language that he had ever heard.
A cold sweat began to filter through the Young Man’s flesh.
He walked slowly towards the center of the group, to his love, and knelt down in front of her.
As he put his hands on her knees, those impenetrable mirrors of her eyes opened and his mind went entirely flaccid.
She smiled, ensnaring him in her embrace. The others applauded.
Under the applause, he heard her whisper, “Deep inside of your soul, you know it to be true: we’ve met and loved each other before. Just as sure as the sun and moon sit beside me”.
He knew that he should be afraid but there was something inside of him that was keeping him from it.
“Is it her?” he thought.
Eventually, everyone adjourned to the balcony. Reeling in the haze of the moment the Young Man became acquainted with these strange peoples. Try as he might, the only name that would stick in his mind was that of the thin man. He referred to himself as the Conductor. When the Young Man pressed him about such a strange name, he would only say that it was a nickname that he was blessed with given his “god-like” ability to keep things moving.
Realizing that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with his tall friend, the Young Man went to the railing to asses the past couple of hours. There was something missing. He just couldn’t nail down what it was. It was like someone had brushed up against a part of his memories before the paint had had a chance to dry.
It was a cool and cloudy night. The sky looked like a window mottled with steam and streaked with condensation. When he turned around, the strangely dressed man and woman were in the possession of musical instruments and were tuning up, while the Conductor took his place amongst them.
The Young Man wanted to question all of this but his elation at the sight before him was clouding his judgment. All he could think about was how much he wanted to dance with his love.
The Young Man and woman had started to dance. There was no rationality to the chain of events that the Young Man had become a part of. The only thing that he knew for certain was that he was happy.
The others looked on and smiled.
After the air became too cool to be tolerable, the group agreed that sustenance and libations were in order. As the food was served and conversation politely filled the air, the Young Man began to realize that something still wasn’t quite right.
While reaching this conclusion, the Young Man and the young lady had started to eat what appeared to be a grapefruit from their plates. The Young Man began to open the fruit with his hands. He realized that the fruit was certainly more exotic than he had surmised.
As the juice of the fruit bled through his fingers and dripped onto the plate, he couldn’t help thinking to himself that the young lady was right: they had known each other before. Pushing the fruit’s pit up and out into the atmosphere of the dinner party, the Young Man regarded it with a feeling of regret. It sat there in his fingers; slimy and pulsating like a heart.
All of those feelings of dread, the weight of the unease of everything, he finally felt assured as the identity of the young lady had finally dawned on him.
He turned to face the young lady. Regardless of any realizations, the love was still there between the two of them. As he was about to speak her true name, a wave of disgust erupted on her face. Reaching up to his head, she fingered one silver strand, a gray hair.
Savagely plucking it from his head, she turned and stomped away like a scorned child.
Turning to read the faces of the “dinner guests” in hopes to find some clue as to the travesty that he had unknowingly brought into being, a shockwave of fear thundered through his body.
They were all gone.
The night had turned into day.
It was like it had never happened.
Was he going mad?
The click of a woman in high heels echoed through the apartment.
Chasing after it, he had found her at the end of a hallway. It was the woman who didn’t seem like she was to be a part of the group. A brief glimmer of hope pin pricked in the man as she regarded him, her entire being radiating disgust.
Turning on her heel, she walked on, deeper into the room at the other end of the hall.
Storming into the room after the misplaced woman, the Young Man had found her, the young lady, in the embrace of another woman.
“They look so… happy”, he thought.
They both stopped long enough to look at him. Their faces were polite but it was obvious that they were unhappy with this presence.
The young lady gazed at him with those dangerous pools she called eyes.
The Young Man heard her speak. Her mouth wasn’t moving. She was speaking to him, inside of him.
“Just as the moon and sun sat beside me last night, you know that I am The Dawn. I am of the oldest of the old and we have been acquainted numerous times. I bridge the gap between the days and I exist to rob you of your youth. Eventually you will be like me, Young Man. You will be no longer lovely enough for love. You made your peace with that last night when you realized my true name and yet you still had love for me. Go now, young man, you have served your purpose”.
His eyes began to tear. As he blinked them away, he found that he was back where he started, in the park.
Unaware of what happened, the Young Man still felt at ease with himself as he moved from the steps to the nearby Willow tree. Watching his son toddle around in front of him, he knew despite the feeling of unease, that things were as they should be.