This story originally appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic on November 1, 2018.
Woman curls at the center of the white featherbed, listens for her man’s footfall. Fat sprockets of snow pile along the frame of the window. It is dusk and she is the pearl of Switzerland. But within that pearl are thoughts, the grit of an alien dream. A boy, nine maybe, head cocked, face shadowed and crowned by window light, appears nightly to say, “You don’t know me yet, but I’m sorry.”
She lies in the chalet bedroom, geraniums in window planters mounded with caps of snow. A dreadful chill, anticipation of the mournful boy, pricks her fingertips. Who is he, with his cocked head and close-cropped riddles and sorrow? He returns. “There were these kids. They stuck a pin in a beer can and hid it. They made me find it in the woods.” She thinks, A pin like a button? A pin for sewing? and he’s gone.
She listens and hears the cog train, its hearty clicks of dumb horsepower, haul up the incline to her village. Last night she and her lover drank warm cider. They knew when to nod, when to laugh. Later, the little boy finds her again, stands between her and the window. He shifts his head upright and says, “Take my hand.” It is cold, rubbery like the fingers have no bones.
The man flips back the sheets and climbs on top and bites the woman’s neck. She rocks him in some carapace of bliss; he responds with a crashing growl. Each kisses the other’s eyelids. Propped on her left elbow, right hand fallen to the surface of the soft, deep coverlet, she remembers: the dream boy said, “They’re all here, ma.” She was with the boy in an old pine forest. She heard water trinkle down rock.
She asks her lover as she pulls on dry snow boots, a ski sweater, “Do you one day think we’ll have a boy?” She narrows her gaze.
She remembers asking in the last encounter, “Who is all here?” She wants to protect that tenderly familiar boy. “All of them, ma. Look here one day.” He looks past her shoulder, and her gaze follows; she sees a grotto, then tail lights of a car, double rectangles with a red dot at the center, slink farther over tire-rutted pathways.
The boy, high above black branches outside, somewhere above repeated cuts of triangular conifers, above the crowding crown of peaks, above cracking Bernese glaciers, sees the lovers like a film, the snow speeds toward them in darts of silver. He smiles, tender toward them, and doesn’t want to lead her to the ruined old grotto, but this dream prepares her to swim up through heartache’s scheduled avalanche. One day, the dream will have a different setting: a flooded copper mine, devourer of old shopping carts and refrigerators, of boys that collect war medallions, sunk heavy in shadowy veins.