The lantern flickers. Bimori pauses. Shadows dance on the surface of the paper, weaving in between Bimori’s script and casting wisps of greys and blacks on the parchment. Pen unmoving, Bimori waits for the light to still and then continues to write.
“...Essay 1, Winter Semester--”
The light jerks away, flickering violently. Bimori does not move.
“You know I hate it when you do that,” Bimori says, barely above a whisper. They look up at the lantern and the flame stills suddenly. Bimori stares at the wick, but the flame only sways. Bimori grabs the pen again, not taking their eyes from the lantern, and then touches the pen to the parchment. The second it connects, the light awakens again, dancing more furiously than before. Bimori slams the pen down.
“Atzi,” Bimori groans, running their hands through their hair. “Please.”
The light continues to jerk around, flinging light around the room with reckless abandon. Bimori pushes away from the desk and walks toward the door. With each step, the flame swings more and more erratically. When Bimori touches the doorknob, the flame stills. Then it shrinks to the size of a birthday candle flame and stays there, pulsing slowly, growing to the size of a grape and back down again.
“Tell Atzi to cut it out.” Bimori grumbles. The flame shrinks to the size of a watermelon seed and stays that way. Then, a voice, somehow both far away and impossibly close, envelops Bimori.
“Atzi only worries for you, little one.” Teiuc’s deep voice swims through the room like velvet on skin. Bimori exhales, but does not turn around.
“I said I didn’t want to talk about it,” Bimori whispers. At this, the flame inflates to its normal size but stops before it gets any bigger. It stills again, but Bimori notices a quiver along the edges of the shadows cast by the flame where the light meets the dark on the walls.
“Perhaps,” Teiuc’s voice returns, “by talking about it, young Bimori, you may allow us to help carry the weight of your turmoil, rather than take on the burden alone.”
Bimori slides down the wall and wraps their arms around their knees. They begin to feel heat rising on their cheeks. It becomes harder to swallow. Bimori dares not take a deep breath lest a shudder escape instead of an exhale. Now it is Bimori’s turn to still.
“B-Bimori,” a brittle voice, this time coming from under the bed, “I-I do apologize. It’s just that. Well. Sometimes you come home and. And you’re different -- well you’re not different -- but act different, I think? And I only hope that -- well I hope that…”
Atzi’s shrill voice has a way of showing concern without suffocating the listener. Like a beloved dog’s whimper, or a parent’s tender coos when their child gets hurt. It makes Bimori’s heart ache to ignore it. They peek out of their arms and look towards the corner of the room furthest from the light, knowing Atzi and Teiuc would be in their favorite spot.
“I’m okay, guys,” Bimori sniffs. “I promise.”
At this, the flame in the lantern flicks, moving for the first time since Bimori sat down, as if called to attention.
“But Bimori,” croaks Atzi.
“Atzi,” Teiuc warns.
“Bimori this isn’t the first time-”
The shadows on the wall ebb and flow, getting larger and larger, encroaching on the light of the candle, the flame suddenly so small against the darkness of the room.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened,”
“They said they didn’t want to talk about i-”
“And LAST time this happened we almost didn’t-”
Bimori’s heart pounds in their chest as the bickering continues. The flame whips back and forth. The shadows on the wall are yanked in kind: Atzi’s form splatters the wall like stars in the galaxy, skipping about and never stopping for more than a second, like confetti peppering the sky. This is juxtaposed only by Teiuc’s ebbing shadows. Large and encapsulating, waves of dark greys and blacks painting the walls in their entirety, but slow, so slow compared to Atzi. Teiuc attempts to corral Atzi, but Atzi is quick. Atzi shatters at a single touch, escaping faster than Teiuc’s formidable figures can reach them.
“Stop,” Bimori squeaks, but what is a single voice to a hailstorm? Shadows dance across Bimori’s floor, the ceiling. They dance across Bimori’s clothes and face. The shadows’ voices reverberate.
“We almost didn’t make it, Bimori!”
“We cannot force these things, Atzi,”
“And who are you to speak for them, Tieuc?”
“STOP!” Bimori gasps. They launch up and slam their hand on the light switch. In an instant, the voices cut out as the room drowns in white light. Bimori looks around. The bed is made. The books on the shelf all stand pin straight, organized by author name and then by color. A stack of freshly laundered clothes sits at the end of the bed. The desk is neat except for Bimori’s pen, which has fallen onto the ground. A hum escapes the bulb in the ceiling, the only sound left in the room.
Bimori picks up the pen and sits down. The sound of the chair scraping along the wooden floors make their teeth clench. As they begin to write, they notice an ugly black ink stain blotched across the parchment. They reach for a fresh piece under their desk.
“Little Bimori,” a breath of a whisper escapes from beneath the desk. Tieuc’s voice. Bimori says nothing.
“We meant no harm, young one,” Tieuc says. “Though if it is our silence you wish, then these are boundaries we will respect.”
Bimori puts the pen to parchment in response and does not speak again. They write for a long time, though Bimori is not sure exactly how long. Tieuc and Atzi say nothing for the duration, not that they could if they wanted to with the room so bright. Yet, despite the silence, Bimori feels their presence and that is better than being truly alone. As the night moves along, eventually Bimori’s eyes begin to droop. The lantern burns less brightly for lack of fuel rather than Atzi’s intervention. They drop the pen to massage their cramping hand. Bimori stands, floorboards creaking beneath their feet, and move across the room. With a flick of the light switch, the room falls into darkness again. The flame in the lantern perks up, as if someone had called it by its name and it was turning to look.
Atzi and Tieuc remain silent, and though the shadows on the wall remain calm, there is still movement. Tieuc strolls up and down the corners of the room. Atzi cascades along the length of the walls the way droplets slide along a window after heavy rainfall. The whole thing makes Bimori think of a lava lamp, and they are reminded why this is Bimori’s favorite place to be.
Bimori lies on the bed and rests their hands on their stomach, twiddling their fingers. Atzi and Tieuc’s movement slow, waiting. Ready.
“Today was rough…” Bimori begins.
And the shadows gravitate towards the wall closest to Bimori as they tell about their day, and their struggles. And with each passing word Bimori feels lighter, though the shadows say nothing. And as Bimori wraps up, Atzi and Teicu offer validation and support and Bimori cracks a grin for the first time all day.