Oh, look, there he is. Sebastian Bloom. He’s staring at you, waiting.
Sebastian Bloom, downturned mouth and blond lashes. Sebastian Bloom, coattails long and grey. Sebastian Bloom, prematurely silver hair falling over key lime eyes.
You have just woken up. The world is fresh, still dewey, sticky, leaving cobwebs between your fingers as you open your hands. The world is curved lines and long-legged water bug wonderings on your wet lips.
Who called you here?
But it is Sebastian, of course.
He clears his throat. “It’s time to wake up now.”
Aren’t you awake already?
With a slender-fingered hand, he helps you stand, slipping an arm around the small of your back to settle your feet on the rough wood floor. He has already opened the curtains. Sunlight tickles your toes.
The clock ticks in the corner. It’s later now, and you’re tucked away in an armchair, wrapped in a blanket, your knees pulled up to your chin.
From above the entrance hall, you can see the door as it opens, the thin sliver of light that slithers in before someone cuts it off.
Oh look, there he is. Sebastian Bloom. He doesn’t see you.
Sebastian Bloom, shutting the door with a slam and the whisper of a key in the lock. Sebastian Bloom, frowning down at the blood on his hands. Sebastian Bloom, narrow jaw tipping up as he seeks out your eyes in the dark.
He sees you now.
“It’s alright, I’m okay.”
Is it? Is he?
His feet hit the stairs as he runs.
You eye the hand that he extends, red, a droplet dangling from the end of his ring finger, yearning to fall on the carpet below, and he pulls it back.
“I’ll go get you something to eat.”
You notice a spot of red on his pant leg as he walks away.
Whose blood is it?
The sun shifts, a curtain is pulled, light floods the room.
You are blind now, pulling the blanket up to your chin.
Somewhere, a song is playing. You’ve heard it before, so you can tap along to the notes before they play, your fingernails snagging on the dusty threads of your blanket.
Footsteps, out of beat, soft.
Oh, look, there he is. Sebastian Bloom. He’s approaching you.
Sebastian, burnt toast on a chipped china plate. Sebastian, shrugging and telling you, as the sun dances in the edges of your vision and a dreamstate hovers, fuzzy and many-limbed, around the crown of your head, that this is the best he can do.
His hands, clean now, help you hold the bread in your shaking fingers and guide it to your mouth. It tastes like smoke, rough in your throat.
Where have you felt this before?
The dreamstate reaches, tugging at the hair on your temples, and you retch, vision clouding.
You’re somewhere else now.
Where is he?
Where is Sebastian Bloom in this bright white room, this empty space, this glowing limbo?
“Why have you returned?”
Your mouth is dry.
There is something in your chest, not a heart, but something that beats like one, a sound that rings in your ears, something that clenches, a feeling that claws up your throat.
You didn’t know you left.
“Where is he?” you ask.
“He’s back there. Now go.”
You double over in your chair, vision going black again.
Oh, look, there he is. Sebastian Bloom. Sweat coats his brow. You grin.
Sebastian, owner of a pocket watch, an old house, and not much else. Sebastian, who doesn’t look in the mirror. Sebastian, who can’t dance.
“Oh thank God,” he says.
How did he know?
It’s later again. He left earlier, having wrapped you in a second blanket and closed the blinds, so you sit in darkness.
The moon is out, a gibbous, pregnant with reflected light that pushes down onto the lawn outside.
This is the hour that wears wide silver gauges on its many ears, the hour that wishes for a cool breeze to whistle through its shadowy leaves. The hour that echoes with the screech of metal on metal, that smells like coins, passed between too many hands, that keeps a key under its tongue.
Time is slippery when you try to catch it in your cupped palms, trying to slip between your fingers, leaving a sticky residue beneath your nails.
But where is he?
But will he be here soon?
There’s someone at the door. It slams open all the way, the handle wriggling.
A shadow staggers through the moonlight.
Oh, look, there he is. Sebastian Bloom. He’s wounded, holding your gaze as he half-crawls up the stairs, landing in a jagged collapse beside you.
Sebastian, once fierce with a dagger in his hand. Sebastian, head tipping back against the wall. Sebastian, pain dulling the sharp glint in his pale eyes.
Blood seeps through his clothes, puddling on the floor, soaking the dangling ends of your blankets. He pushes them aside for you.
His hands shake, but his eyes don’t close as he dies.
It’s that white room again.
What happened to him?
What happened to Sebastian Bloom in that dark country house, those shadowy rooms, that unfair existence?
“Don’t you see?”
“This is why humans cannot love.”
You do not have hands here to reach out to the speaker.
“What happened to him?” You hate the way your voice does not vibrate in your throat, the way you can’t feel your lips touch.
“Do you not understand punishment? Go again.”
Needles behind your eyes, and you’re awake again.
Something is missing.
It’s her, of course. Karina Crow.
Now you see her. Karina Crow, red earrings and singing eyes. Karina Crow, mouth gap-toothed and smiling. Karina Crow, soft fingertips brushing over your brow.
“You slept for a long time,” she says, pulling you up and settling on the blanket beside you.
When did you fall asleep?
The fleeting shape of a bird flashes across Karina’s face as one flies in front of the sun. She molds her body to the edge of yours, eyes never leaving you, her gaze tracing fond touches over your shoulders and face. “Thank God you’re awake now, I missed you.”
Why does that sound familiar?