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~Suzette~

༻Chapter Six༺

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

Up above, the full moon shines upon us brightly, as we traverse beside large fields of grain on the edges of civilization. It appears that, with each passing day, our schedule becomes a little more nocturnal. Oddly enough, I do not mind at all. The night is quiet and peaceful; something about being cloaked in darkness is strangely comforting, especially with the moonlight softening it, so one can still see. I wonder if that is why he seems to enjoy the night so much.

After a while, I notice a great darkness in the distance. The closer we come, a fence surrounding it becomes visible. Periodically adorning the fence are signs, which even from this distance seem too ornate to be hunter’s warnings for infringing on their territory.

“Is that Florêt Folwêkhdin?” I ask.

“Yes,” he replies curtly. We continue onwards in dead silence, and the sense of unease grows ever more…

“I’m going to warn you now,” he begins, “It’s…much more overgrown than anywhere we have been so far.”

“Any other information I may need to know?”

“Well…when they begin singing, don’t try to resist it.” Now, I look upon him in confusion.

“Singing…?”

“Well, I said the fae there lull you to sleep…that’s how they do it.”

“If you say so,” I reply, finding that a tad ridiculous, even on top of all else that has happened. Yet, even so, even I must admit an odd aura appears to radiate from that place.

Soon, we find ourselves in front of the fence, and survey our surroundings to make sure none see us. Thankfully it is rather small, more of a symbol than a structure legitimately meant to keep one out. Once on the other side, Hikaru shuffles through his satchel, and brings out a lantern, alighting it in the same odd way he had the twig in the forest.

“How many things do you carry with you?”

“Too much,” he says with a laugh. But, upon turning to the forest again, he sighs. “…Let’s go, Suzette.”

Slowly, we enter the woods, carefully navigating the heavy brush. The eerie aura increases to the extent that, even in spite of myself, my body tenses up immensely. While outside the forest the moon’s light shone brightly, within it is nowhere to be seen, and even his lantern does little to penetrate the darkness. Both of us remain mute, even if conversation may put us at ease—it feels as though needless speech would somehow desecrate the forest. At least, until I trip.

“Are you all right?!?” Hikaru immediately turns around in a panic.

“Yes…it is just a bit dense in here, yes?” Though I attempt to pay no mind to it, in truth I am much more terrified than logically I know I should be. Even disregarding any faeries, it is dark enough here that who knows what sort of predators could be lying just mere feet out of sight…

He reaches his hand out to assist me to me feet; however, once I am standing again, he does not let go. His grip only grows tighter, nearly to the point of paining me.

“Hikaru, are you well?”

“Yes, just…” he pauses, “Yes, I’m fine. We’re fine.” He smiles, but my increasingly numb hand tells a different story. He lets go, and we continue even deeper into the woods.

A few more hours pass, and nothing happens. Eventually I come to ease, once it appears clear those tales were merely that, and nothing more. Indeed, it feels no different from any other forest we have traversed through, aside from being even more overgrown.

That is, until faintly a sound appears in the distance. A voice…a single, divine voice chanting in an incomprehensible tongue.

No, I surely must be imagining it—it cannot be—

Soon, a chorus swells around us, each voice more beautiful than the last. It is magnificent, heavenly…yet, my limbs freeze in utter horror.

“Hikaru?” I shriek, giving away my fear much more than I had intended. He merely stares of into the forest, and grins meekly.

“We’ll both be fine, Suzette…I promise.” He does not even sound convinced; but, I appreciate the effort…

He blows out the lantern and gently seats himself upon the ground, gathering underbrush and setting down his hat to create a sort of pillow.

“You really are not going to resist?”

“There’s no use,” he says while yawning, and unfortunately I feel drowsiness quickly overcome me as well. “You can try to resist it if you wish, but I’m staying here. I suppose you can go on if you wish…”

“I will not abandon you; that would be foolish for both of us, would it not?” I yawn, and lay down very near to him, perhaps a bit closer than I intended. However, my body has now become like a stone, overtaken by tiredness.

Now laying upon my back, I notice a sliver of moonlight filtered through the canopy above, bathing my face in its soothing glow. In my sleepiness, thoughts of ill fade from my consciousness, and I merely enjoy the beauty of the moonlight and the choir around us. In only a few minutes, I am overcome with slumber.

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{After some time, I awake once more. Yet, no longer am I in the forest…but rather, in a warm, soft bed. Sunlight filters through a translucent curtain, dying the room a gentle purplish hue. The room itself, however, is in complete disarray…canvases scattered everywhere, some blank and others empty, with a few finished works adorning the walls. By the windowsill stands an easel, and a table covered with pots of paint, amongst other tools.

Suddenly, through no will of my own I look down towards my hands, sitting still upon the blanket; immediately, I notice something very wrong.

These…are not my hands.

They are very pale and bony, and far too large and hairy to be mine. It appears they belong to a man; a rather old one I would suspect, if it were not for the fact the hair is a deep black color, just like my own. The realization finally comes to me.

Ah, this is merely a dream! I remember everything now!

I grow overjoyed at the realization. Once long ago, I believe my brother told me how one can control their dreams, if they merely learn they are dreaming within it. Though I had tried, I was never able to achieve this—until now! Now those “faeries” cannot harm me!

Soon, however, an issue arises. I cannot control anything. I attempt to move, and yet I remain trapped. To shift into my true self, and yet I remain as this man. Rather than being gifted freedom, instead I am granted a horrible, pervasive throbbing; all at once my body is thrown into a torment that does not cease.

Inwardly, I scream.

Let this nightmare end!

But, it remains, as do I. I am imprisoned here, and fully cognizant of it. But, from deep within my mind, I hear a sound. A weak, muffled voice.

“I hope he’ll return soon…”

A young man. If I were in control of this body, I surely would have jumped from sheer surprise; however, it appears to be the voice—or thought, rather—of the one whose body I find myself trapped within.

What a poor creature…he is clearly not a child, but he still sounds too young for this misery. To be in such pain, all alone…quickly I become overwhelmed with pity for him.

It does not last long, as soon my thoughts grow less…cohesive…

Memories…sense of self…consciousness drifting…until I am—

.

.

.

“I can’t handle this any longer…” I whisper to myself, in a vain attempt to find comfort in hearing someone’s voice. Even if it is not very positive, even if it’s only my voice…it’s all I have. But it sounds so craggy and ancient, I can barely recognize it as my own. Once more I turn towards the window, but the sudden influx of air in my direction stirs me into a coughing fit.

I had so much life left to live, right? That’s what most in my situation would be expected to say. They’re too young to die. However, I find myself oddly at peace with this notion. Of course, I don’t wish to die, and yet…I’ve achieved my greatest dreams. Even with the hardships I’ve been through, it’s hard not to believe my life hasn’t been full of luck. “The man who paints dreams,” some say. What a fanciful title. But yet…well, at this point my life does feel like a dream. Other than this…it’s so perfect right now. So lucky. Yes…so lucky.

From that perspective, I suppose it only makes sense it would run out eventually. However, it’s comforting to not have any regrets.

Well, aside from one…

Suddenly, I hear knocking on the door, followed by a soft, deep voice speaking to me from the other side.

“Alex…are you awake?”

“Of course, love,” I reply as loudly as I can muster, while turning towards the door as swiftly as I can without dizzying myself. Steadily the door creaks open, and he comes inside.

“I’m so happy you’re still here…” he smiles meekly, although his face betrays all. His complexion is dyed red, tear trails stain is face.

Now, I must truly try and stay composed…this pain is wretched enough, but his on top of it is almost too much to bear. All I wanted was to give us a wonderful life, filled with joy…but now all the remains is pain.

“Of course, I’m still here,” I reply, “The pain is not too awful.” I chuckle, to try to make the situation seem milder than it is. Both of us know the truth.

Steadily he makes his way across the room, and gently seats himself on the bed, beside me.

“How are you feeling today, Alex?” He smiles that same way he always does when he’s trying to mask sadness. I don’t know if I love it or hate it.

“Better than yesterday,” I croak. It’s perhaps the most pathetic lie I have ever told. Meanwhile, he grabs my hand, and squeezes it tight.

“I’m glad to hear that,” he answers hoarsely.

No, I can’t hold this anguish in any longer, I can’t, I can’t—

“Hikaru, there’s something I need to tell you,” I whisper.

“What is it?”

“Sâ pshyku vrémond —I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” I apologize over and over and over again. In spite of myself, I feel tears burning down my face.

“W-what are you talking about?” His voice begins shaking terribly, and tears swell within his eye as well…

Ah…if anyone saw us, we would surely look like a pathetic duo…but luckily, we are locked away from all the world, free to be alone together, likely for the last time…

“I just wanted us to have a nice, peaceful life,” I whisper, “And yet, it seems I couldn’t even give you that much…”

“You say ‘give you that much’ as though you have not already given me everything,” he replies. “Are you really apologizing to me because…because you’re…” he chuckles, and now the tears drench his face.

For a moment we sit there in silence, and he sighs. At last, he looks up, his rosy red eye meeting with mine.

“Alex, will you promise me something?” he asks solemnly. “Truly, truly promise me?”

“Hmm?” My voice is scarcely audible, and yet he hears it.

“Will you promise me that we’ll meet again? When you’re reborn, will you try and find me?

“Oh, well,” I fumble, unsure of how to answer his question, “The world is a rather big place, and…” I know he believes in such things, but I can’t really say I do. I don’t want to make him a promise I don’t believe I can fulfill…

“Please promise you’ll at least try…” he mumbles, clearly a bit hurt.

“…I will, Hikaru. I promise…I’ll at least try.”

“When we met again,” he says, “We can have a nice, peaceful life then. Okay?” I smile as widely as I have in what seems like eternity. Even in this horrid situation, he still finds some optimism…

“Yes, I’d like that.”

“Thank you…” he says softly leaning into me, with such genuine gratitude it nearly melts my soul.

“Hey,” I whisper.

“Is there something you—”

“Lêm sâ tsiâ né…I love you, Hikaru.” He stares at me bewilderedly, as though he hasn’t heard these words a thousand times by now. Then he pulls me within his embrace, and I soon melt within the warmth.

“…Lêm mo sâ tsiâ né, Alex,” he softly whispers in my ear, before we lean into one final, last kiss. As the final spark of life flickers through me.

And then, I feel it…

My heart thumping; one thump, another harder than the last…

Finally, the world becomes engulfed in darkness, the final spark within me, the warm light enveloping me extinguished.

It’s over.}

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Burning sunlight fills my eyes as they dart open, and rapidly I shoot upwards, startled awake by the nightmare. I look about me, but everything is blurred by the flurry of tears within my eyes. Therefore, I slowly close them once and sit still, stunned and paralyzed. My heart beating so fast, it seems as though it may stop as well.

What…was that?

What was that?

For what feels like an eternity, I sit with my mind blank, attempting to process everything. Eventually I wipe away the tears, and notice he is lying right by my side. It seems we had drifted closer within the night, and I would be overcome with embarrassment if I had not immediately noticed something: he is still asleep, but he is not sleeping soundly at all. His face is flushed red, and covered in tears as well…

It is an absurd thought, and yet…did we somehow have the same dream? Is he still within it?

Though I wish to move, I cannot help but stay by his side and study his face. While he always seemed to look somewhat young for his age, now I am struck by how much older he truly looks compared to the Hikaru I witnessed before. Extra lines upon the face that was once a smooth canvas, that seems like it has seen much more since then.

At last I lift myself up, and somberly gaze within the forest, hopelessly lost in my own thoughts, piecing everything together. The more awake I become, the more the pieces click into place…

Hikaru, that painter whose paintings he has stashed away…they were…lovers? Is that not unnatural? Never to be married, never to have children…I would say perversion; however, what I saw did not feel disgusting. It felt bright, and loving…but how could it be that way…?

More pressingly, for myself…why am I having this dream? This is not my life, my business. Occasionally I can be too curious and intrusive, but this is something else!

But, suddenly I remember what he had told me, about the faeries…

Sometimes they give one blessed dreams or horrific nightmares. Other times they give one the ability to see them, or visions of a previous life—

I paid little mind to that, considering the concept of reincarnation has always seemed a tad silly to me. Already am I so preoccupied with getting this life in order, why worry about the next?

But, if that man truly was “me,” that would mean…Hikaru and I…oh—OH

S-surely this is just a coincidence, right?

The thought of he and I, together…it has already entered my mind too much for comfort as it is, even disregarding this! Just imagine the ridicule! We come from entirely different worlds, and all would be able to tell; it is such a mismatch.

Although, two men is a mismatch too, and yet—no, I do not want to think of this any longer—!

From behind I begin hearing rustling, and soon I look up to see Hikaru standing by my side. His face is clearly dredged in despair; and yet, upon seeing me, he smiles widely.

“I see you made it through the night all right.”

“I did—” Against my own wishes, I feel myself begin crying once more.

“Are you sure? You’re—”

“Oh, yes, I just…had a rough dream.” He chuckles.

“You too, huh?” he pauses. “For now…let’s forget our past. The day is still young; we should get going.”

“I agree,” I mumble.

I know he merely means the dreams themselves, but…I have a feeling neither of us will be forgetting our past any time soon.

⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽✧☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅

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