It’s raining. It’s always raining. They look through the window but don’t see the rain any more.
Their hands are knotted, like the roots of trees. Clutching a book, a tea cup, armrests. Or, in dreams, clutching lovers’ throats.
The room is airy and full of silent electricity. People come and go. But they don’t; they’re always here, in this place, in this moment. They breathe slowly, patiently.
Occasionally, their eyes flicker, reptilian, over the objects arranged around them.
Outside, unseen, a little boy is laughing at something.
She can sit for hours, staring at a landscape, a beach, a ruin. You’d think she was a realistic fibreglass sculpture, dressed in real clothes that ruffle in the wind, until she suddenly turns her head or shifts her weight.
She can sit for hours, painting the things she sees and the things she dreams, up to her elbows in the artist’s gore. The canvas is skin, stretched flesh, a bandage. Flowers and blood, knives and nectar. Images bloom in the darkening studio.
She can sit for hours, impassive, a picture, a point of stillness, a mannequin.
When he turns up at her studio, she sees the haunted look in his face and tells him to man up.
When they sleep, their heads melt. Creatures made of stone and darkness gather round and sip the slurry of their brains. A grandfather clock keeps watch and raises the alarm when dawn peeps over the horizon.
All the names are tattooed over their bodies. Their lovers try to read them, but the light is bad. The names are all equal, all one. The names are weighed down with themselves. There is more value in having no name, smiling in the cradle of the wind. To have a name is to be marked for death.
They wait in a back street. They have a name in their mouths. They suck it gently, roll it around.
It sleeps, curled tight as a fist, in his brain.
He gets up, goes to work, goes home, has dinner with her, goes to bed. And a million tiny variations along the way.
Tonight he’s fucking her. They’re fucking each other. The bed is their battlefield. As she’s coming, she screams and pushes his face away with the palm of her hand.
Everything becomes still. He rolls off her. She’s dead to the world.
It stirs in his brain, unfurls a little, stretches. It wakes up.
He doesn’t sleep. He can’t sleep, not now it’s awake.
When it’s awake he can see it, behind his eyes. It’s red, wet, larval. It pulsates slowly.
He can’t stop looking at it, wondering at it.
He stays awake until morning.