The lit-up boy came crying down the stairs covered in footsteps ringing through night-gardens. Only in that moment could we change who we were, and who we ever would be. Evaporation misted toward the stars.
The lanterns fizzled out. The stone walls wept. Moss grew. More than anything, I wanted Nothing, its teeth tearing me apart, howling all the grace notes of silence. I wanted to die and disappear, to have no soul.
The boy wafted his vaporous hand through my neck. My scream moved through his mouth and out the other side. I closed my eyes; I stopped breathing. My sister, Ellen, breathed instead, moist against my face. “You are not the answer we were asking for,” she told him. “You can go away now, little ghost-boy, thank you.”
“No one living knows the right question,” he said. “It’s not like you think, being dead.” Behind my eyelids, I could see; I pressed my hands against them. He started purring. The vibration jiggled the rain water cupped inside the tulips, making the moon inside them scatter. A bee flew out of one, tipping it over, and water dripped onto the ground. The bee purred too.
I wanted to dig down in soft loam, covering myself with Always. I wanted to no longer exist, to have an ending. Ellen fluttered her eyelashes against my cheek. We were too young for mascara, so the softness felt like flight. The boy said: “There is no Nothing for you.” I cried tears into his voice. It ate the tears up. His voice licked me clean. “You will become your father. And your mother.”
I twisted my DNA into a dream. Ellen and I coiled backwards. The ground trembled loud.
The boy became naked before us. His skin glowed like a swan in moonlight. I reached out to touch his hip bone curving forward delicate. I turned into song, sliding along it, until I woke from so much pain of beauty. To be perfect must burden. To be so thin one must be cut by everything. By every word, and song and breath alive.
My lips so dry I pressed them to the wet stone wall. I drank moon from tulips. I squeezed moss into my mouth, and kissed him.
“I am already my father and my mother,” said Ellen. I turned to look at her, standing straight, my hair echoing in the archway. “I feel I am in a stone well, looking up. You can send down the cup, and take part of me at a time, and drink me. If you do, you then can be our parents too.”
I threw back my head, my chin strong, my hair long. The strands of it could have been a woodcut. “I don’t want to be them. Or you to be them, either. Let’s you be you, and me be me, like it always was.”
A songbird curled the air. Leaves shimmered. My legs gave out beneath me, and I fell farther than I expected to. My voice grew cold around me. My hair made a nest.
The boy smiled, and the darkness whirred. I reached out to grasp the dark, to hold it to me, to make it mine. My hand lengthened, my skin aged, my father’s wedding band on my finger. I was becoming my father. I shook my head and yanked my hand back, as if catching a violent fish. It was smooth and small again. And the boy held the ring.
The bird flew from my hair, its wings thrumming. Ellen tapped her foot in circles and plucked a sprig of wild onion from between the mossy stones, eating it and spitting out the pulp. The boy dropped my father’s ring in the well, the splash bright. The sound devoured the boy. When I looked in the well, he was the moon’s reflection.
My sister and I left each other there always. We had nothing else to say.