You can taste the music at the very back of your throat, frothing like someone's pouring champagne straight into your mouth. Your throat is a flute and the music is the highest quality rosé and you're struggling to convey how it bubbles. How it feels. How it fills you so completely. But he understands because he's nodding and his eyes are closed. He understands. His body is moving and it's moving like the highest quality rosé.
"God, I want whatever they're on so bad" Oh.
"Fucking conniving pieces of shit."
"Look how happy they look."
Somewhere in the back of your mind, the realisation that everything you're feeling is chemically enhanced, that you don't actually like rock music, and that if you keep dancing without stretching you'll tear something vital, balloons and deflates, losing its momentum to the tiniest sensations. It's like your drug-addled mind is glued to a bullet train running through your senses at atomic speed. No thought is too small, no sensation too big, but everything falls away just as you're beginning to wrap your head around it. The individual blades of grass under your feet wash away the grin on Foy's lips. The way the sun falls across your back melts together with the hues of the sky resulting in an oh that reverberates through your being.
You just want to lie in the grass next to the group and watch the world spin. Your newfound realisation hums through your body. This is what the universe is about. I should lie in the grass. The severed connection to your frontal cortex roots you to the idea while you remain in your exact spot like a lobotomized patient. It feels like you're dancing, but are you? It feels like you've become the wavelengths carrying each note of music, but have you?
Your only reference point to reality is the boy dancing engulfed by shadows. And when the fear of him, of how completely submerged he is by his demons, falls away, even he starts looking unreal. How come you've never noticed how beautiful he is? He was a happy child once and then something happened and now he stands before you like Cabanel's Satan—already dead or maybe dying.
Another realisation is just on the verge of bursting through the rose tint, but you swallow it down, clinging tighter to your euphoria. Is it so bad that you don't want to spend your whole life scared of your grandmother's bogeymen? If you were normal, wouldn't you have disregarded everything and kissed him by now?
Something inexplicably funny is in there somewhere but you're laughing before you figure out what. He opens his eyes to look at you. The force of him is too much. Everything about him is too much and you feel yourself wanting to touch it better. To push back against the sound of scraping metal; the neighing of a rogue horse. Actually, you want to suffocate that horse. It clicks.
A part of him must die. Why haven't you thought about that before? It's so fucking obvious. His past must die. You rack your brain for the words to the prayer your grandmother burned into your thigh. You call on the sensation of the hot cast-iron searing your skin as you grab hold of him. He stops jumping. The words are there on your tongue but you're overcome by the physicality of him; his warm skin, his panting breath. Your eyes snag on his throat, lips, eyes. "You were so right," he's saying, nodding.
His smile is too big not to be drug-induced. "All this time. You don't understand, all this time I was so consumed"—he says it like it's the most wonderful word in the dictionary—"but like fuck him. Fuck my father. Yashar, I swear to god, I fucking love you. Fuck—"
"Listen, did something happen to you?"
"What? No. This...this is all you. This is fuck fear—"
"No." You swallow, grabbing his hands. "Did something happen to you when you were younger?"
"What do you mean?" He's not smiling anymore.
"I know this-this...it's crazy, but I think I know how to make it better. The headaches."
"I feel good. I feel fine now, don't worry—"
"No. Listen. My grandmother is a soothsayer. Just let me—" but he's not. He's pulling away from you, and as strange as it sounds you're sharing a heartbeat and it's picking up speed. He's afraid, but he shouldn't be. This is actually one of the prayers your grandmother never had anything negative to say to you about. It's one filled with so much love and light, you're sure of it. His shadows won't stand a chance.
"Touch me." You reach for his hands again and start jumping in beat to the music. "Please." Dance with me. You're not expecting him to, much less to embrace you in a bear-hug, picking you up and spinning you in the air.
"Oh, look. A pas de deux, Mr Dahl," Matilda calls from the grass. "Form needs a bit of work though, Yash." You land ungracefully as he releases you, proving her right. "We've got rehearsals next week, sad if you broke anything."
"Fuck off." You grab on to him for support as he practically spins you around his twisting torso to throw daggers at her with his eyes.
"Hey," you soothe. He's got his arms around your waist and he's not intending to let go anytime soon. Looking into his eyes you surprise yourself by not stepping back.
What if it doesn't work and it's all been a mad woman's delusions all along? What if there's no such thing as magic? You want to find out. Maybe just as much as you want to kiss him, maybe more. You grab him, cupping his jaw with your hands. He brings your foreheads together, eyes closed. His relief amplifies the jumble of sounds. They bore into you, forcing their way inside your skull. He mistakes your gasp of pain for want and presses his lips to yours.
Did you really think you could save an agent of Death? Nay child.
You hear your grandmother's voice as clear as day before he consumes you. The sounds are so loud they ground themselves into your bones, hollowing out your marrow. The pain is a white-hot flame to your retinas. And the worst part—by far the worst part—is trying to fight it. You scarcely feel him against you when you start reciting. Whatever little pain relief you gain from the cleansing prayer is just enough to buy you time to fill your lungs once. When you breathe, you breathe in the smell of dewy grass, and when you exhale, it suspends in a cloud before your face. You're freezing and there's an urgency to your thought. You need to be quick. Why? You need to be swift. Why? These are not your thoughts. There's a different texture to them; they weigh differently, are more frenzied, but you accept them, and as long as you don't fight them, the pain eases. You make yourself boneless, letting them lead you.
The smell of cut grass is so powerful it jumpstarts your heart. You only realise you've been running all this time as your body comes to a halt before a grey horse on the other side of the road, and you realise: this isn't you at all. This is Frans Dahl.
Come, Ziggy. Good boy. Come.
You're Frans Dahl. The realisation shatters along with your body as the truck—so fast, so sudden, so alarmingly loud—races through you. You become the lingering echo of screeching metal and exploding glass. As expansive as the sky. And then you become the sky too.
Here, here. I got you. You're dying, son. Do you know what that means?
Pain slams back into your body with the force of a double-decker.
What do you want? Be quick, there's not much time left.
You want to live. You want to live. You want—
You'll try to describe this moment, coming to, seeing all of their crowding faces, each wearing a distinct frown of worry, and fail. It won't feel real to you—none of it will. His blown-out pupils, the emergency personnel speaking through the phone, Foy asking you if you'd had a heart attack and Matilda shoving Matt, insisting it was his stupid fault.
Most surreal will be the male choir and the light over their heads as if you're seeing the sun through stained glass. There will be voices there, too, in the beginning. Voices that'll sound like your mother's, your grandmother's, an incessant ringing, but they'll quickly bleed into the festival surroundings as the connection to his projection severs.
The pain everywhere subsides and you hear the blaring rock music. Feel his arms around you. Hear him asking, "Can you stand up? Are you concussed?" But you keep saying, "I'm sorry." It doesn't even sound like your voice and you tell yourself you don't know why, but you do. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Frans."
Dying is fucking painful, and you never ever want to experience anything like it ever again.