The urchin stood knees-deep in lacre. He was covered head to toe in soot after his daring intrusion through the chimney. The winds of the unterzee howled around his golden hair. Distant snores of great stone boars. He took a deep breath, one filled with salt and thunder. A blade ran across his palm; a droplet of blood in the vastness of white. In a wicked metamorphosis, from the lacre rose a replica of the boy – the urchin’s noman.
The two smiled at each other, pure white eyes facing eyes filled with stormy skies. Hand in hand, they ascended back to the Neath’s streets.
The first one came in the deep night. The day had been filled with conversation and play, joys interrupted with a heavy knock on wood. The two figures inside froze and turned. Looming in the entrance of the humble rooftop hideout stood a tall cloaked figure. From underneath the hood peered two glowing eyes, darting between the two boys inside. With a heavy cough it cleared its throat; the air was filled with a heavy, intoxicating smell.
“You have caused quite a stir. There is now interest, yes. Consider this a simple warning.”
It stood there only a few moments more, and then, just as fast as it had come, it was gone.
There was more tension on the third day, yes, though smiles were still exchanged. Despite the cold of the roof (and the cold of the noman’s body) the two felt quite warm. Yet, as they had feared, another knock interrupted their conversation.
The figure spoke, in a tipsy tone of voice.
“I am not one to dissuade from pleasure. There is a certain… quality we desire in a story. With a little nudge…”
With that, it was gone, and in its wake only wine and questions.
There is much that a bottle of Greyfields will do to the mind. Neither of the boys had noticed the light reflected from the next figure’s robes. There was much blushing and holding of hands. Hot breath on breath and a single tear shed. The two danced – if it can be called dance – around a candle, enjoying the company to the fullest.
This visitor did not speak a word, only observed, took notes, and left quite soon.
All revels have their price. As usual, it was a headache. Still, the two remained in each other’s arms, and talked. When the next visitor arrived it was polite enough not to knock.
“Some are pleased with the two of you. Some doubt the value. It is clear that there will be consequences. Simply put, there are secrets that are beyond normal value. I would advise you to consider.”
As it had departed, the two sat in a stir. In each other’s embrace, they pondered of what their bond might reveal.
“Most unscrupulous! So preposteriting in nature! Bards have never sung such spurnous tales as this – the bond of man and no man! Or… boy and no boy! The pellucidious depth of feeling, we are quite impressed. Yet salacity rises to the surface! Commingling of despicablenesses brings to us the impenetrablest of choices. To go down in the books, to be told and untold for ages to come. To thwart such wiles of secret unearthing, we musn’t fall into complicitude, no, to be eternally so vigilant is our predicament!
“Be warned, you in fatuation, for there are prices to be paid… for knowledge! Now, though, for me to abscond.“
Next came shadow, cold, hunger. The boys were roused from their sleep, though they desperately clung to the remnants of unconsciousness. They dared not move an inch. In the urchin’s eyes, thunder subsided, grey clouds sheepishly floating. In the noman’s eyes, a single fear: the cold of north.
Then, all was well.
The next visitor came in a storm. Lacre hailed around, temperatures demanded any cover they might find. Underneath a raggedy blanket, one of the boys had almost convinced himself his limbs were not giving out, when…
Warmth spread through the room. In an impromptu hearth flames danced high, and from behind them, a cloaked figure stared.
“There will be tragedy, you know,” it said, “It likes tragedies. There is much at stake for us. Can you feel the heat of the flames? How the Neath-snow noxiously melts? The worst storms come when end is near. Yes, soon the tears will subside. Soon, fires will burn stronger again. May they burn forever.”
It sat with them in solemn understanding for a while. When the storm had stopped, the fire had died out, the lovers now fast asleep, it was nowhere to be seen.
It was gone in a flesh. A shadow swooped onto the roof, glowing eyes peered inside. A low screech like distorted laughter sounded.
“Oh, but we will see,” it intoned, and then, it was gone.
Yet, the urchin and the noman sat in stiff silence. Their fingers no longer intertwined – not for lack of want, only for fear that the other will let go.
A letter was slipped through a slit in the wall. Gently it floated down, between the two sitting on the floor. Shaky white hands broke the seal, pale fingernails fished the paper out. In neat handwriting, the letter spoke. It spoke of many truths and secrets, heart-wrenching tales, warnings of stories. It expressed sorrow over the boy’s predicament.
Most of all, it gleamed with understanding.
Little could be done to stop the tears.
And tears never stopped before another hood appeared in the window. Soft fingers wiped the damp cheeks. A basket of food was placed on the floor.
“It does little to mourn early. Time is that which heals. Memories are what fuels us. These have not been easy days. Make the happiness last last forever.”
Laughter filled the room, soft and slow as if afraid to come out, but bold and brave in its presence. Smiles joined the tears, and just for a moment, thoughts swayed away from the inevitable.
The final day was marked by silent softness. The world moved as if through molasses; not even the birds and the wind dared break the calm. If one squinted in sleepy blissfulness, if looked almost as if sunlight spread through the windows and the holes of the humble rooftop hideout.
The urchin and the noman together as one. Smiles of regrettable truth and acceptance. With stormy eyes they looked at each other. No bliss can last forever.