+ halloway +
they walk on my streets, alive but not really living. content to waste away and become stagnant shells of all that they've been. they whine and complain about the constantly dreary skies above them and the bare, bony earth beneath, but they never once wonder if maybe it is their own despondency that has destroyed the spring and the summer and all brightness of life.
or maybe the darkness in the streets comes from the dead who are truly walking in their midst.
their footsteps ring differently against the soil--rich with desperation, starving for peace. their hopelessness is a different kind--long-lived and patient--because they have walked this earth longer than any being should ever have to.
loss and hunger fill my bones. in a way, I am one and the same with both of them--alive but stagnant, desperate to be put out of my misery.
I am Halloway, and I know no end.
+ cobwebs +
I am the little woman's house, my rickety and ramshackle shell belying the warmth and security within the bare bones. her toes dig deep into the rich rug beneath her trembling feet, and she stares him down like she should have done when things first started to unravel.
"No." she won't hear another word from him; she is still too weak to listen to his beguiling tongue. if she did, she would fall, just like she always had before.
her love for him is like the fire burning strong in the hearth--unwavering, unfaltering, forever faithful.
"you need to leave," she insists.
he steps for the splintering door, his footsteps blurred with hesitation. his fingers wrap around the doorknob, but he makes no move to open the door. they all called him a spider, didn't they? his long, bony fingers and flint-like eyes, along with the greasy ease he has when moving from room to room. treacherous, conniving, spinner of webs. his touch is like cobwebs, clinging desperately for an excuse to stay.
"go home," she says. like one of his webs in the wind, her voice sways, and she moves with it. "your son deserves to have a dad. he needs you."
"but I need you."
"do you even realize how selfish you are?" he moves toward her, but she stops him with single stab of her finger. the baby tendrils of her bangs fall gently into her eyes, but there is nothing gentle about that gaze. "you chose her first. you chose to have a son. they should be your priority. not me."
her resentment for that bleeds deep into the floor.
"I don't want to see you again," she firmly states as her insides turn watery and weak-willed. "not even if you're dying."
"I thought you loved me." the words are spat angrily, burying deep in her skin like stinging nettles.
"I do." she really did. "what I don't love is what I've turned you into."
she hated him for changing. he'd become something even she couldn't recognize; not white, not black. instead, he was now an ever-shifting gray, refusing to commit to anything--not even her.
no matter how much he protested, he hadn't chosen her entirely. some part of him was going to leave someday, despite the fact that she loved him. it was inevitable. so she might as well do something about it now, before the pain grows too much.
when she turns her back on him, I shake--the war between their burning human bodies mirrors the celestial battle of the storm outside.
he waits for her to turn around, but not long enough. just as she wavers, hungry for one final look at his face, the door clicks shut, as silent and as passive as he was in everything else.
the cobwebs are brushed away by the storm, and the love that should have been burns out, like it never even happened.
little did the woman know that six months later, Arata Ruthers would be dead, and his son would stand exactly where he once stood, leaving me helpless to his raw anger and confusion. like father, like son.
+ boyhood +
I am the apartment he drags the stranger home to, warm and cold at the same time. both of them are paler than the yellowing paint of the walls, both terrified of two very different things.
"you--you're a reaper?" the shorter boy brushes his long, dripping hair out of his eyes. his boots are scuffed and stained with engine grease, and they skid noisily on the wooden floor as he shifts. a pool of rainwater collects between them. while they are hushed, the storm rages on outside.
the other boy--the one with dead eyes, gray hair, and terror tightening his throat--can't look at him. the angles of his face match his father's, and like the spider, his fingers are cobwebs too.
but this boy is no spider. he is a moth, flying too close to light for warmth, only to die.
"I'm sorry," he says, wringing his hands. nervous energy saps through him, and the floorboards unconsciously squeak beneath him. "I didn't want you to know."
"why?" although his face is panicked and pale, the short boy has eyes that burned. "because you thought I would shun you, like the rest of this stupid town?"
he dropped his head. "yes."
the single word speaks of a million hurts.
"what do I have to do?" the brave boy asks.
"what do I have to make you trust me when I say I'm your friend, ghosts and all?" he strains to look the taller boy in the eyes. he's not afraid of the deep bruises that gather upon his friend's cheekbones or the ways his eyes drift away to look at something that's not actually there. "I mean it, when I say that. I will always mean that."
the reaper's son swallows hard. "just stay. that's all I need. someone to lean on."
the first boy nods. "then I'll be that for you. your wall. your support. whatever you need, whenever you need it. I promise."
+ daybreak +
when day and night meet for the first time without the eyes of the world resting on them, I am the sun setting low in the sky, and the foggy haze settling over the abandoned 7-11 like a dream. the girl, lost. the boy, broken. they watch each other, taught to hate and kick and bite...not to look at each other like this.
in that moment, they are helpless. running from something bigger than life. afraid to be what their souls hold.
the emotions are stifling, and yet, they are silent.
"you were right," he finally says. "I'm a monster."
she hadn't meant it when she said that. or maybe she had. she didn't know any more.
"my name is Neil Ruthers," he says, slumping down to the grimy floor in a sprawled mess, " and I'm a year and eight months sober."
he holds the bottle out at arms length and chokes on his bitter laughter.
the girl doesn't want to be there. she doesn't want to talk to this strange, drunken man. but something deep within her keeps her standing there, rooted to the earth.
she can't leave him.
and that was the beginning.