Is it already past the deadline? PROBABLY
I found him in a dream, I don’t know whose dream it was, it didn’t seem polite to ask.
His skin was ancient marble, solid and peppered with spider-web cracks, but when I stroked his cheek it felt as if he was made up of endless layers of talcum powder. A cockerel called out as I drew my hand away and he turned to see who had disturbed his slumber. He was old, I could tell that much by his eyes, and wise, and so very beautiful. He surveyed me in silence, I felt an urge to curtsy the way we used to at dance recitals.
‘Good evening, child’
‘Is it evening?’ I said, stupidly.
‘I expect so.’ I think the powdery layers of skin around his mouth wrinkled a little.
The next morning my mother handed me a cardboard box filled with cotton towels and told me to change the sheets.
After that first time, he found my in my slumber every night. I’d never remember he was coming until the moment he appeared, and then I remembered all of him, all of our lifetimes together.
Sometimes I questioned him, ‘why do you carry that key? Why does that cockerel follow you around? Why can’t I see him?’ He never answered, he’d tut and call me a “moonbeam child,” and when I asked him what on Earth that meant he’d just laugh and the cockerel would call and I’d be quiet
I never knew he was coming, but I began to long for sleep. I did not long for the chaste brush of his powdery lips against my cheek, but when I received it I felt as though I’d been holding my breath for hours and only his touch could release the pressure on my lungs.
My poor mother. My poor son. Later on, when I’d stopped leaving the bed for meals, he found me crying. He was angry, but he didn’t say anything. Through my tears it looked like he had two heads, one hairy and ruddy, the other old and calm as the stone I had once mistaken him for.
I was a girl of fourteen when we met, he stayed with me my whole life. I walked through the years in a daze, marrying and birthing and grieving as if running on clockwork. The moment I lay down to sleep and he was there, that’s when I was alive. That’s when I lived.
The day I died, he appeared in my mother’s rocking chair, he’d never done such a thing before, so I knew this must be it.
He had changed so much these last years, he had colour in his once alabaster cheeks, his skin no longer looked as if it’d crumble if you pushed it too hard. He leaned over my bed to kiss me goodbye, I saw a frail old lady reflected in his sparkling eyes.
Then he was gone, and I saw the bright colours of the world for the first time in seventy years.