That night spent on Yuri Karamov's bed had been punctuated with tossing and turning, and fretful sleep. I woke up several times, disoriented, and to the sensation that my skull was splitting open. I went through a reoccurring cycle of remembering the previous night, and then realising I wasn't in my bed.
The first time I woke up was to the moonlight streaming in through the blinds. It was hard to tell what time it was, only that it was dark, and that the house was silent to where the howling winds outside were heard like ghosts in the hallway.
Realisation and pain pierced through the cobwebs of sleep, and I found myself staggering to the door. I never got to the point of opening it. I took a look around Yuri's room, cast in shadows, and realised the futileness, and more importantly, the fatigue and the headache weighing me down. I was burning hot with an oncoming fever. There was no way I would have made it home in one piece, and so I returned to bed, deciding to wake up early and leave before anyone else got up.
I wrapped myself in the quilt which had presumably been placed there by Yuri and entered a restless sleep.
I woke up to a sweet melodic voice, so faint that at first, it filtered through to my dreams. I dreamt that I was outside, in my backyard in Ljerumlup. It was snowing, and Yuri and I were building snowmen. My dream was a sample from a time when I had been happier. We were laughing, and bantering, and comparing the sizes of our spheres.
The scenery changed, and we were climbing up the Tree. The branches were white with a thin sprinkle of snow. I complained that my fingers were getting numb, but Yuri wanted to climb higher, till at last, we were both seated on the thinnest branch—hovering over the earth in that dreamlike state. We were the same size as the clouds, and at times, it felt like we drifted on them too. Everything was magical.
I told Yuri that I liked him, and then I moved in to kiss him. Yuri's face contorted in disgust and anger. He pushed me off the branch. I fell down.
I opened my eyes to my room. I lay in bed. Mjinska was singing a song I had never heard before. And as she had done every morning when I was younger, she came into my room and pulled the velvet draperies apart, exposing the room to sunlight.
She was smiling at me. Then, all of a sudden, her smiled pulled back into a leer. Her face morphed into the ring-leader's. Mjinska disappeared and in her stead stood my assaulter, now only centimeters away from my face. The harsh yellow lighting in the train station exposed the acne that marred his skin. His cronies were holding me down, their arms like an anaconda coiling around my body—smothering. The ring-leader had my hair in a tight fist. I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything but stare into the abyss that was his black eyes.
- So you're a filthy homosexual too? Why am I not surprised? He drawled in a raspy voice.
The images from my dreams obliterated behind my eyelids as an intrusive, red light pierced through them. I became aware of the singing as something taking place outside my head rather than inside. Within seconds, I was blinking away the sleep from my eyes, and adjusting to the uncharacteristically bright sun filtering in through the blinds.
Everything was white and unfamiliar; the walls, the sheets, the pillow, my own weight on the bed. I noticed a woman standing by the windows. The sun obscured her face and cast everything from her head down to her midriff in shadows. Mjinska? But that couldn't be, she was on maternity leave. I rubbed the grogginess from my eyes and squinted in concentration to make out who it was.
- I was starting to wonder if you'd ever wake up, Yuri's mother said. The sound of her voice registered in my mind the same second she shifted and the sunlight glided off her head.
I flew out of the bed with a startle.
- What time is it?
A mind-shattering pain shot through my head, forcing me helplessly back onto Yuri's pillow with a groan.
YOU ARE READING
If We ExistGeneral Fiction
🏆A 2018 Wattys Winner🏆 Two boys, one ethnically segregated town. Two sides, one war. Yuri Karamov's existence is like Schrödinger's cat, simultaneously both dead and alive. In Ru Konstantin's mind, Yuri is still the same vibrant young man he was w...