©2022 Michael Raven
I woke during the Bradbury hour of 3am. I could see tree swaying in the wind and the streetlight gloam. Rain tapped against the roof, maybe the honey locus branches.
Maybe I was just uncomfortably warm. I don’t know. I have always run hot and the ceiling fan was set low. Or maybe dreams. I’ve been having the lucid type again, although I often only have fragments remaining that evaporate when I wake. Empty buildings, dense forests, my grandparent’s old home. That house on the block I grew up on that never existed, that often plays a role when it isn’t parking lots or ramps or the other things.
I was warm, but not in pain. I had gotten smart and done my self-massage of neck and shoulders last night. The pain was already worked away, although I’ve never been comfortable sleeping since giving away my futon ages upon ages ago.
Fan hum. Tappity roof taps.
I sat up, expose as much skin as I can to the air to cool. Was it the carbs I indulged in the night before that my body ached to burn away? A handful of potato chips, two small brownies from the pan, the casserole for dinner? I don’t know. First thought: I need to not give a shit about everyone else’s sensibilities; I need to eat real food again.
Close my eyes, sitting.
“That wouldn’t hurt.” Faint pressure on my left shoulder as he settles in for a chat. “You eat too much shit. It’s not like you can pretend you’re me.” I shrug, feathers ruffled, wings gentle flap for balance. “I know, but it is hard when everyone else only will eat crap.” “Lazy.” I shrug again, but he was ready for it and only shifts his feet in a little dance.
“Tell me,” I say. “Tell me your direction. I know your color, but something seems off with all of this. Isn’t air yellow?” He laughs. “Don’t be silly and forget that idiot Graves. I am black, air and North.” He taps the side of my skull and is none to gentle about. He never is gentle. “But remember, this is all relative. I am all elements and directions, depending on perspective. That man like to think too hard about ordering things. As I said, idiot.”
“And,” added someone on my left. “I can be many colors, many directions, many elements.” I didn’t open my eyes, the serpentine moves told me all I needed. “I’m puzzling that too. White, red, and black.” Laughter. “And different seasons, too,” she reminded. “Yes. I’m guessing ‘relative’ is the rule here too.” She reached over my shoulder to nudge him, “Oh! We’ve got a clever one after all.” She ignored the grunt. “But I like fire best. Unless I like something else more. It all depends.”
“It all depends,” I agree, not sure what I meant.
“Hi! I’m back!” The ghost wends around my legs as if I am standing. He doesn’t care that my feet are dangling over the floor. “Youth!” I’m not sure why the one on my left shoulder seems annoyed. “Isn’t it odd,” I note, “that something ethereal represents the middle world? Wait, let me guess…” Everyone chimes in: “It’s relative.” I’m a slow learner, but I eventually pick things up if beaten over the head with it enough. “And white… or grey… with North and earth. But Graves was an idiot and it’s all relative.” “See!” squeals the ghost. “I told you he was smarter than he looks.”
“What about her?” I ask.
“Blue?” I venture. “Water, emotions, west?”
“She is what she is,” says the companion on the right, and the left grunts in agreement. A ghost at my feet declines to commit to anything.
A longer silence.
“Graves was an idiot,” says the ghost, breaking the spell.