Since you went away, The days grow long And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
In his sleep, in his dreams he heard bells ringing. Softly at first, little tinkling bits of silver, but they grew louder until they irritated him. He tried to toss but his limbs were leaden. The bells became a chorus of static that rose and flooded his sensitive ears. It smoothed into Latin hymns sung in far, distant voices. Again, he tried to move, to shush and still and sleep but the weight of her body was on his and he couldn’t get away.
Then they were holding hands. Her smile was pressed against his cheek and her laugh rang sweet in his ears. They were together, lighting the candles at Christmas mass. The pungent smell of incense burnt his nostrils, made his nose itch. It was a hundred years ago, when they were young…before, before, before.
The wind blew through the sanctuary. It swirled with a lion’s roar that filled the empty spaces and left him so cold he felt his fingers freeze until they slipped from hers. And then she was gone.
He turned to look for her, turned his head, searching, rolling his eyes in their thin lidded sockets but the church was empty now and dark. Only the Christ hung against the wall, nailed to his cross, bleeding. Blaize felt his piercings in his own trembling flesh and felt his own bones shift where the shaft of the nail penetrated and the splinters of the wood sank deep. He felt his ankles bound tight with coarse twine. He was lifted high and the cold enveloped him front and back and through and through until…with a jarring pain, he was placed on the wall, hung upon his own cross.
Through the heat that was his blood leaking from his wounds he heard a new sound. He was dizzy, and that puzzled him because he knew that he still slept, and so it took him a moment to separate the heat from the sound. With an effort that made bile rise to his throat he sorted one from the other.
He pried his sticky lashes apart, raised his gaze half shuttered and swollen, swallowed more bile.
She looked down from above, her hair a fragrant tangle that brushed against his skin. In the soft candle’s glow she was flushed, her lips pink again, his angel. He watched her eyes fill with tears that ran down her cheeks, like rain. They dripped hot on his skin when she bent, placed feathered kisses across his brow.
He wanted to wipe them, her tears, to trace them with his fingertips. His reaching fingers stretched but they were still bound to the cross. He felt anger grow in his belly. The anger made him remember.
“Why?” his thick, parched tongue begged.
In his dream the angel faded and his anger leapt with claws extended. He shook with it- with the good-byes and the not-enoughs and the just-let-me-get-through-its. He reared up to bite it. He wanted to sink his fierce canines into I-don’t-love-you-anymore. But the pain of his bondage bite into him first and he sank back under the weight of his defeat.
The pain built until it was like a vulture tearing his guts out before he could die. It gnawed on his brain with sharp little teeth and clawed what was inside of him out. It saturated him in neon agony and crept up, up, up. And the voices came back, louder, and the cold, even colder- until even the breath in his lungs was frozen into a wheeze.
“Wake up!” he commanded his sleeping self, “Wake up!” But the dream wouldn’t end and he knew he would die there.
He turned to bury his sobs and regrets in the pillow. He’d forgotten the Christ was still hung on the cross beside him. It had been a long time. For a moment he had a glimpse of his childhood through the rending pain- his mother, kneeling beside him, her cool hand brushing the hair out of his eyes. He could feel her there-tender, smooth and he heard her voice whispering.
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake. I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
And then the pain split him in two.