the edge 

  of midnight

 

a surreal comic book based

on a dream by Anni Roenkae

the edge

   of midnight

 

Dream by Anni Roenkae

 

A man was looking deep into the horizon, left feeling small and forgettable in comparison to the vastness of the black desert around him. There wasn’t much around but some scattered rocks, the dark mountains far away in the distance, and the sand. That fine, black volcanic sand was everywhere, beyond where the eye could see. He had thought he had known what plants and trees looked like, but this was proof that he’d never quite been sure. But maybe that had been just a dream, a different world – a place where everything glimmered in the bright sunlight, greenery dappled with moisture, full of life. Yes, everything was certainly different now. These surroundings were reminiscent of the primordial era with no vegetation, the birds flying high in the sky, unable to find anything soft to land on. So those small, silent blackbirds kept flying and turning against the blue, the only animals he could see. Maybe they were trying to tell him something... but that was if they were even real. The moment that thought entered his mind, they flew away, disappearing into the distance. Now he would never know where they came from or where they were going. But who could ever know such things anyway? 

 

A gentle gust of wind like a soft whisper sneaked up on him from the desert, waking him from his thoughts. His light, grey eyes looked back to his right and saw them there, about 10 feet away, unmoving on the ground. They looked like dolls, but they were people - their naked, pale white skin bright against the black sand. No one said anything, leaving them bound to the ground, just waiting for a deliverer. A strange bunch of silent nobodies. But he didn’t care about them, he had other things occupying his mind. 

Then, his hand started to tingle, and upon looking down, he realized that she had fallen asleep on his arm again. It was getting numb, but he didn’t want to touch her, everything about her too fragile and innocent to ruin. In that moment, he felt that they had known each other for years and that he wanted to wander back into their past. He wanted to stumble upon a memory of falling deep into her eyes, feeling her love and her passion filling his body and his soul with warmth within seconds. It was a different feeling to any other, the soft and tender embrace of real, honest love. He knew deep down somewhere within him that he wouldn’t ever feel this way with anyone else. There was no explaining how he knew, but some things, like death, are certain.

 

She opened her eyes - those dark, exotic brown eyes. Some time ago, he had noticed a change in them, finding that they didn’t sparkle now like they once had. Instead, they were getting dimmer and darker, even starting to turn black a few days before. And now she was so weak, unable to even move, left simply to lay on the ground. He kept holding her in his arms, day after day, night after night, watching her grow weaker. He had hoped that time would heal her and she would grow stronger again, but she was now just getting worse. 

 

Her eyes lost their focus for a brief moment and were then closed, crushing him deep within his chest. She will be gone soon, he thought, knowing it to be true. Cold shivers went through his body at the idea and he felt sick, devastated even at the thought. No, he couldn’t think of that. He would find a way to save her. It was the only option he could entertain. 

 

He gently moved her aside then and stood up, his body so stiff from spending so many days in the same position. As he stretched, he pulled the sadness and fear out of his muscles, leaving him ready to fight. For himself, for life, for her. He took a few steps back, sat on the ground, and crossed his legs in the style of a traditional master of Zen. Upon closing his eyes, he started to meditate. Now he was just a man, like a god, sitting in the black desert with nothing but his own determination and concentration to keep him company. 

 

“Love. Think about love.” 

 

Far away, between the mountains, something was moving. A warm feeling was reaching for him, grasping across the vastness, coming closer. It was travelling with the wind, the soft whisper of angels that helped it fly past the pitch-black immensity and the rocky fields, and over the endless desert. The fine volcanic sand moved underneath, glimmering, making way for the breath of life. It had no time to wait because it knew exactly where it was going and when – right here, now. 

 

Still firmly meditating, he could suddenly feel a touch under the skin of his feet and then gasped as he felt it penetrating his flesh. It thrust itself deep, diving under everything – his thoughts, his very being, forcing itself beyond his control. And then it started to go upwards, rising along his hips, his spine, ever so slowly searching for his heart. And then it found it, entranced by that ancient pumping rhythm, and soon began circling it, admiring its beauty. His chest started to feel hot as if it was on fire as it grew closer, diving into the inner sanctum. And then the ground started to shake underneath him and his skin began to glow brightly. He was burning inside. It was in his chest, whether it was a something or a someone he didn’t know, but it was beginning to take form. It was small and round, but yet somehow heavy and increasingly more divine and alien, and it wanted to get out now, just as much as he wanted the release too. And then it began to crack him open, slicing his chest in two with an unstoppable force. He gasped in shock and tried to cover the hole, feeling something in his hands as they flew to his chest. It was a round object that, when brought closer to his eyes, he could see was a peach. 

 

When he tried to understand what had just happened to him, he found his thoughts to be unclear and erratic, impossible to make sense of. But after a long, deep breath, he noticed that the hole was gone and everything was back how it had been mere minutes ago. His body felt just like it had before, healthy and intact and cool. Nothing around him had changed and the peach was still sitting in his hand. He couldn’t stop looking at it, seduced by the magic it oozed. It was in of itself a world of eternal life, and it held answers that he had always searched for. He knew now what he needed to do. 

 

He stood up then, keeping his hands close to his chest as if the mystical fruit were like a precious jewel. Between his fingers, he could soon feel it moving, twisting and crawling as it grew legs. Within seconds, he could feel five limbs and knew that it was no longer a piece of fruit but an alien creature. It was still red, now with pink stripes and was nothing but legs, still yet to grow eyes, ears or a mouth. The closer he looked, the more he thought that it looked like a starfish from no sea that he could even imagine. But it didn’t change his mind, he knew what he had to do. 

 

He looked over to her then, and saw her still lying on the ground as before, her eyes closed, body barely breathing. But then, suddenly, she felt something close to her lips, and her nose twitched at its strange but sweet aromatic scent. By instinct, she opened her mouth and was welcomed with a warmth against her tongue. The skin was weird, but she bit down deep anyway, swallowing the object in one piece without a moment of hesitation or thought. A few seconds later, a warm feeling started to rise within her body, and it headed straight to her heart. The moment it reached its destination, she opened her eyes. 

 

The change was sudden and extreme, her body jumping to her feet, her eyes sparkling, that long black hair of hers flowing in the breeze like expensive silk in the wind. He’d barely had a moment to process the sight before he saw the creatures multiplying. They popped out of the sand like crabs in their hundreds, thousands, millions, leaving the black sand a red, eternally moving sea. The dolls on the floor went crazy, jumping to their feet before running after the creatures, grabbing them, eating them and then hunting for more. It went beyond satiating hunger, morphing into an extreme act of devouring. He could feel the ecstasy and the lust washing over him in waves, over and over again beating against him like the tide. And she stood there the whole time in the center of them all, smiling like a wild, untamed spirit, her hair swirling upwards towards the dark sky. But then he noticed that something was wrong, and an awful, cold feeling grabbed his throat and started to strangle him. 

 

Death. It was death. 

 

She sat down and, soon after, all the dolls went to lie down too, looking satisfied with their meal. A moment after she closed her eyes, a robust and powerful pulse emitted from her body, shaking the ground below, turning everything around it into dust. The others vanished into the air in a glimmer and were immediately taken by the breeze. There was no one left in the desert but him and her, and then he felt words scratching at the back of his mind. 

 

“They are free now.”

 

It felt wrong and twisted and he didn’t understand at all, refusing to accept it though he knew it was true. She was from the underworld, a death bringer. He had always known that, though he had kept hoping that she would change. He had always told himself that maybe, just maybe, if he could just love her enough, that she would step into the light and share it with him. It was all he had ever wanted, all he had ever dreamed and fantasied about, a life spent together sharing their love as one being. The dream had been so vivid in his mind that he could almost reach out and touch it, just a fraction of out his reach. But deep down, he knew it wouldn’t happen, for it was just a mirage. She was from the shadows, and the lord of darkness was her master. He had to let her go. 

 

A slow hand of silence touched the world leaving everything calm and quiet. The air around them was dense, and glowing in a strange slow motion as the heavy clouds above gently dissolved. She was changing, her time was near. The sand felt soothing against her body as she lay down, a calm serenity of understanding that she wouldn’t see the next sunrise. 

 

He had to force himself to walk towards her then, each step more difficult than he could have possibly ever imagined before this moment. Once he got closer, he fell to his knees, and couldn’t hold in his tears any longer. He took her upper body in his arms then and held her close against his chest. Could this really be the end? Could this be the last moment they’d share together despite his love for her, despite his desire to forgive everything and release her from her sins?

 

The sadness thrust itself upon him, leaving him weak and vulnerable, but as she looked into his grey eyes, he felt the comfort of her warmth for him. He tried to hold onto it as he realized that she was turning to dust, her legs the first to disappear into the breeze as it moved closer to her neck. Despite his instincts, he knew he couldn’t fight back, for there was no win in sight for him. It was all over, this was meant to be and, more than anything, she was ready to go. He wanted her to see his loving eyes and feel his gentle, accepting hands in these last few moments. May these be her last memories, he thought, as he spoke softly to her, his words sacred and soothing like a warm ocean in the calm, silver moonlight. She felt more peaceful and relaxed than ever before and when her tension had finally faded away, she let her spirit go. He was holding her face in his hands when he noticed that she was gone, her face dissolving gently into the air around. Soon, only sparkling dust remained, circling around him, going upwards into the sky. He was still on his knees on the ground, facing down, when he heard her faint whisper echoing in his mind. 

 

“Goodbye.” 

 

He closed his eyes and drifted away into the blackness, his body weightless and hollow, mind empty. Everything was gone now, there was nothing left to ground him and he could feel himself becoming lost, falling deeper into the void. It was calling for him now, hungering for him, desperate for him to stay. Invisible hands reached out at him, clutching and grasping for him, making it harder to turn around. He was attracted to the emptiness, numbed by it, comforted. 

 

But something started to irritate his eyelids. While he tried to soothe the feeling by closing them even tighter, the sensation only grew worse and worse. And then, from within his own mind, he could feel someone grabbing him and dragging him back into the light until his eyes were wrenched open and he found himself blinded. The sun was perched on the horizon now, the sky around it bleached yellow and his body growing warm and tingly with the day after the cool of the black, cold night. It was a sign, a message, for him alone. He stood up and started to walk towards the sunrise, surrounded by the diamante glitter of the black sand against the sun's light. The wind gently followed the soft tread of his footsteps as he walked through the vast desert towards the mountains ahead. 

Anni Roenkae

- visual artist -