The faint throbbing echo of last night’s song would not leave Will’s mind.
The soft white light of the sky-glass illuminated the room as he craned his arm up to continue his work. On the great white wall of the small hallway he painted, in flowing cursive writing, the following words:
What comes after Delirium, which follows from Delight?
As Will finished to ponder what he wrote, two small, strong arms encircled his waist from behind him. And a warm cheek rested itself against his back.
“That’s not a haiku,” she murmured sleepily.
“No,” he told her, enjoying the warmth of her with closed eyes, “it’s too early in the morning for haikus. But not for fan art.”
She lifted her head and looked at what he painted, “Hmm. I would have liked something from The Crow.”
“Mm,” he grunted, still considering the words that he created in front of him, “I thought you liked Brief Lives.”
Will turned around to hold her and they rocked against each other. From the ambiance of the skylight, and in her white nightdress, Nor looked like something softly sculpted from marble. A cloud passed over the sun outside, and her long wavy ringlets were black and luxuriant again. Her large eyes were just as dark and expressive. Just as amused.
“Well, I thought I could be Shelly and …”
“I’d be Eric Draven, right?” he smiled.
“See, I knew you’d understand. It just suits this place, you know?” Nor leaned her forehead against his and yawned.
Their loft always did seem to have a certain quality to it. It was one of a few apartments directly above a student coffee house and bar called The Quintessential. The ancient brown wooden stairs leading up to the rooms creaked from any possible movement. Theirs was in the upper level. A few sets of these stairs led to their loft — a fairly voluminous room with the same wooden floor as the stairs outside, white walls, a kitchen to the side, a bathroom with a latch and chain, a small window, and larger skylight.
There was room for a black leather sofa, a television set that was almost always turned off, a bookcase, and a futon mattress and quilt that the two of them shared. For some reason, Will always thought there should have been a second level to the room, though he never knew precisely why.
“I’d rather not,” he told her, kissing her, “the last I remember, that story didn’t end so well.”
“True,” Nor moved into the kiss, “but as much as I liked Sandman, there is something very inauspicious about the name ‘Brief Lives.'”
Will nodded, seeing the wisdom of her words, “I’d not wish either of those things on us.”
They leaned into each other and kissed. Then Nor moved away and grabbed Will’s arm. He didn’t argue as they found themselves back on the futon. Much later, they were both comfortably covered by the grey quilt again. Nor lay on top of Will as he stroked her bare slender back absently.
“I’m surprised you’re even up this early,” she said after a while, “we had a late night.”
“And they were playing my song again.”
“What?” Nor’s hair whispered and tingled across Will’s chest as she looked him quizzically in the eyes, “What song?”
“You don’t remember?” Then Will laughed, “God, I … guess you wouldn’t, considering.”
Nor’s eyes narrowed, “All right. I can sense a story coming on here. Start narrating.”
“What do you mean what …” Nor snorted, “you were writing on the wall earlier. That’s as sure a sign as you need to tell a story as anything. So start telling,” the lines around her eyes creased with those surrounding her smile, “I do so hate a tease.”
And Will began to tell her the story. Almost a year ago, Will had been at The Club. He’d been there, as he’d been every Thursday night, watching people talk, drink, and dance. For the most part he did none of these things. There was an awkwardness to his movements that he hoped no one would see, while at the same time secretly half-hoped they would. Being tall, gaunt, and dressed in black like everyone else in The Club, he felt very much out of place — privately likening himself to Michael Rennie as Klaatu from The Day the Earth Stood Still in a 1950s world. He should have looked like he fit in. But something about him would not.
This was no new thing to Will. He had lived long past the adolescent age of “not fitting in,” and was well into the stage of the loner or wandering vagabond that many people found too unconsciously aloof to relate to. As such, he had few friends and had taken to viewing people as an anthropologist would look at an entirely different culture of beings.
That night, after wearing himself out pacing slowly around his corner of the room, Icon of Coil’s “Shelter” came on again. And every time he heard this song, he waited for the refrain. Percussive, almost action-filled beats would dissolve into a rhythm like faint tinkling glass over a subterranean ocean of swaying dancers and iridescent lights as the words came:
I can’t find a shelter in this world …
I’m searching for an-other world
where I’ll feel safe
feeeel safe …
In the moments of that weird and wonderful song, Will felt like an alien observer — an outsider that would vanish instantaneously to another place, or time to find what he was looking for. But just like a politely quiet extragalactic ancient mariner, he would never find it and instead continue searching.
Then, there had been a featherlight touch on his shoulder and a brush of hair against his neck as a woman whispered into his ear:
“Klaatu barada nikto.”
And then “Shelter” was replaced by the serene joy of Orbital’s “Halcyon” as he looked at the woman in front of him, bathed in the silver-blue glitter of the ceiling lights, and something in him felt as though it fell into place for the first time in his whole life.
“After that,” he told her, “you grabbed my arm and pulled me onto the dance floor.”
“And you never told me.”
“No. I guess I … I guess after what happened, I thought you already knew.”
They were both quiet for a few moments more.
“You do realize that it is our song.”
“‘Shelter’ is our song. Not just yours,” she nestled into his shoulder, “Ours.”
They lay that way for a few more hours until Will spoke again, “I wonder what the answer is …”
“Mm?” Nor did not stir from her resting place.
“I wonder what does come after Delight and Delirium?”
“Demesne,” Nor replied, kissing Will’s collarbone and promptly falling back asleep on him.
“Demesne,” Will repeated under his breath while he stroked Nor’s hair, “A little old and obscure for an Endless, but for us … I suppose it works.”
Then Will joined Nor in her sleep within their home.