Outside, violent winds rattled the windowpane. Daniel let go of my hands to peek outside, and I was quickly getting cold. But I decided to brave it, as he was wearing an even thinner wardrobe.
“What just happened? And how do you know about my dreams?” I asked.
“I don’t know how I know. It was something I was born with, both a blessing and a curse,” he said, and turned to look at me. “As to what just happened, you can call it a slate clearing. Your mind was filled with so much stuff, no wonder you’ve been confused. Amplifying the speed of your thoughts helped diffuse some of the static.”
“Sounds so simple.”
“It really is,” he smiled.
“Why are you here? I mean, this hospital . . . there is sickness and death all around. You don’t seem to belong here.”
“Maybe my body is paying the price for my abilities?”
“What are the doctors saying?”
His hands ventured to his bald head.
“Brain tumor,” he said, and added that his doctor had discontinued his treatment and Daniel had stopped eating. I asked him how he could just give up like that, and he said that trying to hold on would only prolong the inevitable, dragging out the pain. “It hurts living on this side,” he said, and showed me his thin bare arm covered with bruises and needle marks.
“But you seem fine!” I said in protest. “You’re just very thin and malnourished. Your hair . . . it looks like it’s growing back. And your hands, they are so warm.”
He smiled and said that it’s easy to be deceived. His hands tend to get hot like irons when he uses his abilities. But that can be draining, leaving him exhausted for hours afterward. “The heat evaporates and I turn into a block of ice.” Daniel touched his hands to mine, and I noticed that they were already much cooler. “The doctor told me that it’s a miracle I survived this long.”
Every nerve in my body contracted. I squeezed my fists, trying to get a hold of myself, as if preparing for an emotional tsunami, for once forgetting about my own trivial problems.
Daniel smiled at me as if trying to cheer me up. “But then I had a dream. And I understood why I held on.”
“What kind of a dream?” I asked.
“A prophetic one. Of you coming to this place.”
“You saw me coming here?” I asked blushing, but he couldn’t see that in the dark. He was the second person I had met in a two days’ span that dreamt of me without even knowing me before.
Daniel nodded. “Did you manage to find a candle?” he asked, and I walked to my coat to retrieve it. “What are we waiting for? Let’s light it!” he beamed.
Daniel invited me to sit on his bed while he pulled up an elevated aluminum tray on wheels used to hold his meals. He lit a match and melted the candle’s base, anchoring it to the tray. I watched him move with grace and poise, relishing every gesture. He handed me one of his two pillows and positioned himself on his bed across from me with his back against the wall, our knees almost touching.
“Will you do me the honors?” he asked, handing me the matchbox.
I took out a match and stroked it on the coarse strip on the side of the box, watching a golden flame explode on its sulfured tip. Daniel surrounded the small fire with his palms, grinning like a child, exposing his white teeth and a dimple in his cheek. I transferred the flame to the virgin wick until it caught and blew out the match.
“So tell me,” I looked into his glistening eyes, “why do I keep having my dream?”
“That I don’t know yet,” he said, his fingertips massaging the flame’s halo. The light made his face look like a living painting. His eyes seemed too big on his bony face, the backdrop for the shadow’s play of chiaroscuro. Daniel also seemed healthier than he did when I first saw him, his face taking on a more vital tone. The thought was like soothing oil on my soul.
“Do you want me to tell you about it?” I asked.
“I’d like you to just think about it so that I can tune into the undercurrents.”
I nodded and closed my eyes to take a deep breath. I noticed that it started to rain outside, drops tapping the pane like someone’s fingertips. As my body grew heavier, my mind became unbound. In an instant, I was back there, standing over the pit, looking at Sariel’s face.
The angel’s eyes opened, his yellow gaze pulling me into his realm. I became engrossed in his presence, a desire to touch him once more igniting my nerves. I tried to resist, as I didn’t want to feel this way in Daniel’s presence. But it was only stalling the flow. Reluctantly I let go, relaxed my legs and let the usual melting take its course. Feet, ankles, shins, knees, thighs . . . The angel’s lips parted and he looked at me with pleading eyes before the image dissolved and pure sensation took over. I traced waves of heat rising up, uncoiling at my tailbone, until my entire spine was on fire.
Show me the parts that remain hidden, Daniel’s voice entered my mind and the vision of the angel returned. He stood before me in full frame. His body emaciated, amber skin stained with dirt and coal, marked by cuts and bruises, wings folded behind his back.
Why do you keep coming to me? I asked the angel.
Sariel’s lips parted. Free me.
I reached out to touch him, but encountered resistance, a wall made of glass.
But how? How can I free you? I called, watching his silhouette become obliterated with water running down the glass. Sariel! I called his name but his image was starting to fade until I couldn’t see him at all.
I looked around, finding myself alone in a stone cave with feathers scattered on the ground. Sorrow descended upon my shoulders like a cold wet cape. Waves of sadness kept washing over me, annihilating any remaining vestiges of sensuality, withdrawing everything toward a single point in my center, a black hole of my soul.
I called out Sariel’s name again, but heard no reply. Heat swirled in my chest and my hands and eyes ventured there. I had become transparent with a red flicker of light pulsing inside my heart. I scooped my hands toward it until I held the light in my palms encapsulated by a figurine made of thin glass, as delicate as a bird. I lifted it toward my eyes it shattered into a thousand little pieces, bathing the cave in crimson light.
Come back now, Eve. Come back, I heard Daniel’s voice and my mouth opened to take in more air.