In a place that has not yet finished becoming real, a boy waits. He sits with his back against a wall that can’t decide between stone or sheetrock, his legs stretched out over ground that is not wood or carpet or sweet spring grass, sprawled as artlessly as a fallen doll.
His hair is too long; it falls in his eyes. Weary bloodshot eyes, they stare dead ahead, not tracking the shifting architecture of the not-yet-real place as it veers wildly between daybreak and dusk. The colour of his irises shifts from the deep green of pine needles to sea glass in a rockpool with every change of the light. The fresh blood smeared across his cheeks goes from dull black to a red so bright it hardly seems real.
His hands busy themselves a little ways over his chest, rolling a tatty smoke with the last scrapings of tobacco from the bottom of the tin. He lights it with a murmured word and lifts it to his lips with mechanical precision.
There is more blood on his ratty old t-shirt, the worn jeans. His boots have dust glued to the soles after he walked through the sticky puddles. It is beneath his nails, splashed in the thick dark curls falling across his face. It is not his blood. The wounds he bears beneath the sleeves of his ragged jacket have not yet had the courtesy to bleed properly. In this place, it is unlikely that they never will.
But that is beside the point.
There is a boy, drenched in blood that his not his own, with eyes that change in the light, and hair in desperate need of a trim, waiting, smoking his last cigarette, in the Place-That-Is-Not-Yet-A-Place, there at the end of the world.