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The night is vast and indistinct, pressing up against the window. Jack stares out at it. Can’t look away. It is so dark that it is hard to believe that there is anything out there, beneath the black; it is hard to believe that anything beyond this room exists. He can almost believe that nothing has ever existed.

The room leans forward with him, drawn in rigid, tense lines, green and brown and bronze and inornate, smoothed of all decoration or detail.

He isn’t sure how long he’s been sitting here. It could be any time, after dark.

He sits, and watches the window, and lets the ache of his foot that is not there grow acute and sharp and cold.

It is some months after and he does not feel much changed. His mind is dislocated. When he moves from his room down to the hall in the mornings, what he can see never lines up with his brain, which moves in half-impressions, a frictionless rush of fire and black water and peripheral figures. It is only at nights, nights like these, that he feels fully whole and wholly in place: he is sat here by the window and it is dark outside, and his eyes are watching the dark and his mind is watching it, and he is waiting. Waiting.

If he does not turn around, he can almost imagine that behind him Gus is sleeping, that he is safe, that he has merely risen to draw the curtains, that any moment he will walk back over and slide between the covers and duck his head into Gus’s shoulder and let his fingers grip Gus’s shirt and be held.

The moment hovers. He turns around. The coughed up yellowing mattress looks back at him.


Is that something moving, in the dark there?

Some shifting form running towards him, hands outstretched?

No. It never is. He blinks and it is gone, the dark as still and mute as always.

He waits.