Since my house burned down,
I now own a better view of the rising moon
Adam and Will are sitting on the beach. They do that, sometimes. Alone. After dinner when everyone drifts apart, turning aside to their own solitary pursuits. Nigel goes running, as if he could run far or fast enough to shake off the shackles this family has laid on him. Hannibal plays the harpsichord.
Adam and Will, they sit and they watch. Stationary objects in a world gone mad.
“Hannibal told me you dream about me,” Will says. “Does it happen often?”
Will nods. The sun turns the ocean murder gold, spreads light along its surface. “I have nightmares too.”
“What do you dream about?” Adam asks.
“You have nightmares about me,” Adam says, like he’s testing the idea, tasting the words in his mouth. “How could I possibly scare you?”
“You don’t. It’s not like that. The dreams are… nice. We’re happy.” He draws a nothing-shape in the sand with his foot. “We live together with dogs. Hannibal is in jail. I’m… well, I’m not normal, I guess, but I’m better than you’ve ever seen me. I don’t hurt you. It’s just nice.”
Adam wrinkles his nose. “I don’t like dogs.”
Will laughs. “Yeah, that’s what you say in the dreams, too. You like mine though—this dog I had back in Virginia, his name was Winston. Fluffy thing, brown with spots. The most loyal dog you could ever ask for, you like him.”
“He looked like Hurry?”
“Kind of, yeah. He was a little smaller, but Hurry reminds me of him.”
“I liked him?”
“You did. He loved you too, followed you everywhere—even into the bathroom, even though that drove you crazy. Most days I think he liked you better than me.”
The sun sinks lower in the sky. Far away, a dog barks.
“So if the dreams are so good, why do you call them nightmares?”
“Because of the way I feel when I wake up, I guess,” Will says. He feels the urge to hug his knees to his chest, and he ignores it. “Lonely. Heartbroken. Like there’s the shape of an absence where a limb used to be, and some essential part of me is missing.”
“They’re just dreams,” Adam says. “None of that is real. We never loved each other like that.”
“That’s what Hannibal says.” Will falls silent, looking out over the waves. The ocean is the color of blood. “How about you?”
“What about me?”
“When you dream of me, are the dreams terrible?”
“They used to be.” The waves clap like thunder. They crash against the shore in a fine spray of foam. “They used to be awful. You’d touch me. Hurt me. I screamed and cried, and it made you smile.”
Adam turns back to the ocean. The dying sun paints his cheeks in vivid orange light, gilds them and makes his lips and eyelashes shine. “They’re the same,” he says finally. “You still hurt me, but now I like it.”
“That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Liking it.”
Adam bites his thumbnail. “Yeah. It is.”
* * *
Hannibal had spoken to him once about holes in the floors of the mind, danger that waits. It’s currently a metaphor that highlights their differences more than their similarities. A hole in the floor implies a certain structural integrity—that there is more floor than hole to be had.
That isn’t true in Will’s case. It hasn’t been true for a long time. Most days it feels like his mind is made entirely of holes, a vast limitless cavern waiting to swallow him whole. That isn’t frightening except in the most abstract of ways. He isn’t really sure who he is anymore—what self would be sacrificed to the god of madness when he’s one big vacancy after another—so it’s hardly a credulous threat.
He’s alone now. Alone entirely for the first time in his life, no other minds pressing in on his. It’s more terrible than he thought it would be. There are darker spots, spaces bleak and barren that smell of sulfur and gunshots. He wonders if it isn’t Adam creeping into his memory palace again, swapping black holes for stags. People used to live there, before they were cut away by the blunt razor of pharmaceuticals, scattered to the wind like paper dolls. One is shaped like Abigail, another like Molly. He can’t talk to them, not anymore, but he can put his hand in the space their absence made.
When he’s curled around Adam, arms full of bony limbs and knobby knees, face full of sweet-smelling curls, everything feels a little less like dying.
* * *
Will hates the pills that Hannibal gives him. They make him feel fuzzy and slow. They blunt all his sharp edges.
Of course he stops taking them, whenever and however he can.
Hannibal gives them to him at meal times, conspicuously seated beside Will, watching his mouth carefully. Hannibal has always taken a keen, voyeuristic interest in watching people enjoy his food, but this is something else. They both know that if Will were to stand up to go to the bathroom, he would spit the pill into the trash can, and they both know that Hannibal would stop him. The force and indignity of it would at least be honest, but of course Hannibal won’t give him that.
He does this instead. He refills Will’s glass whenever it gets low (water, not wine; it wouldn’t do to mix alcohol with Haldol). He leans in and touches the inside of Will’s wrist, every inch the devoted lover. He pretends not to watch what Will does with his napkin. He pretends not to check it when they’re done eating. This is all somehow worse.
Will tries to pocket the pills on the inside of his cheek, but Hannibal is never one to rush a meal. Dinner is achingly slow, and bitter poison seeps into his mouth all the while. Inevitably he ends up biting through the hard, chalky tablet, noxious and foul. Inevitably he buys himself another day of muzzy inertia.
He doesn’t gag on it. His face doesn’t so much as twitch. He doesn’t give Hannibal the satisfaction.
Later, he tries to bring it up in the bathroom, sticking his fingers down his throat while Abigail sits on the counter and kicks her legs against the cabinet door. She waits until he’s done puking, scoots to the side so he can grab the mouthwash and clear the taste of bile from his mouth. She wrinkles her nose when he spits in the sink right beside her pretty floral dress.
“You’re not good at this,” she says. She holds out her hand and sighs. “Here, let me show you.”
Will opens the medicine cabinet and takes down a bottle marked with a name no one in this house owns. He taps out a pill and hands it to Abigail, who sticks it on her tongue, candy-bright against the soft, pink muscle. She closes her lips, does something quick and complicated with her mouth, and when she opens it again, the pill is gone. It stays gone even when she lifts her tongue and sticks it out, making a sound that Hannibal would consider rude but that Will thinks is funny.
She spits the pill into her hand and gives it back, spit-wet and shiny, and Will flushes it down the toilet.
“Where’d you learn to do that?” he asks.
She shrugs. “They tried to give me meds at Port Haven. I never took them.”
Abigail grins wickedly, and Will smiles back. It feels like they’re sharing a secret.
* * *
He has the strangest sensation of waking up even though he’s already awake. He jerks upright in his chair and gasps in a heaving breath.
If this is what resurrection feels like, I wouldn ’t wish it on anyone.
“Are you all right?” Hannibal asks.
Will looks around the room and doesn’t answer. It probably doesn’t matter.
Hannibal’s voice fades so prettily into the background, like a wall of noise.
He looks around for Adam, but he can’t find him anywhere. Hannibal is the only one in the house. His footsteps echo on the tile, and Hannibal sighs like he’s tired.
He calls for Adam. He calls for Abigail.
No one answers, and it occurs to him that he doesn’t know when he is.