by Andrew Drilon
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
I find the boy in a decrepit villa in the sorry side of the city. I am just checking. There is a sign above the main door that tells me it is a home for orphans. No wonder the boy did not know who I was! No parents to tell him of my splendid existence!
I pass sleeping children and bare walls, finding the boy on a ratty cot in the far corner of the main hall. He sighs in his sleep. He is dreaming of running through a meadow of purple grass with someone, laughing as they play a game of chase. I imagine that I am that someone. I imagine catching up to the boy.
He wakes up, rubbing his eyes. He looks at me and asks, “Who are you?”
“I am Sunriser,” I say.
“Sunriser is a boy,” he says.
“I am Sunriser at night.” I am kneeling in front of the boy. There are sleeping children all around me. One of them snores. I feel out of place. He is still not completely awake, but he seems to understand.
“What do you want?”
“I require your services. Will you acquiesce?”
“Come with me to find the missing friend.”
I stand up. I am irritated. But I will humor this poor, stupid mortal, for all it is worth. “Peekli,” I say, “is an eight-legged goat with a propensity for getting lost at the most inopportune times. It was previously the friend of an old lady who sleeps through mornings and dreams of finding her friend again.
“Further investigation has yielded important facts as to Peekli’s current state. Peekli eats imaginary lemons, has a definite liking for high art, dispenses with the imaginary task of leaving imaginary excretions for others to follow, and has had the great fortune of outmaneuvering an investigating semigod for the span of a single day — an achievement, I might add, which it will not be so lucky as to sustain for longer than this very night.
“Furthermore, if you would aid me in the acquisition of this eight-legged goat, I guarantee you will be amply rewarded by this semigod: long life, good fortune, the ability to fly, and so on.”
The boy is insufferable. I stand up to leave. “Never mind. I thought you would have been helpful to my investigation, seeing as you are a mortal of rare sight, but I seem to have been mistaken. Have a good night.”
I walk past the boy, through the wall, out of the building, into the cool night. As I leave, I hear him one more time: “What?”
I shake my head and walk back into the city.
* * *
I could not even find decent footprints. The trail is cold.
Two hours later, I am back at the orphanage. Sleeping children greet me with fantastical dreams. I have no time for them. I swim through a dream of mangroves under cerulean skies and meet the boy. He recognizes me this time.
“Sunriser. I thought you didn’t want to see me anymore.”
In his dream, he is a handsome boy: obsidian eyes, ebony skin, hair combed to the color of night. I extend my glow to outshine him. “You are perhaps the most irksome and unreliable mortal I have ever encountered, but there is more than just my pride at stake here. An old woman needs her friend. Will you aid me?”
He blinks. He is awake in his dream. “But the mistress said we can’t go out at night. It’s against the rules. I’ll get whipped if I go.”
Dark clouds rise in the horizon. I make a storm in his dream, to reflect my mood. I take a deep breath and shout at him. “I am a semigod! I am the most high Sunriser, eminent warden of a world that continues only because the sun shines by my hand! I am divine commandment, the law of the universe!”
Razor hurricanes spin knives of air in the heavens above. He blinks them back to calm blue skies. It is only a dream, after all. His dream.
“Okay. But I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“Do you even understand what I am saying? You have the sight! You can see it if you wanted to!”
“I haven’t seen any goats.”
“I haven’t seen any Peeklis. I’m sorry, okay?” He looks at me with that look again.
I am just about at the edge of my patience. I take another breath to regain my composure. “Fine. Deny yourself my blessings. I do not care.”
With measured grace, I turn away from the boy. Stupid, so stupid. Let him go back to dreaming.
* * *
I have searched the city high and low. I have just about had it with this investigation. I think about the old lady and the pain she must feel at missing her friend. These witless mortals with their mayfly lives and their inane obsessions with companionship. She will die soon, and she will never see her friend again.
I am outside the home for orphans. I look at it with morbid fascination. What a curious place. So tired, so small. So horridly unimportant in the greater scheme of things.
I find the boy awake. He is playing jumping stones with a little girl. They take turns scooping the small pebbles from the floor and into their hands. I stay in the shadows so he does not see me. The rest of the children are asleep.
Moonlight spills in from the window. The boy and the girl play in its dimness. They giggle as they do, and I watch.
“Shhh. The mistress will hear.”
“If I win the next one, you have to kiss me.”
“I haven’t lost yet!”
How infuriating! I have spoken to him three times already, three times! Three divine visits from a high semigod and he does not even speak of me! How dare he!
I keep my distance and watch. The little bouncing ball hits the floor then rises, and in one sweeping motion, the boy gathers up all the stones.
“I win. Again. Nyahh.”
“Shhh. My turn. I get to start this time.”
I study the girl as she whispers. She is unspectacular: blonde hair, brown eyes, freckled and thin. Is this what the boy prefers? An idiot mortal with bones so brittle I could snap them with a glance? I could do it, if I wanted to.
He turns in my direction. I move away.
I must find the missing friend. This is obviously not worth my time.
* * *
I find a six-legged goat in the colonnade guarding a sleeping lady. I find a green lamb made of papaya leaves, hovering next to its best friend. I find a haze of something lingering in the night air that resembles a goat, only to discover that it is but a cloud of human flatulence.
I am weary with frustration.
* * *
It is an hour before dawn. I return to the orphanage. The boy is sleeping again. I enter his dreams. It is a maze of lines that I find difficult to understand. He smiles when he sees me.
“What time is it?”
“It is almost morning.”
“Aren’t you going to push the sun up?”
“I shall. We still have an hour. Peekli is somewhere. Will you aid me?”
“I can’t. I’m sorry.”
He looks at me and finally, I understand the look. There is a brief moment of horror, and then I scream at him.
“I am NOT imaginary!”
He recoils in shock. “I’m sorry. Okay. I didn’t say that.”
“You were thinking it this whole time! How dare you! I should break you where you stand!”
“I’m sorry, Sunriser. I didn’t mean to think that. I believe you.”
“You do not! You lie! How dare you! I could end the world if I wanted to!”
He looks at me and begins to say something but I turn away, escaping into the night. I exit the dream of lines, rising past painted facades and swaying trees, high above the city. Forests and villas and porticos; the entire city lies beneath my feet.
I am a semigod. I am power incarnate. I am above insolent mortals.
I see Moonbeamer descending the night sky. It is my cue. I glide over to the edge of the horizon. The sun glows beneath my gaze, a sphere of pure light, waiting to be picked up once more. I place my hands on its burning surface. The sun is beautiful, I realize. It is enough to light the whole world.
I hesitate and pull my hands away.
Something trickles down my cheek. Am I crying? This is unprecedented, I sputter. A mortal, a stupid little mortal boy...
“All I wanted was to find Peekli.”
I sit beside the sun and wipe my eyes. My heart darkens. If only they could see. I save the world each day. If not for my efforts, these tiny, insignificant people would not even exist. The little boy would be less than a wisp in the vastness of the universe. Why does he even matter?
It is a quarter-hour to dawn. I am alone. If I delayed for even a second, I imagine the statues would rise in the mezzanine of that city and the Harbingers of the Apocalypse would ride out, raining chaos across the world.
And then, perhaps, the little boy would believe in me.
Moonbeamer shouts from the far edge of the horizon. “Hey! Sunriser! Your turn!”
I close my eyes and consider a revelation.
Copyright © 2007 by Andrew Drilon