The boy blinked, astounded by the massive girth that he witnessed. Somehow she pulled herself atop the man, an unimaginable weight on his chest. The man, at that moment, almost seemed to waken. He count not move, that much was clear. He tried to scream but his lungs held no air with which to utter a sound. He lay there with horror in his vision, the dreams of the dying.
The boy could not look away. It was horrifying the way the folds of her bare flesh seemed to envelope the man, seemed to consume him the way she consumed his soul.
She could feel the man's life teeter at the edge. He deserved it. He would not leave. He deserved it.
The boy watched as she tilted back her head, uttering a wail that no human could hear. A silent cry. No joy, no fulfillment. ..only agony.
"Where have you been off to again?" a woman's voice exclaimed agitatedly.
The boy stared at the woman for a moment, allowing recognition to wash over him.
“Just around the next block, Mama. Not too far." he said.
"I told you not to wander about so."
He couldn't see why she was so bothered. It was different, didn't she understand?
"But it's so lonely here, Mama, especially when you're away. And I'm always careful not to go to scary places." He was careful to speak pleadingly so she wouldn't get mad.
His mother sighed. "Kevin, you know it's not safe going about like that on your own. It doesn't matter how careful you are."
He was sitting on the wall of the abandoned house at the end of the street. He had a clear view of the length of the lane and observed it in contemplation. His feet dangled, swaying in the rhythm of his thoughts.
The swaying stopped quite suddenly, his feet hitting the wall with a thump. Kevin jumped off, landing expertly on the paved walk. His eyes were determined, a fleeting resolution that faded almost immediately. But he walked still, because it seemed harder to climb the wall again than walk on. He walked down the road, past the scant houses that were dimly lit.
He watched his feet, one moving in front of the other, following an invisible line that guided his path.
"You can't have come here to see me, surely not."
The depth of the voice that spoke was unfathomable. It was slow yet uneasy, as if the thoughts had been bursting out of the speaker, anxious to be heard. It was almost quiet, except it resounded as if it had bounced off the walls of a damp dark cave before it reached his ears.
Kevin looked up from the ground to find the nightmarish lady before him. She was a massive creature slumped at the doorframe of the darkest house on the street. Her eyes were averted, as if it was too much for her to look at him.
He found himself counting his heartbeats as he stared at her, unable to respond. Thirty-six, thirty-seven...His breath hitched at his throat. He was afraid, he realized. She would rise, he was sure, rise and sit on him and wail soundlessly as she ate his soul.
Finally, she looked at him, raised her head and stared straight into his eyes. As if a spell had broken, Kevin's fear subsided. It did not disappear, but faded into a soft murmur that he could quell if he could remember to continue to breathe.
"You shouldn't wander at night, boy. Leave. Leave me alone." she said.
"But aren't you lonely here by yourself?" he asked. "There's nobody else around, especially now. The man in that house is gone." He pointed at it, at the house they showed in the news. The man had died in his sleep, they said. A nightmare. His heart just stopped.
She looked at him, her eyes unreadable. "He deserved to die." she said, speaking aloud the chant that she repeated since the night the boy first saw her. "He wouldn't leave. He should have just left."
"He owns the house. Of course he wouldn't leave."
"The wood is mine, my tree. It can't be his. It's mine and they took it, tried to steal it."
"Your tree? They took the wood from your tree?"
She did not answer.
"So you killed him?"
She did not answer.
The boy wondered if he should do as she said and leave now. There may be no more conversation from her.
"Why are you here? Asking so many questions...why are you here?"
"I wanted to know." he replied, averting his eyes now.
"Dreamwalkers should know their place. Go home, wake up and walk with the living."
The words angered Kevin a little, the way it always angered him when people reminded him how frustrating it was.
"These legs," he said somewhere between angry and sad. "They don't work when I'm awake. They don't move. I can't walk. This arm looks weird too." He held his left arm higher and stared at the fingers that were so different just that morning. He had stared at it too as it lay limply on the bathroom floor when his mother bathed him.
"I walk when I'm asleep. It makes me happy." He hesitated now, before continuing, "You're not happy."
The lady was silent for a while. "He deserved it." was all she uttered.
"They took your tree and you were mad. He got your wood and wouldn't leave the house so you were angry and went to him and killed him. And then when you ate his soul you cried." He looked at her again. "Well, you almost cried."
She was angry again now, he could tell. It scared him enough that he took a step back. I couldn't have stepped back if I was awake, he thought unconsciously, just because he was talking about it.
"Leave." she said. "Leave me alone. Go away."
He stepped back again. He took another before turning to walk away.
The boy watched in silence. He was much less of a boy now than he was. It was a different house now. They had torn down the old one and had thrown much of the wood for scrap. She was no longer bound to that wood but wandered elsewhere, seethed elsewhere, and mourned elsewhere. He watched her, no longer repulsed, never fascinated. He watched her until she gave her silent cry. He watched her return to her post, still uncertain how she could move so much of herself. Then he would wake. Awake he was as sad and as helpless as he saw her when he slept, when he dreamed.