by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Cole was of two minds, which wasn’t surprising.
The Dream Cole crouched upon his human body, his own chest. His clawed feet pressing into, but not breaking the skin, of his other form: The Sleeping Cole.
As the Sleeping Cole of flesh lay unconscious near death, the Dream Cole of spirit, stayed perched and pondering.
If Dream Cole dissolved back inside of himself, the Sleeping Cole of flesh would lose the great, leathery wings again – same as always – and wake up. The Awake Cole would be alive in a wingless, flightless world: Nothing more than a face among the many faces. A life among the many lives.
Who knows when he would enjoy such a dream again? Dreams of flight were rare and so precious. Cole had never known such precious freedom outside of dreams.
Yet if Dream Cole stayed out of himself much longer, the withering cord between his dreaming self and his traveler, real self, would fray and unwind. Once that started, there was no mending it.
He had to return, otherwise: No friends. No family. No Love or Lover. No Laughter. No daylight.
Who was he if he wasn’t his parents’ son? If he wasn’t the big brother, looking after his brothers and sisters – sure they were all adults now, but still, who was he if he wasn’t their Big Brother?
Was flight so precious that he would give that up? How can he give up Tia? Who was he if he wasn’t Tia’s husband?
His children. What would he do or be without his children? How could he never be Daddy again? All that he deeply treasured, everything that created and formed the best of himself that he worked so hard to achieve, would be lost forever. He’d be left as a parasite, forced to nourish himself upon the living.
This aerial creature of flight was also a coveted thing. To exist within dream! Even nightmare! Was… well it was Glorious!
There was no other word for it. Glorious!
– Here Cole spread them out, both for his adoring gaze as for the sheer tactile feel of it –
His magnificent wings, as adept as fingers, were nearly their own entity, his closest secret friend.
So it was on this stage alone, his body directly above his heart, where Dream Cole found himself. Everything outside of the stage was Death. But upon the stage was the dividing curtain. On one side of that curtain, Life. On the other, Undead. Dream Cole’s divided spirit was torn between powerful desires and never was his indecision greater.
Suddenly a slight breath of a whisper. Faint hissing carrying the massive gravitas of a collapsing star.
Dream Cole’s head jerked to the side even as he knew; even as his soul froze; even as he looked toward his fragile cord.
With threads whipping and snapping away wild as angry snakes, the strands uncoiled.
Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Art: The Evil One Perches on the Body of a Victim Whom He Has Succeeded in Ensnaring, by Frank C. Papé.
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