Rotten Youths

                No one is as young as they used to be.

                The leaves piled beneath him were damp and ripe, clogging his nostrils with sweet rot. He shook his head, but his vision did not clear. It was dark still, and the night was yet to come. The sun hovered above him, casting light, but not for him. He felt its warmth but faintly and from a great distance, as though its rays were diverted elsewhere, as if something distracted him from its sight. He waited for the wind, some scent to tell him which way to go, but the air was quiet, stagnant,  full of nothing but death

Even as you cycle through hundreds of lives…

He tried to rise, but the legs beneath him wobbled, unwilling to support him like they were just born, and he a babe just now learning what it meant to be. And for all he knew, he was. Everything before this minute did not exist. Oblivion stretched behind. In front bowed the dark. The yawning and the deep, an empty chorus, hollow to its bones. It echoed every noise, and resonated with sound’s every absence. He curled his fingers in the mulch, felt its cool stick to his fingers, and dig beneath their nails. And the rotten leaves softly crunched, wet but brittle, as if somehow frozen by rain.

“Are you awake?”

…spread over eons…

It was the first sentence he had ever heard, coming from the head lying against his bare chest, his softness and dark hairs its pillow. She looked up, her eyes amethysts, and smiled.

“You are… welcome.”

There were many questions he could ask: Who am I? Who are you? Where are we? When? But instead, only one presented itself: “How long have I been-”

“Not long.” The smile did not leave her as she interrupted. And she began kissing him up and down his sternum. “But long enough to forget. And that’s all that matters. I see in your eyes, all that you used to know.”

…your eyes. They grow older and older.

All he remembered: Her bejeweled eyes, his hands, the clean scent of ruin, the still air, and… something dancing along the edge that never quite took form. He felt her hands, wrapped around his sides, fists clenched around the same mulch his hands sought purchase in. There was no solid ground beneath them, almost like they could sink and sink and disappear, though whereto and wherefrom he could not say. Perhaps here was all there was. Perhaps they were waiting, and always would be.

He smiled, mirroring her grin. And removed his hands from the mulch to cradle the head against his chest, and realized… what he held was disembodied. Her hands, he swore were just clutchinghis side, merely a ghost-limbed sensation. No torso, no legs connected to it. He looked down, and she… it smiled. Eyes of amethyst,  no whites and no iris, but shimmering, unending purple. Deep purple fields, with waving grasses, hid in her portal stare. Skin puckered around her eyes, oases surrounded by wrinkle deserts, and flapped yellow and loose against the rest of her skull. She gaped, showing sharp rows of teeth that did not end, lining a throat that did not exist.

“Our world, it grows smaller every day.”

And the sun faded. Night fell at last. A darkness more absolute than the velvet shawl before.

No one is as young as they used to be.