Of Bells and Moths – Ellie Cottrell

Do you remember? Do you remember waking up dead?

She rolled over to him, wrapped her arms around his warm body, and breathed softly into the nape of his neck. The lamp in the room burnt noiselessly, casting a yellowing glow on their embrangled legs and skin.

I come here every night. He continued gently: I only come here for you. For this. Were you angry? I wake up every morning and wait agonisingly for another night to ask. Do you remember?

She put her finger to his lips, silenced him, and left a kiss behind them. She stood up, naked to her toes and glided slowly around the room, keeping her warm amber eyes on him as he lay on the bed. Her limbs slow and salty, came to a stop next to the lamp burning shy coppery shadows across her stomach. She looked through him. He lay, calm for the moment, slathered in sheets against the cold clear night. She glanced out of the open window as though she heard what he did. But she did not. She only saw the world, quiet beneath its blanket of never ending stars.

I wasn’t angry she whispered softly. I tell you every night when I’m here.

He turned over to look at her then. It was the first time he remembered hearing her voice, though he knew she had told him before. She hadn’t been angry, or scared. Only dead. Her voice filled him, rushed in and caressed his lungs and veins. For a moment she was deafening, echoing inside him and blocking out the noise. His eyes breathed her in. She was beautiful. A little feral, and never intentionally rational, a creature of unfathomable grace. He was alive. Alone and alive.

I come here for you, he found his voice again, a little exasperated. Every night I spend dreaming the sound of your voice, smelling the smokey smell of your skin. When I wake up you’re gone. Every day is empty without you. Every day is the same. 

He quietened, his voice fading as he watched sadness creep into her eyes. She moved away from the light, hiding her sorrow in the shadows. Her long hands disturbed the moths where they slept. The corner of the room moved under their wings. They fluttered past her and fell to the floor as dust.

It will be dawn soon, she whispered from the dim shade behind the light. You will wake up and I will be gone again. 

I know it, he replied. Come and lie down with me. Please. Surround me so I can forget the sound of the bells. 

I don’t hear the bells.

The ones outside. He hid his face in his hands. The ones for the dead. I hear them tinkling all night from their coffins. Ringing to be let out, to let someone know they are there. But no one hears. No one answers their ringing. Don’t you hear it? Are they scratching at their insides? Are they trying to been heard? Do you have one too? 

Why have you never said this before? She asked. Every night you ask if I remember waking up dead, but never have you asked me about bells. 

He was sitting upright now, his deep blue eyes concealing lakes as he watched her. He sighed and put his head back down to the pillow.

It’s too late now, he replied. I can hear the rain in the street. I must be waking up. I wont remember any of this tomorrow. I wont remember the bells when the sun is up. 

She came back to the bed, lay down and put a hand to his face. It was cold and ashy against his skin. She pulled herself into him and closed her eyes. He heard her heart beat against his chest. He felt the warmth of her breath.

He awoke alone to the sound of rain. The window was open and the curtain fluttered against the sill, the lamp had burnt out and the floor was covered in dust.

THE END

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