He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very wrong.
It was cold and it was dark and he didn’t think it was normal for people to wake up so afraid-
He breathed it in and the cold was inside his skin. Whispering and biting and swirling inside the cold, hollow, heavy thing in the center of his chest and it was wrong wrong wrong- but he couldn’t tell why.
So cold- He can’t breathe-!
The snow is silent but silence roars and cold is whipping across his skin. The night was growing darker and darker and now there was cold falling from the sky he can’t stop it and why can’t he breathe-
He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very wrong. And he doesn’t know what it is at first, and that bothers him all the more.
He was in a bed, a warm bed. Something that he knows, somewhere in his mind, should be mundane- but for some reason, his toes curl in unease.
It feels like walking in front of a mirror, staring into it’s depths and knowing that something’s different, but not knowing what. It nags and nags at the back of his head until he thinks he’s pulling his hair out, and that hurts,, but he can’t stop and he doesn’t know why. Why doesn’t he know why?
A deafening pang is thundering through his head, resonating dully from the cold, heavy, hollow thing bundled tightly in the place his clumsy memory is insisting something called a heart should be. Even though it’s resting on the top of his chest, he feels it’s weight on his shoulder, pressing down the tops of his eyes, even in the pit of his stomach- which twists and groans like all of the pains and sores littering the rest of his body are it’s burden to bare.
He presses a hand to his chest, and feels nothing but the thrum of ice fanning out beneath his fingertips, sinking down into his bones. He doesn't think he was expecting anything- but for some reason, it makes his chest tighten. He doesn’t understand why.
If he can't feel the silence, then why does it hurt so much more?
His eyes close before he can feel the first tear freeze to his cheek.
He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very, wrong.
They’re crowded around him and looking at him like a stranger. Because he is a stranger. What are these people doing around him? Get away- Get away- Can’t breathe-!”
“Oh no- not again.” Someone says, and they turn away. They’re hiding, but why-
There’s hands on his shoulders and purple is bearing into his soul and he can’t- he can’t-
“Jack, Jack! Listen to me! You’ve got to fight it- Jack. Stay with us, please! Jack!”
He wants to fight- he does- but it’d be against her hands and he’s rooted to his spot on the floor. The longer he stays the more he feels like he should know these hands, recognize these eyes staring down at him with pity- but it’s all from behind a thick sheet of ice in his head that no matter how hard he taps and taps and taps It Won’t Break.
He wants to fight- he just doesn’t know what- but ice is crackling across his skin and he’s frozen all the way down into his lungs and he can’t breathe.
Why won’t it let him breathe?
He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very wrong. The world shouldn’t be spinning, thunder shouldn’t be this quiet.
The dead-beat of the cold, heavy, hollow thing roaring in his chest pulses like flashes darkness in a cold empty broken lost abandoned Shattered nothing. He thinks it hurts but he can’t feel anything over the nothing and why is silence so loud?
It’s like there’s two large- water, ice cold water muffles- pressing hands, covering his ears. It’s only after a featherlight touch, pulling at his fingers, that he realizes the hands are his own.
He looks up into purple, soul seeing eyes. One of his hands is cradled in each of hers, in a hold that’s as soft as- snow, falling cold. Gentle, and kind- like the feathers lining her arms.
His eyes- blue, he remembers, blue like the edge of a frozen lake- never leave hers as she guides his hands to his curled up knees, resting them there. Her hands are warm- pulsing with warm- and he has to look away, because the hollowness in his own skin has just gotten especially bad. Especially wrong wrong wrong-
She must see something in the eyes he’s never seen himself, because she gives his wrists a little squeeze.
His gaze shoots to their hands, but before he can pull them away and fully form the thought of Sinking- he’s sinking- She squeezes them again, and again. Soon she’s created a calm, gentle pulse around his wrists.
He doesn’t know how it happens, but after a while, he squeezes back- right after hers.
Pulse pulse, Pulse pulse. Bum-bump, Bum-Bump. The beat to a long forgotten song.
The more their little pattern continues, the smaller and smaller the cold, heavy, hollow thing seems. He looks into her purple, soft, eyes and warm words like kind, caring come rushing into him from her hands.
There’s another word too, something deep and complicated, yet the simplest thing in the world, that he sees in the heart of her eyes- but that his own empty space can’t quite place.
She must realize it isn’t there, because now there’s pity in her eyes too- something the hollow thing seems to think is far too familiar to be comforting.
Her lips part in a whispering breath
“Come back to us, Jack.”
He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very wrong. His stomach feels the size of a waterfall and his teeth cling to the remnants of something creamy- like clouds of orange soda- hiding on the tip of his tongue. It’s a feeling so strange it’s more than enough to explain away the wrongness.
But that isn’t all. He’s seated at a table, with plates and forks and fine china. The cloth is white, like snow- like ice- with dashes of pink that swirl like rose petals around the silverware- and if these words keep slipping through the cracks in- in- in the cold, heavy, hollow thing- then he’s sure there’ll be too many words for him to remember.
There are people at the table- strangers, he gapes at them blankly- a great big man in a furry red coat, a tall man in an even furrier suit, a short man with orange snow for hair- and a purple eyed, soul-seeing lady, all crowded around the table. These people are strangers- and crowding strangers aren’t meant to be trusted- but there’s crinkles in their noses and a sparkle in their eyes that leaves him hooked to the rise and fall of the rhythm of their voices.
And even though they’re strangers, they’re close in a way that isn’t actually crowding or suffocating and even though he shouldn’t be able to breathe- their closeness, for some reason, feels right. There’s a warmth in their presence that makes it seem like these people should be together.
Family. The cold, heavy, hollow thing breathes. They feel like a family.
There’s happiness and relief, buried deep somewhere inside those words. But it never quite reaches the empty space in his chest.
It’s only happy if you’re part of it.
Why does he feel like he should be?
He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very, wrong. It feels like an echo in the center of his chest- born from an emptiness he vaguely knows shouldn’t be there, but feels eternal and essential all the same.
He lists off his observations automatically- the couch is red, squishy. Bookshelves rise into the ceiling. He’s breathing in dust- not snowflakes or water or something else entirely. The mug in his hands- cold. Untouched- a habit he only knows is routine because it feels slightly less wrong than the feeling of his own skin over his chattering bones.
A big man in an even bigger red coat is seated in the chair across from his perch on the sofa, engrossed in a book he thinks must be quite grand- considering it’s wider than the boy is across.
He doesn’t know the man- but he thinks the cold, heavy, hollow thing used to- and he doesn’t know the room. But the great man looks so content, living within the pages of his book, that he can’t help but feel a little content himself.
Words like Happy, Laughter and Smile drift into his thoughts- but they’re whispered like they’re ghosts of some tragic accident no one really wants to be reminded of. And he frowns- because even though these words are strangers, they tingle on his tongue like gasps of wonder- and he thinks it’s awfully sad that such nice sounding words had to be associated with something so painful- that he can’t even remember.
The great man reaches some point in his page that makes his eyes sparkle like the peppermint in the boy’s cold hot cocoa. The man’s lips upturn in a way that he thinks should be utterly unnatural- but somehow rests peacefully on his rosy face. His own face feels funny. It twitches and falters and it sparks something inside him that blows his eyes open like dinner plates.
How could he have forgotten what a smile was?
His mouth hangs open, silent in awe. Because in the moment he remembers what it’s like to smile-
He realizes his lips didn’t know how to anymore.
He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very wrong. It might be because the voices he hears are distant and nagging, too. Three voices somewhere behind him, ringing like glass bells in his wide open, empty memory.
But they aren’t happy.
“-There’s still hope. If we can just give him a little bit more time-”
“Time isn’t helping him. It’s been too long, Tooth. He isn’t coming back.”
There’s shouting and yelling and weird gasps for breath in between. They sound like pieces of a bed of ice slowly breaking apart and he wants it to stop.
He thinks the wall supporting his back was meant to keep the voices away, but it isn’t working. Just like the wall of ice in his chest isn’t helping- and he taps and taps but it Won’t Break.
Doors slam, something behind the door shatters and he can’t help but wish the broken thing in the place of his heart would break that easily.
He’s woken by the distant, nagging feeling that something was very, very, wrong. The kind of wrong that rubs at his mind like a blade of rust- that is to say, very wrong indeed.
Except, it’s not in his mind. It’s a sound. A sound that throbs in his ears. A sound that feels like thin ice cracking and rests at the base of his throat like a struggle for breath. A sound that’s wrong wrong wrong.
There's a woman sitting in front of him, at least, he thinks it's a woman. He didn't think humans had wings. He knows he doesn’t. He wouldn’t have sunk if he’d had wings- would he?
The word Angel surfaces from the cold, heavy, hollow thing in his chest- and it radiates until he can’t look at the woman without seeing golden, protective light. He looks down at her, resting the sorrows of her head on her knees- and wonders briefly where her white robe and halo have gone.
He knows somewhere- somewhere beyond the sheet of ice that he taps and taps- that he shouldn’t trust strangers. But the cold, heavy, hollow thing tells him that you should always trust an angel.
Her chest heaves, and he realizes the sound that sounds like cracks and falls and wrong, is coming from her. He instantly knows it’s the saddest sound in the world
She’s crying. He thinks, words flooding into him with a watery bite. Why is an angel crying?
There’s a story- locked somewhere in the past, told by voices long passed- that says that angels mourn the loss of life. Angels cry when people die before their time. And he doesn’t know if the ghost-story is true, but he does know that crying is wrong. Crying means broken, heavy, hollow things nestled inside heartless chests and they need to be fixed.
He crouches down to the angel-woman, careful of the ice trailing behind his toes.
“Ma- M- Ma’am? A- Are you O- Ok?”
He tries to speak, but his voice is hoarse and foreign and it’s just another wrong thing he can’t explain. But this only makes her cry harder and he recoils from her like he’s been hit in the gut. Or the heart he doesn’t have.
He’s only making things worse- he isn’t helping- why can’t he stop this- why why why can’t he breathe- he can’t breathe-
"It’s alright. You’re not going to fall in. We’re going to have a little fun instead!”
A voice echoes through his mind, youthful and scared and utterly ancient. A voice that feels like hot meals and sunlit windows and nothing like the crumbling, cracking sound that tumbles off his tongue.
Games stop tears, fun scares away fear.
But he doesn’t think angels play games, but he does know that angels mourn life that’s left. So gently, he lifts her porcelain hands into his own- which he knows vaguely should be warm, so why do her hands feel like china?- and after she looks up with those purple, kind, caring eyes, he squeezes.
She stares down at their hands like they’ve just broken something shattered. But she stops crying, so he must be doing something right. He squeezes lightly again, and again. And again and again until his hands pick up the rhythm all on their own.
She stares into his eyes with all the shock of falling through ice cold water- except now her hands are warm, so impossibly warm.
She squeezes his wrists back, right after he squeezes hers. The corners of her lips twitch into a faltering- strong- Smile, and from her chest rumbles and desperate- hopeful- Laugh. She’s happy even as she squeezes harder and harder until it’s almost painful for the both of them- but this is a song that voices never sing- because it’s the only thing that shatters Silence.
And he does think he shatters, in that moment. The moment he looks into her eyes and realizes what’s been there the entire time.
It’s called love, Jack. You’ve just remembered how to love.
It’s painful, and it hurts more than the silence ever did- and even though he feels like he’s counted all of the breaths he’s taken- in fear of time it will stop-
His breath’s being taken away.
And it feels more right than anything in the world.
“He may not have died, but he still lost a life"
"What do you mean he lost a life? The moon brought him back to life, didn’t he?"
"You don’t judge a life based on if it’s died, Bunny. You judge it based on how it’s lived. Lives are the things that make you smile and the laughs you tuck away in your heart. It’s what cereal you reach for in the morning, the songs you sing and the dances you dance when you think you’re alone- And he lost all of that when he fell through the ice.
Dying scared him, Bunny. But he survived it. Now he needs to realize it’s ok for him to live again.”