The voice peels back his sleep. The window shimmies up with a rattle. The next syllables manifest behind his sternum. His heart beats itself against the words. Whirring. A hot blur of teeth, like an animal gnawing off a paw. An Offering to the Trap left behind. A price paid.
"Samuel, I've been watching you."
She is perched at the end of the bed, thumbing through his journal. She flips back and forth until she hits the desired entry.
"Now, Samuel. You know this simply isn't True."
She bends back the spine of the composition book. Spreads her fingers to force the pages open and holds it up for him to see. He raises up onto his elbows. It is too dark to see what she means.
"You know I don't like it when you lie."
She snaps his journal shut. The prisms hanging in the window clatter against the glass. He says,
"I don't want to be dreaming this anymore."
* * * * *
He is on the subway. The faces flashing by on the platform are yellow in the subway light. Yellow as the glamour of Heroin. A horse in a needle, kicking bruises through the doorway vein, up into the skin above. A hundred little hoofprints. The mark of the miniature Mustang, Untamed as Addiction.
Into the tunnel. Here there is no Night and no Morning. The time is measured by the flow of people. Out of the tunnel. Faces flashing by again on the platform. More miners down the shaft.
She is in the seats across from him. Stretched full length. He asks,
"I'm the canary in the mineshaft, Samuel."
"Can you breathe?"
"No, Samuel. I'm dying like you."
* * * * *
He winches the net full of Sirens into the boat. He has caught three. He will harvest their hearts and sell them to billionaires over seas. A delicacy. A fisherman of ability, he lures two more to the edge of the rock with the sound of a man in Need. Then draws them into the net with the languageless cry of drowning children.
"Samuel. What's become of your sails?"
"There are no sails. The wind didn't take me where I wanted to be. Now I use a motor."
She settles on the prow.
"Samuel. She told herself that it would know no grief or disappointment. Nothing of The World. No birth. Just Love. Then Death. She said all the things one has to, in order to kill what one Loves. Are you pleased, Samuel? You've caught five today."
Samuel says nothing.
She stands and walks the lip of the boat. Arms out for balance. Toes pointed. She says,
"When she was little, she didn't understand why the people her mother called, 'colored,' only came in brown. She asked her mother, loudly on the bus, why this was. When she heard in church that Christ was coming, she thought the Preacher meant, 'any minute now.' So, whenever anyone knocked at the door, she hid in the cupboard under the stairs in case it was Him. She thought He would be angry. Isn't it funny, the things little girls think?"
She completes her circuit of the boat and hops down lightly onto the deck. She squats down next to the Sirens.
"Samuel. Don't you ever get holes in the net?"
* * * * *
"How many does this make now, Samuel?"
"Are you certain?"
"You're mistaken. The second one, with that second woman, didn't belong to you."
"That's not true."
"Come now, Samuel. Would I lie to you? You know as well as I do that you'd rather be deceived than admit being wrong. If it had happened to anyone else but you, it would have been the first thing you asked."
She is clicking wafers of stone in her hand. She takes two steps closer to the shore and skips one across the water. It jumps three times and sinks. She says,
"It works better if you do it this way," and walks out onto the surface of the water and skips another stone. It leaps five times. "See? Do you want to try?"
"I can't walk on water."
"Don't be silly. Everybody can. Christ explained how to do it."
"No, He didn't."
"Yes, He did. It's just that No One wrote that part down.
* * * * *
"How is she, Samuel?"
They are standing next to a crooked tree. The sky is blue as the eyes of a Baptist Christ.
"She locks herself in the bathroom. I can hear her talking to herself."
"She's not talking to herself, Samuel. She's talking to me."
"Why would she be talking to you?"
"Why shouldn't she? She's my Mother."
"You're my daughter?"
She laughs and walks to the tree.
She grips the trunk with both hands and rattles it. Fruit patters down onto the ground around her. She says,
"If you shake the tree, the ripe fruit will fall at your feet."
She bends down and gathers the fruit into the fold of her skirt. He says,
"Are you my daughter?"
"Now, Samuel. I believe you already decided that. Look. I've gathered up the fruit for you. Do you want it?"
" I don't have a way to carry it."
"It must not be worth having, then."
She snaps her skirt, and the fruit is catapulted skyward. Samuel tilts his head back to see where the fruit has gone, because it fails to come down again. She snaps her fingers to get his attention and says,
"I have a joke for you:
They are standing in a circle to stone the woman. Christ says, 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.' A woman from the mob, hefts a boulder and flattens the woman in the center of the circle. And then Christ says, 'Godammit, Mom.'
Look up, Samuel."
Samuel looks up. The fruit has turned to stones that are hammering back down out of the sky. He drops to the ground and curls into himself. He says,
She squats down in the grass next to him and whispers,
"If it wasn't the life you wanted, Samuel. You shouldn't have chosen it."