Read Chapter 1
Bruno walked up the last flight of Ringston Manor’s stairs, and entered the hallway to Lula’s room. His hand hadn’t finished the first knock before Lula threw the door open, and embraced him.
“Oh my God, Bruno, what happened last night? Dan told me you got lost swimming? What’s going on? Are you taking your medication?” She was as tall as he was, slender, with long dark hair down her shoulders, strong, dark eyebrows, and straight nose. She radiated intensity.
He hesitated in the doorway, then stepped into the room and she shut the door. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I know that’s what everybody thought. I didn’t know I was gone for that long. I said I was swimming, but I wasn’t.” He sat down on the couch, and looked at his hands.
“April’s always tough for you, isn’t it?” She nodded her head, as if prompting him. Every year since he was fourteen, he’d been hospitalized in April for severe depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts.
“It just breaks me down, I don’t know why. It’s like I’ve been warm indoors all winter, sedate and forgetful, and then when the sun shines again, I can live again, and maybe my black star won’t shine. And then I get crushed.” He took a deep breath. “That hasn’t happened yet this month.”
“I wish we could get away from here. Go up to the mountains, clear our heads. I fought with Daniel last night, on the phone. He thinks you won’t be able to make it through pledging, but I know you can. If you want to.” Lula put her hand on his arm. “What were you doing, Bruno? I’ll believe anything you tell me. We never lie to each other, never.” They’d been best friends since they were five years old, and it was only since they both started at New Gilead that they broke off talking to each other every single day.
Bruno walked over to the baby grand Imperial piano, occupying half the living room, and began picking out of tune. Lula came and sat next to him on the bench, and waited. Bruno said, “I’ve always tried to make sense of my life, but I’ve had only images, jumbled up. My foster father, Anno, was so cold. My father, Arculf, probably died in a shipwreck. I haven’t seen my mother, Belladonna, for ten years; she’s probably strung out on drugs somewhere. I don’t know what happened between the three of them, and I don’t know why it was just me and Anno all those years. You were the only one I could count on, Lula.”
He put his hands on his lap and turned to Lula. “After I hit the water, I sank to the bottom, and I walked. It was like I had a scuba tank, but I didn’t. I wasn’t holding my breath. I was breathing. I could see as clearly as if I was outside, thought I know that the way light refracts through the water makes it impossible for me to perceive light normally. It wasn’t possible.”
“There were cars down there, a sunk rowboat, a lot of trash. But when I got out past where people swam and boated, I heard these clicks and whistles, and I found a school of dolphins. I understood what they said, and I talked to one of them. She called herself Ketti.”
“Dolphins speak our language?”
“No, I spoke dolphin. I understood the clicks and whistles, and I made my own, and I knew what I was saying. I don’t know how. I just did.” He turned back to the piano, putting his fingers on keys without making sounds. “It’s crazy. I wouldn’t believe me. It’s OK if you don’t.”
“No, I believe you, I get it.”
“Sure. I believe everything is true. Fairies, ghost, werewolves, aliens. So if you saw it, it probably happened. I know sometimes you get caught up in delusions, sometimes when you’re not taking your medicines, but I don’t think of this as that. You don’t sound like you did back then. You sound lucid. What are doing is what healthy people do, and going to your best friend to talk.”
He stood up from the piano bench, and walked to the window, looking at the David Garden, memorial to the residence hall between Santhorn and Ringston, destroyed by fire a hundred years ago. Lula moved to the edge of the bench, facing him.
“Do you wanna hear something wild, Bruno? My friend Zula Cersei told me that this would happen.”
“This, specifically, she told you this would happen?”
“Well, kind of. She’s an artist, she’s like my mentor. She works with me a lot. We might have made out a couple times.” Lula put her hand over her mouth; she hadn’t told anyone.
“What!? Isn’t that illegal?”
“It’s not illegal. I’m 18. She’s 41. We’re both single. She’s not even a professor here, she was just a guest speaker at one of my workshops and we went out for coffee after afterward.”
“But, you’re into women?“
“Sometimes. I don’t know. I’m attracted to guys. But I’m attracted to her too. I think we’re getting off track.“
“Have you had sex with her?”
“No, I haven’t had sex anybody. Have you had sex with anybody?”
“I made out with Birdie a couple weeks ago and I got kind of drawn into a cuddle fest with a couple of girls last month, but my pants never came off or anything. I don’t think it counts.”
“You’re right, that doesn’t count. Birdie?”
“What did she tell you that made you think that she predicted this?”
“She reads Tarot. It’s like a meditative and artistic practice for her, and she says it helps her to tap into her unconscious mind via a larger collective union of minds and hearts that exists in the universe.”
“Doesn’t the book of Urizen say…”
I know what the Book of Urizen says; she’s not a Urizenite. She’s Urthonian. She lived in Anwyn for like 10 years. They do tarot as part of their own self reflection and meditation process. They don’t see it as talking to evil spirits, like they taught us. They see it as speaking to the consciousness that’s inside of you that already knows what the answers are. Maybe there are some guardians or spirits that are at play, it may be there’s evil spirits flipping out there somewhere, but that’s not really with us what this is about.”
“So what did she predict?”
“Here, I wrote it down, so I could remember.” She went to her desk, and found a yellow steno pad.
“The drowned man, full fathom five, bones made of coral, eyes of pearl, something rich and strange.”
“Lady of the rocks and situations.”
“The man with three staves on the wheel.”
“The hanged man.”
“Don’t you see?” She was getting excited. “Your father is the drowned man. Your mother is the Lady of the rocks, always in trouble. Anno, the judge, is the one with the staves on the wheel. And you’re the ….” Her face fell.
“The hanged man.” Bruno felt a blackness return to him, weighing him down.
“Listen, the hanged man doesn’t mean you’re literally going to be hanged. It’s someone who does something important, who makes a breakthrough. It’s about surrender for something that’s bigger than you.”
He sat down on the carpet, his arms on his knees. He felt exhaustion wash over him. “Can we go see Zula? I’d like to talk to her.”
“Probably! Let me call her.” Lula left the room for the phone in the kitchen, and Bruno leaned over, curling up on his side on the carpet. It was warm in Lula’s apartment. She returned and he held his head up as she put a pillow under it, and wrapped himself in the blanket she draped him in. She stroked his hair, and said, “she’s going to pick us up here at 6. You get some rest.” By the time she kissed him on the forehead, he was asleep.