The corridor was white. (Painted with a real brush; there were still the marks in the grain of the paint slashing up the walls, but the ceiling was too far away for Orlando to be able to tell if it had benefited from the same close attention.)
The corridor was white, but it was dark now. At the end, where the doorway gaped to Elijah's bedroom, the walls were black, creeping back towards blue, and splashed a jaundiced yellow where they stood, a step away from the bright kitchen. The carpet flamed under their feet, but fled quickly further on to the colour of dried blood. Orlando's eyes were drawn down. His head was bowed. They had their backs to the kitchen. It was light behind, and dark in front. They were in the middle.
"We might as well," Elijah had said, staring out the window. All Orlando could see was himself, reflected against the darkness outside.
Later, he would run his fingertips over the corrugation of Elijah's ribs showing against his white skin. His body was pared down to the essentials. He was thin. He was not fragile. Excess had been burned away by the successful navigation of tribulations. He had the body of a survivor.
Elijah laid a hand against the corridor wall, where the light leaked and smeared. The light was different at this end of the world. The sun was too bright. It was real, and direct, and the sky was too blue. The sun was too white when it was searing them against the lush landscape that you could be made to believe was Middle Earth. The depth of shadow underneath spreading trees was tangible. Orlando would almost be able to taste it, deep green and not quite metallic. He would rub his fingers together, rasping and worn.
"I think I've got a new blister," he would say that day.
"I think I've forgotten my lines," Elijah would reply. He would chew his nails, until there was no white left.
No white left in the chewed nails laid against the wall. The corridor was longer than it was short with dried blood under Orlando's feet and Elijah by his side. Now in front, now behind. A long time ago he'd realised the way Elijah moved. He'd recognised the shifting flow. He'd been told the truth.
"Not white," Elijah had said, flicking the pages with a cigarette wedged between his fingers, weeping wisps of smoke. "Not white. Many colours."
He'd been told lies as well. (Any sentence beginning with: "I'm just". Every time he said: "Well, you know me." A flickering glance, and: "I'm fine".) But not as many as you might think. Or rather, they were all lies. But they were all truth. He could tell the difference. He could tell there was no difference.
"We might as well," Elijah had said, staring out the window. He turned to Orlando and laughed, mouth wide.
Orlando knew Elijah laughing. His whole body tilted, as if it were impossible not to feel glee that intense without the use of every square inch of flesh. He had energy that transferred like a virus, spreading and mutating. He drew amused glances, and cuddles, and delighted laughter. He collected them like his dues, like butterflies to be poisoned with ether and pinned out for display. Everyone knew Elijah laughing.
Orlando knew Elijah serious. He was tight and closed-off. Focussed inward, where he couldn't lie because no one could see. When he frowned, his eyebrows pinched together. He was clever, and it was unexpected. He would push people over with two words, but Orlando had never seen him lose his balance. Elijah never fell. Nor did he jump. He held tight. He survived. Many people knew Elijah serious.
One night they sat on Elijah's verandah, in creaking furniture over boards with slice-of-life cracks between them, and they looked up at the stars. Towards town, the sky was stained with rust, and the stars were white beads scattered across the night. They looked up at the stars. The nameless stars, Elijah insisted. "What's the point if they have names?" he said quietly, profiled in the dark.
"I feel insignificant, looking at the stars," Orlando said.
"I feel young," Elijah replied.
Orlando rubbed his fingers together. His blisters had long healed.
"I'm that one," Elijah said. He pointed; just a shadowed movement in the dark. ("They don't have names," Orlando reminded him, but he already knew.)
Orlando knows Elijah in the dark. His teeth are sunk in his lower lip. His eyes are closed. He doesn't make a sound that Orlando can hear past the harsh rasp of his own breath in his ears. (He doesn't make a sound, but chewed-down fingernails leave marks that Orlando finds in the shower tomorrow.) In the dark, only Orlando knows.
Later, he would run his fingertips over the corrugation of Elijah's ribs against his skin. He had the body of a survivor. "We might as well," Elijah had said, staring out the window, and Orlando thought of white.
White - Something for Kate
you think of white
somehow connected to your brain
or about to knock on your door
is a policy
magnetism and mystery
wishful thinking and fantasy
and i hope that you're not
hoping for me
you think of sight
and reason collides
somehow transmitting from space
asking you to line up and take your place
is a reality
life jackets and sympathy
i know you can't be knowing for me and i hope that you're not
hoping for me
White by dee
The inspirations are: Lady Moonray wanting some Orlijah for conception. M John Harrison's Viriconium for style to be imitated (poorly). Something For Kate's "White" for theme to be pursued.