It’s 6:50am—55 minutes before school starts. Zuri is sitting on the floor, trying to fall asleep against his locker. His skin is a moonshine still of chocolate shadows from the sun; on his face, mathematical kintsugi is wedding continents of umber to umber. In his left nostril, a ruby gem stud winks; the gemstone is surrounded by tiny, curvaceous petals of gold. Piercing the bridge of his nose is a golden sanctum ring.
A chain of gold is sleepwalking across his left cheek in a trance of color; little, pendulous ornaments hang from the gilded chain: they are the miniature laundry of broken gods. The gold chain is a bridge connecting Zuri’s sanctum ring to an earring in his left ear. The earring is a sixteen-pointed gold and silver star; it’s about the size of a penny.
Zuri’s hairline is cut neatly. Dreadlocks of meticulously matted hair fall in sable tubes; each tubular lock is sectioned precisely. His dreads are thick vines that offshoot the occasional coiling tendril. His locks fall below his shoulder blades; today, he is wearing part of them up in a thick ponytail. He is using red twine as a ponytail holder, as a normal hair tie won’t suffice.
He is alone in a school hallway. He is holding his IPhone; it’s his baby; he’s listening to good music. Death Cab for Cutie is filling the supersensual darkness around him. He is wearing: a Death Cab for Cutie t-shirt featuring art from the band’s album, Transatlanticism. He is donning black jeans with a long, vertical rip down the right leg; his black Dr. Marten’s are brimming with plosive blossoms; the tongues of the boots are flapping like a dog’s, and the acid yellow shoelaces are deliberately untied.
A serpent of a thousand scales is wending up Zuri’s left arm; the tattoed reptile has a red eye. Its tail terminates in an exploding rose, and secret petals are littering Zuri’s left shoulder underneath his clothes. The serpent is contracting, coming to life with a flinch: Zuri is seeing Zed. (She just got off the school bus. She is heading for the athletic track. She is planning to overdose on her prescription medication. She wants to slip into unconsciousness while supine on grass, under the bleachers.)
Zed is coming down the hall. She is walking quickly, and is crying a little bit. Zuri’s heart is trying to punch his stomach out of its way; his heart wants to hide underneath his kidneys, deep in the earth. Zuri’s ‘baby’ lilts out of his clammy hands, dragging his earphones out along with it. A mess of white hair is accidentally dropping pills on the floor. Silence like a seat belt that’s being fastened too tightly. Blue eyes avoiding brown eyes.
Zuri is crawling to where Zed dropped the pills. He is feeling incredibly dumb, but, miraculously, doesn’t mind this feeling. He is standing up. Zed is looking Zuri in the face. She wants her pills. She wants to swallow them right here. She’s tired of running away from the inescapable question of hope. The answer is that there isn’t any hope, not for her. It doesn’t get better. It won’t get better. Ever. It can only get worse, she’s thinking.
“It can only get worse,” she sighs.
Zuri can’t say anything. He’s looking at the pills in his hands; now, he’s looking at the girl he’s liked for almost two years. His hands and armpits are feeling prickly and unbelievably tropical. He is feeling the heat of the sun all over his skin. Zed is the only oasis for miles. Logic goes deaf in the lonesome woods. Zuri’s serpent gently wends around Zed’s shoulder. Cool metal presses against Zed’s cheek; she can feel Zuri’s golden facial chain; it becomes her sanctum.
They are holding each other in a storm of quiet. Zuri is pulling his face away a little, looking down at Zed’s lips. He is beginning to abbreviate distances: between two years of yen and now; between Zed’s Yin colored lips and his Yang hued lust for them; between lust and lust, and death and life.
Zuri’s lips are grazing Zed’s upper lip, creating friction; now, he is applying gentle pressure and warmth to her soft, dank mouth. Zuri’s café fingers filigree her white hair. He is walking a tight rope of provocation, lightly; and wavering some, he is erring beautifully. Touching some part of her mouth deeply, he is intercepting light; they have become kissing shadow-people. He is burning all of her clothing off with an ancient cone of flame. Two pairs of lips are parting with a soft, wet sound.
Suddenly, a cold wind. A riptide of sylvan fairy dust is pushing dregs of snow up the hallway; then, a loud thwank. Around the corner, hidden from Zed’s view, a locker door is summersaulting down the next hallway. Snow is flowing out of a mysterious locker sans door; frost is piling up in front of a water fountain.
“What was that?” says Zed.
“What was what?” says Zuri, looking love-smashed.
“That noise. That loud noise.”
“I didn’t hear anything,” he says, grinning.
“May I cut in?” says a man’s voice.
Zed is turning around to see if she can find the owner of the voice. She is seeing a man in a white snow suit. Snow scum is covering him from crest to trough; his oversized snow goggles are making him look like an insect; and his snow boots are an apiary of ice crystals.
The librarian is taking a light, compact tranquilizer gun out of his snow suit pocket. He is pointing it at a wide-eyed Zuri.
“This won’t hurt a bit,” he says, smiling at the boy. The librarian is pulling the trigger. Swoop, the dart is penetrating Zuri’s epidermis. Zuri is falling down unconscious. Zed is screaming. The librarian is pulling the trigger on Zed. A prick. Zed is seeing red dots; her world is getting watery. She is feeling cold arms close around her. She is seeing herself being pushed through an open locker.
She is falling through quantum darkness in the arms of the librarian. Down the spiraling staircase of time she goes. Her eyes are closing. A castle door, the central Time Labyrinth door to be exact, is opening before her. She is sleeping now. The librarian is cradling the sedated Zed; he’s plunging an unwilling sacrifice into the infinite cold.