“For eleven years I watched the seasons through the window, and saw more nurses and doctors than a person would see if they lived ten times as long as I did,” Elliot continued. He moved suddenly so that his body hid the bird from me. His hands took up the tools and a coil of wire, and I could hear snippings and crackings beneath the soft unfolding of his voice. His hands moved so quickly I could hardly believe it.
“And I got sick of being sick, you know? I wasn’t really alive anyway, I was just pretending. I was just a shell of myself, and I wanted to get out, get out of my bead and my house,” the flatness in his voice, the utter void of feeling in it chilled me as he went on, hands twisting and pinching and pulling unseen.
“Most of all, I wanted to get out of my body.” He paused, all of him paused, as if remembering were some kind of rapture. He looked up at the window and quivered all over, leaving a paper cut-out shadow in the slanting beam of light that poured in at just that instant; an unseen crowd held its breath, and I along with them.
His hands fluttered back to their work.
“And you don’t have to believe this, but I swear, one day I just… I just got up, and I left behind that wrong body and I had a new one. This one. I knew without anyone having to tell me that I had died,” he nodded to himself, or to me, I suppose. “But I didn’t die the way most people do. It was like dying meant being born all over again into the world, but this time everything was turned just so, just a bit different.
“Nobody could see the new me, or maybe they didn’t because they told themselves there couldn’t be two of me. They seemed relieved, though, and they moved away, and they left this me behind. And you know what? That was okay with me. That was okay.”
But it wasn’t okay. I knew it wasn’t, but I couldn’t find any words that would comfort him, this beautiful, lost and broken boy. The specters of all those unknown years since he had died reared up before me in a billowing of blue and grey, empty and improbable and uncountable.
How long had he been all alone out here?