You are beautiful, I whisper, as your silver-gilded fingers touch a strand of my ink-coloured hair. Your hands diffuse into the light with the stain of its darkness, as you draw an arm around my neck like a noose.

  You are beautiful, because you are insubstantial. Your face wrinkles into a smile: all teeth and eyes and brightness that blinds. Silent as dawn, you draw me further into the nest of your ribcage, sending velvet fingers up and down my back like a prophecy. Rhythmically, they tap and taper, dance and disfigure a phantom tune from my petrified bones. An arm, or some limb, passes through my chest like a startled reverie, alighting with precision on the pressed, dried residue of my ashen heart. Tip, tap, heart trap.

  Twin arms sprayed, I embrace your sky like a bird, eyes pursed and feathers unfolded. You enclose me in the winged flight of your fingers. I fall.

  The curtain parts. Sun tremors down the gauzy fabric in dizzy arrows of uncertainty. Shocks of light shake you violently from my skin in a shudder. You disappear, suddenly, inexplicably, into light and air; smoke and shadows, residue of a dream. All that had been of you has gone, dissipated with the new day and the stubborn sun.

  But the dried memory of you is imprinted on my bones.

  A whisper dances upon the flowers outside my window; the birds sing a twittering serenade.

   You are beautiful.

  Slowly, like a secret, I can feel the sun rising from the ashes of my heart; I smile.

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