He opened his eyes to a world in black and white. There was a slight hum that was growing into a loud wail but he couldn’t hear it. Ethan was standing right at the end of the piercing gaze of The Tempest. It was pouring on his side of the road and it wasn’t on her side. Ethan could hear nothing. His eyes fought through scathing rain drops to catch sight of hers. He could tell that her deadpan eyes were moist with tears. She stood still, clutching vehemently to the corsage of dahlias asleep on her shoulder. The slight hum was growing into a loud wail.
This was Ethan’s first false awakening, and an untimely rendezvous with The Tempest.
Percy let himself in, with his key. After pocketing The Message, he hung Ethan’s drenched coat on the hanger. The rains had caught him unaware. They had shown up out of turn. Cussing his merry luck, he walked on, nimbly in his wet sock, towards warmth. As he ruffled his hair with a towel, he let some light into Ethan’s room and checked on him. His blocked ears, picked up little. At the pace of a jog trot, Percy marched to his bed, not wanting to perturb the serenity in his apartment. In a compartment on Ethan’s hanging coat, The Message on the part-crumpled, part-wet piece of detached paper screamed to Percy, “Hope’s Dead”.
Ethan woke up to the late and impartial rays of the sun with a head as weighty as iron and a dwindled sense of hearing. He unrolled his drafting paper, picked up his stencil and got to work. Ethan and Percy were artists. They met on a street during a stint. Street artists. Ethan found rare appreciation for Percy’s work, so together they formed an unsuccessful coup, called themselves the ‘Sidewalk Prophets’ and rented an apartment. For a living, Ethan painted murals by the day, Percy painted murals by the night. A jar of pennies was all they had left.
Ethan rolled up his drafting paper, took his key, grabbed a handful of pennies and left the apartment, door ajar.
The day was for patchwork. As he walked to revisit a mural, Ethan remembered his dream vaguely.
He could hear nothing. He had to break away from The Tempest’s gaze to look into his coat pocket. He unfolded the crumpled paper and cupped it in his hands to read The Message but he couldn’t stop the edges from getting pelted by rain droplets the size of swollen corn. He did manage to shield the crisp lettering. When he’d read it, he crumpled the paper and placed it back in his coat.
On reaching the Town Square, Ethan made his way behind the swarm of protestors and down the alleyway. Away from the crowd and prying eyes, drawn on a south-facing wall was one of his earliest heists. It read “Hope’s Dead”, split in two lines. Ethan combed through his bag and pulled out the drafting paper. He plastered his ‘Not’ in between.
Once Percy had risen, gone through his routines and cussed at Ethan for leaving the door ajar, he tended to the coat, that hung causally. He dug into the pocket, unfolded the crumpled paper and read The Message. Percy dropped everything, grabbed his key and ran to the hospital, leaving the door ajar.
At her hospital bed, Hope opened her eyes to a world in colour.