Fever Dream, Emily Bryn
Edgar Edgarson wore a Victorian overcoat to school, and when I mentioned this to him, he did not hear me. We walked along the hallway together, his canvas boots out of place among converse and sandals and the second-hand falling apart things on my feet. I could not imagine someone like Edgar sitting in a classroom with other people, but he did. He sat next to me. Often, he arrived with a story in his eyes, and he would not tell it to me until later. He spoke of ships so tall that the crew could not see the ocean by looking over the sides, and of a tropical world past the ice at the top of the globe. I never wondered if the things he told me were true or not. They were Edgar’s stories, and Edgar’s stories were always true.
“There’s an ancient temple buried deep in the forest,” he told me, after we emerged from the main school doors. I crunched on a rice cake and held the books that didn’t fit in my bag. Algebra I and Earth Science. I was unable to focus in those classes, because I didn’t know anything about math or the world, and my legs were itching to run out and walk beside Edgar, and listen to the things he had to say.
“We mustn’t go and look,” he said. I glanced at his eyes, which took effort, as we were walking at the same pace. “It is best to leave things alone out there.” But his eyes caught mine, and I smiled wide.
So we went and looked. The forest was not a forest, more of a gathering of wispy trees. Much too small a place to house an ancient temple. We left our backpacks at the base of the chain link fence that cut off the recess field. We stepped over the part that was low and dented, and walked through the beginning of the woods.
We turned rocks over and felt the bark of trees, until we came upon a great log that had fallen. It was one of those wispy trees, and it probably blew down in the breeze.
“A fallen mast,” Edgar said with a gasp, kneeling down. His coat touched the pine needles beneath us. “Do you think so?”
I nudged the log with my foot, and nodded. I had never seen the mast of a ship, and this was as much one as anything.
“Ah, you have a sailor’s eye.” He said it with such conviction that the forest floor became the deck of a ship.
“Let’s put it back up,” I said.
We did. We ran around and tried to stop the ship from sinking, as the fallen mast had brought down the sails, too. I pushed with all my strength, and so did Edgar. “Harken!” He yelled, the sea wind billowing dark hair across his face. “It’s what people say on ships.”
“Harken!” I repeated. Edgar knew a lot about ships. He knew a lot about everything. We pushed it up one last time, and the log rose and leaned against a sturdier tree. Edgar and I stood together, and I laughed with my hands on my knees.
“What heroes we are,” he said. “Edgar and Jack.”
Edgar and Jack. Him in an overcoat, and me in a hoodie. My shoes had holes in them, and Edgar thought I was a hero.
Edgar walked me home. Each step was a new day of stories, until we had walked through months of time. I had nothing to say that Edgar didn’t already know, so he told the stories. He knew what I thought before I could even think it, and he had more ideas than I would ever have. We came to my house just as the sun was setting. My door looked out of place. We had just wandered away from some great cavern beyond time, only to return here.
I stood there and faced him, and he looked down. He always did that, staying there until I closed the door, like he didn’t want to be the first to leave. We stood for a long time there, and I wondered if I should shake his hand. I waved instead, and he saluted me. I closed the door. I never asked if Edgar was okay, in case I didn’t like the answer.
It was late the next day when I saw him again. He wasn’t in class; he must’ve been off somewhere, on some new adventure. I had never considered where Edgar went when I wasn’t with him. I sat on the balcony down the side of the main hall, the one that overlooked the wildflowers. I saw his hands rest next to mine on the railing, and he laughed when I jumped in surprise.
“I’m going on a voyage,” he said.
“Where to?” I asked, wishing I could have guessed or created the path before him.
He gave a tremendous smile and slung his backpack over his shoulder. “I’ll depart by ship,” he said. We did not live near water. But that was Edgar’s way, making things happen where they were least likely to happen.
I expected him to continue, but we came upon a silence instead, like the weight of the stories had collapsed upon us.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said finally.
He looked at me strange, like he had forgotten I was there. He was young, really, and he had a softness to his face that I had too, and there was something sad in his eyes.
“I am leaving,” he said, turning his face away so I couldn’t see him. “Tomorrow, Jack. I scarcely want to say it.”
“On a voyage?” I said, and nudged his foot with mine.
He shook his head. “We packed up the house. It isn’t a voyage at all. It’s a long drive away.”
We didn’t talk about things like this, real things. I didn’t consider Edgar having a house, or a family, let alone one that would move someplace else. He wrapped and unwrapped his hands on the railing, and I said nothing.
Something spiraled down beneath us, but it was just the wildflowers in the breeze. He held out his coat to me, draped over his hand. I took it without thinking. He was smaller without it, and he wore a t-shirt, and before then I had never seen his arms.
I wanted to hug him. I didn’t know how. He nodded deeply, and I gave a little bow. He did not walk me home.
I can’t tell the story of where Edgar went; at least not how he could. Maybe he traveled somewhere distant, and discovered things unknown. He comes to my mind often, in that Victorian overcoat. I still have it. I hang it by the door and think about taking it with me on the way out, just in case I see him again.
About the Author
Gabriella Brandom · Chapman University
Gabriella Brandom is a senior at Chapman University, where she will soon graduate with a BFA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology. Her work has previously been published in Calliope Art & Literary Magazine. She loves writing stories and hanging out with her cats.
About the Artist
Emily Bryn · St. Edward’s University
Emily Bryn is a Mexican-American artist in Austin, Texas. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art with a minor in Gender Studies and Sexuality at St.Edward’s University. When she isn’t drawing or painting, Emily Bryn is creating apparel for her side project regarding immigration policies, where a percent of every purchase is donated to an organization aiming to help immigrants fight for their deserved rights. Emily has made apparel worn by singer Orville Peck, created an installation for Austin-based Korean restaurant Oseyo, is #1 in Visit Austin’s article of Artists to Look Out For, and has worked on designing a few state level political campaigns. See more of her work on Instagram @emsbrynart or her website, http://www.emsbrynart.com. This piece first appeared in Sorin Oak Review.