Outside the window, the lightning flashes like cannonade a soldier born in trenches and trains lies in my skin and counts his breathing. He smells the smoke among the mud again and my heart beats terrified on his behalf. But the storm passes, and he dreams of endless doors in an ever-changing house and I wake, my mouth dry, on the verge of his discovery. The tremulous violins remind me of December violence but he cranks the music up and growls the words of Orpheus remembering how he lost his Eurydice. He is always aggressive in the face of pain pushing back against the world that shoved me first-- when he tells me to keep fighting, he is the first to swing my fists, and he is never empty-handed in a fight. We met in inauspicious circumstances, but that is how I always meet the dead. He came through the kitchen and into my skin, and told me how to make a better dinner. I stayed up late, past midnight frying churros in my father's kitchen, so he could talk of escaping and the end of the world resuming unfinished business with a friend from the War because love stories always begin with food from home. We share a cigarette from the same mouth on the freezing balcony, though I hate the taste of paper and smoke. It reminds him of the life he is laboring to forget, and my hands tremble with his agitation. War stories pour out of him like blood from the wound that whitened his eye and I stumble to catch them up in my keyboard. He stares through my reflection, and tells me what will happen if we try to escape. When the hour comes as he foretold, he picks my feet up and we run. In the crescent city where he first fell in love, I eat so many macarons I am almost sick in the heat. He stumbles, like a fool, back into my hotel room, drunk on romance and a good dinner. The next morning my legs ache like a pilgrim's but he is unrepentant for all his indulgences. Back across the border, we nurse the same glass and mull over his history like winter wine. "This story is not for telling," he smiles, and my mouth curves. I keep him and his secrets to myself.
Lev Mirov lives with his wife and fellow writer, India Valentin, and their two cats outside of Washington DC. He recently finished a master’s thesis on folk magic as a spiritual expression in late medieval England at Goddard College and is now licensed to time-travel at will. When not buried in research for his next time-travel adventure or cooking, he can be found fervently scribbling speculative fiction, fantastical poetry, and gluten-free recipes from around the world. You can follow his adventures on twitter at https://twitter.com/thelionmachine.