"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
Shakespeare (The Tempest)
The gallows pole. A snakelike rope bound on it, quite stretched. The victim hanging by the neck wasn't present in the picture yet, still to be drawn. Spike sketched the scene he had stirring in his mind for some days now, a living picture from a half-remembered dream.
The work in the arts class that morning was about drawing a picture with the theme of free will. Normally Spike would avoid sharing the content of his thoughts with a teacher, but he couldn't get rid of that image and was urging to put it on a paper, it didn't matter if somebody else would see it. The teacher would probably tear the picture apart, but fuck it; after all it wouldn't be the first time he presented morbid pieces of art. "No artist is morbid", he remembered Sam saying to him in some occasion, "an artist can express everything. Oscar Wilde said that." Though Spike didn't consider himself an artist, he was pretty much agreeing with this Wilde guy's points of view, until Sam mentioned that the man was a fucking fag who got arrested and lost everything for that. "Why on earth did he let everybody know he liked other guys, if he knew he would be disgraced for that, anyway?" Spike questioned. Instead of answering, Sam laconically asked him if he wanted some water, and in one second was gone to the kitchen for several minutes.
The mortally stretched rope. A short fall, no doubt. Spike started drawing the head of the hanged inside the tie. Still alive the agony in the eyes revealed it but in the very last moments of consciousness, shaken by the spasms of choking. The wind blowing through his hair? Perhaps. The air that would reach his lungs no more, gently caressing his terrified face.
Later on, as he walked towards Sam's house, Spike had the complete drawing within his backpack the teacher had already evaluated it and allowed him to keep it. He wasn't proud of the picture (as he wasn't of anything he did, for that matter), but he liked the idea of keeping it for a while to reflect about its meaning. It could help him to remember that dream more fully. All he was able to remind when he woke up was a sight of a large windy shore, an indistinct conversation with Hatred about fear, and then the hanging. He woke up when the dreamself died on the gallows.
Being unable to record the whole dream was indeed frustrating. He remembered that it felt like watching the most beautiful and emotional movie ever produced; but now it was dissolved, and he wouldn't be able to watch it again. Would I? Where do our dreams fly to when they end? I wonder what matter they are made from, that they are so purer than this dirty flesh and this rusty world.
Still occupied with such thoughts, he rang the bell of Sam's house, hesitant. Saunders opened and greeted him with surprise:
"Ah, Spike! Sam didn't tell me you were coming."
"I'm sorry, sir. If it's inconvenient, I'll get going now."
"Oh, nonsense, come in already. I think Sam is taking a bath right now, but no problem, just sit down and wait a couple minutes. Don't you feel cold? Would you like a hot coffee or something? I'm making some."
"Yes, thank you, sir."
"So I'll be right back."
Spike left his backpack on the floor, sat down on the sofa to wait, and spotted a considerable amount of books on the table should be the ones that Sam was currently reading, all at once. He would never admit it aloud, but he was tremendously jealous of how literate and studied Sam was; Spike always felt dumber than usual when they talked about literature and arts in general. In spite of that, he enjoyed discussing with Sam about those other worlds inside the pages. Sam used to say that all writers, even the realists, plunge themselves into literature to escape from this world into their own, and invite their readers to follow them on their journey.
In a few moments, Sam rushed out from his room wearing only a towel curled around his waist, and not having seen Spike, he yelled to the kitchen:
"Dad, have you seen that underwear? The blue one, I left it on the
He spotted Spike, froze solid for a second and ran back into his room. A minute later, he came out properly dressed but still blushed, and greeted Spike timidly.
"So, what did you call me here for?" Spike asked, indifferent to how embarrassed Sam was.
you know" uttered Sam, "There's a stage audition open, I thought about signing myself to it."
"Hold on. Let me get it straight. You want to play theatre?"
"Y-yeah. For a while at least, it may be interesting, you know, to develop my abilities and meet new people and stuff
"I don't know, this theatre thing sounds like fag stuff to me, but it's up to you. What do I have to do with it exactly?"
Sam blushed further still, but answered without turning away his face: "I'd like
"There you go, Spike" intervened Saunders, bringing him a large cup of coffee.
"Thank you, sir."
"By the way, here are the underpants you were looking for, Sam."
"Dad!" yelped Sam, taking the piece and putting it out of sight.
"You're welcome" smiled Saunders and went back inside.
Spike sipped the coffee briefly and asked:
"You were saying?"
"I'd like to perform something for you, and you can say if I'm good at it or not. Even if you don't like theatre, you opinion is important to me."
The importance attributed to his judgment softened Spike's mood. He replied half-benevolently, half-skeptically:
"All right, give your shot."
"Okay, watch this."
Sam stood up solemnly and started:
"To be or not to be, that is the ques
"No, fucking Shakespeare, for fuck's sake!" interrupted Spike. "Can't you use something simple for a start? I'm an ignorant screwhead, remember?"
"I sorry, but I've been practicing
I know the lines, that's why I chose this one. It's a beautiful soliloquy. And you're not an ignorant!"
"So you say. Fine then, carry on."
"That is the question" followed Sam. "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To die, to sleep, no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep
to sleep, perchance to dream."
As Sam went through the soliloquy, Spike was hit by the meaning of those words, the doubt, the conflict between will and fear, between putting an end to his own life or not. "For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come." Would it be why people hesitate to end their own pain? The fear of a possible another world bidding them to remain in this gruesome world? He wasn't afraid; and he willed to sleep and descend, if he could, into an endless dream.
"Soft you now" concluded Sam. "The fair Ophelia. Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered."
A sharp moment of silent thought. Then the verdict:
"Not bad. I guess you've got talent for this stuff, after all. One of your many" Spike grumped.
"Really?" cried Sam, like if Spike had said he was match to Olivier himself.
"Yeah" confirmed Spike, dry. "But I have to disagree with the lines. I don't think that fear is an essential obstacle at all. I, for example, don't fear death."
"You don't?" Sam asked.
"Why should I? I mean, what in that 'undiscovered country' could be worse than here, anyway? If there is something after death, it must be the same than before life. If there is nothing, so what's all the fuzz about it?"
"Ah, in my case it's not about fear itself of the other side, it's about losing everything you have, and all the experiences you could have had, you know. Things you could have learned, people you could have met, dreams you could have seen come true. How many possibilities."
I have nothing. I will never have anything, Spike thought, and he would like to say it aloud, but he knew Sam wouldn't be able understand it. You can't expect me to see life the same way you do, Sam. You're such an ingenuous creature. How could a lucky bastard like you ever get the difference between us? If you die, you lose the joy of life. If I die, I flee from its torment, from this world of pain.
"Too bad, Sam, you won't convince me that life is beautiful."
"I'll keep trying" insisted Sam.
"Good luck then" said Spike, put the empty cup on the table and picked his backpack. "I have to go now, or my uncle will ask a lot of questions."
"Aaaw" mumbled Sam in disappointment. "Can you come again tomorrow?"
"Maybe. Don't know. I'll try."
"Please do. I'm so happy that you liked, I'll rehearse another scene for you. So, see you tomorrow, right?"
"Yeah. See ya."
But tomorrow seems to be so many ages away, Spike thought as he walked out the door.
Earlier, at the school, Spike deposited the drawing on the teacher's desk. At the first sight, she quickly hid it under the mass of papers before some other student saw its content.
After the teacher dismissed the class, when the students were noisily walking off she called Spike back. He expected she would squash his work and scold him in front of everybody like the previous art teacher usually did, but when the room got empty and silent, Mrs. Griffin showed him his drawing and asked quite politely:
"Can you explain the meaning of this?"
"Did you forget? You chose the theme yourself: free will. Like, 40 minutes ago
"I'm asking you a serious question, Mr. Shaffer, please don't be so defensive. I didn't fully understand your work. I'd like if you explained it to me, so I won't misjudge it."
Against his will, Spike lowered his defenses. He sensed the difference to the usual attitude of teachers treating him vertically as a stupid hopeless brat, and realized that Mrs. Griffin was, in fact, almost taking him seriously. Or she was just worried about something.
"It's a hanging" he answered with a slight note of mockery, but serious at the whole.
"Yes. Now, why was he hanged like this? What crime did he commit?" asked Mrs. Griffin patiently.
" Spike hesitated; a strange feeling that was both anguish and excitement shook his body with a sudden energy. "He didn't commit any crime. He did nothing, as far as I know."
"So, he was innocent?" the teacher assumed.
"No. But that's not the point. He hanged himself, if that's what you want to know."
"Oh dear" Mrs. Griffin gasped. "You say he is exercising his free will, by taking his own life in this horrible way?"
"I should say so."
"Don't you think it's an act of desperation, not of free will?"
"In some cases it may be" Spike explained. "But I've heard, in the History class some days ago, that the enslaved captives could turn against their masters through violent revolt
or by killing themselves, and thus showing that their bodies still belonged to them, not to their captors. That's the idea I've tried to reproduce in this drawing. He's a slave and he's seeking his liberty, in his own way, you see."
"Now I understand" said Mrs. Griffin, more relaxed. "Some images of History impress me as well, there's so much cruelty in it. But in the end, this grim picture is just an image from a distant historical fact?"
"Yeah, that class inspired me" lied Spike. He didn't know if she was fully convinced with that justification, but she seemed considerably less concerned. Though Spike had made that up, he noticed that the victim in the drawing indeed looked like a slave, the half-naked body scorched with lashes; a rope around his neck casting his conscience into nothingness.
"Well, then", she continued, "I'll give you a good grade because of your concept, but I hope your next work will not be so
disturbing. You may go now and take it with you if you like, I'll fill your grade in my files right away."
Without more words, Spike put the drawing inside his backpack and walked to the exit.
"Oh, just one more curiosity" sounded Mrs. Griffin before he left. "Why does the boy of your drawing have the form of this kind of
"I like wolves" he answered sharply. More than humans, that's for sure.
'To die, to sleep. No more.' He walked home reluctantly, as if his spirit had stayed in Sam's and was calling him back. My spirit, wounded with shame by my sins. Could it be cured with a bare blade? Why not, if my father did so? Sam would never understand it, ingenuous creature. Flesh is still flesh, vain and vulnerable. I have no use for it. My body exists only to humiliate my soul, further and further. If I get rid of it, what next? 'To sleep; perchance to dream.' I am not even worth it. This cursed body has no use even to feed the scavengers. Of course, there's not enough meat on these bones; what a poor, tasteless, nasty banquet you would be, Spike. I know. Say, did you struggle to come into this world? Maybe I did. So, you wasted your mother's life in exchange of your own insignificant existence, and led your father to shuffle off this mortal coil as well; now you would throw it away too, expecting to relieve your moral pain? Yes, I would. You're more stupid than I thought. Sure I am. Then, what keeps you linked to this thin, brief life, if you want to escape so badly? I don't know, Hatred, just don't know, leave me alone for one moment, will you? I will, but you can't deny, Spike, you have so many doubts popping in your little defenseless brain, and every doubt brings a thousand fears; that is why you fear every moving shadow, isn't it? Shut up. See, you are childish and so are the many fears you try to hide; you may want to imagine yourself as a splendid alpha-wolf, but right now you are a fearful cub cringing against the earth, pitifully unable to face your surroundings, afraid of dying but also afraid of living, just because you understand neither death nor life. Shut the fuck up, demon! Too late now; your doubts are rising like ghosts from their tombs, this demoniac force is gripping your pulse and pulling you to hesitation, breaking down your resolution, you can't fight against it anymore; I see you are paralyzed and shaking.
He was. Spike stood still and tried to take a deep breath. The wind blowing through his hair, the air reached his lungs heavily. His trembling hands withdrew the drawing from the backpack and he looked at the picture of his hanged wolf self for some long minutes. To be. Clinging even to his endless insignificance. His accelerated heartbeats were slightly painful, but every little stab of pain was suddenly dear to him. Spike barely realized he was crying and sobbing when he tore apart the drawing in minimal pieces, letting the wind carry away the tiny fragments of paper. Hatred bade him farewell, which Spike corresponded friendly, and then he was gone, his work fulfilled. The demoniac furor in Spike's soul was replaced by a sheltering solace.
'Soft you now.' Spike shed his tears and continued walking, his eyes turned at the ground, his thoughts aiming at the dreams he could have next night. The eager wind felt sweet.