The dream always begins the same way. In the winter. In the woods.
Kingsley stands in snow surrounded by shadows. None of the shadows are his because he’s not really there. He leaves no footprints as he walks. He does not see his steaming breath as he breathes. He is a ghost in this white forest, but he is not the only ghost here.
Before him stands a door.
It’s an arched wooden door alone in the woods. It belongs to an old chapel, but there is no church here, no chapel, no house. Only a door. Kingsley can walk around the door, but nothing will happen. Nothing will happen at all until he steps through it. The iron latch is cold enough to bite his bare fingers, but he doesn’t feel this either. He lifts it and passes through the door, because that is where the boy in white waits for him.
The moon is full and high, and the snow is bright, and he can see the young man so clearly it’s almost as if it were daytime, almost as if it weren’t a dream at all.
The boy in the clearing is beautiful, his hair so blond it looks almost white. His hair is white and his clothes are white, not snow white but a purer white, a baptismal white.
Kingsley speaks a word—either the boy’s name or “sir.” When he wakes he can never remember what word he says.
The boy, luminous in his pure white clothing, stands next to a table made of rough stone and on the stone table is a chess board made of ice.
Even though it is a dream, and no one has spoken but him, Kingsley knows he is supposed to sit and stay and play the game. It’s the rules. If he doesn’t play, he’ll wake up, and the last thing he wants is to wake up now, to wake up ever.
He sits opposite the young man with the white-blond hair. The chess board is between them. Everything is between them.
Kingsley moves his pawn.
“You’re not really here,” Kingsley says to the boy with the snowy hair and the silver eyes. The boy’s beauty renders the dream a nightmare because Kingsley knows when morning comes, the boy will be gone and nowhere does such beauty exist among his waking hours. Not anymore.
“How do you know?” the boy asks, moving his king.
“You look eighteen,” Kingsley says, moving another pawn. “You’re twenty-five now. I’m twenty-four.”
The boy moves his king again. “In your memory I’m eighteen.”
“That isn’t how you play,” Kingsley says. “You can’t move the king like that.”
“It’s my game,” the boy in white says. “I move my king however I want. Don’t you remember? Don’t you remember the way I moved my King anywhere and everywhere I wanted him to go?”
Even in the snow and the cold, Kingsley grows warm.
Kingsley moves his bishop.
The boy in white moves his king again.
“I don’t know how to win this game,” Kingsley says. “How can I win if I don’t know the rules?”
The boy in white narrows his silver eyes at him. “You’ve already won.”
“To play is to win, if you’re playing with me. Isn’t that true?” the boy asks with an arrogant smile in his eyes.
Kingsley knows this is true though it galls him to admit it. He doesn’t care who wins the game as long as the game between them goes on forever. He moves another pawn and the boy in white captures it.
To be the pawn captured in that boy’s hand…
“How do you keep finding me?” Kingsley asks.
“You came to me,” the boy says. “I’m always here.”
“I lost you,” Kingsley says. “Seven years ago. I lost you.”
“No,” the boy says, smiling for the first time. His face is like Michelangelo’s David, passive and powerful and carved from pale marble. His eyes are granite and if Kingsley had a chisel he knows he could chip away at the boy’s chest until he uncovered an iron and copper wire heart beating inside a steel ribcage.
“You lost you,” the boy says. The smile is gone and it has begun to snow again. When it snows, Kingsley knows the dream is almost over. All he wants to do is stay asleep a little longer. All he wants to do is stay asleep forever.
“How do I find you again?” Kingsley asks. “Please, tell me before I wake.”
“You don’t find me,” the boy says. “I find you.”
“Find me then.”
“When it’s time.”
“When will it be time?”
The boy in white moves his hands over the board and Kingsley looks down. The ice king lays on the board broken in two pieces.
“When?” Kingsley asks. He is a child again, asking a thousand questions in the quest for a single answer. The snow is falling harder now, heavy as rain and hot as tears. “Tell me when, please…”
The boy leans across the board as if to kiss him, but instead of a kiss, Kingsley is given an answer.
“When you find you.”
Between the kiss and the answer, Kingsley would have picked the kiss.