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Cobalt blue pulsed from the mausoleum—a black sloped square, with cobalt blue edges. The exterior was bubbled into square upon square, as with some obsidian lava—it was a viscous construction. I climbed the steps to the central chamber—the guards had been dismissed, it was late in the day; earlier, the schoolchildren, dressed in their blue neckerchiefs and white shirts, had filed past the body. Now it was quiet. The steps left me breathless, and I considered my age objectively—that morning I had seen that in the corner of my left eye the skin folded over in a pronounced way; it wasn’t like that last year, no.

At the staircase cusp, I paused for a moment—there was the body, in the chamber’s centre on a black dais; it had been carried there by six companions on a silver bier the week before. In two days, it would be buried—“it”, he. He who I had known from my youth. I walked over the red carpet that described a path to the dais, split in two to allow more visitors to move round the body. The only illumination in the chamber was from the blue Hyperborean blood that flowed in channels round the corners—it pulsated in the winter night; it gets dark so early now, my grandmother used to say.

I arrived at his face; his blood had joined the channels, illumined the room, yet still he looked like he slept. There was a mark on his cheek from where, long ago, he fell in the school cloakroom—every day, before lessons, we sat on the hot water pipes to warm ourselves and talked about the cheap science-fiction novels in the library; once we stole one, tore the cover off. The mark came when he climbed the pipe one day—fell, never cried; even though he hit the coatrack’s sharpened edge hard. He was always the more adventurous one—he had joined the fellowship, and now he was dead.


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