Dev’s dreams burst apart in a rain of black and red shards that dwindle as they fly from him into tiny dream-burrs that scatter across his bedspread and melt away.
Dev wakes up. His eyes open. “Aha!” he declares.
Dev rolls from his bed, great fluffy mounds of bedspread falling in his wake. He tumbles across the carpet. He lands kneeling beside his alarm clock. He watches. He waits, with his hand held high.
There’s a little cat face on the clock. It looks nervously at Dev. The numbers count from 7:59:55 all the way to 8.
The alarm clock attempts to beep. But it doesn’t make it!
That’s when Dev hits the snooze button.
“Take that, tofo,” says Dev. “SNOOZE.”
Tofo is Dev slang. It means “time fucker,” a crude allegation that the clock has carnal relationships with time. Depending on how one defines carnality this is either transparently true or patently false, so the clock doesn’t mind.
Then, more politely, Dev pushes the regular ‘off’ button and wanders over to his dresser.
Dev wears black, of course. He wears seven kinds. His shirt is the black that’s inside Cheerios at night. It’s the delicious hollow void eating at the heart of every healthy breakfast. His jacket is the black of that space at the back of his closet where the old toys go—the ones from all the ancient dreaming eras of before. He can button his jacket himself! So he does.
Dev’s pants are jeans. They aren’t black. But his socks are the black of the rust scraped from all the musical notes he can’t sing. And there’s also the black of his shoes and his three black buttons, all of which would say completely different things if you could read them, which you can’t, because the background and the writing are the same color.
Dev taps one button. If you could read it, it would say, “Smile!”
Dev says, “You know it!”
Then he’s out of his room, his feet sinking into the berber carpet, and he’s heading down the great circular stairs.
“Mom!” he yells, like he does every morning. “Shut off the heavy metal!”
His Mom Ceph is at the breakfast table. She’s wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. There is dirt on her knuckles and her hair is tied back. She is eating cereal and listening to death metal.
Ceph shakes her head sadly. The music fades into softness, then silence.
“Thanks!” says Dev.
He plops down in a seat.
“You don’t like Hatebeak?” she asks.
He ducks her appraising glance.
“Oh, man!” says Dev. “How can anyone not like Hatebeak? But you know how it is. If I listen to too much heavy metal, I’ll shoot everyone at my school again.”
Dev pours milk onto his cereal.
His cereal goes, Snap! Crackle! Pop!
Dev stares at it admiringly.
“There could be a band,” Dev says. “Expressing this cereal’s rage against the world. You could call it Deathpop.”
Ceph says, “Cereal doesn’t know rage, dear.”
“Everything’s raging,” says Dev. “If you know how to listen. Even flannel!”
In the back of Dev’s closet there’s a flannel shirt. He doesn’t like to wear it. Not after it got all the blood on it. So it just moves back, further back, every time he gets new clothes. Soon it’ll fall into the void. That’s the nihilism at the heart of flannel music.
Dev munches on his cereal.
“I picked up that video game you wanted, dear.”
“Yes!” says Dev. He pumps his fists. “I hear it lets you stalk and kill important people from the video game industry!”
Ceph looks at him appraisingly. He can see himself in her eyes. He can see that she’s reading his buttons and seeing his cheerfulness and loving him. He can tell that she’s counting off the hours until everything’s covered in blood.
Dev blushes. He looks down.
“You know how it is,” he says.
And Ceph says, “Walk with grace.”
Dev quickly scoops the last of his cereal into his mouth. He goes to the game console. He peeks at the package. He doesn’t want to be late for school, but he’s got time to try it, and it’s probably his last chance until tomorrow.
He opens the package. He ignores the rulebook and its brightly colored pictures of anime video game industry figures. He puts the CD in the PS3 and whirls it up to life.
“I hope the tutorial isn’t too dumb,” he says.
As he plays a cold wind rises.
Dev looks up. He brightens. He smiles brilliantly. Because over by the counter, next to the glass bowls filled with candy and fish and the table stacked with papers and ornaments, there’s Mikey.
Mikey’s all over blood, but Dev doesn’t mind. He springs up.
“Mikey!” he says.
He hugs Mikey fiercely, getting dried blood on his black.
“I thought we’d walk to school today,” says Mikey.
“Dude, you’re dead.”
Mikey looks uncomfortable, like he usually does when Dev brings this up. “I have lots of unfinished business,” he says. “Like, going to college. Getting a car. Kissing a girl.”
Dev looks Mikey up and down.
“Good luck with that,” he says, skeptically.
“There are goths,” Mikey protests.
Dev shakes his head sadly. Then he brightens. “Hey, it’s good that you keep trying, man. Where’ve you been, anyway?”
Mikey shrugs. “Here and there. Out and about.”
Dev studies him piercingly.
Mikey’s voice is too pleased. There’s something he’s not saying yet.
Mikey finally laughs and admits, “Disneyhell.”
“You dog!” says Dev. Dev hits Mikey on the arm. It makes a kind of hollow thumping sound.
“Um,” says Mikey. He looks at the clock.
Dev sighs. He nods. He clicks off the television and puts the controller down.
“Okay,” Dev agrees. “Let’s walk!”
The trees cast shifting shadows on the street. There are very few cars here, but occasionally one of the tempoi cycles past.
“Stop!” says Dev, pointing at the stop sign.
Mikey looks both ways. Dev looks both ways. Then they walk across the street.
“Yield!” says Dev.
Nobody actually yields. Those signs are pointless.
“Are you going to kill everyone at the school today?” Mikey asks.
“It’s my myth cycle, dude. I kill everyone every day.”
Dev puts one hand on his hip. He extends his other fist to the sky. “For I am Dev, the shadow of rage, the faceless god of murder and music who dwells in timeless Tsu-Leng!”
A distant bass solo backs up Dev’s words, and he giggles.
“How do you stand it?” Mikey says.
Dev thinks about this.
“I only care about the changing parts,” he says. “Like, today? I didn’t have cheerios. I had krispies. The k makes them hard core. And last week?”
“I met you.”
“Huh,” says Mikey. “Yeah, I guess that was lucky.”
The school is deep thick granite, and its windows they are jeweled. The scent of cinnamon drifts in on a westward wind, and there are plants of heavy green draping down the school.
“Today,” confides Dev, “I’m hoping to learn geometry.“