Bjarne silently stood in the middle of the living filled with chatty people half-listening to the recordings of independent and obscure musicians. His friend Kevin stood next to him, scanning the room for more interesting people to talk to. The red cup of beer Bjarne held to the center of his chest began to slip from his grip as his eyelids fluttered.
"Hey man, you alright?" asked Kevin, waving his hand in front of Bjarne's face. "Are you...are you falling asleep dude?"
"Wha..." Bjarne jerked his eyelids wide open. "No...I..."
"Dude. Seizure? Do we need to call an ambulance for you? You look confused."
"I don't have seizures. I don't think so..."
"How many beers have you had?"
Bjarne looked down at his cup.
"Just this one. I don't remember..."
"You don't remember how many beers you've had?" Kevin took the cup from him. "Gimme your keys too."
"You drove," said Bjarne.
"You're the designated not-drinker."
"Yes I know. Look man, what happened to you? That was a little concerning."
"It wasn't a dream. It was like deja vu, but not the past, just...I don't know, other. Like I belong somewhere else, or I'm from somewhere else. Like not time, but space."
Kevin looked at Bjarne skeptically.
"Do you smell anything funny? Maybe you've had a stroke."
Bjarne saw a woman in white with long black hair flowing down her shoulders standing across the room, staring directly at him. Kevin followed his gaze.
"Wow," said Kevin. "She is way too well dressed to have been invited to this party. Do you know her?"
"I don't know. I don't remember seeing her before, but she's familiar."
"You know, she's kind of a little creepy," said Kevin. "Like Galadriel." He took a long chug from Bjarne's beer. "It's like she's looking at you with her X-ray vision."
"She knows me--"
The woman flicked up her arm, palm towards Bjarne, and out of his navel and through his shirt shot a glowing, ephemeral chord to her hand and she wrapped it twice around her wrist and pulled it taut. Kevin's jaw dropped and the rest of the people in the room screamed or bolted up from their seats, but they didn't have much time to react before the room folded away from Bjarne and the woman on the axis the chord made, with people falling down to the walls, pretzels floated weightless, and beer and wine rained down from various cups, and then everything froze in place and faded in brilliance. The space around the pair became black. Bjarne shivered.
The woman kept coiling the chord around her arm, pulling herself quickly to Bjarne. When she was next to him she spun him around and pressed her body into his back, then wrapped the cord around the both of them.
"What are you doing?" asked Bjarne, squeaking out the words.
"Binding you to me, little rope man," she said in a voice that could have come from Lauren Bacall in 1942 while simultaneously smoking six unfiltered cigarettes.
"Okay," said Bjarne in a high voice. "Do you have...fruit? You smell very strongly of mangoes." He twitched his nose and grimaced. "You're standing really close to me."
"You're smelling zedoary. Not mangoes."
"I don't know what that is, but okay."
"How are you doing," she said.
"Fine?" Bjarne struggled against the cord windings.
"I don't think you are," she said. "I've been looking for you."
"You've seen things you want to forget. Something recent."
"Yes." Bjarne blanched. "What's going on?"
"I created you little rope man. A long time ago and again and again. But I'm lazy and I cut corners and now those corners are showing and I'm here to fix you."
Bjarne blinked several times trying to form a coherent response but nothing managed to coalesce inside his mind.
"Don't worry," she said, and kissed his neck. "Just tell me what you think you saw...what you want to forget."
Bjarne swallowed hard and closed his eyes.
"It was a beast, muscular like a bull, with skin made of shiny onyx. It's eyes were milky white and I think it might have been blind because it was sniffing me out, snorting in hot breaths. And it had a wide mouth that went from ear-to-ear and it had multiple rows of teeth like a shark."
The woman sighed.
"It was as if the world had been torn apart. I mean the world was normal before that, though I wasn't who I am now, but similar. I was me, but I could have been some other person somewhere else. It's strange. And then the sky fell. There's no other way to say that. And people panicked and ran and screamed as those beasts chewed their way up from the ground."
He twisted his head around to face her.
"It's real isn't it? Wasn't it, I mean. After what you did here in the room, that has to be real too. Right?"
She leaned her chin on his shoulder.
"Yes," she said sadly. "I keep fixing the world, and it keeps falling apart. I don't think it has much longer. It lived a long life, but it will be done soon, as all things come to an end."
Bjarne pressed his cheek to her head.
"Don't fix me," he said. "I'd rather know the truth."
"But you're a rope man. You don't have the capacity to understand. The knowledge will tear you apart. All the little fibers will come untwisted!"
Bjarne wriggled and freed a hand. He wrapped his fingers around the glowing cord, pulled, and wrapped a length of it around his own wrist.
"No they won't," he said. "I'm sure of it. And you seem like you could use some help."
The woman hugged him tightly and let out a small plaintive moan.
"No one's ever offered to help me before," she said. "I thank you."
"Maybe if you told everybody, maybe we could all help."
She put her hand on the side of his face and looked deeply into his eyes.
"It's not your burden. It's mine alone. For eternity. Even when the world is dust, it's my duty to try to sweep it together."
"I'm sorry," said Bjarne.
She kissed him and his insides began to boil; he felt dizzy.
"You okay?" asked Kevin.
Bjarne put a hand over his mouth, suppressing the urge to retch. The burning in his abdomen started to subside. Kevin walked back to him and put his arm over his shoulder.
"You all right buddy?" he asked again.
Bjarne nodded. He stood up straight and looked around. They were standing under a streetlight next to a parking meter in the city. He couldn't remember how he got there.
"Yeah, it's like...I feel like I was ripped in two. Something's gone. No, that's just bullshit. I don't know what I'm saying. I'm okay. I think I had too much to drink."
"Sure, well let's get you home then," said Kevin. "If you need to puke though, let me know. I just had the car detailed."
They walked towards Kevin's car and when Bjarne was waiting for Kevin to unlock the doors, he looked up at the sky and wondered if the stars could ever fall.