If Two of Them Are Dead
I am not overly familiar with brains, but it seems to me they should better remain ensconced in the safety of the skull. The body’s have splattered all over the pavement. This does not seem to have improved its day.
I approach the tenuous stillness of the body. It is a frozen piece of motion, arms and legs splayed in a broken dance.
A siren calls across the blurred chattering. The body pulls me closer to kneel down beside it.
“Step back,” the voice tells me. Evidently I do not respond or I respond too slowly because without further ado I am hauled away and wrapped in a crinkling blanket. Faceless nametags ask me questions I do not know the answers to.
The body reappears while I am in the bath. My embarassment is somewhat mitagated by the fact that the body is a hallucination, but I still blush under its searching gaze.
“Why?” it asks me.
“I do not know,” I tell it.
The body sighs in disgust. “Then what use are you?”
“None,” I say.
It shakes its head and fades away.
I sink beneath the water until my lungs burn.
The next morning the body is waiting at the foot of my bed. I groan and close my eyes, but there it remains. It accompanies me to the kitchen, silently judging. It watches me make coffee and sip it by the window.
I aim my gaze up and try to catch a glimpse of sky through the heavy clouds. The body hovers at the edge of my vision. When I can no longer stand it, I turn to the body and tell it, “Fine.”
It raises a bloody eyebrow.
I dump my empty cup in the sink and raise my hands. “I am hurrying, at my own pace.”
The process of solving a crime is unbearably tedious. Unfortunately, hallucinations of dead bodies are even less bearable. And so I find myself trawling the slippery web of the body’s digital footprint. In the end, I have a list with seven names.
While the first part of the process is unbearably tedious, the second part is in addition unbearably irritating. Cloaked in a thin veneer of sanity, I ring the first name's doorbell.
A cupcake of a woman opens the door, all fluff and artificial sweetness. I leave with a toothache and a certainty that she is capable of murder. She did not, unfortunately, murder the body. And so I go on the next name.
Name number two is tall. She is also blessedly, cursedly laconic.
"Do you know the old hospital building, on Hennings Street?" I ask.
"Mm," she says.
"Have you been there recently? Say, Thursday last?"
I hold up a picture of the body. "Tell me something."
She shrugs. "Decent person, now dead."
She shakes her head.
Third time is neither the charm nor charming.
"Who the fuck are you and why the fuck are you here?" he greets the door. It goes downhill from there. For all his countless faults, he would never do something so impersonal as to push someone off of a building.
"Hello," I say to name number four. "Do you have a minute?"
I try to avoid snap judgements, not out of some ridiculous code of ethics, but simply because I am so seldom right. My first thought when I see number four is that she murdered the body. Death gathers around her slight shoulders like a cloak, flattens her eyes, pales her lips.
When I mention the Hennings Street building, her brow wrinkles. "Well, doesn't everyone around here know it?"
"But you know it better most, I would think," I say.
She tilts her head, eyes wide. "Whatever do you mean?"
I pinch the bridge of my nose. "Why waste a lie on something so obvious? You were a doctor there, before it closed."
She giggles. "Oh dear, I was, wasn't I? You must forgive me, my memory, it goes."
I rise to pick up the picture of the body where it sits framed on her mantelpiece. "Do you remember, at least, your own sibling?"
Her eyes sharpen. "Is that what you're accusing me of?"
"I have not, so far I can recall, accused you of anything," I say with a shrug, setting down the picture.
"Don't patronize me."
I meet her eyes. "Stop playing dumb."
She snorts. "You don't have any evidence."
"I am not the police."
"What do you want then?" she says, with a raised brow.
"Answers," I say, "and to be left alone."
"Why do people kill?" she asks.
I shrug. "Why did you?"
"Some secrets can never be told," she says. "There's one like that in the old hospital. You know the saying, three can keep a secret? Well, there were three of us. I made sure it was kept, all these years. And now I'm dying."
She pauses, waiting for a reaction. My face underwhelms her, but she bravely soldiers on. "The other one died naturally. Car accident. But I have to be the last one alive, you see?"
I do not, but see even less of a point in telling her that.
She straightens. "I'm not needlessly cruel. If it had come out--well, it simply couldn't."
"Thank you," I say with a nod, and walk to the door. Her barely unspoken "Wait!" follows me to the edge of her porch.
I wake the next morning and smile at the emptiness of my apartment.
summer nights and crickets singing the horrible scritchy little tunes. the air sticks like flypaper to my lungs like my legs stick to each other. i roll onto my back and stick my limbs out wide and wonder if i've ever been so aware of every inch of my skin. the fitted or the flat sheet which ever hugs the mattress is damp but not cool. the air (have i mentioned the air) is also damp and even less cool. it is like the fine sheen of sweat coating me. i glimmer in the moonlight streaming in through the window.
it's midnight or the middle of the night or at least its dark and the moon is up up up and awake and i'm stuck still away. my eyelids are heavy and the air (i must've mentioned the air) is heavy and maybe i'm sweating from the wieght of the world. midnight is ghosting hour or witching hour or something sppooky and in october it might be cooler or if someone would degin to haunt me i've heard ghost s give you chills and i doulc use a chill right about now sir if you please. if i die i'll haunt my friends all summer call that free airconditoing.
my weak wheezy laugh is a breath of stale air into more stale air (the air in case i haven't made it clear)
The coin glints gold in my palm.
He called it lucky as he died.
It's a visual trick, I tell myself,
A trompe l'oeil.
I find myself at the edge of the cliff,
Watching the bacchanalian waves below.
I cast the coin into the deep.
It shimmers sadly as it sinks,
But I dismiss my guilt as insanity.
And yet every time I pass the cliff,
Those wild blue waters tempt me.
The Miracle of Life
Glinting steel (surgical) slashes reality
tearing me free wailing against the sudden pressure
of gravity of expectations
of my gasping lungs
of the hands that thrust me
into the jarring violence
into clattering layered voices against fluorescent droning
into incessant light crashing against my retinas
into a thousand synapses flaring supernova
The sound vanishes into a blanket.
A Blur Shaped Like January
I close my eyes and sink into the ebullient bubbles of the champagne. Open them again, look at the number as if it means anything real. As if a new year will bring a new world. As if.
If I've learned anything, it's that time is a lie we tell ourselves to give moments meaning. Unmoored from appointments, hours, social obligations, what difference is there between 11:59 PM and 12:00 AM? The human eye can perceive no alteration in the dark outside.
I blink again and it's January 5th. My memory of the past days is hazy, blurred by intoxicants and lack of significance.
Another blink. January 29th, 2021. I'm still writing the date wrong, not that it matters. The clock reads 6:30 PM. My stability ball bounces as I stand. The connection between my computer and the servers, hundreds of miles north, flickers away.
My next blink takes me to January 31st. Another weekend slipped away, drowned in lazy mixology experiments. Sunlight splays meekly across the floorboards, filtered through the gauzy curtain of snow. I lay back on my bed, abandoning any attempt at getting dressed.
I sleep through the last hours of January 2021. Early the next morning, I will wake and scroll through cautiously optimistic but utterly noncommital updates: "We hope," "We plan," "We intend," "Please check back for further updates." And years later, I will not be able to tell February 1st from the month before it.