This is part 3 of a short fictional series. So far the posts are all in order… So far…
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They’d told me about the wire probably six months ago. The jumper wire. How it grew within us from the anode to the cathode like a clever root of ivy. The fuse of a self.
A short circuit.
It was a strange trick: cutting eternity out of the equation. Without access to the boundless panorama on either end of our existence, we’re just looping memories. Ghosts zooming around the accelerator, hungry for collisions. We’re rays of light, all bottled up– no distance in which to fly, no sun from which to spring.
And it hurts. It hurts awfully– in ways that seem little and ways that seem big– but in the end you realize: pain is pain. It simply hurts.
– – – – –
When I was halfway across the room I glanced to the window, looking for the sky. I saw the rectangle of light on the wall, the fuzzy glow of its edges. I felt the sincerity of my own movement, the grace of complete conviction. I was the day after the storm. A trespassing calmness. A freedom without roots.
I heard a car door slam somewhere down below. It felt close enough to touch, and the connection was immediate.
I hear you.
I am here, crossing this room.
This is my offering, my gift to you.
May you live. May you hunger and thirst no more.
One car door seemed a secret greater than I could carry. I took another step.
Though I was nearer now, just a step or two away, her breath was still undulating with the same easy rhythm. Two pillars of steam emerging rhythmically from the shadows. I felt a certainty of being that couldn’t be pinned on any one thought or feeling. I was certain of all of them. Of everything at once. All I had ever carried inside of me was tumbling out onto the floor, spilling over my banks.
One more step.
She had soft, bulging eyes. Black hooves. Her front knees were slightly hyper-extended. I reached out my hand and touched the bristled hair of her forehead, between her two short horns. (It was smooth in one direction, prickly in the other.) We joined in the darkness at that point of contact. We completed a larger circuit. She remained motionless, still waiting, her eyes unfocused, settled upon a point just above the floor.
I felt a gratitude difficult to explain. She had come for me. Across a great distance. Was this merging? I bent over and kissed her forehead lightly, and when I stood she sunk one of her horns deep into my side. It was a simple movement. Pure. She lowered her head and took a gentle step forward, impaling me. Then she stopped. She was not afraid. Not curious or apologetic. Not attacking or pushing me away. Just waiting again. For the next instruction.
I gasped and shuddered. My body knew instantly what this meant. Memories of a thousand deaths were instantly freed, and their fuzzy wings whisked across my face, blotting out the view. Fire shot through me, and I recoiled, staggering, not wanting to put any weight on the floor– wanting to just hover in the air. To pause time. To sit here for just a moment. To thank the one who had slammed the car door. To remember the squeak of snow beneath my shoes on the coldest day. To tell her—the one who had come for me—everything I had yet to tell.
I found myself on the floor. Motionless. My breath was rattling in my throat. I felt cautiously for the wound, needing to know, and winced when my hand came back sticky and warm. The clock in my head had already begun to tick in the background. (The fuse had been lit.) How deep was the wound? How much blood did I have? I thought it was something like six or seven pints.
How long before they came for me?
The answer came, and I told it to myself as if making an announcement to all affected parties. At least two more days, folks. They’d said three nights, maybe four. I swallowed hard. I was too hollow now to be concerned with what came next. Unable to track it, except for the logistics. They were still there, faithful to the end. Still taking stock. How many hours until infection sets in? The thirst alone will be catastrophic. How long until I pass out? Until the end? What will it be like?
How will Jesus and Hafiz ever get this carpet clean?
I imagined Hafiz lighting up like a sale sign at the idea of cold water. Yes! Better yet, a steam cleaner. A rental unit. Jesus driving the van, lurching over the potholes, one elbow on the door frame. Hafiz on the radio dial.
Let it come.
The voice came from inside of me, cutting through my numbness and delirium. I could see his eyes, like dancing flames, looking straight into me. Like he wasn’t buying it. This strange dilemma. My whimpering contortions. He was carrying me. Seeing through me and back out the other side. From wherever he was, he was holding everything in place, like the stillness at the core of a galaxy’s whirling gravity.
Hafiz was nearby, chanting.
I felt a glimmer, then, an inkling of the idea that this wasn’t everything it seemed. And then they left me once again. I laid alone on the floor, my blood clotting to the carpet, to my shirt, to the wound. Using my good side and one of my legs, I dragged myself across the floor and leaned my back against the couch. I took a sip of water.
Up in the window, the sky was a powdery yellow. A dark-eyed junco fluttered into view and settled onto the frame. His little head swiveled once or twice. He saw me. Then he leapt for the sky.