Als er wieder herunterkam, fielen mir zuerst seine Haare auf. Anstelle der Braunen, schwammen jetzt Locken aus Licht um seinen Kopf. Der ganze Junge war gewachsen, in die Breite, in die Höhe. An den Schultern waren seine Stümpfe noch frisch und sprachen von jüngstem Opfer, großem Leid. Doch sprossen dort schon winzige Blätter, Vorboten seiner neuen Bestimmung.
Es dauerte lange, bis er den Fuß der Treppe erreicht hatte. Als die nackten Füße den Boden berührten, verlor sie ihren Glanz und hüllte sich in ein Haus, warf einen Mantel über sich, und man hätte erneut meinen können, dass sie in ein Attica führte.
Er bat um meine Hand, mit einem deutenden Nicken. Ich streckte sie ihm hin und er nibbelte an meinen Fingern. Wie jedesmal, wenn er das tat, flatterte irgendwo in mir ein Schwarm Fledermäuse los, wild schreiend, doch unhörbar. Seine Augen waren mit einer Fremdheit gefüllt, deren Sprache ich nie lernen können würde.
Ich weiß, er würde es nicht gern hören, doch für mich war er bereits vor seinem Opfer göttlich genug gewesen. Doch mir war es wichtiger, dass er meinen Rückhalt sicher wusste, egal was ich fühlte. Heute vermisse ich ihn und frage mich dann und wann, warum ich ihn gehen lassen habe.
Auf irgendeinem Berg dort draußen könnte ich stehen und einen Blick auf ihn erhaschen. Aber er würde das nicht wollen. Wir hatten versprochen unsere eigenen Leben weiterzuleben. Nicht so, als hätte es uns nie gegeben.
Sondern im Wissen, dass jeder Mensch eben irgendwann geht, wenn auch nur, um ein Engel zu werden.
Cold halls, set deep within the sands. Slithering, whithering, over time. A lone voice, apparent to those who have not suffered enough. Columns like spines or fingers reaching for the ceilings that cover the darkness beneath. Shield your ears, child ere the calling rises, or you will never forget the senseless clamour of the spirits.
The child holds on tightly to the hand of the wanderer. They are both searching for the answer to a question that they weren’t taught to answer in school. Regardless, they ended up in a place called “school of life”. To learn, or perhaps, to find an answer.
We don’t know why the little girl found the grown woman in the desert. We’re only glad that she did. Who knows what could’ve happened.
Their steps echo through the ancient void. The halls wind endlessly through the school. An old school that supposedly lived and breathed. For the woman it is incomparably harder to imagine.
“Where does it end?”
“I’ve never been here.”
A life barely started, scarred from a love not received and a lust not deserved. Unfair wounds etched into the tablet of her consciousness.
Another life barely used, to draw figures in the sand on the lookout for a father and mother never to be found.
The hall turns up, turns down, stops and turns and twists. The woman counts the turnt corners. A desert wind hisses around them and they feel an unwelcome unlike their personal experiences. It doesn’t discriminate.
“You don’t hear it?”
“What is it?”
“I can hear someone screaming, but far away.”
“Lead the way.”
Oh, they’re in it now, following the voice with a blind determination, forgetting to remember the way back. Leaving not only their cares at the turns and corners, but also the cautions whispered by merchants in busy markets.
“Child, the school is long dead. But even the dead stir sometimes in their sleep.”
Panting now echoes in the streets, lit by ancient lamps. The ceiling has removed itself to a height invisible. Wind is a distant memory. The air hasn’t breathed freshly in here since the school stopped living.
“What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
Cowering child, covering ears, quivering tears, scared to run down the cheeks. It awakens a memory in the woman. A tale from her childhood.
“They told me, when I was young, that I could hear things adults cannot.”
“It hurts so bad, please make it stop.”
“They told me, that it’s the spirits asking their last will.”
“Why are you telling me, please, can we go now?”
“If you listen to what they say, we can help them.”
She doesn’t want to, she’s scared to death, doesn’t have a home to return to but wishes she had one and were there. Slowly, hands lift from ears that behold in full capacity a scream so terrible and sad.
“What does it say?”
A G O D W A S M Y D E M I S E,
T H E I R L O V E W A S M Y U N D O I N G.
E A T F R O M T H E F L E S H,
T O K N O W Y O U R S E L V E S.
She runs, as soon as it’s done. Before it starts over. Her ears are bleeding. They feel sorry for the head having to carry the pain and the weight of these words. Having to repeat them was worse.
“The Gods have been dead for ages. What can we do about that? And what flesh?”
“I don’t know, i don’t know i dont know idontknow idunno idk dont want to no no”
She cradles the child close. Sand is wafting through the whispering walls. Aroma of a taste long lost to time.
He has lain there all this time. Ripe for the harvest. A body so huge it’d feed a hundred villages. How did they miss it. She leads the child and tells her:
I est strawberries in a garden full of flowers. Bees hum from peonies to roses to ivy on the walls of a small wall that runs through it all. It isn‘t tall, but separating nonetheless. One small bee is called George. They fly from the east side to the west side of the garden, just like they always do. Almost hopping through the air on their tiny wings, legs overbearing with pollen. George is happy, as happy as can bee. When he arrives at the wall, a hawk, Tabitha, shoots down from the green ocean of the sky. Claws tear into George’s bouncing body, pollen scattering everywhere. George is no more.
I sit in the garden looking on, a single tear shesding itself for George. The strawberries taste like muffled liver now. Paulette approaches one of the copious rivers that cross the garden. She hops, as toads do. There’s a new array of blisters on her back, shaped like a heart. Her green eyes are aware. The flow hears her coming and welcomes with a gurgling “Greetings!”. As she bends down to drink, the earth starts to shake. A small quake I think, when a 2002 Toyota Celica cracks open the surface of the garden and reveals themselves, with a displeased expression. Paulette can feel the wheels approaching. An ancestral shock goes through her. The ground beneath is now paved New York City roads. Like Jean and Billy and Tom and Gene and Bily and Tomm and Jeane and Billly and Thom she is: flattened. On. The. Ground.
I get up and two more rivers have joined the garden, only on my face. I snivel and sob. I shout and I cry. The Celica apologises and flies away. So does the river Paulette drank out of. Horrible cramps haunt my abdomen. I have a womb now, angry at me. The earth starts fleeing from me. All that is left behind is void. A damp and unnerving throbbing begins to pound against the wall. The wall is now a door. It is being knocked. The door itself seems afraid of what is coming.
Courage surges through an ancient part of me. I eat one more strawberry before I leave. The sky starts burning, waves lapping against the void. Returning is always hard. A beeping has started, as if from far away. A jingle joins in, as do vibrations, erratic and scattered in the soundscape. The giant armadillo beckons me.
George, Tabitha, Paulette. Names you can’t associate anymore. A toad and a hawk and a river and a car and a bee and flowers and cracks in wombs and pain in a void and fire over a garden. You feel the world be sucked into a drain inside your head, swirling for an eternity that lasts 5 seconds. Eat that strawberry, you don’t know when you’ll have to leave.
Calling out your name, I stood in the desert of a widowed king. Seeking answer to the question invested in me by Them. Are there any prophets left in this rotten world, to carry my word through windy cities and into the homes of the forlorn. Gather what is lost, my angel and speak to the free. Two of them I hear, are among them. Look for them, fly, and look. You must approach them carefully, who knows what they can do to you, my poor fellow.
Along the path of whithered roses walks a lonely doe, harvesting tears and gauntlets. A shimmering scimitar seeks her neck as is the case in all the realms. Cut open, the rivers make amends and carry great power, to quench thirst of all the mighty rhythms that play, abound in the wistful air of a Missouri night. There comes the traveller, speaking a lonely language, pensive on the matter of approaching their subject. It is not easily done – i translate, for we do not share a language with the wise kind – , thought they, and a test I must procure to see if this man can really be a true Voice.
He seems lost, and hunted at the same time. Mourning is not his greatest suit, but neither is regret. Ideals, I perceived, and a weariness of spirit. He wouldn’t be the first of his kind to serve as a voice for Them. Oh, look. Here he parked his car. I will see, if I can approach him. Set on the pavement starkly lit by neon, sits a car gently purring, waiting for Leland to return. He is at the ATM, wildly cursing his spendings, as if he could get them back, to spend anew. The creature stalks him from within hawthorn, prickly atmosphere it has, that night.
“Hey!”, Leland shouts, turning on his heels, pulling out a gun, panting, “come out, wherever you’re hiding, show yourself!” Do you mean me, they ask, not really sure he can hear them. “Woah- what the fuck?”, he can hear something, inside his mind, like the greater beings communicate among each other, just that humans were kept from this circle, for good reason. “What are you?” Leland is now more like a rabbit in the headlights, pleading his case in his mind, sending the mouth of his gun searching around the lot. Can you not speak more quietly, I can hear you perfectly fine. “Um, okay, um, what are you? And, and where are you?” Does it matter. “Uh. Oh, I don’t know. Well, what do you want?” Easy question. You. “Are you an alien? Is that what this is? Are you going to probe me?” No. Calm down. It’s nothing like that.
Its a slow, simple night. The wind runs smoothly over the cast iron rims of boats in the harbour. It is chilly out, most people keep by the banks, tourists won’t come for another two months. You could walk between the boats, if you wanted to. Here and there, worms and crustaceans could be spotted navigating the slick sludge. For six hours, they reigned the harbour, though mich more pleasantly than the humans.
After a few moments, the wind seems to have exhausted itself. An exasperated sigh wafts over the bay, falling slowly into the waves beyond the horizon. Come, children, it seemed to say, it is time to go back. And with a soft and gentle tickle of the air, the waves began to grow home. Surely and slowly, they washed around the keels of boats, their rudders and anchors, dragging the sand with them. At this hour, there would have been little visitors to the scene. It was better that way.
Skin like parchment, rough and drawn on by time. Woke eyes, deep like the ocean that bore them. Hands with a good grip, to hold whatever it could cling to. In a stroke of irony it only wore Levi’s. The cool waves around its ankles swept back and forth. If there had been someone to witness the coming of the beast, they would have swooned. It had the looks of a surfer, and even worse, the skill to back it up.
“No matter the horrors the night gives you, I will deliver you come the morning light. “
Sweating, waving his arms about him in a fit, Leland DeGrosse awoke in his lonely bed. He sat up panting and slowly got his bearings, looking about the room. The bedside alarm read 04:50, the pale stream of moonlight agreed.
As he stunbled to the bathroom to relieve himself, Leland sifted through his fading memories of the nightmare: he was flying, away from something powerful, so immensely strong that he felt a burning inside him. There was light, so bright that his eyes had started to hurt. And then, there was that voice. It had been so deep and, though Leland struggled for words in his mind, this was the only he found fitting, good. Less like actual speech, he had just known the words, like he had come up with them himself. Incredibly deep, and so infinitely good. He flushed and washed his hands. A moment later, Leland found himself sitting at the kitchen counter, looking out into the night on his poarch. A still image it seemed, perfectly quiet and serene. Its immobility started to first bore and then agitate him. He used to be scared of the dark, though years of confrontational self-exercise had remedied that problem. What disturbed him tonight was the thorough nothing out there. In his bedroom, there had been moonlight, but down here, in front of the woods, a blackness sat, stubbornly, with its back turned to him.
Leland didn’t take his eyes of it as he poured himself a glass of water. He emptied it with a hasty gulp that almost made him choke. Then, he snuck back upstairs, with his back against the wall. Back in bed, he felt safe, with the moon watching over him. Right that moment, Leland decided it was time to go back home. As he drifted off to sleep, the darkness in his yard started to turn, slowly. It opened an eye, took in the scenery, sat down and perceived for a while. To describe life so foreign, humans often lack words. The choice here must always be taken with a grain of salt, as even this narrator cannot comprehend the beings featured, even if the story is entirely of my own imagination. Anyhow, the darkness existed further in the space and observed the realm it had been brought to. Earth. The human world. It did not understand, and so judge. It only perceived.
The morning came, invited by the happy chirping song of birds. The darkness had gone and Leland woke with a feeling of confidence and gratefulness. Ready to seize the day, he jumped in his car and got himself a small breakfast: donuts and a chai latte. After eating, he stuffed a multitude of laundry, toiletries and miscellany into his bag and started off. Towards home. This would not be the end of strange occurrences in the life of Leland DeGrosse.
The rain is pouring out of buckets onto Brewery Lane. A variety of figures hustle through the weather, toward dryness. Steps muffled and umbrellas drummed form a melody in the deafening staccato of pounding water, drop by drop. Clouds dropping the weight ascend ascend to leave the city below drenched and dimmed.
A closer look, though, reveals that not all are made equal in the onslaught of the downpour: there is the newspaper boy, hustling to get his merchandise out of harm’s way, as is the baker. Neither try to fend off the rain, pure damage control.
There are business women and men straining to keep smart suits and blouses out of the splash, hurrying into cars and cabs, the clicking tenor of heels on wet pavement.
There are children out playing, ignoring parental warning and threat. They jump from puddle to puddle, enjoying the funny droplets from above.
There are clerks and store-goers rushedly heaving heavy coats and umbrellas and other protective devices out of their cars to fend off water from their enterprises: loosely-bound books to be returned, slips to be waived and goods to be delivered or picked up.
They all hustle up and down Brewery Lane, flocking under store awnings and into doorways, waiting for an opportunity. To step out is to be left alone, fight your own battle. To stay is to keep company, to grieve for the loss of an afternoon.
Being rich is often defined by the assets you surround yourself with, since most people can’t look at your bank account. Leland deGrosse by that definition would be a grey area. He lives in an affordable apartment building at the outskirts of a small suburb right outside the big city. He’s well liked around the block because he makes one hell of a guacamole to bring to everyone’s barbecues in the summer. He doesn’t have a partner or any pets. Most people would call him poor, but they don’t know he works for a well respected company downtown. And his coworkers, though they like him in his well-fitted suits and funky shirts, don’t expect him to live in an area as ill-reputed as Column Hills. Neither of his social networks know of each other, and Leland likes to keep it this way. He has always enjoyed this sort of thing, being well respected at work, by being presentable, and having a good relationship with his neighbours, as is the case in Column Hills. Noone, except his friend Terry who owns a garage, knows about his car.
Leland has been most eager to get away from it all lately. The time off work his boss has been suggesting to him for years, now was the moment to use it. In the Hills they revere Leland, because he told them he’d go and visit a distant aunt to care for her home while she is at the hospital. They can’t know the home already belongs to him after he bought it off said aunt before she died. It was a small estate, north of Olympia. About a day’s drive from the Hills. You had a magnificent view from up there. The outskirts of the mountain cut through the land and fell suddenly and with an expression of age-old rage into the ocean way out.
Upon arriving, Leland left his luggage on the living room floor and headed directly for the master bed room with its light blue walls and Homer’s “Eastern Point Light” as a central piece right across from the bed. It reminded him of his time at Princeton. His aunt had offered to have it copied as a bonus for buying the house. Dropping onto the soft pillows stacked on the covers he felt alone again, finally. In his head formed a plan for the afternoon. A visit to the beachfront town of Geoffrey. It had been his aunt’s favourite little spot in the State. The rough climate and the people who were ever so decently disinterested in any outsider charmed her to build the mountain home. It took him a while, having been lulled in by the allures of the bed, but he eventually managed to break free. After taking a quick leak Leland stepped back into the weary comfort of his car and drove out to the sea.
Not a soul had fancied the beach today, it appeared. Leland stood alone, facing the waves, the wind, backed by the mountains and the mighty shoulders of the entire country behind him. The pebbles below him were wet and cold, from a slight drizzle that had probably started when the town had yet to exist. Suddenly, at the sight of a few gulls in the sky, he remembered the sandwich in his pocket. Having picked it apart Leland offered his hand to the flock and they came onto his hand, eagerly scavenging the crumbs.
For a while this pleased Leland. Rather sudden was it, that the clouds contracted above him and the colony, smiled slighly and dropped their rain and hail onto him. Feeling jumped, he started for the car, leaving the sandwich’s sad remains behind to be turned to mush. In a quiet moment after closing the door he checked his phone, to find that the only notification was from his bank clerk. The subject line: your credit score.