unseen, unheard, untouched

When I wake, I am lying on the ground, caked in cold mud.  My teeth are slick with my own blood.  The sky is painted black above me, carefully starless and unglittering.  Fireflies flutter around me, each of them dying in puffs of flame that consume them like the flick of a lighter.  Their wretched martyr-lights illuminate flattened grass and a dark highway.  

Around me, a grove of radio-towers and power lines juts up from the meadow.  They close over me like deadbolted branches, a forlorn cage.  I tear myself from the muck and find the circle’s center.  Here, just barely, I hear their humming.  Electricity on low volume, lighting nothing that I can see and singing a song where only I can hear.

Had anyone else ever stood here?  Listening to an invisible melody in a lightless night?  My own breath keeps the beat.  The fizzle-pops of the fireflies provide percussion.  If I opened my mouth, I could join and sing metallic like the brass or vibrate my own vocal cords like the reeds of woodwinds, but I stay silent instead.  The hum crescendos, a whole orchestra of strings building, building, building, building—

A semi-truck tears down the highway.  Swiping away the melody like a hand through a spiderweb.  The night turns as still and stale as a mausoleum.  I reluctantly step from the center and approach the asphalt.  The circle of radio-towers and telephone poles fades away into the gloom with an unfinished song on its lips.

The first several cars hardly slow.  The next several do, but they don’t stop.  Finally, a beaten cherry sedan comes to a stop.  The woman inside is the oldest I’ve ever seen, and her eyes are mirrors reflecting empty fog.  But still, she sees herself in my eyes and I see myself in hers.  More ghosts than people.

The passenger side door unlocks, and I climb in beside her.  We avoid each other’s eyes on the drive back to town.  It is not a short journey; the headlights cleave our way forward— splitting darkness and corn stalks, cracking the concrete, swallowing any car that they see.  Neither of us look back.

She tries to soften the silence by turning on the radio.  The songs it belches aren’t half as sweet, dripping with corrosion.  When someone speaks, they are lying.  When they gnaw and gnash and claw and tear, we feel it at our throats.  Soon enough, the woman twists the knob into the unknown, filling the car with the static of an empty frequency.  I appreciate it.

We part ways at the edge of small-town-big-city, which looks remarkably like the last and even more like the next.  She doesn’t say goodbye, which I expected.  I take the long walk back to my dorm.  The streetlights walk with me, glowing neither as warmly as the fireflies nor as purposeful as the headlights.  Back home, my peers look through me and my friends shy away from my voice like wild animals.

I take the elevator, which rumbles and shakes and shudders the whole way up like it is resisting the urge to drop.  My roommate doesn’t comment on the mud or the blood, and he pretends not to hear my quiet humming.  I take a shower and watch the mud and blood swirl into the drain.  I go to bed.

One response to “unseen, unheard, untouched”

  1. I will never get over your incredible vocabulary and the imagery you use, it’s incredible. Your work makes me feel something, that’s rare.

    Liked by 1 person

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