The man beside me, he spoke in staccato sentences – as if his lips had forgotten the shape of words.
He said he’d been walking a long time, with a hungry thumb stuck out into the road, grasping for the wind beside passing cars. With tired eyes he watched them move on and blur into the faraway horizon.
He’d spent many days out there beneath the meat-eating sun, hoping to find himself in the shade. By night, he slept beneath blankets of stars and dead leaves.
A ghosted-out drifter upon the loneliest roads, appearing only in the transient headlights, and then gone.
I asked him where he was headed; he said it wasn’t what pulled him, but what pushed him instead. There was no beckoning light. He said the shadows, they snapped at his heels, and there was something in the deep lines upon that weather-blown face, like country roads – and I believed him, and kept my foot down upon the pedal.
He said a lot of things, in that strange, broken way. He said a lot of things for the longest time, and then for a longer time still, said nothing at all.
I’m not sure which was worse.
The Stardust Inn had no sails of silk.
The wooly sheets chafed his sunburnt face. He couldn’t sleep with all those demons glaring at him. The ***** maids never washed the blankets and they stank like dead goats. Nobody ever cleaned his room, or bothered to replace the soap, or replace the dead lightbulbs, or fix the faulty ceiling fan.
The potpourri made the goat smell worse, somehow.
Dead goat. Dead flowers. Dead people. Dead tired.
It was hard to mend a broken soul, surrounded by such paper-thin walls. He’d lay listening to men and women shuffle horizontally, sweating and thrusting themselves raw beneath the scratchy sheets in the bed next door.
A cockroach scurried away across the carpet, over the bare foot of the Ghost where it sat crooked upon a chair in the dark. He always wanted to tell that Ghost, if it’d just fix its posture it might get some rest – but instead, never said anything at all.
The woman next door out-moaned the wind. He looked up at the Ghost, and the Ghost at him with large black eyes. He could almost hear that tortured spirit say;
“Now you know what I’ve had to deal with.”
The doors were shut again.
Inside, Wendy could hear him typing. The click and clack sounds of a typewriter had grown monotonous to her, a never-ending drone, so unlike a human heartbeat.
Jack said, “Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you’re breaking my concentration. You’re distracting me. And it will then take time to get back to where I was.”
She placed her hands up on the doors and put her ear to the wood, listening.
Click and clack, click and clack.
Jack said, “When you come in here and you hear me typing, or whether you don’t hear me typing, or whatever the ******* hear me doing; when I’m in here, it means that I am working. That means don’t come in.”
Jack asked, “Now, do you think you can handle that?”
Wendy liked to believe the best sound in the world was the sound of creation. Jack favoured the clatter of typewriter keys. Wendy preferred the sound of laughter.
Wendy wondered, with all this typing going on, if she could still keep her place in his heart.
My knees always ache when it rains. It feels like thunderstorms down there.
Imbriferous skies quake and pour. In rows of misery below, black umbrellas and grim faces held in raincoat hoods move up and down the hill slopes. Impluvious bodies move as a current – up and then down, up and then down – carving new streams of black into the long grass.
Officers clothed in raincoats and trash bags tug at the leashes of baying bloodhounds, slipping in the mud.
I sit in the spindrift – the icy pinprick of the heavy rain turning my face raw. Splashes of mud freckle my pink cheeks. The rain flogs every black umbrella to a monotonous rhythm. Thunder rolls like a rock avalanche into a mountain creek. Corn stalks and men alike are bent beneath sheets of rain. Flashes of light across the sky smell like Sulphur. The earth a deafening drone, continuous, never-ending, and in that drone swept the black umbrellas and raincoats, one by one, two by two, shifting, streaming, flowing stern-faced and wretched. From the top of the hills they pour, pooling and spreading out into the fields like a black river.
A river of desperate life, searching for the dead.
There was a tier in the dark, where everything rode silently below the surface. Where secrets and sorrows never rose for air. In this place, when all light died and the wolves grew old, the crows rode upon their backs.
Crows as black as rotting teeth, they spent the days shrieking in the fields, and at night they gathered in their shadowy roosts, making evil plans and discussing the inevitable fall of mankind. Only there would he come to realize that all men are only as sick as the secrets they harbour.
The crows stank of a different rot. They had been feasting, somewhere, somewhere in the dark and the gloom, in the hidden places, on hidden bodies. They stank and they carried that stink with them. Their eyes had beheld things he dared not imagine, and they gazed upon him with those same little eyes, conspiring with one another in harsh, croaky declarations, as if they really had some awful language of their own. Screaming gibberish.
It was known to all that Christopher Weiher possessed an almost irrational hatred toward all crows. He sometimes wondered if they were now just waiting for him to die.
The haunted room was his. The haunted room was always his.
“A haunted room, fit for a haunted man,” they said, and the key hung untouched for months upon the hook, gathering dust and rust, and waiting for the day Topher Weiher would come down into town.
He liked this room, despite its sinister history. The disgruntled spirit of the strange Mountain Man was said to stalk this room, pacing its length with restless strides, unable to sleep, shrieking soundlessly into the gathering darkness like a banshee drunk on the thigh-meat of innocent barmaids.
The window where he stood was far enough from the cold of the river but close enough to hear the roar and roll of its waters. High enough to hear the beautiful aubades of dusk as the sun plummeted from the rumbling skies.
Standing at the window looking up at the red clouds, Weiher missed the days when songs were still sad.
“Some days you can still see him standing there, at the room window,” the town children would say in hushed voices. “The strange man, from the mountains,” they said, and Weiher could never really tell if they were talking about him or the ghost.
So, this is how it ends. In the tests of generous love, we defied all of mankind, but something in this heart of mine is telling me it’s time to stare down the eye of destiny.
I’ve hunted black holes of silence to find peace, and in turn that darkness has swept me into an unshakeable fever. I feel like I’m forever breaking. I feel like I’m always digging for the feel of something new.
When the silence of the world holds me, and when I am agonized with disquiet, I find myself thinking the good times may never come back again.
There’s a specific, maddening breed of danger out here on the edge, and final understanding.
Sitting here with my feet dangling into the void, I’m watching the sun crash from the sky into the horizon, and there is golden fire sailing along the edge of the mountains.
I know the echo that is love; I hear its brontide footsteps fading into the faraway distance, as if somebody is slowly turning down the volume.
Like a machine shaking and shuddering with voltage, I’m giving in to whatever moves me.
Whatever moves me.