Intumescence, 1.D.5, 700 words

The bed clothes pull around the form describing a quilted intuition of its recent history. Abandoned man. Funereal veil. Gasping dew. Blank altarpiece. Shimmers of damp on the walls arise, solitary, without the walls. A mouth hole begins to stretch from the viscous surface and with a silent pop bursts the thin meniscus with a weak sigh. Beneath the air conditioner rattle sputters the bound man’s breathing. Twill picks out a thread of silence and runs along it with a chamber in his mind that echoes and drafts with absence and death. It comes not from the air conditioner nor does it wind out from the man in bed whose viscous respiration still gurgle. That dry, rotten core of Twill’s skull, like the passage of undifferentiated conversations and the base, inhuman degradations of the relationships strung through this room, and others, but this one at this moment, too reflective and self sufficient, as if existing only tangentially in the physical form that had once sought to assemble a reasonable present from the endless wash, cannot isolate the source of the silence. A thin face makes a sound if it is thin enough to vibrate. Rhythmic noises create indistinct spaces. The low breathing of thick sand sliding across itself whispers from around the bed. When it becomes fitful Twill holds his own breath. His heart stops in the lull fearing either the death of the man he was watching die or the resurrection of the already dead man with another inevitably grating wheeze. Twill moves toward him to take his hand and speak to him but hesitates. The entirety of a room is an inheritance. It marries with the blood and swells against the skin. To expel emulsified fragments of this legacy the collection must grow against the flesh until no space is left. The bed clothes are warm and damp. Gummy discharge stiffens the fabric, swelling his eyes and burning his nose with an empyreuma smelling of scorched flax. The attempted flesh, a jelly of fat and condensation makes a body that is too large and a face too featureless. It could have only creamed forth anticipating the ease by which the fleeing man’s guilt could be shrugged off to the confusion of baseless recollections. If he could never find it again in these repeating cells it must not have been. Alive as this figure might be to come back with a nurse toward health and purpose, it is just as close to collapsing in upon itself. In the infant eyes no imperfections bloom. The fear of death in a servant who is willing to die but cannot bear to end his servitude is weak, shivering of the jelly catching the bathroom light. Twill cannot visualize anything but his own face in the bathroom mirror. It isn’t the face of this castaway’s savior. He can’t diminish into that form. He will be the last to let this man go. An insidious death spell metastasizes from that decision’s electricity. He buries a smile. It isn’t his course to intervene in this death or to halt it any longer. His shadow is already late creeping from over the horizon. He can give only the tapering of his own life by carrying this stain in his blood and perhaps not eventually forcing it out. The heat is not dissipating. He scratches his hips beneath his shirt and half blinks to where his lids do not yet breach the pupils. He is but ephemera, not capable of being concrete, not capable of being a man with this man together as the eyes track him blowing into the wind like light or sand. He turns to the still open door, the mountains creeping lazily ahead of dawn. A drift of chalk is built against the door. Chalk covers the sidewalk arcade. Footsteps of the fled man are nearly buffed from the chalk by the wind but vague shadows trace the last moments short of their disappearance. Their fading entrances and tempts him. He starts out across the chalk court leaving the door open, not looking back down the valley as the light from the motel leaves him invisible to himself balanced by the clouded daybreak.

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