Salina, 1.E, 2500 words

The balls of Twill’s feet are swollen. Hardboiled eggs with brazen chicks tumble against the tenderness just under the skin. The flesh gives. The foot yields to packed then cobbled ways. An alley of ginkgos combs white autumn sky over the small road. Its divine curve conceals its end. The slow taper of the piedmont shadow ignites clear, pale light into a low hanging cloud. A rattle, shaking through cotton packed, of dry rice falling over itself in a ceaseless tide shivers out of the cloud. A small town materializes through the trees. The blank faces of its outlying buildings dam the mouth of the valley completely. The irrationality of its situation hints at a terrestrial symmetry of which the town is here only to balance some other town, across the axis, or above the cloud carpet, that sits by a river or bay surrounded by little farms and straight arrow flights of migrating birds. Where the edge of the village meets the blowing landscape of the valley spectral sand still drifts and swirls across the cobbles. The rainy aroma of electricity and still air that makes clothing loosen. Leaning buildings squeeze into each other unraveling the luminous underbelly of the pregnant storm into diminishing sleeves. The little display case of streets and burnt brick walls is empty of people. The fled man was not so far ahead of him on leaving the motel that in these empty passages he might not surface after a spin. Those windows not boarded over have out of season decorations. They show small workshops entombed with dust behind blistered windows. Grass strays through the cobbles. Voices in the plywood itself mutter and cast shadows or proliferate dark, gaseous presence through pulled away battens. Although the paths of sky seem to brighten the storm is not burning away and the air trapped beneath grows dark with rain that doesn’t reach the streets. Further in a few hesitant people appear in the street. In the steam pockets rising from rainbow rivulets in cobbles are spots to hide from the tide of eyes washing in. In crooks and terminal alleys are spot to hide. The town wraps in on itself. Twill pulls in on his clothes attempting to shrink with it. Never do the streets and walls abandon him. The same landmarks appear again and again. The same signs and odd windows, the same sighing shadowed alleys, the same prints of dirt and old faces of water damaged rot repeat an orbital geography that he suppresses to keep from feeling lost. He comes through a little court where all of the buildings yawn like gasping eyes. The uniform light drains deep into the workshops and chambers not bricked or boarded over. All is immediate. An implement on a table is the pinnacle of a mountain rising across space. He sees into the townspeople’s sinuses, the coral waving in their corneas. Twill noses to a workshop window. The black glass echoes aged sunlight within its thickness. Gold dreams trace the edges of imperfections. Dust below, right inside, is thick and rises up into swollen terrains that exaggerate every object to the precipice of recognition. A soft, fallen tree is a small hammer. A corpulent pointed hat is an upright bottle. Life in the town is the wash of detached relics over detached consciousness. Dust disguises a man sitting at a counter sliding his fingers first beneath a cape of dust, up to his forearms, the hollow opposite his elbows, his loose clothing flows into the old warmth. The dust rises over a lost shape reminiscent of half a sweet potato is sculpted. Reflected in the black thickness of the glass a face looms. Twill is startled by a face probably like his own, washed away, vague. The face recedes into black, then seemingly into the dust. Twill wheels around into the street and begins walking, pounding cobbles. A man is walking ahead of him. The form and outline of his body in the light, its flatness in the absence of shadow, blends into the beaten brick and the tall grass stalks that sway. The hair on the back of his head has a foreign grain to its clumped, waxy petals. The man, still just ahead, is not visible around the coiled arc of the road. The trail is impossibly collapsing, yet every turn reveals a new setting or perspective, though only vaguely distinct. The sky that even previously loomed with rain is strung into a narrow ribbon. The small road closes behind them. Twill is being led. He catches sight of a man sitting in the gutter against a low wall. Though the fleeing man’s face had transformed in his mind into a head consumed by its beard he became certain that this was that man from the guilty flush and dilation on his less bearded face. It almost looked like Twill thought Twill, that look of discovery. So long contained beneath calcified shells in an unchanging hollow, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that his long forgotten outer self, the original, might have taken leave on foot in search of indulgences. He turns to compare the man to himself in a plate window but finds none and cannot recall his own face now that he has seen the fled man’s. When he fixes back down the alley the fleeing man has fled and Twill sets on him again. The courts that open up on the streets seem larger. They clog with pointlessly dappled people. He struggles against their damp clothes and slumps to a wall or the cobbles as his blood grows viscous and slow. In these states the man slips into view as a hyphen of the tenuous crowds. The glut of people moves through with the man and tapers again to a few souls watching directions and details other than the paths they follow. Twill sees the man several times in this way. Water runs saturated with fine sand in an open sewer down the median of each central thoroughfare toward the center of the village or a larger courtyard toward which all of the wider avenues converge. This silt runs too from all of the streets. He walks upright, though still vertiginous, and doubles onto the stone coping of a circular planter at the center of the plaza. All of the winding spokes of the town spin outward from this vantage. A frantic man swims out of the whirl molesting his pockets and pouches while hurrying along one of the rivulets. Finding himself on the opposite bank from his destination produces a lone, flat key from a ticket pocket just before stomping through the flowing silt to a low door which seems to be unlocked regardless and, considering the jamb for a moment, is inhaled with door pulled tight behind him, though not audibly from the planter. This seems an ideal spot to case for the fleeing man. Small clouds of people float about the courtyard, few venturing as far as its open hub of cobbles. Most dip into the crotch of a spoke and skirt the prow of a building back into an adjacent outbound avenue. Plane trees bisect the buildings from their street level plate glass to dormer windows and raised eyebrows darkened above. A wispy, empty sack of a woman appears in the arcing rivulet of a spoke as a wavering heat devil tapering and elongating then with a broad fan of flickering squid legs cycling before rounding the tangent of his vision on foot, still wispy and hanging but with a shade less tenuous physicality. Her pulled-back hair traced with fossil comb tracks is dark and indelible with oil swaying above the pale apparition of her body and gray belted smock. She skirts the buildings into the court on one hairpin bank of the watery starburst and enters a low door on the broad face of the outward-curving façade of the next avenue and leaves it ajar. Into the luminous argent soft-focus of the long dusk Twill rises, shadowless, drawn to the ajar door’s black stroke. An attic dormer above the rattling plane tree canopies is loosed from behind shutters where the woman reappears with a coat over her smock. Whitewashed weeping light infuses the bare rafters broken by his low perspective. She hangs her head considering Twill and floats back from the window. Parchment shades temper the flood of lamps out of view. The ecstatic fire of the portal now seems a slow sunset scorching his captive eyes captive beyond the plane trees. Beyond the milk and melancholy of the canopy shade a woman approaches down the adjacent lane. A wispy sack, a resolute gray smock, aqueous legs leak from behind her body, yet more fleshy and opaque than her predecessor. The woman in the lit window attends to the secrets beyond her sill. Odors of burning food sway out. The new woman steps distracted over the hashed lamplight skittering on the cobbles either ratifying its routine, with dinner and lamplight waiting in her attic room, or willfully avoiding the impossibility of her harbinger tenant. Or perhaps this similar woman is stitching her way back to a different, similar attic room. Yet here she approaches the same door, still ajar. For a moment’s scrutiny she pulls away aware in disbelief, though not shaken as she might have been had her usurpation been unexpected. She casually reaches in, pulls the door to, audible with the muffled concussion then the click of the executing latch, and hoofs off. Suddenly her square heels beat the cobbles in hollow knocks. Twill follows. A crease cleaves from side to side on her smock. He has the impression that his consciousness, but not his senses, advance and hang from the pendulum of her hips. Each silent beat draws it further away. Away it draws with each clicking step. The arm of the crease winds all the way about her slight rump outward into a bobbing spiral of shadow that consumes his vision. Loosed plastic and flesh facets of the past days orbit the black blood bathwater of unconsciousness. In the darkness of the body all of those props gather in accusatory poses. Nothing is not left behind. Anything that erodes the palpability of tissue gives rise to a sensation that can exist without it. The spiral gathers together the blood and the breath. They pull against one another, one mixing with the breezes of the desert the other eternal blemish of identity. Disappearance is narcotic. Pulses of trauma are washed away in the oxygen starved chambers. Magic doesn’t function on mystery. Its process is more the juxtaposition of the impossible with the practical, the achievement of the impossible through the methodically banal. It at once makes both the impossible and the banal seem level, like vantage points of the senses, yet intangible and illusory through their contradictory relationship, thereby establishing the burdens of memory as illusory. Yet how real and immediate are the absence and presence of the blood and the blankets pulled up to his neck, the misery and blankness. Twill slumps in an alcove staring at a black gate. Boards and draped bundles of cloth are strewn against the walls. In thicket twisted and in the lace of blood vessels movement is forced by endless yet indecipherable complexity. Each intersection, each turn and knot are distinct yet mutable, such that the truly living, the vivacious, the vital, the puissant and the curious are impelled to ever wind that network simply to remain who they are. Like a decrepit landmark Twill loiters, distinguishing this ambiguous curve of doors and gates and dim workshops by not moving across them. Within a time proportional to the geometric probabilities of the town that wandering, fleeing man will come to pass this landmark. So he does. He stops at the gate, pulls a flat key from his breast pocket, and disappears into the finger canyon, into the cloud. Twill steadies himself in the alcove. His legs tingle and disappear from the silhouette. He floats to the gate. It gives to his hesitant touch and swings in silently. Down through the slender rivulet filled with gauzy light lighting him inside like a damp paper lantern leading the way for his sight as the walls converge in from the obscurity of the fog to a tight parallel sluice. Only boarded doors line this byway until he reaches a small court comparatively spread out like a rolling garden with a low metal fence materializing and beyond that rosemary shrubs and juniper crawling toward a white house hemmed in by the flanks of the court and rising a few levels up to the undercarriage of the storm cloud. Darkness with great clarity eaten from the fabric seeming to swaddle the town rushes over the door jamb into unbreathable air. A whine vibrates from the dark ingot. Above honey light seeps from the attic window yet clear and not screened by flocked fog wisps. Breezes pull the house away. Just the darkness ajar and high window cling. A hand materializes bearing on the door casing, another, the opposite, shoves or falls with corporeal momentum against the door. He has the sense of seeing this from above with finely textured clarity. Then blackness in a sudden doldrum is upon he and body. Certain that a staircase turns up to the side the sparkling presage of ascent begins to lift him through the dark of hanging dust and dry lightning creaks through solid wood meeting him, flaking away as points of painted plaster catch light from the attic until the mirage falls away and he stands oddly contained in the gaseous timbers and floorboards with their painful, static geometry. Though rooms had been imperceptible inflections in the labyrinth that never gathered into a connected passageway, they never ended. Dry swallowing drags the airless eaves; the clicking of his throat sounds in the room with the sealed-shut windows. Though light tumbles down from the window to an odd rectangle in the little courtyard only that light seems destined to leave. It is not a sense that he was called here by physics or geometry, but that some minimal defect in his consciousness placed him moments beyond his body, even beyond that lantern of his senses that had lead him here, but could not send word back, only a dragging and sinking dread. And it materialized as if through a worn spot in fabric. The fleeing man he had followed here is now walking down the alley into view. He stops where the courtyard swells out. Twill recognizes the black chill beaten into him by the ajar door, that realization of his already occupied grave. He seems to inhale the haze from the courtyard in a gasp and advances upon the house in serene shuffles before disappearing beneath the window’s view. The bolt sets in the front door. The clattering of wood planks and muffled hammering echoing in the courtyard sound a warrant of execution, but removed, not his.

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