Salina, Double

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. Stumbling, what felt like rolling inside a barrel, propped up by walls and knees in the gutter he gained strength as the avenue widened. When he reached the open nexus at the heart of the town he was walking upright, though still lightly vertiginous drawn down doubled onto the stone coping of a circular planter. 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 as he hurries along one of the rivulets and 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 hub 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. The opaque shop windows inflect a scalene alcove on which two doors diverge widely, she having taken the closer that aimed directly into the prow of the building and left it ajar. The sense of dusk in Twill’s body arose with a benevolent distraction in his expressions, though ‘neath the clouds luminous argent soft-focus still washed into which he rises, shadowless, drawn to the ajar door’s black stroke. Across the court, slowly, he imprints the cobbles with steps and hooks his toes into the eroded joints.

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 warm fire of the portal now seems a furnace opening or a sunset that his eyes can’t free themselves from where he stands frozen just beyond the plane trees conspicuously. Below the canopy beyond the milk and melancholy of the 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 has attended to the secrets beyond her sill. Odors of burning food sway out. Beneath the skittering canopy of the planes hashed lamplight falls on the cobbles. Twill cannot discern the new woman’s ignorance of the light as ratification of her routine’s march, with dinner and lamplight waiting in her attic room, or so impossible that it mustn’t be investigated. Or perhaps this similar woman is stitching her way back to a different, similar attic room.

Having wandered several spokes already of the twisting wheel into the central court he knew that the buildings grew more dense as they approached this little gasp. Private cutthroughs behind gates only broke the isolation of each spoke until quite far out where the order of the village decayed. It would not have been possible for this woman to again come down the same spoke on which she had arrived and depart on the same as which she had departed. Truly the spiraling arc breaking onto the court were disorienting. It have been him who had mirrored her path in his mind.

Yet here she approaches the same door, still ajar. For a moment’s scrutiny she pulls away awakened 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.

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