Saturday, December 22, 2007

Short Fiction: Things Past

Things Past

The yearly cycle comes to an end. The slow, steady decline reverses, days no longer growing darker, shorter, collapsing beneath the weight of what has passed.

J stares at the stubble on his face, the shadowy reflection in his mirror. Wrinkles around his eyes, his mouth, reveal the age that seems so unreal.

He picks up the razor, sets it down again, then picks it up one more time. Three days growth. Until today he has not looked in a mirror. Three days feels like forever.

Forever begins again this day. The ancient renewal of the first day. But not for J. Three days ago time stopped and may never again restart.

He tries to remember anything from the last three days, but all he sees is the inside of a cave. Dark. Cold. Maybe a bad dream. But he cannot make himself wake up.

Today is the first day. Reborn. From what to what he cannot recall. Everything from his past is lost in the desert. Covered in sand.

A lizard suns itself on granite. Cactus wrens squawk their alert that a stranger has entered their domain.

J stands before the mirror, wandering and lost in a vast, arid desert. His voice cannot escape his lips, sun-parched, cracked, mouthing the words of seemingly meaningless prayers.

His hand reaches to touch the mirror, but the surface is liquid, violable, lacking solidity. Like him.

The face in the mirror smiles. It bears no resemblance to the man J thought he was. Once was. No more.

All around him the year swallows its tail. The ancient, archaic, always-present serpent. Trickster and tempter.

J reaches to touch his face, the wrinkled corners of his mouth, upturned. Against his volition. All sense of time and space misplaced, swimming in the dark depths behind his eyes.

Three days ago something happened. Feels like death, but still his lungs expand and contract, the heart beats. He is sweating and chilled, standing before the mirror, the razor beside the sink.

A brief flash of illumination, then nothing. Recent wounds, now scars. Surrender. Acceptance.

December 25th. Three days ago he was raised from oblivion. Reconstituted. Given new form, but the loss of any sense of self.

J breaks the plastic razor against the ceramic sink, removes the blades. Three sharp blades, one for each day he cannot recall.

Solstice night. The darkest day and longest night. Three days ago. But what happened to bring him to this moment? Three days ago. What myth is embodied in his flesh?

Early morning, day of the Nativity. It's time. J walks into the bathroom, places a small plastic plug into the drain, and fills the bathtub with hot water. He collects the blades and removes his t-shirt, Levis jeans, and boxer shorts.

The water is too hot, but he slowly lowers his body into the tub. With a precise hand, he makes the cuts, three incisions in his left arm. The water reddens.

There is no pain. Only the desert, searing sunlight, vultures circling, a cacophony of distant voices. And the snake, always the snake, tail in its mouth.

The water slowly drains, the plug slightly loose. A red wring around the rim of the tub, but in its ceramic depths, an infant. Crying. Naked. Alone.

On this day, the word made flesh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very cool Bill.