Exit 130A for Fredericksburg, on my right.
A swerve, and I'm swinging out, round, into its heart.
The storefronts are closed. It's early. It's not, but it is early Here, time lags; lives lag.
And then, I don't have my glasses, so they could be there, still, eating, drinking, pissing, shitting, without moving an inch, bleeding into their backdrops. They could be there; I just can't see, can't see them even if they're there. So unpleasant to lose the ability to understand visual input, left with a set of infinitely expanding suggestions for the meaning of the present reality without any method of interpretation readily available; the sky clouds.
When I park, I leave the car running, the door open, the emergency lights flash behind me. It won't be long, Here; not Here, not long.
I walk. I am barefoot.
It's my fault I'm Here. I know this. It wouldn't do any good to say this wasn't what I planned. It's my fault.
I whirl around, the source of the sound invisible to me, but most is, and then, all is. There is no sound Here, no car, no steps, no leaves, no gusts, no heart flutters, no sonic input. The streets are blank, and this is how I know these walls hold no bodies behind them. Even so, my words remain in my head, now there is the danger of them being overheard, by who; by who? Whether or not the listeners are imagined, I could not say.
In the distance.
I walk, toward the sound.
Move. Move, now, toward it. Go. Faster. The pounding is louder, bam, it is my ears, bam, syncopation, bam, then off, then on cue, bam, then off, and I turn the corner--
The sound is a man with a hammer.
I am no longer running, and he turns, the hammer stops, the noise gone, tips his hat, tilts his head, he says,
"Young man, may I take your measurements?"
This must be Drawlar.
Wooden boards strewn across the sidewalk, an elongated irregular hexagon stands tall, painted, a cross in its center.
Below, it reads,
"SOMEDAY WE'LL MAKE ONE FOR YOU"
He grins all his teeth, and he begins to hammer again, he says, "I'm a lot like you were," grins all thirty-two goddamn teeth, and he hammers again, hammernail hammernail hammernail hammenrail hammnaeril hanaimmerl hanammiler hnaamilmer nailhammer, I am running away, the pounding less loud, the pounding more quiet: silence, again.
My eyes water. Systematic destruction. My feet ache. Brutal; indescribable; I control it, like I used to; one step, after one step, after one step. Toward my car, the orange glow on the upbeat, faint, then not, and I am there.
Dead battery, but that's not the real problem. Flat tire, too.
There's a spare in the trunk, under the corpses, and when I pull out the tire and jack, there's a glitter, corner of my eye, I grab at it.
Dead battery, but that's not the real problem. What is the opposite of an abyss?
I walk, away from the car.
There is not much left.
These sidewalks are covered in glass, each step is so many slices, and I distract myself by reading the writing, battle plans and manifestos written underneath my feet, mental mystics manipulate them into maps and meanings, but the code is a challenge, there are clues, and red herrings, and obscured sections, faded hints, disappearing keys, I don't know how to begin, I want to work this out, but it's getting darker, and darker, fog, an amaranthine haze, so I throw myself to the street, for walking down its middle is free of shards, and I am not paying attention to the writing anymore.
I hunt for truth. Vacancy. The moon to my right. The sky colors. I am the heretic Here. I have no claim to this town. I am trespassing on hallowed grounds. My time is running out.
The stores are still closed. Oh, how I would kill for the strength to smash open their windows and steal, for a new feeling. Instead, empty rooms, with empty shelves, and I watch as smoke appears inside, but it is illusory, only the reflection of smoke behind my back.
I turn around.
There is a flame in the distance.
Disbelievers and misunderstanders, they are disfigured and deformed, their bones are all broken, at unnatural angles, and yet they grab me with ease, I do not fight it, they are strong, the joints smooth to their pretzeled limbs.
Who am I? It's written on my forehead, on my shirt, on my tie. They know my name because I tell it to them.
To the flame.
I missed warmth, its embrace, they draw me closer, the singed hair is a delight. They stand me at its edge, and my eyes dart across them all, in concentric circles, surrounding. Men and women and boys and girls, nearly naked, swords at their sides.
On the other side, a voice speaks, a name unknown, but it leads, and their bodies move, the men and the women and the boys and the girls. In the windows, there are dozens of fires, hundreds of faces, bodies moving, each differently distorted. Darting eyes, back, forth, and then, no, and they unfocus, unsettle. My bare toes burn.
My mind drifts further into the flame, a sport, an art; muscles relaxed, face ashen; I am not Here at the moment.
"A reminder that was was,"
"And there is naught but now,"
"This moment as we stand watching,"
"Tranquility in the face of evil,"
"A sacrifice for the future,"
"Let it bleed into you."
The women and children cut off their clothing, slink them to the ground, nipples hard, edges none; the men run their blades across their chests, red shades strawberry their stomachs as it runs.
They light me on fire as well.
I can hear my skin bubbling, pop pop pop. Blood pours down my face. The smell of charred flesh invades my nostrils only for a few seconds before the receptors inside are too burnt to understand odor. My retinas have smeared, melted. Someone far away is screaming, but I can’t be sure whether or not it’s me. I hear them laughing, and I try to laugh, too, for there is little reason for them not to, I will feel the pain instead, hold it for them so that they can live, if only for a moment, without fear.
What does it matter if we are perfect or dead?