David S. Golding
I drink coffee watching the sun rise. In the reflection of the glass, I find that my eyes are no longer young. Wrinkles crease my cheeks. I must be dreaming. Out the window, which is now shaped like a tilted trapezoid, are hills of yellow grain. I see myself exploring their crests and trails between fields of wheat and maize. Someday I will pull up life from the fertile soil of those hills, give my mother a reason to have ever raised me. Knowing there is work to do, I wake.
I’m driving on a highway with no cars, the stereo playing every song that ever gave me chills. There is a thread that weaves together everything I will do in my life, the horizon tells me. I barely notice that the car pulls me onward, careening towards the coast, even though my feet do not touch the pedals. When I crash, my seatbelt grips me back, but my mom’s body continues through the windshield and soars out over the evergreen trees, a falcon before the sun.
It’s nighttime in a place where day never was. I tremble under the branches of a leafless tree. The ground is bare, the leaf fall long decayed, except for something that moves at my feet. A white claw pushes the dirt up, which I realize isn’t a claw but a hand with no flesh or muscles, followed by a skull that sees me with one red eye and one blue, alternating colors that flash so fast they encapsulate everything around me. I kick at the skeleton but it’s no use. It comes up from the ground until it’s free from the soil and I am the one who’s dead, or close to dead, although my body seems intact, and my fingers flex imperfectly. They must not be real.
There is only chatter, corridors, slams, crowds moving shoulder to shoulder. White comes down from above and blares out all color. Electricity courses the hallways above us and below us. Its currents form a system of interlocking circuits. Any of us nameless ones could, at any moment, find ourselves at the nexus of this machine’s powers, silent lenses closing in to surround, a light intensifying for a split second, just long enough to strip our body of its skin.
I’m outside and there’s not a cloud in the noon sky. In the dry storm drain at my feet, I remember that I haven’t seen the stars in far too long. I hold my flattened hand above my eyebrows and stare at the distant walls in every direction. Some people sit at a table, and another group gathers by a motionless tower. This is all I have left. I make my way towards the dark interior and get lost somehow, even though I do this every day. I end up in a tiny room with no sound and no door. My mother stands there. She has grown impossibly old and tall. I run to her and she picks me up, holds me for the first time in thirty years. Her fingers clutch my balding scalp, her other arm under my knees. She wants to sing to me but she doesn’t, nor does she look at me, because she doesn’t want me to see her tears.
Out the window, which is now a narrow slit, and through the muddy specks on the glass that no one ever cleans, I recognize the hills from my childhood dreams. The hills are the same, with the same rocky outcrops, except there is no more wheat. Everything is fallow. A white dust covers the ground, probably bone meal, or ash from an unseen eruption. Again I wake, again and again. I wake each morning to find myself here at the window.
DAVID S. GOLDING teaches peace studies and international development in Sri Lanka. After teaching, he takes the crowded night train home to the fishing village where he lives. His fiction can be found at www.dsgolding.com.