Numb

The cello hums a warm melody through the laptop speakers.  I am no stranger to this sound.  My lungs move with the instrument’s faint swell-drop, characteristic of its hollow, wooden body.

The ocean undulates ferociously.  Waves crashing against the rock-hard barriers that keep water away from the shore.

Meanwhile, on land, all is dry.  The villagers have no embellished tales of fish, extravagant beasts washed to shore in the night’s storm.  They know the legends of mermaids and sharks as large as ocean liners, fictitious feathers of hope that something interesting might happen, if they pray hard enough.  They gaze at the black clouds above them: perhaps tonight is the night.

The floods come hard and fast, spilling jellyfish and bottles and unanchored ships onto the sand.  They bury themselves beneath the dust, sculpting homes of the wet, grainy clay.  The salty ocean swallows them before dawn.

***

            Bluish laser lights cannot penetrate the thick, graphite brick that rests somewhere inside my skull.  They can blind me all they want, but they will never disrupt the safe, neutral mass of minerals I have allowed to accumulate between my ears.

…or so I think.

The artificial sun is hot enough to form crevices where there was once a flat expanse of gray.  Heated rays spread lonely particles across the wasteland to where they, too, will transform this uniform object into something unsightly.

All the earth’s work, falling to waste.  This brick took years to form, fitting the mold just so.  At this rate it will never form a house; it will see the sad day where it is mechanically separated into slender cylinders and divided equally among the wood.

***

            The percussion of pots and pans affects me more than the steepest high note, the loudest shout to leave my lungs.  My vessel-lined alveoli shrivel into their pink mothers, asking why this chaotic noise has to happen to them.

Iron lungs are no longer iron, for iron rusts too fast.  They are bricks laid around a wooden frame, massive twelve-by-twelve squares too heavy to be mobile.  The patient must lie inside, wrapped in the safety of the oxygenated cocoon.

“What a sad way to live,” the villagers say. “What a lonely way to go.”

There comes a time when the patient must choose how or if he or she wishes to communicate, to know the humans outside without choking on their pollution.  To leave the lung would spell danger.

We Will Deliver

A bus wanders down the lonely highway, its dirty sides reflecting with the late afternoon sun.  Behind its black-tinted windows are tomorrow’s engineers and doctors, social workers and educators; but one would not think this if they saw them now.  The eyes of these brilliant souls are glassy, their arms stiff and sore.  They are clad in thick coats and wooly socks, mother’s scarves and grandma’s hats.  At this hour, they are children seeking home.

The bus turns from the main road to a path that is far too old to withstand its modern girth.  Still, it squeezes itself onto the gravelly funnel and rolls forth with unbending confidence.  No one else has dared to venture out, today: the ground is covered in a thick blanket of snow, and all else is tucked beneath a sheet of ice.  Nothing moves while the hulking product of will and industry makes its mighty journey.  Its movement in this time-capsule corner of the country evokes from its inhabitants a passive sense of trust.

Even the trains are frozen still, taking shelter beneath sturdy pines and tall maple skeletons.  Their skins are scarred with stripes of precipitation, and their iron hearts are colder than the air itself.  As the bus charges past their mummified faces, they make a silent promise.

We Will Deliver, they say.

Will they?

La rhume

I always look forward to October 16th.  It’s almost always a beautiful day, the sun beaming weakly on the cool ground.  It is that time of year where the earth has released itself to winter, the atmosphere still clinging desperately to the warmer climate of early autumn.  Confusion erupts, a clash between what was and what will be.

It is in this confusion I make my appearance.  I am known to man by several names, depending on where you go.  In France, I am la rhume.  In Spain, el resfriado.  In Japan, 鼻風邪.  Either way, I am the same.  In all languages, I am hated.

My search is always ruthless.  Of course, I am only given twenty-four hours to leave my annual mark on mankind.  I search for weakness, and there I strike.  With a small twist of my hand, I wring the life from my victim’s pink lungs, filling them with the soggy gel of a half-frozen sewer.  I then take my hands to his expansive back and narrow shoulders, crushing his bones and rendering his muscles incapable.  He shouts for mercy as I rip open his straining trachea and steal for myself what voice he can muster.

When I finish, it is only his ears and his nose that are emanating his hot-blooded warmth.  I lean close to his face, inhaling the putrid smell of my damage, and I tell him: “three days.”  That is all the time he has to find his missing parts, until my work takes him over for good.

The first day, I know he will be entirely disabled.  Most humans are, anyway.  They hide themselves from their comrades, trying to keep them safe from me.  Little do these people know I have brothers, who have no need for assistance when it comes to making their attacks.  They come out in the summer, the winter, and the spring; they do nearly the same thing as me.  Our variations are often so subtle, they go undetected.

On day two, he will have cleaned the liquids from his lungs enough to stand.  Humans are about sixty-five percent water.  Any more, and they might drown.  He walks, my victim, gathering his shattered bones and limp muscle to reconstruct himself from the waist up.  His legs wobble.  He is a fawn in stag’s costume: his body, tall and powerful, is betrayed by the shadowed stare of his lifeless eyes.

By day three, he is able to wander about.  Perhaps not run, perhaps not climb, but he can wander.  His silence is disturbing.  For three days now, he has said not a word.  His voice is still missing; he cannot make contact with any who might serve as help.  His efforts are strained, he is losing hope.  Perhaps I will earn my victory?  From the pocket of his worn jeans, there is a buzzing.

Hello?

Damn, foiled once more.

 

Gone Batty

September 25th marks fifty years since Lance Lambert, a native of the Cowper, Indiana, began carrying with him a giant, wooden bat.  Tilting the wood over his shoulder, he carries his bat proudly with him from the market, to the barber, to church, and not to many other places.  In Indiana, there aren’t many other places you can go – what’s necessary is there, and everyone gets by without as much as the occasional specialty coffee.

Lance Lambert is an eccentric man, but his ways have become the norm in the Cowper.  He served as the leader of a new group, numbering to five-hundred at the last census, which carries with them a bat wherever they please.

“We’re protecting our rights,” they say, and they are.

September 25th also marks fifty years since the assault weapons ban, which prevents gun-owners from bringing any weapon larger than a pistol outside their homes.  The mandate was voted into effect in 2020, after a town official opened fire on the Islamic State Convention.  While we will not disclose his name, we can recall his words regarding the incident:

“They were everywhere, attacking me at all sides.  I had to protect myself from these criminals, may God bless them.”

The shooting, which left forty dead and ten injured, was one of many events that lead to the restriction of assault-grade firearms in a public setting.

“It’s a violation of my rights, as far as I’m concerned,” argues Leland Leland, owner of the Leland Retirement Community, “Guns serve no different purpose now than they did when the Declaration was signed, and they’re not much more powerful, either.  The only different thing is the types of criminals, which are ranging from blacks to Asians to terrorists.”

The diversity of Cowper has increased over the past decade, causing the overall Caucasian population to fall to a staggering 95%.  It comes as no surprise: the Cowper school district is one of the best in the state, having ranked top in both math and reading for the past fifteen years.  The growing racial gap of the region, however, has struck fear in the heart of another long-time citizen, Randall Gale.

“When I was about fifteen, in the year 2008,” he recalls, “our high school became segregated, and you can see all the problems it’s caused.  If you go over there, you will see they [terrorists] are training our kids to go over there and join them.  They’re even teaching them their code languages.  It’s no surprise I need to defend myself, when my own grandkids are being taught how to kill.”

The language, French, is one that is growing in popularity among global businesses and trade.  It is also the primary communication language of people from both Europe and Asia, when English is not their native tongue.  Other high-need languages taught in the Cowper Schools are Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese; all which are necessary for business of any nature.

While both the sale and carriage of weapons have undergone a supreme makeover, it is important to remind readers that they are not entirely illegal.  According to the Cowper County Police, there is little chance of firearms being restricted any further than the home.

“There are some people who would like to see them gone altogether, but there are amendments out there that won’t let that happen,” comments Cowper County Sheriff Daniel Baker, “We’re simply trying to keep the terror and the fighting at a minimum.  We don’t need any more dead innocents, no matter what race or religion they are.  The bats can put someone in the hospital; but the rifles – the rifles could kill on contact.”

What does Lance Lambert, now eighty, have to say?

“The day I stop carrying my bat is the day I die.  You would have to be blind to not see those n—lovers out there, watching my every step, even at Meijers.’  They might have taken my guns, but they haven’t taken my freedom.”