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.

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The People Underground

Under the thinnest layer of the earth, you find a house in which time stands still.  It is far enough away from society to run of its own accord, but close enough to the surface to be able to taste, selectively, a morsel of what goods the environment has to offer.

When we say time “stands still,” we want you to know the house is not frozen in time, at least, not in the traditional sense.  The inhabitants, three females and a male, all function and age like their companions above the rocky periphery.  They were born like us, having gushed out of a bloody womb and into the firm grasp of the man with scissors; and they will die as we will die, shriveled like prunes and drowning in the fluid that no longer accepts a breath as life.

Yet, they can’t predict it.  They have to feel it for themselves.  There is no way they can mark the moon, or the sun, if that’s what we want to measure, as it travels around the celestial rock in which they find themselves interred.  They stay awake until they get tired, then sleep until they feel awake.  What do they do, in between?

We have determined they walk, quietly, through the halls of their houses in single-file lines.  Up and down, back and forth, with backs as straight as the poles whose wild roots sprawl uncontrolled around the cemented dwelling.  They appear to communicate through their faces which, serene so as to demonstrate a disconnection to modern stressors, are marked little and familiar with nuance.  Small gestures, some of which may not be achieved by our mainstream kind, can be depicted as insults, humor, or affection.

We notice they appear to be concerned with a certain something, which is either unseen to us or that matters not in our civilization.  Alone, they must create their own stressors.

The group has also procured a television, whose wires are just long enough to pull from the sky a colored speck in a sea of black and white static.  They stand as they watch, guessing and guessing as to where the little shred of rainbow might appear.  The television is a game to them, and their faces are never angry when scanning the glass dome for some sign of saturation.  If one spots it; they jump, a single hop for joy.  There is no winner, just the victor of the moment.

By all scientific standards, these creatures are human beings.  It should come as no surprise that they eat, although their diet diverges from the quotidian fare we consume from our soil.  Having dominated the land, we know that the best nourishment has been pushed from the bowels of the soot below our feet.  We have mastered its cultivation, right down to keeping it safe from the cold.  Our timeless friends are fond of the opposite.

Death, it seems, is to them as important as to us is life.  They, with iron shovels, scavenge about the sous-terrain, collecting in their hands the calcified shards of crackled bone that have persisted long since the dissolution of flesh.  How do these beings consume them?  We are not entirely certain.  The act, done in private, recalls the suicides of the ancient Greeks.  We are forbidden from viewing the preparation of this nourishment and, for the present time, we believe it is for the best.