Their Days Are Numbered is a new year-long project authored by the collective Entropy community. It is a collaborative online novel written by the Entropy community on a weekly basis. A different author will write the next “chapter” each week, to be posted every Tuesday, following the previous post from the previous week, and following a very limited set of guidelines (that each author has one week to write the next piece after the previous week’s installment goes up, that installments should range between 150-1500 words, and that pieces should somehow incorporate a real-life occurrence, current event, news item, or other happening from that week).
Follow the entire “novel” here: Their Days Are Numbered.
The twenty-first installment is presented this week by John Trefry.
White wind whistles through my bedroom window that isn’t there. To answer her scratching, at what I will call dawn, he, he because he is smallish and more the blondish, carries a fawn-gray mouse, dead, to slide piece by piece into the dark for her, perhaps through a judas, or door undercut, or perhaps through the mouth of the cavity in propped and striving log, or dropped into the nest of shreds in my commandeered dwelling. Baby eats piece by piece the dangled and swaying viscera. Her steaming teeth in the dark may be white, may be black, may be pulmonary purple.
It is not possible to discern the environment. The flora and atmosphere change in precipitous segments. In the absence of continuity, myriad became aware. We became aware, all the subjects of the experiment, that sensation seeped in the final upright, though dead, tree. “The wood is dead. There is always new skin under the newly blistered,” something whispered. I tell it like you saw it. I was among those who early became aware of the sensation. It haunted my always bathtime automatism like silent predawn wing hushes.
I participate in this experiment without a pencil or stylus. I trace my finger in chilled still bathwater. I do this experiment in the company of darkened faces, twenty darkened faces. I labor to serve them. I do this experiment in the company of thirty-one shades. I labor to offer my service, but, I can’t tell you any salvageable truths or present any durable pivots. If I say the universe ends at my property line, and tell only myself, thus it does. Yet, the universe is horrible, and my property is small.
The voice of another calls out to him, he standing watch over Baby, “Who cooks for you?” higher in pitch and tapering, more distant through a firmament of pulp. And he calls back, “Who cooks for you all?” You bring us food you know will choke us. With this uncertain noise, I cannot focus. Insistent scratching from my closet door, turn the bathwater on again and submerge into the roar.
I occupy the black sun, a cross section of a cylindrical trunk stretching from dark deeps below the terrain far out into the celestial strata of dark sheathing rings unending. By dint of orthography, because I see the circle of the black sun, I am within it. Without it, of course, would only be the fat sagittal shaft, continuous and without entasis, lacking ballistic arc, the soft terrain’s endpin. Across which sky, we wonder. A flaming sky? Or in all other attempts to describe it, a continuously unqualified sky. I cannot know the sky otherwise. I could assert a sky, should, but shorn’t. The black sun marks a hole in the white walls of night.
Baby will not recall this. Yet at the same time, what wonders must exist in the luscious abstraction of the preconscious state. Even the imagery of her captive terror, untethered to a true sense of mortality, what lack of absoluteness must shape the potential of its cyan psychedelia? What psychosis is the true firmament? What could this oddly lettered place be that we lurk within? What is best to elect? A log on a lathe. A cylinder with a conical tip. In the dark pulpy ether is the possibility of its cylindrical soaring, the possibility of its cylindrical sinking, the possibility of its devourment by mycelium. The smell of space, the smell of soil, shuttles up and down olfactory xylem.
A fawn-gray rabbit kit lies broken in half on gravel at the base of the black column. Still insistent is the scratching from my closet door.
She is grown. Baby is grown just enough to make her way about in the dark, Lassie is not grown enough to turn the high knob and allow herself to escape. I’d rise from the bath but I’d catch my dry death. White rain falls still. Night is the wetted smoke of monolithic, white fire skies. What pleasure is senselessness. What pleasure to elect with impunity. What pleasure is the dark, to not be forced to reconcile with others, to take what you want and know not from whom you take. What pleasure is the dark, to assume what is beyond the dark and be correct.
Tree’s splintered stumps litter the thicketed undulations of a laid to waste woodland. All around, a panorama of soft horizon delineated a seemingly indescribable sky, with such elegance that could never be intuited by a pencil.
He brings to her in the dark a chicken, its crop filled with blue gravel. Lassie sucks soft and long along smoothed stones long to wear away, to discover the strata astride the crust we of the experiment have observed. Lassie in the dark digs through the earth with her tongue.
The room at the bottom is a circular vug packed to its vault with empty vats. Those rings around of men who I can’t see, they do whatever I phrase. Outermost men labor to excavate celestine druse, the ore of strontium, dregs of which the kept men use as paperweights to stay the cuneiform calculations stacked on their worksurfaces against the breathing over their shoulders of the next ring of managerial men skeptical of the efforts. The kept have only the ink, not the implement. They perform the calculations with ink on their fingers in a childish yet practiced calligraphy of smudges, nail arcs and arabesques, knuckle dots, and flicked droplets. Variables include: the area of the sky, the viscosity and the permanence of the dye, the prevailing winds, the quantities of propellant and charge, but not the target hue. “White night. White night.” Owlish managerial men with serrated arms breathe down their necks.
In a series of radial wedge rooms, men alone under bright lamps compare the largest hunks of celestine to stacks of subtle blue color charts and devise dye mixtures, accounting for aerosol diffusion, striving for maximum kappa coefficient in their inter-rater agreement on the precise hue. In a revolving routine of retreat and return, they climb ladders through one of many hollow cylinders packed into the solid black cylinder to one of many hatches that open in the sheared chode forest of morning trees around my house. Through calibrated lenses they hold their color choices to the sky and shake their heads in disbelief.
Seep forth from your ring’d sepulchre. Seep sap into my bath. Seep geothermal warmth both down to those lonely men and up to my cold ablution. Seep forth from your ring’d sepulchre into the dark light of day. And now the bath grows so warm that I will never rise to let her out. Not to assuage my complicit guilt, but truly, behind Lassie is always another girl, endless in number, stacked as deep as they stack tall. Beneath me in the bath is another woman, and above me in the blank or fire sky another, endless in number, endless column of unrequited potential.
At the end of what we will call this day, two of them stood watch outside my closet, a larger female now, not quite a parliament, but only one short.