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 thirty-second installment is presented this week by Candy Sue Ellison.
Alone. This deserted world is my oyster. Having left the homestead behind weeks ago, I wander north with this rifle on my back and, slowly but surely, that prickly fear that plagued me as I set out is flaking off like dead skin.
Sometimes I remember the warmth of that buttery light spilling from the windows of our house and I’m attacked by a legion of sad, jagged needles, echoes of loss resonating like a thick string being played. The memories are so sweet.
I used to go into the yard by myself and look upon the home we’d made as though I were a stranger. I’d wonder at the mechanics of our happiness and gaze into each room as though it were a diorama:
There’s the kitchen, where we roasted cauliflower, stewed venison, had wine and conversation with others we loved.
And the bedroom, where we listened to the truths of each other’s bodies, entangled ourselves in secret plays only the moon was audience to.
The living room was for revelry, for fires and drinks, cards and reading, for shared joy.
I have packaged these memories into a small box and carry it northward. I walk through the ash of the past, which now feels like an illusion whose sounds become more muted every day.
Happiness is so simple. So fleeting. It is the antidote to fear. I rely on these memories of happiness to help me explore this new landscape: its ripping sandstorms and fires scratching across the sky, the flat and barren horizon punctuated by sad trees that slouch into themselves like drunken cowboys, colonies of forked grass haphazardly exploding from the sand—no welcome sign of humanity for miles, though relics attesting to human violence litter the area: burnt earth, broken machines, rusted weapons. But there are flowers here too. So many beautiful flowers. And birds stirring the still air. Sometimes a tumbleweed dances by and teaches me a new step.
One’s senses become sharp in this dry sea. You begin to hear quiet symphonies crouching beneath the silence.
If the trees were still audible, I would certainly hear them, but they have been silent for ages now. Their branches would occasionally attempt a feeble sign language, but even they have grown still of late. Not so the flowers. The flowers mutter restless incantations incessantly. Many of them bloom and cast their spells only at night. I suspect their murmurings are starting to awaken the trees, though I have no proof. Regardless of the efflorescent necromancy, the trees seem less sad, less slumped as I pass them on my journey, as though their sap has begun to surge again, as though their branches have taken the tale back up and are soon to sign a new story. But I have heard nothing yet.
For now, the syncopated melodies of the chattering nightflowers more than compensate for the trees’ muteness. To say nothing of the ethereal glow they emit when the tides are in. Though the sea is miles away, these flowers open their blooms at night to transmit a ghostly light to the far-off deep. Bearing witness to these midnight messages ignites something dormant here in my chest cave; the hollow nest of my skull feels like it’s filling with bees, oozing nectar in a rhapsody of flavors; the air seems bathed with scents of honeysuckle and jasmine. As the sun begins to peek over the mountains, the moonglow fades, the spell ends with a closing buzz, and all is still again as the sky goes from blue to violet to orange. Until the next moon fills to bursting.
Last night, during another performance of this eerie cantata, I heard a low moan emerge under the chanting, ringing in a timbre only the trees possess. “There are more of your kind,” it sang. “Head north, toward the shore, toward the shimmering wall of fire, and you will find them.”
Today I keep walking northward, regardless of what I think I’ll encounter, leaving a scattered trail of abandoned fear behind me like so many breadcrumbs.