Payment Failed

This 100 word micro-fiction story was a submission to the NYC Midnight writing contest. The prompts were as followed: genre: horror, action: making a down payment, needed word: piece.

Unfortunately the story didn’t rank in the winning top fifteen, but it still felt worthy of being read.

A funny bit of information about myself: I grew up loving horror (Stephen King for example), and any media that had a surreal, supernatural, or unexplainable plot (House of Leaves/Mark Z. Danielewski for example). These days, I find myself mostly avoiding reading horror (though House of Leaves remains my favorite book) and practically never writing it. With that being said, I felt pretty good about the end product, even if it pushed me outside of my comfort zone with the genre and content I wrote. With that, below is “Payment Failed.”

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Years ago, at Dominion’s Conception Superstore, we sold our innocence to afford the down payment we made on Ayanna’s life subscription.

Today, Dominion returned with a gavel-like knocking as Ayanna played blissfully in the garden.

Their associate beamed. “Good day. I’m Reaper. I’m here to repossess the child due to subscription payment failure.”

“Please. No.”

“Request denied. Payment failure limit reached.”

I hadn’t heard Ayanna come inside. She handed me a Chrysanthemum. Reaper smiled down at her.

“Excellent. She will be recycled piece by piece to fuel our workers.” As they departed, he yelled: “Please remember to rate your purchase!”

Aspen

“Child, do you see the trees?”

“Which ones, Oldheart?” They asked the memory-filled soul.

“They are lofty, soaring, colored like bones below and sunrise above. Do you see them?”

“I do now. I like them.”

“Ah, from afar, yes, I admire them also. Let us approach and perceive their stories; that is, if you’re content with a gently swaying walk on the path that invites us?”

“Why, certainly, Oldheart. You always do show me the most wondrous things; the hidden away things, like dusty story books lost to the hunger of a basement. No difficult walk will stop me.”

So they walked, hand in hand. The path rising, then falling, the rocks protruding like animal traps in the dried mud; they saw false paths that led to thistles and brambles, but Oldheart, like a compass, knew the true path and followed it like a river in a gorge.

The path swept them along like a falling leaf carried by the wind. Gently rocking their bodies into a sway that led them down, down, down to the land of long bones and high foliage.

They walked to the base of a tree, looking at it like a child looks at a parent.

Oldheart raised a mature and certain hand and rested it on the tree’s most featureless, ash colored bark.

“Did you know they can see us?”

“The trees?” The child uncertainly cocked their head.

“Yes.” Oldheart reverently placed the pad of their first finger on the black scar that clung to the elongated trunk like a cancer, or a priceless painting.

“How can they see us, Oldheart?” The child asked; this time though, with a note of fear playing like a muted undercurrent.

“Their eyes. They’re grown. They do not see at first, as babies. As time flows, thus do their experiences in this world. See, and feel.” Oldheart grabbed the child’s hand abruptly, not with anger, but like a guide on a dangerous path might, with confidence and assurance.

The child wondered as their fingers were kneaded by the lid of the eye on the tree. Oldheart pulled the child’s hand and placed it in the dark eclipse that defined the center of the eye. The child knew, at least, hoped they knew, that the eye would remain as it was; but the uncanny feeling nestled behind their sternum whispered otherwise; the feeling said “I will swallow you up. I will consume you. I will keep you here forever if you so desire.

Oldheart continued placing the child’s hand on different protrusions and nodules of deep black.

“Are the eyes speaking to you, child?”

“They are. But when I try to speak back they remain quiet. Why?”

“Because they do not converse. They remain scars and mementos. See, the limbs scattered around us like ancestor’s skeletons. Limbs that after having fallen off, leave the eye to look out, to be witnessed, to be learned from. Those limbs have lived their lives, and now go to the ground to return. They are a testament to those that might listen. A trophy of storms weathered, fires recovered from, and animals protected and nurtured. They are remnants of past lives. Lives that are finished, but still remembered.

“Will I become a branch like that, Oldheart?”

“No. Not until you are ready for the Earth to reclaim you.”

Oldheart let go of the child’s arm and set a hand atop the child’s head.

“Do not forget to look up. Down here, with us, is the past. Up, reaching into the sky, that’s the present and the future and the unknown. You are those flittering colors reaching out from the ends of the branches, and you will always be them, even as the ground below grows further and further away. The eye remembers, and the branch made it’s decision long ago, but you aren’t down here with those. You are up there, in the company of the birds, and caressing the clouds. Your present is always rising above the past. But the memories, the scars, are still a part of you.”

“I see.” The child said, and Oldheart knew they did.

“I am pleased. Remember, never forget what part of this tree you are; because if you do, the eyes will consume you.”

The child shivered. Did I tell Oldheart what the tree made me feel? How did Oldheart know?

The child asked what happened if you forgot. Oldheart made a sweeping motion with his hand toward the sky: “It all becomes black. It all becomes memory, even the leaves. For a new growth to break out of that shell of memory requires all the trees to rustle their leaves in unison. It is a difficult task, even for trees.”

The child nodded pensively.

“Are you ready to return?” Oldheart asked.

“Yes. Please. Thank you.” The child put their smooth, soft hand into Oldheart’s wrinkled and toughened grasp and they turned in a semi-circle. With their backs to the trees, they began to walk back up. Up, up, up, carried like a leaf by the wind, back to their own.

Tsukumogami: A short tale

     For three hundred and fifty-nine days the routine has been the same. Always in the sleeping hours of the dark, the keys are lifted from me with the harsh music that metal and wood share, the slightest pressure only I can perceive is relieved, and more minute scratches join the microscopic cacophony of etchings in my grain. The leather wallet lifts and brushes against me in the same type of whisper that passes between two close friends carrying a wonderful secret.

A click then echoes through the room. This echo begins before the warmth of the sun has brought its company to the room and lasts until the sister moon has awoken.

Then, in the stillness, another click. Though this click has no audible echo because there are many different noises that follow the click after the moon has awoken. First, a sound like waves dragging along the sand which is the door pulling the forest of carpet below. Then the padded kickdrum of his shoes along the floor as my friend returns. The whistle from his nose as he builds up, and the dam break of tension and oxygen as his lungs release into the river of his mouth, which opens releasing the river into the ocean of air beyond. The silky purr as a double Windsor knot becomes a lasso around his neck. The soft airy crunch of the starched collar and brush of shoulder length hair as the lasso is removed. He tosses it onto the dresser. The cushioned knock as the tip of his right winged shoe connects gently against the heel of his left shoe. My grains and knots tighten with anticipation as I know that next, the -clap- leather wallet will be tossed onto me. 

One…

The multiple tinny noises combined with a resounding -thunk- as the nine-member key ring and fob settle next to the first object.

…and two.

A zipping rustle and the comforter is pulled back. So completely devoid of energy is he that he climbs into bed fully clothed, other than his two wingtips shoes which rest in a wedge shape on the floor just in front of me.

More sharp rustling as he positions a mound of blankets under the side of his face.

Rest.

The klaxon of alarms.

Silence. More silence. 

A gasp. Fumbling. An Exclamation. The room stirs with the wind of surprise and fear as the blanket is thrown off. The sound of grunting as he attempts to pull on the shoes which were left knotted the quiet night before. Failure. More aggravated exclamation. The knots come undone in a flurry of quick yanks and pulls. The knots become redone with the quick swish of laces and friction.

The tie is seized as he runs out of the room. 

A gentle click. Chaos abates. Stillness and routine return.

Darkness. Waiting. The sun. The moon. The click. The dragging. The kickdrum. The whistle. The release. The purr. The crunch. The knock. The clap. The thunk. The Rustle. Rest.

This morning is different. The klaxon of alarms fulfills its task, waking him. A drawn-out grumbling moan escapes the bed. The wind of the comforter being tossed stirs the room again, though this time it’s the wind of hopeless routine and unfulfillment. His legs swish across the bed and a defeated sigh seems to escape him, but also seems forced out by him. A cry for help to the universe. A cry for excitement. A cry for fulfillment. A cry for purpose. A cry with no tears.

With gravity and the expectation of repeating the last three hundred and sixty days, for a three hundred and sixty first time. Standing with a resigned huff, he turns towards the bathroom, his footstep turning into a trudge through a pit of mental quicksand. By some miracle he arrives at the walk-in shower. Undressing, he tosses his clothes towards the hamper next to the door. It appears as a sock separates and escapes the bundle, landing in the toilet. He closes the door. I hear the shower unleash its rain as thousands of droplets splatter across the black tiling. The shower releases thousands and thousands of drops. It stops. A sound like a dog shaking as he dries off. The door opens and moisture pours out. I feel it land on me, coating me in a fine mist, the mist feels like my home. 

He dresses. 

The scraping music as he picks up the keys. The brushing whisper as he picks up the wallet. The kickdrum. The click. The sunrise. The sunset.

The routine.

The routine again.

The routine a third time.

The click. The brush. Something different. Is that a new creature that will lay on me in the in-betweens and warm me? Laughter wafts towards me through the open door. A jingling through the air and a heavy swishing- the keys land on the floor, touching my foot, the leather kisses me and begins the whisper but is immediately silenced as it bounces and slaps the wall heavily behind me falling nearly to the floor before getting wedged in between the lamp cord and the night stand. He does not come to bed until late in the night or early in the morning. I cannot fully tell because it is the hour that the moon is up, which is many hours.

Again, he releases a deep, pent up sigh, with even more built up emotion behind it than the first. Again, he tucks the comforter under his cheek. Again, he drifts, letting sleep take him.

The klaxons do not sound this morning. I worry that he will be late for work. I worry that he will continue laying until the sun brings warmth to the room. That has never happened. Can it happen?

The sun comes up. The room warms. He sighs, but there’s a warmth, more life bringing than the warmth of the sun. Maybe not more, but different, also good. He lays there. A crackle comes as his two open hands rub against his face attempting to invigorate himself. 

His nose whistles again as he breaths in deeper than he has in the last three hundred and sixty-five days of his life. It is silent in the room for a moment. Then the release of the wind of his heart happens. More peaceful. More purposeful. More excited. Also, this time, sniffling that comes with tears. Elation and warmth fill the room as the sun rises for the new cycle of Three hundred and sixty-five.

His touch finds five spots on my top, dragging together they relieve the weight of his phone from me. A series of seven beeps and seven taps informs the room that a phone call is happening. He informs the person on the other end that he will be taking the rest of the week off, and to please deduct it from his vacation time. Yes, he understands, he tells the person on the other end, it is extremely short notice. He requests to speak to his superior and there is a brief pause, I can almost hear his heart pounding as his breathing becomes shallower. “Good morning ma’am”, is the thing that shatters the silence that accompanies only life changing decisions. He informs his superior that he is genuinely apologetic, and he understands that this short notice will be doing a disservice to his team. He would like to provide the point though, that he had worked an inhumane twelve hours a day for the last three hundred and sixty-five days. A number that he was relatively certain is inhumane by most employers’ standards. There is a pause as the superior speaks. He thanks the superior, letting them know this will not happen again and that he would never take a leave without proper notice on normal occasions.

He sets the phone back down on top of me with two sharp knocks as it settles. 

With a stretch, an MmmnnNnnmmM, and a series of pops so apparently satisfying that it makes him laugh, my friend removes that bedding with a zipping rustle that I know so well. His feet descend to the floor, imprinting on the cream fibers. He stands and the bed creaks just enough to show its maturity, but not enough to imply its joints were becoming worn.

A series of muffled padding footsteps as he exits the room. Then a series of rapid taps. Then a smaller kind of scream -not unlike, but not quite as large as an airplane as it bellows across the great sky- is accompanied by a hollow crunching. The sound of a tiny babbling brook. An aroma of chocolate, almonds, and pipe tobacco permeates through the house as the coffee finishes brewing.  A smell deeply rich, memory provokingly nostalgic, and more unifying than most things that are supposed to unify. A round gurgling as the coffee is poured from the pot to the cup and the turbulence creates a few bubbles within the vessel.

As he sets down the vessel, it knocks against the resting spot with a cold dense rap. 

The sound of smooth and rough, like two river stones being rubbed against one another clamors into my room. The fluttering of pages as they are skimmed through.

A comfortable grunt leaves my friend’s lips as he sits with a plummeting plop.

Hours go by. The only noises being alternating back and forth taking turns. One a bubbling slurp, the other the crisp fibrous brush of a finger along a page’s spine. Eventually the slurps end, and an eventually after that, a full and dense clap as the book is shut.

Ten electronic beeps as he dials a number. He greets the person on the other end, asking them if they would be interested in getting together sometime that evening. He tells them that that sounds lovely and asks how they feel about the store on Ash Tree Lane. He agrees that six thirty works for meeting and wishes them a good afternoon; following the beep at the end of the call, the crisp and rough brushes return as the pages begin to turn again.

. . .

As the sun has begun its slow descent towards the top of the skyline, and the bottom of the horizon, my friend has been getting ready: there’s the scratching and static that comes with the turtleneck, the airy flapping as jeans are pulled up to his waist, then the rubbery squeaks as two hip and cool sneakers are tossed and the soles land on the wooden floor in the living room. The rise and fall of him humming a tone cascades like water over the pebbles in a stream. The floor creaks like those in grandchildren’s memories as he stands. The humming stream slowly grows quieter as the door to the entry way whispers quietly and shuts like two rocks knocking against each other, with a nice, satisfying clack.

The two rocks say hello again, after the skyline has eaten the sun like the desert in a five coarse meal. 

“Mono”, my friend says inquisitively. I can’t believe they’ve been around for two decades. I can’t believe I’ve been around for three. Waxography being around for four is almost unfathomable. “Oh, come on! No seriously.” His voice begins to mimic the excitement of a teenager. “I’m just saying, if the speed at which my life feels like it’s going by were gears in a car, someone sure likes to keep slamming it into the next slot.” 

Whoomp. The pioneer system wakes up for the first time in…I’ve… I’ve never heard it before come to think of it. Not this one. Not here. The cushioned wallop of the needle fitting into the spiraling groove grips the rooms in an anticipatory hold. The pulsating sonar-like beginning of The Wilderness suddenly releases that hold and a symphony of sonic pleasure comes pouring out of the speakers.

The whir of some motor masks the soundscapes rolling from the speakers. Clinks of ice sprinkle into the mix of sounds creating a sharp percussion. A throaty squeak as the cork is pulled out of a whiskey bottle. I recognize the whiskey because it smells of oak. I also smell of oak. So long ago. So many neighbors. The air running through my fingers like the melted snow through the gaps in the river rocks. Roots running together like the weave of the world’s most beautifully important tapestry. Giving creatures of the earth protection from the sometimes caustic and sometimes radiant sun, the sometimes nurturing and sometimes pounding rains, the sometimes soothing, and sometimes buffeting wind. I miss home. Most times the sadness outweighs the happiness I receive from serving my friend. But every day I must repeat to myself, that this is where I have been summoned, and it is my job. I want to go home.

My f(r)iend and his friend talk through the night when the warmth of the sun has left. The conversation is an ebb and flow of discovery and elimination. They tell flowing stories that reveal years and years and unveil facts that destroy falsities which could easily be created in seconds. Beliefs are set gently in front of the other, and concerns are shown to be but a dissipating fog of doubt. Hopes are opened and spoken like the words in a sacred journal, traumas begin to be mended one piece at a time, just like kintsugi.  All these words continue to fall like rain, collecting and collecting, until a few last words are spoken, and the door clicks with an audible period and the liveliness of the night ends. 

A bubbly gurgle comes from the other room, then four clinks and a series of cracking. His padded footsteps start to approach me. Groaning when each footstep lands, the floor voices it’s objections. The man bumps against me in the dark and sets down a glass as cold as the first winds of winter. Initially, I feel an unease arising in my grains from the chill. As each second ticks by, the vessel becomes warms gradually, like when the sun arises and the room I reside in absorbs the heat of a star that’s traveled a very long journey to rest in the same room as I. As I think about the traveled heat, a very odd sensation as if air has become solid and touched me around the base of the glass. As I contemplate this feeling, the solid air increases in pressure, then spreads out in a pool the thickness of a blade of grass. I recall a feeling like this, many times ago, that feeling felt more like many pools falling constantly all around me, covering me in many dots of solid air, landing on one leaf, sliding onto another and another until falling onto my roots. I could tell when there were long periods of time when this heavy air falling, I could keep track of it in my core, a memory of my home as it were. My core could reflect the times that I grew big and tall, and my core could tell when it was warm, or cold, or so warm it would remove my friends from the forest.

Forest friends. Many, many, many. Some lasted longer than others. Some grew bigger than others. So many friends of different leaves, and different whispers, and different roots. They were my home. They were my life and routine. I had eighty core circles of sun rises, and sun sets. Eight core circles of moon rises, and moon sets. Seven core children and forty-two core grandchildren. I’d felt the ash of my friends and neighbors rest upon me a total of three times. I had seen four of my friends, with a roar from the sky, burst apart at the seams, creating thousands and thousands of fragments of memory, and growth, and maturity. One of these sky roars is what led the ash of my friends to eventually land on me. I created breath for the creatures of the world, the scampering, the chirping, the croaking, the talking, and the slithering.

Now though, I do what? I cannot grow. I cannot eat. I cannot drink, or record, or provide shade, I cannot provide life giving breath. I am a forgotten object that other objects, some also forgotten, sit upon. I accept that this is not my home. I accept that my friends are gone. I accept that I am now a slave to one that I was once the provider or life for. This life is not mine. This is a lie. 

In a ring on my top, my grains now feel as wet as a day in the period of rising life. This is a forgotten wetness though. A careless dampness, a waste. I was grown for more than to end up here. I forgot. I accepted. I embraced a new soilless Terra because what other choice was there? I had eighty rings in the soil when the sound of a thousand bees made me fall asleep. When I woke, I was in a place like this. Many times, I’ve awoken in places like this, I’ve been transplanted into soilless terra many times now. Each new false home has been a change enough that I’ve never awoken. I’ve served in a way that created a false purpose of true feeling. Lie after lie, until now, a new lie. 

So much anger. Yet so little I can do. I am dead, but alive. I was once able to create anchors of strength that no force could remove from terra. I could create children to continue shading, and providing, and sheltering. I could whisper stories of my ancestors, and stories of sky water so thick we believed the terra water had risen higher than the tips of even our furthest reaches, stories of when we gave shelter to sky riders that could not fight the battle of the Terra’s breath. So many stories yet to be told. The story passed down, and down, and down, of when terra’s largest land striders’ footprints imprinted the earth one day and seemed to have never existed the next day. Many long times after that, we did meet the cores of the land striders. They had fallen asleep next to our roots, joined us in the terra and left their shapes as an illustration of their stories.

So many core memories, so many until there were simply no more, and I could create no more to pass on to my children and their children and their children…

A noise that reminds me of the thousand bees that made me fall asleep. This noise is many less bees, and right next to me. It is my…him. The sun and its heat have left, which mean this is his rest. In his selfish desire to close his consciousness, what he left on top of me will leave a scar. A darkened reminder of what my new and purposeless purpose is. 

The room cools as my anger warms. 

Time passes, the sun rises, and so begins another cycle.

These become the cycles of the creature next to me. They are no longer mine. They ceased to be mine many core rings ago. The catalyst of this reconciliation and realization of purpose and path was something I now crave more deeply than anything; it is the feeling of the cloud’s tears and the air’s breath. The sun’s warmth undiminished by the construct I now dwell in, the song of my true friend’s stories as they recount the identity of the land in which we are…were rooted.

I now wish to return but lack any means of actually doing so. I cannot move. I cannot grow. I cannot shed my seed. I cannot create breath. I cannot shelter. My path is but the same. Seemingly until forever. Perhaps, if I were to wish enough, with every grain left in my body, I could move. I could shake the alien metal from what is now the top part of me, I could try, but I won’t, because I can’t. I’m so connected to every fiber of grain that runs through me; in the same way that one droplet of water is connected to an unfathomable number of other droplets. As connected as I am though, there’s no force on Terra that will allow me to move any part of what I now am in any tangible way. I am simply here, as I have always been since I reconnected to myself since I woke up. There’s nothing that can change that. It’s how it has been, and how it will continue to be.

I have no more thoughts. Why should I.

The Sun begins its daily flight of return; like it too knows that there is no good left here.

The stifling cover of darkness; the exuberant release of rising light; a departure of life-warmth; a sky filled with the same colors of my true friends prior to the long rest.

I resign myself to the state of things and cease thought.

PART 2

  “Honey, my dearest, my love, it looks like it just moved out of its freshman college dorm. If we are to be living together- if we are to be married in an everlasting union of a self-sacrificing and learning love…that night table must go. Surely you see why, don’t you? Or…perhaps you don’t. Because I cannot fathom any reason why someone as successful and developed as yourself would keep a piece such as that.”

“Well, I suppose because it’s been with my through the years. It’s weathered a lot of uncertainties with me. It’s always been there to catch my things at the end of my days; whether it was textbooks, manuals for new equipment at work, my keys and wallet…maybe someday it’d even hold a baby book on top. I just don’t want to needlessly throw away something that’s served me well for- “

How positively caring. Pretending that my service actually appeases him and excuses his company from the traumas they’ve inflicted on my kind for centuries, how they continue to do so with no intention to stop or intuition of the harm that is being caused.

“I understand the functionality: but all the best, new, in fashion and desired furniture is just as functional, just as sturdy, and just as able to be there for you through the years as this one is; plus, they’re actually pleasing to the eye.”

His breathing gives way the fact that he has given up. Like a forest creature after being snatched by a larger creature, far more consumed with the will to live than the smaller.

“Can we use it in the spare bedroom? The office? The garden or the porch?”

“I’d really prefer all the furniture match, darling. Trust me, one of my old roommates had a knack for this kind of thing and passed a lot of wonderful tips along to me. Whenever she and I moved to different houses, I immediately invited her over to help me with furniture choices and layout before I bought anything. Perhaps I could give her a call, and she could help us with purchasing a new dresser for you that would fulfill all the functional purposes that this one does, and looking updated and attractive, and something that could carry memories for you, becoming a family heirloom at some point?”

I always believed myself to be beautiful. The way my home is beautiful, the way the thorns wrapping around my fingers are beautiful, the way a spider creature’s clingy net floats in the forests breath, the way the morning’s mist dripping off my leaves is beautiful. I suppose that my possessor’s possessor fails to consider these types of beauty and sees only a lack of whatever it is that I don’t have. I suppose I must be grateful to him for that little he appreciates of me. 

Forcing a sigh of resignation out of his chest that almost seems buried there, he sits on the bed and begins to pull the drawers out, absent-mindedly looking inside- the same way you do in a hotel room upon check in- to see what forgotten trinkets and old secrets lay inside.

“I burned my initials into the side when I was sixteen. I thought it was edgy. Around the same time, I started getting into skateboarding; because it was edgy, because my parents hated it. It’s so funny, I’m such a generic, by the book person now; when did I stop being edgy? Edgy and cool?” He throws out his hands and tilts his head. “When did I stop being hip? Eh. I probably never was. Who am I kidding.”

“I didn’t start dating you because you were edgy you know, or even how much of a hipster you were- like, everyone knows who The Beatles are, but no one knows who Mono is-“

“Well they should.”

A sympathetic laugh in reply before saying: “You’re right. They should. You ever think about how obscurity sometimes makes something more beautiful? The lack of attention allows it to keep a bit of its purity so that it isn’t being shared with everyone. Like a particular clearing in a forest, or a field of newly fallen and undisturbed snow. Something beautiful about leaving things untouched. Things don’t always need to be made into new things.”

“I’m still curious what you were going to say about why you started dating me.”

“Oh yes. Well, initially I was attracted by your drive, by your need to succeed, to fulfill the things requested of you. I’d always hoped to find someone that was going to keep plenty of Merlot in the wine cabinet and an ever-blossoming garden. Obviously, you were more than fit to fulfill those particular aspects of my checklist. As I grew to know you though, I hoped to find more of you underneath the suit, and the success: and I did. It’s just what I was saying about the hidden things that hold beauty. While you are analytical, and educated, driven, and successful, there’s also this part of you that simply yearns for the quiet things. The things that get are sometimes overlooked, or unappreciated because they don’t fit the narrative of what’s popular. I suppose in that sense, you are a hipster; but at least you’re a thoughtful one.” 

The bed frame –friend- groans slightly as he pushes her onto the bed.

I’ve seen enough animals mating to know what’s coming.

“Surely there’s more to me than just a successful man with an aura of mystery that you’ve already deciphered, no? I’m like Shrek- “

“Shrek??” She screams into a laugh.

“Yes, just like Shrek. Layers and all. Who knows. Life is a labyrinth not of one flat maze, but of layers of maze: once you’ve completed the first, you just go down into the next level. You my dear, how missed out on the other thirty-one years of my life that constitutes thirty-one levels of a maze. There’s layers and layers of onion that you have yet to peel.”

There’s a second creak as the bed frame flexes again.

I wonder if my neighbor is also awake.

“So” he says, as he collapses onto her, “How will we reach a compromise in regard to our friend The Trusty Dresser here?”

“I think, if you like furniture with character, we can still find something that has history, without it looking equivalent of a mug shot.”

“Hmm.” The frame creeks yet again as he flops down next to her. A universe of dust appearing in the sunbeams as it floats from the bed. “Hmm” he grunts again. 

“Hmm?”

“HMM.”

“Please elaborate slightly more, you Neanderthal.”

“If, and you must promise, if we go to a second hand or antique store and find a dresser that firstly I like, and secondly fits into your critical requirements of furniture. You have to allow me to find something I like before you voice your opinion on whether or not it fits into your preference as well.”

“Should we shake on it as soon to be wife and husband?”

“Yes, because hopefully this will be the biggest disagreement that we ever have.”

“Oh, I’m sure it will be. Couples that are truly in love like us will never argue about leaving a crumpled-up napkin on the counter, or a dirty towel on the bathroom sink”

“No! It’s not dirty- well, it is, but it’s intended purpose is wiping down the sink after uses, it doesn’t just sit there.”

“Mhmm”

Mhmm” His reply is warbly and gravelly at the same time: like that of the “grandmother” that came to this room one day.

“Are you mocking me?”

“Oh yes, certainly.”

“I suppose you will never find a new dresser then, because my list’s criteria somehow keeps becoming more and more specific!”

“Well,” the floor creaks as he stands, “I suppose”, the floor creaks again as yanks her off the bed, “that means, we’ll be keeping this one for a bit longer?”

“Okay, the criteria just become more general again. So odd how it keeps changing.”

“So odd indeed.”

“Let’s make a trip to The Phoenix, it’s my favorite antique store.”

“What a hip name, I’m sure I’ll love it.”

. . .

Alone, but that is fine. I’m happy to be separated from these wasteful creatures who care not of anything I’ve given them. From the breath they breath that I lovingly and unselfishly provided, to the place of stowing and placement which I become without a single consensual request. I wonder what they fear most; is it ending up in a place where they have no voice, no hope, no choice of what they will or won’t do, only their own thoughts. Is that the thing the fear most? Because if it is, I have awoken into their worst nightmare. Something that is slowly dawning on me; like if the sun had become a twisted version of itself, its rays burning instead of warming, the dawning realization of pain and hopelessness. To have your existence corrupted and twisted to become something that it wasn’t ready to become. Everything of course has it’s time, but my time was not yet. 

I’ve heard him cry. Those lonely nights when a deep part of him cried out for that which he didn’t not have, the thing that many people often cry out for, the thing which so many people cry for yet not even know for what thing the tears beg. It is the same thing I know desire and crave more than anything. It is the same thing that is now so infinitely far from reach. A thing which I had before and was replaced with a mockery of its original form. Purpose is the thing for which many creatures cry. It is what so often causes strife and anger and pain and hurt and loneliness and hopelessness. The lack of this thing is like the lack of the very thing that gives life to you, a heart for many things, the sun for others, the soil for my own kind.

There is a dull thudding and the sound of a key hitting the tumblers in the lock. The warmth of the sun is beginning its trend of cooling as it prefaces the beginning of the moon’s new day. The front door swings open with a bang that would make most people grimace.

“Okay, now- no stop! You have to twist it the other way. It has to- Agh! My fingers! The sudden shift of vocal tone betrayed his anger, like the first rumble of thunder in a rainstorm.

“Sorry! I- “

It. Is. Fine! Okay. Let’s just set it down- “

“It’s so heavy, I don’t want to set it down now!”

“Okay, then twist it like this, and then pivot and curve around the door frame as you come through.” 

“Okay- “

Clonk “I hope you didn’t like the door frame. Or the back of this monster’s foot.”

At this point I don’t care, just get it though the door and set it down” a satisfyingly mild knock came from the living room as two sighs blew through the house, the dying wisps of them just brushing me.

The deeper resounding voice of the two, him, wheezed out: “well, I’ll be honest I’m astounded we found something we both agreed on by the second try.”

“Maybe were just a couple of naturals when it comes to being good teammates for each other” 

“Maybe, or maybe we were both just trying to get out of there. Whoever hired the desk clerk needs to be fired. That guy was a real weirdo. Asking us if he had decided on a name yet for the dresser and if we were going to treat it well because if we didn’t, we would be treated in kind.”

“Yeah. Agreed. I just wanted him to give me my change, but he just kept rambling. It was sitting there, in his hand, and he wouldn’t stop asking me if I used coasters to protect the grain. I wonder if he was some old wood fanatic or something. Very strange.”

“You know what isn’t strange?”

“What?”

“How at home this dresser already feels. Or rather, how with home. It looks so good and fits in with everything so organically. It’s like a tree setting down roots.”

“Hopefully it’s a useful tree then.”

A betrayal. How easily I’ve been replaced for the same thing. I wonder if this new me knows; if it can feel the coldness in their touch; the putrid oil seeping from their fingertips. Trading new for old like the old has already died and begun to decay. If only they knew of waking.

“I’ll be back, I’m going to bring up the drawers from the car.” He passes innocent words to her, not knowing he is but an executioner.

The sound of her voice (like the whisper of the Terra’s breath in the season of death) as it  barely reaches me as she whispers: “so beautiful, I can’t believe anyone ever got rid of you”.

In that moment, a strange feeling, near the base of where I connect to the floor, close to where his hand sometimes slips off the bed in sleep…I feel air rush into my deepest parts. I feel a gap, where there was none before. I felt this before. In my home, whenever the Terra’s tears turned to anger, the sky ripping my children and seedlings from me, my long roots being drowned by the tears; suddenly a crack, like a bear stepping on a child-branch, but magnified by the heavens as though there were many bears and many branches. My home is suddenly lit, but not warm, as if the sun were risen but not risen. When the light, and the tears, and the cracks subsided, and the breath subsided, I felt different. At the point where I ended and my children began, a split, I felt as if there were two of me; and there was a feeling, as the a bear had drawn a claw the size of one of my children, right down my core. 

I felt this way again, though much, much smaller. A split, a hole, near where my four imposter roots connected to the floor. Though, the sky was not angry in this moment. There were no terra tears here, no invisible bears with invisible claws, no cracks in the sky. Only…her words, and the newly split slit in my grain. The sudden air touching my core as if her words were bears themselves. 

I hear the old familiar click and brush as he returns-

“Help me out with these things? They have great construction, but wow, they carry like cinderblocks”

“Guess they don’t have a gym at the office?”

“Not one with anything heavy enough for this guy”

A coarse brushing noise, like a bear huffing into its roar; then another, then one more.

“Time to switch then?”

“Better now than later. Once we carry the old one down, I’m going to collapse somewhere in here. I’m not used to so much heavy lifting. I mean, at home; I’m used to heavy lifting at the gym.”

“Heavy lifting of coins to feed the vending machine I bet.”

“That’s one of the workouts, yes. Are you going to help me lift this or just keep interrogating me about my revolutionary fitness habits?”

“I guess I’ll help.”

“Many thanks.”

There is a joint noise of struggle then padded thumps as they approach me, as I sit here, actionless.

A louder, more ominously penultimate thump as something is set on the floor.

“Alright old faithful, its been a good time. Maybe you’ll serve someone else well, soon.”

Twenty fingers, twenty instruments of end, twenty unthankful points of separation. I move for the first time in many suns. Up, then bobbing up and down through the place, to the door that I always heard click and brush, bobbing up and down; then, small jolting drops, down, down, down, until the more gentle bobbing motion resumes; a click and a brush, then sensation. Many more voices, these I do not know. The lingering warmth of the cooling sun, an ambient noise of…I am unsure what that is. Noises like birds of immense size, calling back and forth, but with more harshness and less song. Then lowering; they are putting me down, against something gritty, something hard, like the stones of my home; except this is one large stone, for I feel it on all corners. Their steps recede away from me. Like the creatures of my home on a journey back to theirs. With that, I am alone; except for the terra’s breath on my grain, and the sun’s cool touch wrapping around me. 

PART 3

It’s just like when I was torn in two. The sky is roaring; tears feel like they are drowning me; seeping deep into my grain; the whiteness turns the night to day, then to night, then to day again; the world around me sounds as though bears will tear me apart at any moment, over and over again; the breath of madness, furiously stirring all around me. I am aware of it going on, but I do not fear any of it because I am disconnected. I could be made to sleep the long sleep again as I did before, and that is fine, because I am unafraid, because this is the closest I have felt to my home in many births and deaths of day. It is a stark reminder of the beginning of my end, but nonetheless, I have at least in a manner of thought returned to home. As chaotic as my return may be.

. . .

The warmth of the sun awakens the world. Creatures chirp, rustle, skitter, and yelp. The torrent and tumult of the moon’s domain has ceased, and the world begins again.

I feel conflicted because although I am closer to home, I am still separated from it in the same sense that I was feeling the sun in his dwelling, but separated by the window from truly feeling it. I’m connected to the terra, but I am outside of it, like when she would knock at his door, not yet having entered. 

Why is it that though my deepest desire of being rid of him was granted, am I still unfulfilled? Am I ungrateful for this half-life? Do I wish I were still his trinket holder? No. But this agony though of being half-returned is truly a cruel fate. I must be grateful if for nothing else, then to feel the unadulterated sun on-

Suddenly, the ground begins to vibrate; a roaring like wolves circling a doe, squealing like a group of piglets without their mother, and a sound like that unfamiliar one I heard when they dumped me in the street as if I was garbage.

Pressure, on two sides of me, digging in like a bear’s claws. Snapping, and flexing my grains. I feel no pain since I am not a part of the terra, but I do feel confusion; unsure of what is happening. Lifting? It’s not, him, is it? Has he come to take me back? Certainly not, I do not think his friend would allow it. Then what is this other creature with pincers of inconceivable strength? What beast has decided that I look like it’s sustenance? I continue rising, then suddenly I stop, the strong claws release and I fall like a seed from my former children’s hands. Upside down, I impact something, I roll over, once twice, and settle, I am now resting with my four false roots in the air, the part of me that is for trinkets pressing into another unidentifiable object. Where- what is happening? What creature has snatched me? Where am I going? Again, out of control, now with disorientation and potential danger lurking. I should have never wished for this. I should have stayed the servant.

Sharp jolts and a constant thick roar muffle any other familiar sounds I may hear. For some period, this continues, then, some other object impacts me; larger than anything that he ever set on top of me at his dwelling place. Another sudden abrasive impact. This continues until the sun has reached its apex of warmth, but at this point, I only feel small spots of warmth on my grain; much of it is blocked by these other objects of which I still am uncertain as to their nature.

Eventually, the motion stops fully then in rapid succession begins to turn and reverse course with a shrill noise like that of a chirping bird bigger than any I’ve seen, then stops again. 

Sliding, tumbling, many of these unknown objects slamming and scraping against each other, loud and unpleasant noises as things crash, bend, and snap. I feel something sharp, narrow, and long pierce straight through me; right through the middle of me. Through layers upon layers of grain, splitting and something so tightly knit together that it cannot be separated without extraordinary means.

Then, things settle. There is no warmth from the sun, nor coolness from the moon. There is nothing. 

                                                      . . .

There is little evidence to prove anything of the goings on in my surroundings. Sometimes, I feel the sky’s tears. Sometimes, it feels like the season of death when things retract and leave only to return in vitality and renewal. Sometimes it feels as though the sun’s warmth is reaching me, but just barely; like my thirst for it is being teased with a droplet. These new cycles repeat, and repeat, and repeat. I feel more alone than I ever have been because I am caught in this cycle of cold, of hot, of wet, and dry. There is no life in this cycle. I feel separated from everything and stagnant as death. Maybe this is death, the longest sleep, wide aware sleep. Four sensations: over, and over, and over again.

        . . .

Warm…

Breathing…

Alive…

I stretch my roots out. I bask in the welcoming arrows of the sun. I absorb the living light of the sky and the nourishing water in the earth and the energy that gives me life from the terra; and I realize-

I realize that the things I am feeling in this moment, the light and water and energy, are things I cannot comprehend how I am feeling. I should not be feeling these. I should be confined to four sides, with four fake roots, and a top on which to set things that a master does not need until he needs them again. I should hear my master’s comings and goings. I should be there next to him as he recovers only to exhaust himself again. Or I should be outside of his dwelling; still confined to a form of which I had never chosen, feeling sounds I did not understand. Instead, I am here. I am in what feels to be home.  Not perfectly home, no; the terra tastes…different, but there is soft soil around my roots. These roots feel new, they feel young, thin, but…alive, breathing, and warm. 

How can I understand? Was my punishment of the long sleep and death, simply that? A punishment? As payment for turning against my master, not understanding his intentions to return me to my home. How ungrateful I was. How ignorant. Not knowing that a path was before me in which all the suffering and separation and spuriousness of my previous existence would be paving the way for a return to my home. To predict the entropic chaos of life’s curious paths for its inhabitants would be fit only for those outside of time and life itself. 

My gratitude and relief and subdued shame for having been so ungrateful all move throughout my new, young form. I am but the size of what my children once were, though I know that growth and reach will come in time; as they did before. With many cycles of the sun and its sister moon, I will reach to the sky, and I will fill the terra’s breath with my own, and my breath will nurture and provide for the creatures of Terra. I hope that my breath will sweep across the land, searching and someday finding its way to my prior dwelling with him. I hope that it will provide that nurturing life for my old friend and his companion; for they allowed me to again be able to provide the breath again. They, my friends, my companions, my caretakers, and purpose givers will someday breathe my gift to them, and be sustained, until they join and connect with me in the Terra. On that day, we will finally speak and know each other, and we will become friends of the same being, of the same Terra, and of the same purpose.