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Preface Chapter: Alternating Rhythms


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"We found each other at such time as all seemed prepared for an end, each knowing all we cared to, having spent our love and wonder."


Preface Chapter:  Alternating Rhythms



Lying on the ground, unfeeling.  Eyes open.  In a moment, I realize that I am looking up.  Into the sky.  There are disconnects.  My body. The Sky.  My head.  My eyes.


Light from the sun rushes through them in a sudden and vaguely painful wash.  I have no focal precedent, feeling like an old man newly born of impact.  Pain rises in light choral tones.  I don't see the car that hit me.


An old pickup truck glides to a halt at the stop with a pronounced and arching tone from its worn pads.  An old man is staring at me through the window.  After a moment, he drives on.


The world is drawn around me in pencil, then filled in with watercolor blurs.  Road.  Sidewalk.  Stop Sign.  Houses.  False separate elements in a box with no sides and no substance.


There are moments that connect one with the universe, that speak to you as they speak to all.  Then there are moments that define one's solitude and mock one's reality.  Moments when you're lying on the ground somewhere, disconnected even from that.  Will it feel the same once I am buried in it?  Even as I decompose, would it ever truly accept me as part of it?  Or would I simply become a channel of waste within the earth, not so much rejected as ignored?


I remember thinking that I was able to move.  But still not moving.





Like an unfinished thought, neurons unable to reach their destination, Noh could never quite make connections with other people.  It's not that he didn't want to, or lacked the ability to navigate, know, or perceive any given social interaction.


It was the wall.


The wall that stood between he and the finishing of the thought, the completion of the action, the social joining with any given individual.  He lived in a universe of ghosts and specters, chattering away without meaning, echoing only what they'd heard elsewhere or lived long ago.  Everything over the wall was without context to he or they.


They floated and flew all around him at all times, dropping things, walking like lummoxes, rattling chains and cludding and thudding around.  Yet they were never quite real, never manifested as much more than peripheral entities of annoyance, vague amusement, or sources of conjecture.


And while they were as spirits in the corporeal world, he never quite saw them as such.  Rather, he saw himself as the ghost.  Present yet invisible, haunting space, moving in the world yet doing so unseen and unfelt.  Most of the time.


He still had to submit to the varied and ramshackle system of laws and tenants put in place by the spirits over time, some randomly conceived, some out of date, some seemingly intended to supplant common sense.


But all were more important than he, and indeed more important even than those forgotten souls who carved them into the stone of presocius tableau.  Haunted beings without life or structure, cast forever untouched as creatures of void.


Such was the lot of his kind, cursed with little understanding, forced to cipher only what morsels of reality their limited thinking would allow.  Still, he would swear he could feel them always, yawning a groan as the universe pulled them ever thinner.


Such thoughts should not be thunk when trying to get to work on time.  The hour was late, and so was Noh.

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  • 1 month later...

I walk.  As the world scrolls by, the sky suspended above me sways with the false life of a hanged man, his movements now free of human will, dictated instead only by natural forces.  Mindless, ceaseless gravity.  Pulling at his weight.


There are worms on the sidewalk, having heaved their way to the surface to escape being drowned, collapsed in strands on the concrete.  Some of them will be trodden on, as there is no way to avoid all of them at once.


without walking in the grass. 


The road lies free from similar inundation.  The stone curbs and heavy vibration of cars motoring to and fro deter such things.  As each one passes, I can hear the disturbance of air without feeling any wind.  The occasional truck breaks free of the pattern imposed upon the smaller vehicles, shedding wind as it sheds sound. 


Somewhere in a shadow I am seated in the chair beside her bed.  She is far younger than she looks, ravaged as she lies, abandoned by physical strength, eyes weary from the war.  Yet somehow when she looks at me, the pupils spark with life.  Love and sadness rise in single strands like smoke from a cigarette. 


"Live your life."  She says.  The words are three. 


"Live your life." 


The words echo forward through time to blend mockingly with each transient thud of the souls of my worn sneakers as they land on the concrete.  Step after step.  I don't know why my mouth contorts into a smile.  Irony Maybe.  For this is me.  And I am nothing if not alive.


I graduated from that chair beside your bed to this.  Your words were like a squandered trust.  Your only bequest.  Would you ever have uttered them if you could have known what a sentence upon my soul they would be?  Or how the sound of them could simply settle into the linoleum tiles and dissipate?  When you first spoke them, it was as if you somehow knew as fact that love and words had no shelf life, or that either somehow retained their intent for all time.  I have been eviscerated by that love you held in your heart.  It opened me up and rendered my organs to stone. 


And you have moved on.


Cancer car crash accidental murder suicide heart failure.  So many ways to leave this.


I hate every step I take.


But can't seem to stop taking them.






Noh stepped into the silent hall, turning like an automaton and bending to place the key in the lock of the door, twisted it, then made test to the door to be certain it had locked.  Turning, he made his way through the elaborate network of intersecting hallways toward the stairs, which he descended the one floor to a doorway.  He paused and shifted his shoulders beneath his coat, then placed his hand on the door and pushed.


He walked out into the cold gray of the world without much thought, absently brushing the first fall of dry ash from his jacket.  Ash had collected in the grass and along the cracks of the walkway.  A few flakes floated through the dark gray skies above, laden with the heavy burdened of thick pendulous clouds.  As he looked up, the thought occurred to him that it was entirely possible there was no sky at all that evening.  He couldn't see a glimpse of it.  There was no hard evidence.  Just the vague promise that it lurked somewhere beyond the clouds and ash.


The stroll to work began uneventfully, he was passed by many spirits, occasionally he would catch a glimpse of them as they flew by.  Young and old.  Men and women.  Some engaged in the direction in which they traveled, others seemed bored, and sought activities to pass the time as they flew, others seemed simply absent in their journey.  Noh envied them that, having been born into the world with an active and anxious mind.


At the intersections, they paid no heed to the Laws of the DOM.  Rather they took whatever space and time crossed their paths, whether they needed it or not, expelling arcs of greed needlessly in their wakes.  Ugly muddy-brown-grey mist that smelled metallic, like blood and rusty tin.  It mingled with the sulfur of his self-doubt to create an odor almost unbearable.  Noh raised his scarf to his nose as he approached his least-favorite intersection.


According to the DOM, one could walk through an intersection only when the signal was lit.  But the signal was only lit for 5 seconds, and it took 20 seconds to walk across the broad intersection.  Which meant he couldn't cross unless he ran, and he didn't like running. He had long since resigned himself to simply walking across when signaled, and continuing until he reached the other side.  Most of the time, those waiting for the signal to change would simply wait.  On rare occasions, someone would get nasty about it.  But he had never been cited.  It was a law that had been crafted, implemented, had been impossible to follow, and then basically forgotten.  By everyone except him. Noh was very keen on following the law.  It annoyed him when it was impossible to do so.


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