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Fiction / Nick Norton

I This Is

Issue 2. June 21, 2021

Pearls? you check. Very well. In this way, when we dance, the waves are always heard. The big picture is made up of many miniatures, as a blue sky is made up of many points; a lattice draped over us, the net for an entire ocean. It is my turn to reveal a picture. I tug down a swatch of this infinite blue and extract a line of crystal points, hanging them around your neck. Very well, I reply, let us pretend these are pearls.
            I was blinded for the theft. A few gems from the sky, taken for the sake of a rolling motion in your hips. It was inevitable I suppose. You promised me the four stages of resurrection and in reply I lost my sight. One must bend low to enter the tomb, that was the first stage. I was not expecting to lay flat. To be so utterly similar to soil and dust. Of course I was lost. Long ago, it seemed, far away. I had forgotten you, me, who I was. Little left but this wine sodden idiot, that creature who did not see where it was going. One day, you promised, you will recognise me. This comes next but when I ran after you the promise seemed inadequate: I called out and ran after you. There was that ocean sway to your gait, a crackle of elusive blue. You laughed and then threatened to call the cops. It shocked me. This was worse than my failing eyes, worse than death. I started going to meetings then, thinking it was me that really needed to get straight. The room was shut up, no windows. All their breath stank, they scratched and moaned. What losers, I thought, knowing full well I was exactly the same. Suddenly, you again, explaining that this was the next stage. Next stage of what? No one was any longer sure why it was necessary to hunker down and spit out dud confessions of grime and cess. There was no answer to that. None until you sprinkled moisture over the soil and guided my trembling finger into your flesh.
            I cannot live without you but I am already dead. I cannot be dead without you. We are never alone. Your family have hired bodyguards, four men muttering into their books. Four men with wings on their epaulets, suspicious always. Ugly guard dogs drool incense. I just want to be alone with you but these key clerks draw me aside and show off their vehicle, all gold trim and fancy wheels. You cannot touch it, they remind me.
            One day we will dance again. I take up a craft. How else to transfigure these burdensome hours? A meagre distraction. The task is to knot together a garment made of one rope, a plucked apart line; it seems to never end. In and out I pull it with my calcified digits, thick clumsy fingers knitting up a robe. Something worthy to dance in.
            They say I have stolen the car. I who cannot drive, I who could not see the ignition and even less so the road. I am thirsty. The cow faced guards keep asking me questions but I cannot speak for my tongue is a swollen piece of baked cork. There is a hush, a silence. It starts outside the prison and I can hear its progress through the corridors. Silence of magnitude. It stops outside my cell door. My torturer forgets to finish their sentence. A cup of water, your voice. All authority, and yet no order was issued. The door opens and you step toward me, offering a cup.
            The children are in the yard playing cats-cradle. I have been released, a mess of confusion and relief. A journey seems inevitable. One step to be taken. A direction taken, chosen by the accident of feet, and then a grassy scent. Inevitably a journey, a step taken, one after the other. I am offered a lift but I am sure I can walk.
            There are four trees in the garden, full of birds. An ox ambles by, indifferent to my presence. I walk alongside the ruminant, following the regular huff and snuffle of its breath. Below my feet I can feel hollowed out ground, a warm incline made by regular passing.
            When the ox steps aside I am left fumbling at a dim greying air. The woodland has receded. No birdsong, no cattle flatulence. There is an emptiness, this is a clearing, and that is all I can tell. A wide open grassy space. My knees are cushioned in soft dampness. Fallen forward into a crumpled posture, I stay kneeling, unseeing, face raised to a blue expanse which is nothing but my tired brain rolling over itself. If I cannot be alone with you then I am happy to be alone, thus.
            Chanting operatic, an urgently angled choir approach. Their march blasts open the landscape. Drifts of blossom float by, all the trees atomised into memorial petal. Thousands of robed people chanting and stomping by. When they recede… in a moment, in between the bodies, you notice the person. As if left behind, as if an afterthought: there is a youth on a swing with blooms woven into the ropes that hold up the seat. Sweet child, knowing child. A rude glance catches in his eye as back and forth, he swings high; back and forth. She kicks out and loses a slipper, swinging so wide that the A-frame holding the swing judders to contain the wild extremes of this arc. He has a wreath of green tasselled in his hair. Her smile is fixed on you. High, low; she sees only you. You roll back into waiting foliage. These two are alone, swing and seeing. Another wave of the hieratic singers moves by; a mass oratory, a marching chorus. It parts and flows around the couple who have an untouchable aura. Two youths at play. Song and flesh on the move, the blossom settles.
            You get up from your knees, wiping dust from your eyes, and holding a hand out to stay the swing, you say: My turn now.

Nick Norton's recent prose can be found in Fatal Flaw, Entropy, The Babel Tower, 3:AM, Idle Ink, Selkie, Shooter, Fictive Dream, Epoque Press, The Happy Hypocrite, and elsewhere. 

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