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Ed Nobody

The April Selected Writer is Ed Nobody

Please feel free to email Ed at: ednobodybooks@gmail.com

ed

A LONG WAY TO…
by Ed Nobody

We were sitting in a field, and the sun seemed to be setting in the wrong direction. We were speaking but I couldn’t hear a sound. We talked in perfect silence until you whispered my name. At last, the world slid open and the sun shot a blazing halo. My gaze tangled with yours, and the world spun…and your empty words spun…and my head swirled downwards out of the dream.

Expelled from my bed, I fell into total grief: into a world composed of heartbreak, more remote from the comfort of sleep than the moons. I opened my eyes and found myself outside. Perhaps I had not woken up from my dream after all.

I began walking, bearing this deep pain like a charred black cross. I stumbled on aching legs across a shadowy, gust-raped plain—my steps ringing out on the hard ground as I traveled.

The sound of a faraway car closed in, growing louder and louder, then vanished into nothing.

I stood upon a bleak moor, among patches of tousled heather and black, slimy water. I dragged my burden across that dead land, under a starless sky, shivering and sweating in belligerent wind.

I no longer felt as if I was walking, but rather tumbling forward towards a pit of sinister truth. Underneath me, a deep brown bog of sorrow bubbled and burped, greedily tasting my shadow, waiting for any misstep into that fathomless muck, sitting there waiting to drink me down in an instant.

Where had the sun gone? Where had my love gone?

*****

Someone should have seen it coming. I certainly should have.

I was staring into the brilliant ochre of her sunlit eyes. As we walked, we left clear-cut shadows on a ripe green paddock, trailing the darkness behind us. On my tongue tickled the taste of sweet almonds or chocolate; I knew it was your taste—which only came in sweet, always hopping in my mouth and licking between my teeth and gums.

Your breath rushed around my neck. Your voice flapped in my ear like tiny butterfly wings. The foliage of the trees pattered under a late winter shower, like the low growl of a faraway car...the fuzzy rolls of your hair brushed like sheepskin against my exposed neck; you leaned into me, lightly touching my torso, pinching my guts—I was rotted by you. Rotted to the core by vacuous hope.

A flock of disturbed sparrows suddenly shot out from under the grove—the leaves still pattering below. We were standing at the edge of the street, about to head home.

Then fire and darkness whirled across the road. And it happened. And it was over.

You left like a lamb, like a doe.

Yet to me you were always a wildcat—your voice thick like milk and your soul red as meat.
With you it was life and life and life, and then nothing.

*****

I kept rolling on from dank shelter to murky marsh, tracing the curdling waters, the pale moon falling in slick shiny waves over its black cloak. I felt the night clasping over me and couldn’t escape its stubby, frozen fingers. It was here for good—as if the sun was always yours, and you had taken it with you.

The sound of the faraway car closed back in, growing louder and louder, then vanished into nothing. The rumble of Death’s engine broke the sky from afar; but when would it ever come for me? My blood had grown too cold for living without her, and I needed to be with her soon.

Once, your breath never ceased to swirl in my mouth, your voice kept fluting in my thoughts. But now there was nothing but dust and dirt and the swirling of the night’s raw wind, trying to call me away from your memory.

I kept walking through smoky mists and banks of fog and wisps of dewy vapor. I kicked over every dark corner of the gloom until at last I came across an old town. It had been caught in a strange state of frozen animation: soundless streets, still shadows behind dim-lit windows, pets stiff and strewn in the road. Time was slowly trickling out of the town in the intermittent flicker of bare electric bulbs, in the brief surges of water from broken taps, in the crumbling of the walls.

I felt the Devil dancing over the earth, catching souls and letting them go again, like a cat teasing a mouse without his own destiny.

The wind howled and cursed outside like the nagging of an old crone. I found myself entering one of the secluded houses; its cold yellow light had attracted me inside like a starving moth. Its owner eyed me with tired incredulity.

“I’m sorry to just barge in here,” I said. “I’m lost you see, and..."

“Don’t you know where you are?” He curled the ends of his face as if to smile.

“Look, just answer me something truthfully,” I told him.

He raised his eyebrows genially, waiting for whatever stupid question I had brought pointlessly along with me.

“Are we...in Limbo?”

“No, but close enough: Tipperary.”

“Where in Tipperary?”

“Close enough.”

I tried not to snarl at the man; he seemed to be in enough distress. I didn’t quite believe his story, but I did think he believed in it. Why couldn’t people just deal with reality? The indignant thought slipped over my mind, then caught—wait.

Hadn’t I myself traipsed around in the pitch-black bogs of God knows where, for who knows how long, just to escape my own despair? Was that reality, or…?

The cottage, barely furnished, was a low large room with bare, stone walls, a crooked bed with misshapen posts, and a short kitchen table branded by kettle-shaped rings. The old man sat at this table on an uncomfortable chair, stooping over, icicles hanging from his purple, swollen nose.

On the wall hung a dirty, sacred heart lamp and a framed photo of a woman in last century’s clothing. The lamp seemed to drip red light rather than glow, and its coagulated gleam coated the whole room in a sinister, crimson paint.

I couldn’t stand it a second longer, and left brusquely without another word. The man didn’t even look up.

Outside, I searched around frantically, awakened from my daze by this brief human encounter—I was feeling very human again, which meant weak and cowardly and bewildered. My steps became aimless and incoherent—running up to one darkened window after another, trying doors that wouldn’t budge, knocking, calling...I felt like a madman broken loose from his cell. I felt like an invalid. I felt alone.

My lungs scratched raw, I brought my thin scarf up around my mouth to breathe, desperately trying to keep the visible breaths inside. I zipped up my coat further, felt the hard throb of my panicking heart from within its padding.

This town was suffering the same curse as I; I would glean from it no momentary comforts—the pursuit seemed childish and futile. I had to get away, get somewhere. I had no idea which direction, or whether to wait the morning. I felt too afraid to wait for a morning that might never come.

With every moment that passed, I felt myself forgetting something; forgetting myself; forgetting her. That must have been what ultimately spurred me on, out of that vacuous illusion of safety, and back into the bogland, into the mist...

*****

I came across another town between cloud and clear, dusk and dawn. This time no windows had been lit, but I could see the street more clearly: it was paved, not just a rocky rut. And there were telephone poles, and the doors had letterboxes, and for a moment it all seemed so real. I couldn’t wait for dawn; I knocked on the first door I saw. I didn’t care if it was rude. I was coming closer and closer to the precipice of despair, and would clutch at any straw within grasp.

A hollow sound issued from behind the hard blue door: a rustling and click of a lock. My chest tightened with tense hope, but my legs had gone rigid with the cold, and I almost stumbled back over myself when the door finally opened, revealing a toothy middle-aged woman with frazzled hair and a billowing nightie. There was nothing behind her or around her—the hall lay empty, as if someone had just moved in or just moved out. The parquet sat dull and unpolished under the weak hall light.

“Yes? What is it?” Her voice sounded cracked and weary, yet it wasn’t the voice of someone who had just awoken, rather the voice of someone who had been trying all night to sleep without avail.

“I’m sorry for disturbing you.” I gulped, brushing my tangle of hair back from my brow. “I’m lost. Trying to find my way.” My own words sounded pathetic to my ear, yet within them seemed to ring an echo of truth.

“Well, come in, come in.” Her response was not at all what I had expected. I don’t know what I had really expected. I glanced around, desperately searching for a clock, a calendar, some small connection to the outside world. The bareness, the hollowness, the deadness made my eyes itch.

She began to babble as we walked into the kitchen. “Getting cold lately, isn’t it? Good to get out of the cold...hard to walk on the roads…”

In her mouth I found only platitudes; in her eyes only slumber. It was like talking to a somnambulist. And that whining howl seemed to follow me in through the walls, whistling up the chimney, seething through the cracks of the wallpaper and gurgling up from the kitchen sink. It was a shrill shriek like a ghost arguing against its own annihilation—a futile pointless argument with Death.

I sat down at the chintzy kitchen table, a single bulb above boring a white spot in its greasy, glimmering middle like an island of fire. I couldn’t feel my hands as I rubbed them together. She had put a tarnished iron kettle on a low blue flame and stood looking down at it, watching it and counting every second until it boiled.

Again came that soundlessness, the muted conversation of the meadow. Last words are always silent. But the woman who stood before me now had nothing in common with hershe had been youthful, bursting with energy, full of boundless love. The woman in the kitchen was withered, ugly, fixed in place—like a frozen bug stuck to a morning window. It made me violent inside; it made me restive. It made want to destroy. Why was beauty always stolen, and ugliness forever left intact. Why!! Why?

The kettle boiled; she poured me a rusty tea with the scent of rotting wood, and sat there like a little brown cloud; a stinking gas cloud of misery—and I knew we were only halfway to morning.

Before long, the woman seemed to shrink before me, close in on herself between the boundaries of her nightgown. She drained away into a dull grey liquid and dripped into the creases of the filthy tiles. It happened in one great sweeping wave, and before she could cry it was already over.

My heart raced and pelted my chest from within. I swallowed the bitter, cold tea. My bones filled with lime and my shoes with cold stones.

Her thick juices hung in place, slimy like peat. I dared not even call for help; instead I treaded out a trail of muddy blood, fat blurred footprints all over the unpolished floor. The door’s sweat of dew still ran freely—the night air burned me on the inside, but it was not enough to freeze.

On the horizon, I caught glimpses of purple, dreary light—sour drips of the moon’s cream. In that moment they shone to me as bright as two headlights—as those which had raced towards her, through her, changing everything forever.

*****

I hopped and tripped like a wingless bird along the long, black edges of Tipperary. The cold washed over me like a rash and turned the hair of my flesh to ice. A long procession of ash trees angered me with their fat solid trunks and corpulent bodies, slabs of useless meat shutting out the sky. I wanted to burn them from twig to limb, and bask in the heat of their torture. But I had no lighter or flint, and any sticks around were too damp to rub. So I left the trees behind in my furious wake, cursing under my breath.

Once sparked, that hot fever of disgust did not stop cooking my depths. It came to a simmer, thwacking my leathery insides like the growl of a maddened bear. At first it was enough to make me shake with fear; but I then recognized this rage as my own, and I gave vent to it through clenched red fists, angry sweat trembling along the veins of my body and dripping from the pores of my crooked back. I spat venomous things to the woods; I cursed the road and the rain.

I looked at the sky, still grey, but dawn was finally breaking.

I came upon a silhouette on the hill, a dramatic fortification as grey as old bones. Surrounded by a mossy circular wall were turrets, gables, parapets, battered and crumbling walls. A spattering of graves made up the flowerbed of its garden. 

The wind still carried the banshee’s wailings, the harsh shrill tone of remorse. I turned a blind ear to that miserable crone, and made my way up the elevation on numbed feet, hoarsely catching a bellyfull of wind when I finally made it to the outcropping.

The chapel was Romanesque and the cathedral Gothic. It seemed like an odd collection of disparate toys shoved into the same playset, a confused tableau.

I stepped inside without a moment’s hesitation—the place stood abandoned, forgotten, cloaked in desperation.

Inside the chapel, the chancel ceiling inexplicably glowed with an unknown light—around me I could see no candle, no lantern, no torch. Upon it was painted a fresco of discreet blues and yellows. It stank of the shoddy leftovers of my own soul, which I had so far held onto like loose change in the folds of my pockets, trying not to lose it on the road.

I tried anxiously to work out the confusion of the figures above me—in the corners of the ceiling I saw struggling men and wide-eyed horses, in the center I saw conflict and calamity, and at the end I caught that diluted flavor of hope which peasants call ‘faith.’

And all this time, the whistle and groan of the piercing bitch wind ceaselessly hammered at the crumbling corners of the building, ringing against the outside of the roof—but she could not enter, I knew. She would be left out in the cold all night, to howl and screech and squeeze out icy tears in solitude.

Four stone heads peered down at me with mournful gazes of deep and drowsy wisdom, communicating one last prayer for the lost. Their eyes, curious and forlorn, seemed to recognize me.

Suddenly, I heard that haunting gale shriek away and whistle up to the round tower, and I knew no light would ever spark inside its lonely bedroom. But I knew also that in it, that mournful wail would finally find a home.

As I stood there silently conversing with the heads, my rage began to die down into a timid crackle, into a muted rustling in my gut like a field mouse bedding down for winter. At first I was disgusted at my own weakness, but this too gave way to the fatigue, the cold, the misery of existing without her...gradually I found intimacy in the slow and helpless beatings of my tired, broken heart.

I sat on the stone sarcophagus at the head of the room, noticing its ornate engravings: a brambled, tangled pattern which reminded me of the woods that day—her curly hair in my fingers—her love twisting through my veins.

I had intended only to rest just a moment, but I felt the weight of the whole night now, leaning on me heavily. With the shrill voice swept away and snug in its tower, there was peace. No more would I be kept awake. No more would I tirelessly wait for morning. I swung my legs up on the hard, beige stone, and laid my head on the icy slab. I looked up at the curve of the ceiling, its beautiful light from nowhere. My eyes flickered, then sagged, then fell.

I could no longer fight the inevitable. With this realization, I was no longer in Tipperary. I was no longer lost.

I was going home at last.

Would she be there to greet me, with a soft kiss, a bright smile?

I knew that she would be.

Ed Nobody is a writer from Ireland who wants to write daring, engaging stories not restricted by traditional genre conventions. He has published several short stories in magazines such as Lovecraftiana, Strange Science Fiction Adventures, and Tall Tale TV. He has two novellas under consideration and a novel in the works.

You can find him here: @EdIsNobody on Twitter.