49. Nina

Chapter 48

Nina

Here is reality: a shadow walks in front of a film projector – clicking away on heels and reels and playing pictures in the showered light. The shadow casts a man, real and whole and eating an apple from his thread-and-airy pocket. The shadow moves on, and the light of the projector floods the rumbling world. Here is the expanse. Here is the man. Here is the shape that made him, walking out of the door into the hallway, where the lights are dim and quiet.

Clack clack clack clack. Clack clack clack. Cla –

Here is the man. The man explores his color life and stretches himself across the screen. He ambles across a street, and stares into a headlight, headless and heedless. Here is the oncoming car. The light narrows – the light focuses. Here is the light. The man casts a shadow, horizontal across the up-and-down world. Here is the shadow. The shadow joins the man, bleeding as the motion speeds on. The shadow casts a shadow. Here is the sky. The three follow the clouds and see backward words flowing, floating against the backdrop. Here is where stories come from: 4:31.

There is a burnt out streetlight just past the train tracks where a strange little girl used to live, and inside the old bulb’s dangling filament, charred and spidery, between hanging bits of wire, is a barren room. Here is the streetlight. Here is the room. Inside the room is a door that leads to a broom closet on the other side of the world, a ladder to the attic made of frozen rays of light, and a green, threadbare carpet. Here is the streetlight. There are two marionette men inside the streetlight house, with two hands and two feet between them, and a body: a desiccated, eyeless, sagging sack of flesh hanging from a hook, corpulent rolls of bloated, fat life rotting under an imaginary sun, drowning, scattered in the sky, suffocated by a steel coffin and a layer of earth. Here is the body. No one made a sound but the corpse, who at least had the decency not to scream.

Instead, it whimpered.

It is a muggy beech tree night in April, 1927, and a little red shape with big brown eyes bounds towards the trunk of the streetlight, thinking fox thoughts. The first man, who has half a hand and two feet, stretches out his long, long fingers, drapes his molars over the fox’s ankles, and whispers a few words from the back of his throat. He nibbles and snatches and spits and gnashes and giggles, and what’s left of the little animal falls to the ground below, joining the painted graveyard. The second man, who has one and a half hands and no feet, pushes his glasses up the bridge of his wooden nose and thumbs through his book with tree fingers attached to twine-knotted wrists. Here is the man. Here is the tree. Here is the fox. Here is the man.

The end comes in the middle or a little before, when the ink has dried, before the eight clouds on the windowpane fill the last days with their storytellers.

I am fourteen Spanish explorers, on the verge of something old and exciting. Goodbye soon, rain king: my eyes are falling falling falling into seashells. The pitch rises and rises on the edge of the day, folded up like a paper ball.

I have a view of the ceiling, white as orange as the floor; my shady friends and their outlines visit me. There’s a spark somewhere to the front of my vision, as though from a long way away, and a head and fingers impose, blocking my view of everything. I cannot move and I am trapped, but I am larger and more wonderful than the world, and there is plenty of room inside myself. I am a child of the carving man, and old things and new things and young things resonate as I become myself. My synapses stop, and I am made of gray and green, and everyone who is everything is talking now that I cannot.

Inside my suitcase is a radio, unplugged with a broken antenna, howling and crackling with the days of ’39.

I can see a window in the sky, with a keyboard and a red mailbox on the other side.

Long fingers and wooden men.

Splinters. And children playing in the rain.

I can see these things and more of them.

Here is the box. The box wrapped in plastic. There are secrets inside.

:ytilaer si ereH

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Chapter 50

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